Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas With The Republicans

Well December has arrived. The Christmas season is upon us. And we are getting a look at what life will be like with the Republicans back in control, albeit only partially, for the next two years.
And they haven't even been sworn in yet!
Tuesday President Obama held a meeting with Republican leaders. I don't know why. This is after the Republicans had already snubbed him once by refusing an earlier invitation to meet with the President, stating they were too busy.
Obama offered again, hoping for a half day event extending on into dinner.
Our President is nothing if not hospitable.
The meeting lasted two hours.
The major issue discussed at this "Slurpee Summit" (a reference to Obama during recent campaign speeches, saying Republicans stood around drinking Slurpees while Democrats did the hard legislative work), were the extension of the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Also the New Start Treaty (a bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation) and the extension of unemployment benefits for approximately 2 million Americans scheduled to expire at midnight. The President also told Republican leaders that he needs to reach out more to Republicans.
I agree with the President. He does need to reach out more to Republicans... with a big freaking stick!
We've discussed the Bush tax cuts before, dear readers, but let's briefly go over them again.
What we're talking about is the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which generally lowered taxes for all but expecially the top 5% of income earners in the country. The 2001 cut was one of the first things President Bush did after gaining office, three months after the inauguration. The 2003 cuts, which increased and augmented those of 2001, were enacted after the United States had entered into military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. The first time in the nation's history taxes were lowered, thus reducing government revenue, during a time of "war." These tax cuts, as well as two unfunded "wars," and the deregulation of the financial industry allowing the housing market to bubble and burst, are the 3 major factors involved in bringing about the economic crisis of 2007 and which we are still painfully experiencing.
This is the thing. The Republicans are the political arm of the wealthy and big business, so they wish to extend the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% of income earners in the country at a cost of almost 4 trillion dollars over ten years. 4 trillion. They at the same time have campaigned on, and gained the House of Representatives, by promises of reducing the federal deficit and reign in government spending. At the same time they offer absolutely no specific items that they would cut spending on because to do so would alienate voters, or their big business masters who would lose lucrative federal contracts. They offer no plans, no concrete plans on what they promise to do in their campaign rhetoric. It is amusing to watch Republicans squirm and scurry about like cockroaches under a rock when asked what exactly they would cut to reduce the federal deficit that they care about reducing so much. They stutter, make excuses, change the subject, when asked what it is they would be willing to cut. Now having said that, and a third grader in elementary school is bright enough to figure this out... if you take 4 trillion dollars out of the economy and offer nothing substantial to replace, or pay for it, then you are actually increasing the federal deficit by 4 trillion dollars over ten years, not decreasing it, as the Republicans have promised to do.
Of course the Republicans claim that this "tax increase," for the wealthy (letting the tax cuts expire) would hurt the economy by hurting the wealthy who create jobs. They are so concerned about the economy, the deficit, and creating jobs.
But the tax breaks have been in effect for the last ten years already and have been a contributing factor in the economic crisis we find ourselves in. Where are the jobs? The tax breaks have been there for ten years, so where are all of these jobs that should be there already?
They're with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, that's where they are, because they don't exist, because the myth that the wealthy will take their tax savings and spend it to create jobs is just that, a myth. The wealthy will take their tax break money and do what they always do, save it, or invest it overseas where they are almost always assured a greater return on their money.
Jobs aren't created by the wealthy, or Reagan's supply side, tinkle down economics. That does not work. It never has, it never will. Jobs are created by demand, and demand cannot be met without a middle class that has money to spend. If you take away the prosperity of the middle class you see the economy wind down just as we are seeing now.
Of course this is a very brief and simplest overview of economics. But I'm not trying to write a book here.
By the way, 4 trillion dollars is the same figure, that the President's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform said yesterday it will shave off of the deficit (by making changes in Social Security mainly raising the retirement age, altering the formula for cost-of-living increases, and raising the payroll tax threshold. The normal retirement age would rise to 68 by 2050, and 69 by 2075), enact tough discretionary spending caps" and find $200 billion in savings by 2015, tax reform "that dramatically reduces rates, simplifies the code, broadens the base and reduces the deficit, reform the health care system... again, and mandatory savings from farm subsidies and civilian and military retirement costs), all so the Republicans can give it away to the top 2% of wealthiest Americans.
By the way again, guess what? It appears that the American public doesn't care a tinker's finkle about the freaking deficit. Listen to this from Steve Benen, via the Washington Monthly, via an Associated Press poll, via AlterNet:

AP: "Even so, the public is not bristling to tackle the deficit. Of seven issues tested, the deficit was even with taxes as fifth most mentioned, well behind the economy."

Benen: "Right. For all the talk about how to reduce the deficit, and commissions working out plans to reduce the deficit, and removing capital from the economy in order to reduce the deficit, there's one nagging detail: Americans want a stronger economy, and aren't all that concerned about reducing the deficit right now.
We keep seeing this same result. A recent CBS News Poll asked Americans what they'd like to see Congress focus on next year. The results weren't close -- a 56% majority cited "economy/jobs" as the top issue. Health care was a distant second at 14%, while tackling the deficit/debt was a very distant third at 4%. A week later, Gallup found a combined 64% of the country cited "economy/jobs" as the top issue in the country, while the deficit was a distant fifth at 9%. The AP's poll is in line with the others."

So the deficit, and deficit reduction, although an important issue, is a manufactured issue of the Republicans (remember, it was Dick Cheney who said deficits don't matter) that through their remarkable PR outlets, such as Fox "News," and Limbaugh, and all of the rest, that they keep pounding the Democrats and the President with, who take it and keep coming back for more like beaten girlfriends.
The President just announced on Monday a proposed 2 year salary freeze for federal workers stating: "The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government."
The hard truth is that reducing the deficit at this point in the economic recovery is exactly the opposite of what will fuel the economy and get it going again. Reducing spending in a weak economy is a measure of austerity that is guaranteed to keep the recovery tepid and long lasting, while prolonging the misery and distress people are feeling at the present time. The federal government should be spending more, not less, to fuel the economy, create jobs, end the aftereffects of the recession, then tackle the debt and deficit, which we will be in much better position to do so because the economy will be moving again.
And what we should not be doing is cutting unemployment benefits for those looking for work, which the Republicans have done. Yesterday morning the Republicans stopped the Democrats from extending these benefits desperately needed by up to 2 million long term unemployed, hey, just in time for the holidays.
They did this the same day the President had his little love fest with the Repubs at the White House.
"There are real philosophical differences, deeply held principles to which each party holds," Obama said after the meeting. "And although the atmosphere in today's meeting was extremely civil, there's no doubt that those differences are going to remain no matter how many meetings we have."
No shit!
The very next day the Republicans expressed their bipartisan strategy and willingness to work with the President who is so willing to work with them by promising to hold up all business in the Senate until they get their tax cuts for the rich, and a federal budget (this was a big media news item yesterday, all of the cable news networks repeatedly reporting on this, presumably due to the bipartisan efforts of the President. Rachael Maddow quite rightly pointed out that it would be a real news item if the Republicans agreed not to filibuster every piece of legislation brought before Congress. They've been doing this continuously for years, so they are threatening to do what they've already been doing on a regular basis). Mitch "Turtleman" McConnell says it's just a matter of dealing with "first things first." In actuality it is a blatant attempt at extortion, holding up issues like the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, The Dream Act a measure to give young people whose parents brought them into the United States illegally before they were 16 a path to legal status by going to college or join in the armed forces, and a measure to expand first responders' collective bargaining rights, until they get their way, until they get their 4 trillion of tax payer money, after they increase the deficit by a huge degree.
This is what I wrote about the Republicans last July:
"They've done nothing but try to impede the progress the President is desperately attempting to set into place, have in fact earned the moniker: "The Party of No," by obstructing at every turn advances Obama and the Democratic Congress have proposed. They have even stomped on the faces of their own constituents while doing so by blocking extended unemployment benefits to their own people, when it was they themselves who promoted those polices, or lack thereof, that lost these jobs, and got this country on the road to recession, or even depression, to begin with. And as the true sociopaths that they are, they continue to blame Obama and the Democrats for not doing enough, not improving the economy enough, not creating jobs fast enough, when it is themselves who are always obstructing progress."
They haven't changed. They've cut off benefits to the unemployed which would be money pumped directly back into the the economy because poor people do not save their money, or send it into offshore investments. Poor people can't afford to (I saw one moron Republican Representative being interviewed yesterday who vehemently claimed just that, the unemployed given benefits hoard their money away. I guess they pay the rent and buy food with all the money they make collecting cans and donating blood plasma).
I'll tell you this, unemployment benefits will cost less than the medical costs the states and counties will incur when these people begin showing up in emergency rooms, and other programs like homeless shelters and food bank programs.
These are unique economic times, difficult times (so measures to keep the unemployed compensated should be unique), largely caused by Republican policies and ideology. They've been proven wrong time and again, yet because of their obstructionism the country is likely to continue to head in the wrong direction for at least the next two years because I am afraid the Democrats don't have the balls to oppose them.
But we certainly didn't help the Democrats in the last election, and if you're unemployed and you voted for a Republican, and you're losing your benefits right now. Well you're getting what you voted for.
Christmas with the Republicans.

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