“So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass, or their own dung.” Trader Andrew J. Myrick to the Dakota, Yellow Medicine Agency, Minnesota, August 6, 1862
Myrick’s attitude seems mirrored in the Republican Party of a century-and-a-half later.
Having ensured that children will be born through their anti-abortion legislation, House Republicans have now ensured those children will be deprived of proper nutrition once they come into the world, ensuring that 300,000 millionaires will have more money in their pockets at the expense of nearly 500,000 women and children. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved the appropriations bill which reduces WIC funding from $6.73 billion this year to $5.90 billion in 2012. If the Republicans had been truly interested in slashing the federal budget they could have saved more money by ending tax cuts for the rich or slashing subsidies to the oil companies. Instead they starve the infants they claim to want to save.
For example, retaining the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans will, using Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Tax projections, cost us $690 billion in lost revenue over the next 10 years. Contrast that with the paltry $800 million shaved off spending by the cuts to WIC. But cutting off this source of revenue ensured that cuts would have to be made, or somebody else would have to pay more taxes to the tune of $690 billion. It’s a cinch those wealthy at the top 2 percent aren’t hurting for nutrition. So why go after our children?
As American Progress reported last July,
To put that figure in perspective, $830 billion is enough to pay for all veterans’ hospitals, doctors, and the rest of the Veteran’s Affairs health system, plus the United States Coast Guard, plus the Food and Drug Administration, plus the operation and maintenance of every single national park for the entire 10-year period—with more than $100 billion left over.
Then there are the oil industry’s subsidies, which average about $4 billion every year. As the New York Times reports,
[A]n examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process.
Ending these oil subsidies save tens of billions over the next ten years, to add to the hundreds of billions of lost revenue through the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy.
Republicans defend these subsidies or decline to call them subsidies at all, but without admitting that these tax breaks are denied to other industries (to the tune, where capital investments are concerned, of 9 percent tax rate for oil companies compared to 25 percent for everybody else).
Of course, big oil has lobbyists. Starving mothers and infants do not. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports that the oil and natural gas industry has spent $340 million on lobbyists since 2008. Nobody is, or can spend that, in defense of our starving children.
The oil industry claims slashing their subsidies would cost jobs. Meanwhile, they repay us – the American tax payer – by using foreign countries as tax havens, depriving the U.S. economy of billions more dollars.
In April, ABC News reported,
Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell today reported first-quarter profit increases of 69 percent and 30 percent, respectively, from the same period last year. With rising gas and oil prices, analysts expected the five biggest oil companies — with Exxon as the largest — to report that they are swimming in revenue.
Obviously, the oil industry isn’t hurting. Gas prices are surging at the pumps and American taxpayers are being gouged coming and going by the system as it stands. President Obama’s reaction no doubt reflected that of millions of Americans:
“When oil companies are making huge profits and you’re struggling at the pump, and we’re scouring the federal budget for spending we can afford to do without, these tax giveaways aren’t right. They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.”
Exxon Mobil’s vice president for public and global affairs, Kenneth Cohen’s response was this:
“We understand that it’s simply too irresistible for many politicians in times of high oil prices and high earnings — they feel they have to demonize our industry.”
If he listens carefully, he will hear the world’s smallest violin being played for him. But not by the starving infants. They won’t be strong enough to hold even an imaginary violin.
And they didn’t ask to be here, after all, brought into a world that despises and rejects them in favor of the rich and corporate CEOs. You can bet Kenneth Cohen has enough nutrition on his table.
While our wealthy fellow citizens and corporate CEO’s pat themselves on the back, the federal budget for fiscal year 2012 (beginning in October) would starve the very children the Republicans claim to have saved through their campaign against women’s reproductive rights. What they seem to be saving is, “you’re damn well bringing that baby to term but we’ll be damned if we’re going to be responsible for feeding it.”
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says 325,000 to 375,000 low-income women and children would be affected by this bill. As they write,
This cut — part of the 2012 appropriations bill that Rep. Jack Kingston, chairman of the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee, unveiled today — would break a 15-year commitment by Administrations and Congresses of both parties to provide enough WIC funding to serve all eligible women, infants, and children who apply.
This is the Republican idea of “shared sacrifice.” They fail to explain why we should protect and defend the wealthiest 2 percent or the obscenely engorged oil companies, but not the low-income women and children in homes around America. In fact, the party of morality fails to offer any moral justification for this sort of behavior at all, despite the Bible’s injunction to not only love, but help others. It’s ironic that the party of morality prefers every time a choice is possible, the most immoral choice available.
When Jesus said (according to Luke), “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” the Republicans must have thought he was talking about the rich instead. The new beatitude is, “Blessed are the rich, for yours is the kingdom of God.” You can be sure an appropriate revision is on the way to your local Bible bookstore.
And so the Republican campaign for a “government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich,” continues to gain momentum. As a historical footnote, Andrew J. Myrick, whose words introduced this piece, ended up dead, his mouth stuffed full of grass. It’s too soon to tell what the Republican fate will be but it will likely be no less terminal, if far more metaphorical.