Congress goes back to work: Tax cuts for the rich, nothing for the unemployed?

The irony in today’s economic headlines reads like something out of The Onion.  Only this isn’t comedy. It’s reality: America in 2010.

Unless Congress extends unemployment benefits on Monday, more than 2 million Americans will lose those benefits in December alone, The New York Times notes.  Yet Republicans and the few Democrats who oppose the benefits extension in the name of fiscal responsibility want the richest 2 percent of Americans — those families making $250,000 a year or more — to get a $700 billion tax cut over the next decade.

So who do you think will cycle money back into the economy — multimillionaires handed a bit more or the families of unemployed workers who have to eat and buy winter clothes to stay warm?

Some 6 million Americans,  The Times writes, have been out of work six months or more. Continues the editorial:

(But) some opponents of unemployment benefits — mostly Republicans but a few Democrats as well — would have you believe those figures are evidence of laziness, enabled by generous benefits. They conveniently ignore three facts. One, there are five unemployed people for every job opening — a profound scarcity of jobs. Two, federal benefits average $290 a week, about half of what the typical family spends on basics and hardly enough to dissuade someone from working. Three, as unemployment has deepened, benefits have become less generous.

The editorial follows by a day, a Bob Herbert column titled, “Winning the Class War.” In case you don’t know what he’s talking about, try this on for size: “U.S. firms earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter — the highest total since the government began keeping track more than six decades ago,” he reports.

In other words, as millions can’t find work and tens of thousands lose their homes, the fat cats are getting richer at an unprecedented rate.

Think it’ll trickle down?  Guess again. Let the good times roll. And for those not invited to the party?  Hell, let them eat cake.

But the party, warns Herbert, could well be short-lived.

“Without ordinary Americans spending their earnings from good jobs, any hope of a meaningful, long-term recovery is doomed,” he writes. “Beyond that, extreme economic inequality is a recipe for social instability.”

Or demagoguery.

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About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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2 Responses to Congress goes back to work: Tax cuts for the rich, nothing for the unemployed?

  1. BB says:

    Will angry mobs with picks and shovels storm enclaves of extreme wealth (Greenwich, Ct. e.g.) and take the greedy bastards to task? Alas, no. As long as Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, and the NFL are on TV they’ll sit back, grab a cold Bud, and accept their bondage. Will Obama attempt to rein in the
    excesses? No. His handlers won’t allow it.

  2. jerrylanson says:

    Well said. And you’re absolutely right. We’ve invented the circus of Roman times — mindless TV today — to keep the hapless masses placid. Sadly, we may well be building toward an explosion of anger in the hot summer. But it will be misdirected as always toward small businesses next door, not the real culprits. A better hope might be a mass peaceful march that somehow bridges populism on right and left and turns the heat on Washington, a March for Decent Decency. But that won’t happen either. Not with the financial services industry, which produces nothing but bring homes a quarter of American wealth, pouring billions into manipulating the public.

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