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Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Working Poor

February 17, 2018

When it recently passed a sweeping tax “reform” bill which President Trump promptly signed into law, Congress gave the wealthiest among us and our largest corporations an enormous holiday gift with little mention of how it would ultimately be paid for or the long-term consequences on our society as a whole. After a second short government shutdown, Congress agreed to pass some government resolutions designed to fund the government for two years, raise spending for both defense and non-defense purposes beyond the limits set by sequestration, and avoid a further threat of government shutdown while avoiding any decisions on immigration reform for the time being (which some of them obviously hope means forever, or at least till they are ready to retire).

At least as far back as the Reagan Administration, similar efforts have been made to exacerbate an already unseemly and obscene degree of economic inequality in a supposedly egalitarian society that prides itself on at least a semblance of equality of opportunity to achieve great heights from even the humblest of beginnings. When these cuts are passed, revenues are supposed to be magically raised by the investments of our wealthy scions and their benevolent capitalist enterprises creating an economic boon beyond all imagination. Such boon never seems to occur – at least not to the extent fantasized by these economic Merlins – leaving perpetually ever-larger budget deficits, which are never mentioned or fretted about until there is a power shift in Congress and/or the White House over to the Democrats.

This changing of the guard when Clinton and Obama came to power brought the religion of austerity to the GOP faithful, who now portrayed the Democrats as spendthrifts of the highest order, requiring bringing about severe cutbacks in spending on anything that helps out anyone in need of something they cannot afford to buy on the open market (i.e. – anyone not rich). Military spending is usually off the table for these cuts. Wars being fought need to be won (whatever that means) regardless of cost. The idea is to retain the tax cuts for the wealthy without endangering their safety by reducing spending on bombs and bullets. These folks know not of wanting for creature comforts, let alone meeting the needs of economic survival faced by workers being paid poverty wages.

Social Safety net programs begun under FDR in the New Deal Era to try to meet the needs of a society faced with the economic devastation of the Great Depression (brought on to a great degree by Capitalist excesses overseen by previous Republican leadership) and continued in the anti-poverty and civil rights campaigns that followed have never been widely favored in GOP circles or among many of the corporate elites. Many seem to have the attitude that this is a great country (let’s make it great again!) Anyone who is facing economic hardship does so because they have failings as human beings. Programs designed to equalize opportunity for those who live in poverty, take care of the disabled and in need of medical care, meet basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. encourage lazy people to remain lazy and expect the rest of us to do everything for them. Actually, that’s the way many of us view people like Donald Trump, who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and seemed to have everything granted to him along the way by virtue of inherited wealth and privilege, but I digress.

Taking military spending and insane war perpetuation off the table for budget discussions leaves the GOP with domestic political issues and spending to fight over. Those Social Safety Net Programs designed to put a somewhat humanitarian face on the predatory capitalistic and Social Darwinism espoused by so many people like Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan and others among the Republican elected leaders (Donald Trump is a charter member, his public objections to be labelled as such to the contrary) are seen by many of the moneyed interests as mere sops to alleviate potential uprisings among us lower class folks that might cause violent uprisings and threaten their precarious status. When push comes to shove, they’ll hang onto those tax cuts before they’ll see the need for a more equitable and fair distribution of the resources we all must share as well as the burdens involved in producing the goods and services we all require.

Despite campaign promises not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – three major safety net programs designed to make life easier (or even possible in some cases) for the young, the elderly and the infirm among us – will most assuredly be under attack as soon as the con used to sell these tax cuts becomes all too apparent to everyone fooled enough to put this government in place.  People with little ability to pay for health care or sustenance otherwise will be asked to tighten their belts, forego eating some meals, wait awhile longer before visiting the doctor or not buying necessary medication – just because it’s too much to ask a person to pay a tax on their billion dollar inheritance or a multimillionaire entertainer or entrepreneur to pay a slightly higher tax rate than they do now. Heck, they might have to forego a round of golf a month or something equally tragic.

This country used to be much kinder to lower income people with less wealth than it is now. When I went to college, for instance, it was much easier to attain  college degree that actually meant something in terms of future economic opportunity than it is now. These days, it seems most of the help being offered to non-athletic scholarship folks involves being saddled with mountains of debt that may never be entirely paid off. That same lack of funding for education is tending to affect public K-12 education in other ways. Schools are dropping programs, academic and non-academic, that we of past generations took for granted due to cost. The generation that was so generous with us when it came to using resources to educate us has been replaced by one that either cannot or will not do so for its children.

The farce that passes for an immigration debate these days is another example of how the powers that be continue to divide us from people who share our own best interests while enabling themselves to maintain their privileged economic and political status. We should e fighting for workers’ rights worldwide rather than supporting President who is promising to keep good jobs here while deporting hard-working people and employing workers in countries who labor under horrendous conditions for a pittance making stuff he and his family can sell at a handsome profit to us.

Make America Great by making the world better – for all of us. Don’t listen to the snake oil salesmen (and women). Most of us don’t need snake oil. Probably not god for the arteries, anyway. We certainly don’t need a periodic rehashing of failed economic policies from dead ex-presidents and those who did their bidding. You don’t make a society better by closing it off by building walls between nations, deporting people who either look, talk or think differently that you in unimportant ways. Creating false and faulty justifications for creating a society that gives you undeserved power over others’ very livelihoods, health, prosperity and ability to influence the world around them may help you feel good about yourself, but it certainly does not make you a great or good person. Stop trying to make society a competitive capitalistic jungle and make it a cooperative enterprise that values us all.

Further Suggested Readings:

Major shift as Trump opens way for Medicaid work requirement

Trump Launches ‘Truly Savage’ Attack on Medicaid By Pushing Work Requirements

Republicans in Congress are planning major cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Sign the petition now to say #NoCuts

Kentucky becomes first U.S. state to impose Medicaid work provisions

Tax Cuts as a Route to Cutting Social Security

Kentucky upends its Medicaid program, thousands to lose coverage

Work Requirements Could Leave 6.3 Million Americans Without Health Care

Tell Trump: Hands Off Our Medicaid!

The Next Big Fight: Saving Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security from Massive Cuts

4 Ways Trump and GOP Have Launched a Full-Out Assault on America’s Poorest

Trump Proposes to Cut Medicare and Spend Big on Wall, Defense

Trump wants to cut back on food stamps for the poor and substitute with packaged food deliveries

Trump’s budget balloons deficits, cuts social safety net

Trump Administration Wants To Decide What Food SNAP Recipients Will Get

Trump’s budget cuts Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, breaking core campaign promise

Trump’s budget sheds light on plans for welfare reform

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