The American people get what they voted for

I’m tempted to ask, “Who are these clowns?” But that would be rude.

I read the news today, oh boy.  First I learned that this country — at the start of a tentative recovery, in the midst of three wars — is about to shut down much of the government, that the Democrats offer to “split the difference” by cutting $33 billion for the rest of this year is looking like a non-starter for the GOP, which wants to cut nearly twice as much.

And then there’s the Republicans long-term solution to America’s budget deficit woes. What have these guys been drinking?  The plan, according to The New York Times, promises to cut $4.3 trillion in anticpated spending over 10 years. And it is going to accomplish this by first cutting taxes for the richest Americans.

It would do this by limiting the top tax bracket to 25 percent, way down from the current 35 percent, The New York Times reports. That is a cut on top of the one Congress passed in December, when it backed away from restoring the 38 percent top bracket of the Clinton years, costing the country tens of billions in taxes it would have collected from couples earning more than $250,000 a year.  (The Republican plan would restore unspecified “loopholes,” but Wednesday’s editorial page in The Times estimates the overall tax cut at $4.2 trillion, just a fraction less than what the Republicans would slash from programs. So it would do little to close the deficit.)

Tax policy is complicated; perhaps there is more than meets the eye here. Or perhaps the Republican Party has a magic potion to sell gobbledy-gook to the American people.  But can it sell this one, too?  A cornerstone of the Republican plan would seemingly place a cap on Medicare payments to retirees. Medicare is the government’s health insurance program for seniors.  The Christian Science Monitor describes the proposal, largely written by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, like this:

Current Medicare beneficiaries, and those approaching retirement age, would not be affected by the GOP’s proposed changes. Instead they would apply to people currently 54 years of age and younger.

This cohort, when it enrolls in Medicare, would receive a fixed annual payment for insurance from Uncle Sam (emphasis added). This payment would be higher for those with greater health-care needs and would be adjusted for the cost of health care in particular areas.

Beneficiaries would then purchase insurance from private providers on a health exchange, a sort of supermarket where plans compete for customers.

So if I’ve got this right, the Republicans want to further cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans — who Bob Herbert of The New York Times noted 10 days ago received 100 percent of average income growth in the country between 2000 and 2007.  Then they want to pay for this evisceration of the Treasury in large part by passing on widespread cuts in medical care for retirees.  And these are the folks who went crazy over Obama’s health reform?

If the American people can buy this, I’ve got a couple of nuclear plants I can sell them at a good price in northern Japan. Who knows. It was, after all, the American people who elected the dysfunctional collection of zealots called the Congressional freshmen class. And the Republicans always have been dizzying salesmen.

Already conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks has waxed poetic about the Republican plan  in column titled “Moment of Truth.”  He wrote that Rep. Ryan’s plan is “the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes,” and added that “the current welfare state is simply unsustainable.”

I agree. The current welfare state — for the rich and the richer — is unsustainable. It’s time for them to pay taxes on the first $5 million of their inheritance (they don’t). Its time for them to give up their third and fourth McMansions, to trade in their ocean-going yachts for the 40-foot models,  to pay the workers they’ve squeezed throughout this recession a living wage — to stop soaking all the rest of us while they turn our democracy into an oligarchy of robber barons.

It’s time for a tax structure that doesn’t allow giant companies like General Electric to pay absolutely nothing in taxes, that forces those CEOs earning 300 and 400 times what their workers make to pay a few percentage points more of their obscene salaries in taxes to the government. It’s time to make a dent in expenditures, too: I’d start by freezing military spending for a decade in a country that can’t stop fighting wars and has let the “Military-Industrial Complex,” as then Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower dubbed it a half century ago, grow utterly out of control.

Then let’s talk about Medicare reform.

CORRECTION: An earlier version had the wrong figure for the trillions the Republicans propose slashing. I regret the error.


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 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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