Time again for the GOP tax-cut dance. Think I'll sit this one out.

If American politics was like The Wizard of Oz, President Obama would be pounding the yellow brick road in pursuit of courage, his Democratic allies would be seeking a brain, and his Republican opposition would be in severe need of a heart. I’ve been harping on the Democrats, but let me turn my attention to the biggest band of selfish piggies on the planet: the Republican Party.

As this post goes live, Massachusetts voters are deciding whether to turn the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat over to a Republican. I can understand how people are disenchanted with the Democrats, but anyone whose income doesn’t hit at least seven figures needs to join the parade for a brain if they think that the GOP cares a damn about them. The Republicans are like a broken talking doll reduced to one phrase: “tax cuts.” If you told the GOP leadership that your spouse left you, your kid was starving, and that you had terminal liver cancer they’d tell you that tax cuts would fix everything.

Their latest fear du jour is their attack on President Obama’s “Jobs for Main Street” stimulus package. They hate it for the same reason they hate every government program: if the government spends money, that’s less they can demand be returned to the rich as tax cuts. “Why don’t we just put everyone in the United States on the federal government payroll and call it a day?” quipped California Representative Jerry Lewis. Is he the comedian of the same name? His state has unemployment of over 12% for heaven’s sake! For the record, just 7.3% of Americans work for the feds, about half of whom work in state or local government and another 20% of whom get a check from the employer Republicans never criticize: the U.S. military (on whom, more in a moment).

If you think Lewis is an idiot—and he is—check out this logic from Lawrence Lindsey, one of George W. Bush's former economic advisors. (That resume alone ought to disqualify him as an authoritative source.) The new Obama plan contains tax credits for small businesses. Lindsey’s remark: “Small business people have too much to do just to keep their businesses afloat to try to figure out some fancy, complex credit.” Presumably Big Business—the ones who fill the GOP coffers—have an army of lawyers who aren’t busy and can figure out how to take advantage of the GOP’s tax-cutting plan. I suggest we take the digging implement from one of Obama's shovel-ready projects and smack this moron on his thick head with it.

The GOP attack on both the proposed and past stimulus packages rests on two very big lies: that the first one didn’t work, hence the second one won’t either; and that government wastes money on undeserving programs when tax cuts for the rich are the real answer. Was some money in the first package wasted? Without a doubt. Here in Massachusetts some money earmarked for education went to defer a rise in student fees rather than program creation. We all know that rich bankers—the same people the GOP would be happy to reward—drifted happily to the ground courtesy of purloined golden parachutes. However, before you criticize the stimulus too loudly take a good look around. Yes, we have ten percent unemployment, but how many signs do you see that read “Project Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?”

The very biggest Big Lie is that which lies at the heart of tax cut calls. Do any of us like taxes? Nope! But until someone can figure out how we can pay for schools, cops, fire fighters, roads, social programs, and the military without them, why not let those who’ve benefitted the most from American opportunity pay the highest burden? Of course, Republicans are quick to claim that we can give “everyone” a break if we just cut reckless government spending. Horse manure! They don’t mean everyone; they only mean the rich. Welfare is often a cost-cutting target, even though it consumes a mere 2% of the federal budget (down from more than twice that in 1994, when Bill Clinton, not Ronald Reagan, sliced it). There are thirty-four million poor Americans, roughly one of every fourteen citizens. Please don’t hand me any of that Reagan-era mythology about able-bodied welfare cheats. My response to that is two-fold: if you know one and haven’t turned them in, you’re an accessory to a crime; and don’t preach self-reliance until you know what you’re talking about. Five million kids are on welfare and another 1.5 million recipients are over the age of sixty-five. Unless you’re absolutely comfortable with the idea of over 6.5 million of our most vulnerable citizens starving to death in public, keep your nostrums in check. The bulk of the rest of welfare recipients: mothers with dependent children. Don’t criticize them either unless you’re willing to part with your own $2,400 per child yearly tax credit!

So let’s get to the biggest welfare cheats: the Pentagon. Even if every single person in the entire history of the welfare program from 1964 on was a fraud, we’ve shelled out less on them than the Pentagon spends every two years. And don’t tell me that Republican tax cuts will help anyone other than the already-wealthy and the military-industrial complex. When Reagan pulled this crap, just 1700 companies got 80% of all corporate tax cuts; they created a whopping 4% of new jobs in the 1980s. (The bulk was created by the very small businesses that Lindsey doesn’t think needs a tax credit!) Ninety percent of Reagan’s tax cuts for individuals went to the richest one percent. Bush wasn’t quite as bad, but pretty close: more than half of the savings went to the richest five percent. His tax cuts, by the way, cost more than twice as much as a single-payer health care plan would cost.

I’m no lover of the Democratic Party and am on record as saying we need a viable third (and fourth) party, but let us not kid ourselves into thinking that Republican heartlessness is the antidote to Democratic stupidity. My advice is that the next time you hear the GOP mantra “tax cut” you respond with one of your own: “Oink! Oink! Oink!”

1 comment:

Aggie said...

Thanks for this post...makes me feel a little better after last night's loss to Brown. I've been of this mind for quite some time and I'm glad to hear it coming out of someone else's mouth for a change. I don't know what other opinions you might have but this one is right on for me. Thanks again for giving it voice.