, Salem, MA

December 15, 2012

Column: Spending billions to stop a tax hike, and other oddities

Joseph F. Doyle
The Salem News

---- — With the exhaustion of the debt ceiling (of about 14 months ago), followed by the gargantuan media blight of the election, we now face the distasteful and totally unnecessary “crisis” denominated as the “fiscal cliff.” At this Rod Serling-like juncture, I would like to submit, for your approval, a few of my observations. The degree of importance may not be denoted by the order of listing.

A U.S. congressman’s and a U.S. senator’s first and only obligation is to their oath of office and the voters who put them in a position to take it. There is a document we know as “The Anti-Tax Pledge,” put forth by a lobbyist whose name is Grover Norquist. The first time I heard that name, I thought it was a knockwurst that you could order at Oktoberfest, with mustard and onions. This hot dog, who is 70 percent financed by Carl Rove and the Koch brothers, somehow holds sway over our elected representatives and senators.

Without getting too verbose, I’d like to say that this type of threat could be prevented if we had open primaries for all parties in every state of the union.

One of the tools needed to take the financial pressure off the country is to eliminate the George W. Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of earners, which raises their taxes by only 2.6 percent. It should be noted that the top 2 percent owns 88.8 percent of the wealth in the United States. It’s pointed out by the G.O.P. (Grind Ordinary People) that this potential increase would stifle job creation. Well, with the rate they’ve had since the W.’s first term, “job creation” has pretty much been a myth. Historically, every time the rich got a tax break, there has been a depletion of job creation.

There was a movie called “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford). Newman, at one point, makes this statement to Redford: “If they paid me the money they’re paying to try to get me to stop robbing them, I’d stop robbing them!” Isn’t that really what’s going on with the 2 percent?

They’re spending billions and billions of dollars to try to cut education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. So, obviously, these billions are just loose change to them. The Clinton-era tax rates would not even be noticed by these people; they would remain millionaires and billionaires. Maybe we should really be thinking of raising the top tax rates higher than 2.6 percent, to put these excess billions to better use.

Every Republican fiscal proposal thus far is dominated by cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and education. At this point, we should be calling them “Rip-offlicans.” The Rip-offlicans don’t tell us the truth about Social Security, which is $2.7 trillion in the black, but that account has been raided by this and other Congresses. Therefore, we’ll have an $82 billion cash obligation for each of the next two years, at least.

The Rip-offlican solution is to cut Social Security benefits and borrow money, which raises the debt, in both principal and interest. Additionally, they don’t allow Medicaid to bargain (like the Veterans Administration) for wholesale pharmaceutical purchases. Once again, instead of running in the black, it runs multiple billions in the red. This is, to put it mildly, felonious mismanagement, not to mention its impact (with interest) on the debt. Like Medicaid, Medicare is also mismanaged and could be easily brought into line with draconian penalties for fraud.

Finally, no Republican proposal thus far takes dollar one from the military budget, where financial fraud annually runs into billions, which everybody knows.

In summary, since the early ’80s, there has been an economic assault on the middle- and lower-income folks. Wages and salaries in the private sector have been cut, pensions have disappeared, communities have been destroyed with plant closings, social and education programs slashed; privatization and deregulation have resulted in rampant fraud and corruption. The Bush tax program has benefited the wealthy, and anti-American worker trade agreements (off-shoring) that translate to high-wage job losses are now an entrenched policy. Let’s hope there are many fearless American patriots in the new Congress, for we desperately need them.

Or, we could just turn into lemmings.


Joseph F. Doyle is a freelance writer who lives in Salem.