The latest Congressional dispute over extended unemployment benefits is another case study in the hypocritical way in which our elected officials continually back the interests of the wealthy over those of average or disadvantaged Americans. As has become their standard response to any attempts by the Administration or Congressional Democrats to spend money to improve the lives of people who have lost jobs due to an ailing economy or property due to natural disasters, for instance, the GOP always to call for equivalent budget cuts somewhere else to balance the books. The somewhere else can never be revenue increases or cuts to other expenditures that affect the wealthy at all. Cuts must be to other programs helping the same people as the proposed increased spending is to be allocated for.
Congressional action (or more accurately – inaction) of late has been dominated by the GOP who are adamant in their demands for austerity for the poor and what remains of the middle class in order to preserve intact all the income and wealth inequality that has trickled upward steadily since the Reagan Administration. They come up with explanations for this policy direction which possess varying degrees of ingenuity and/or credibility among the American public, as may be seen in the results of many opinion polls. Telling tales that stretch the truth can only be viable for so long, and over three decades of failure of their policies to improve the economy or living standards of the vast majority of our people definitely has taken its toll on their perceived veracity..
Most recently, the claim has been put forth by Rand Paul and others that providing these extended unemployment benefits only encourages people to stay unemployed longer and serves as a disservice to the unemployed Those living in poverty on unemployment and other forms of assistance are expected to further tighten their belts and work harder to pull themselves out of their dire circumstances. We’ll let you give these long-term unemployed people assistance for awhile longer, but you have to decide if you want people to go hungry, homeless, without health insurance or with less educational assistance instead. We are maxed out on what the taxpayers can provide overall. The argument fails on so many levels it is ludicrous to think they even believe it themselves.
To make matters worse, they call on Democrats to come up with ways to improve job availability along with the overall economy, as if no proposals to that effect have been made in Congress and shelved by the GOP ever since they took control of the House. In fact, they have taken every opportunity to refuse to take action that was designed to stimulate the economy and create new jobs. Furthermore, by causing the shutdown of the federal government last October, they cost the economy an estimated $24 billion – money that was not offset by other budget cuts. Revenue cuts caused by such actions as the Bush tax cuts that benefited primarily the wealthy were never offset but budget cuts. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were never offset either by tax increases or other budget cuts, either. Apparently, only debt increases to improve the lot of the wealthy or to conduct foreign wars of aggression are permitted under the GOP philosophy. Having a Republican in the White House also covers a number of budgetary sins, at least as far as they are concerned.
Any attempt to use the power of the government to help improve society as a whole by lifting people out of poverty, providing everyone with affordable health care, jobs with living wages and the opportunity to advance economically is seen by the defenders of the wealthy and their corporations as anathema. Glorification of greed is their credo. This cannot be satisfied by encouraging a lessening of economic inequality or even just making sure that all people are treated humanely, fairly and of equal value within their society. This does not strike me as being what America should be all about. Redistribution of resources is necessary to stem the tide of plutocracy that has steadily evolved under the under-regulated capitalist system we find ourselves living in today. The wealthy and the corporate “persons” have had their say for over a generation. The time has come to eliminate their unneeded tax loopholes and subsidies so that the money needed to fight poverty and all forms of economic insecurity is made available.
The recent revelation that more than 50% of Congress is comprised of millionaires comes as no surprise, especially considering how unregulated campaign financing has come to decrease the degree of democracy present in our elections, especially since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. That so much time, effort and money is spent by our elected officials to maintain their positions of power by continuing to be re-elected is definitely a bug in our system, not a feature. Not all politicians are so corrupted that they are incapable of representing those among their constituents who can’t contribute to their campaigns financially. Some of these millionaires can empathize and do work hard to help their constituents. Others do so only if by so acting they do not endanger their own political futures. Those who claim that increasing the degree of impoverishment and inequality in most facets of the lives of most of their constituents makes the US a better society are either extremely self-serving, delusional or unwilling to see the evidence readily available should they truly examine how the policies that they have impacted the lives of all of us, not just their friends and contributors.
Democrats, progressives and others in elective office, the media and elsewhere must cease limiting the discussion of budget priorities foisted on them by the extreme conservative (of the interests of the wealthy) elements in Congress. Fighting the good fight means increasing the ability of all to find good jobs that pay good wages, providing the necessary resources to fund a good education for each and every one of us, regardless of parental income, health care that is likewise tied not to occupation or income, but to the needs of the people in need of it. We’ve tried the Reagan Revolution long enough already. It’s time to eliminate the destructive policies that everyone but the top 1 or 2% of the economic ladder find holding them back from their true potential, and replace them with policies that will better suit the needs and hopes of all of us.
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