America’s exceptionalism was on full display this week and it is not because it is the richest nation in the history of the world or maintains a world-dominating military, but it should warm the hearts of every Republican and conservative in the teabagger movement. In fact, Republicans have reason to celebrate this week for nearly achieving two of their primary goals since they took control of the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. The news should embolden Republicans to exert more effort to impose severe austerity measures on the ninety-nine percent and give more tax cuts to the wealthy, and if they stay dedicated to cutting social safety net spending, America will be the world leader in a category near and dear to Republicans, and if they continue their economic malfeasance, they will maintain their number one status as the ultimate job-killers.
For the past year the GOP has toiled diligently to increase poverty with Draconian spending cuts targeting the poor, and their efforts to cut funding to the SNAP (food stamp), Medicaid, and children’s programs is only matched by their assault on women and imposition of bible edicts. However, if they prevail in the general election, Paul Ryan, John Boehner, and Willard Romney will reach their coveted goal of having the highest child poverty rate in the world. Presently, America is number two.
In a new report from the Office of Research at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), of 35 wealthy countries studied, only two have more than 20% of its children living in poverty. Republicans will be disappointed that at 23.1%, America came in second to Romania’s 25%, but no-one can blame them for not aspiring to reach number one. The good news for Republicans is even though America is number two, it has more poverty-stricken children that Latvia, Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, and 28 of the developed countries in the world.
The reasons for the increase in child poverty is the Republican-caused Great Recession and the foreclosure crisis, and the only reason America is number two is because social safety nets and food stamps reduced the number of children living in extreme poverty by one-half. Republicans are desperate to cut food stamps and safety net spending to give more tax cuts to the wealthy, and it is possible they knew in advance that the UNICEF report would reveal that America is not number one explaining their drive toward austerity economics. Republican plans ensure America will have the highest childhood poverty rate if their Path to Prosperity (for the wealthy) budget ever reaches fruition, and Romney proposes more drastic cuts to safety nets if he is elected president so he can “take a lot of the credit” for reaching number one status in childhood poverty. It is telling that they are genuinely enthusiastic about implementing their plans, and they obviously have no humanity knowing their proposals will increase hardship for millions of children.
The Great Recession belongs to the Republican Party, and their goal of decimating the economy by obstructing President Obama’s policies earned them another distinction this week that is sure to invigorate them. Last year during the debt ceiling fiasco when Republicans in Congress held the limit hostage for more spending cuts that increased childhood poverty, their “act of economic sabotage” caused a decline in consumer confidence that was worse than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The debt ceiling disaster is responsible for a year-long struggle to get hiring and growth back on track, and according to economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, the “economy was significantly setback during the last showdown, and that “despite the rebound in job growth, employment is likely still below where it would otherwise have been.” According to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, Republicans will hold the next debt ceiling increase hostage in exchange for cuts to safety nets and to give the wealthy more tax cuts.
When S&P downgraded America’s stellar credit rating after the debt ceiling crisis, they particularly blamed Republicans for their intransience on tax increases. The report specifically cited that Republicans used the threat of default as a bargaining chip, and they highlighted that their actions made governing less stable, less effective, and less predictable by obstructing all efforts to raise revenue. S&P also commented that they would raise the credit rating if “the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for high earners lapse from 2013 onwards, as the Administration is advocating,” and that they had no alternative but degrading America’s credit rating “because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.” Now, after all the Republican economic malfeasance and resistance to raise revenues, acclaimed businessman Romney and courageous fiscal conservative Ryan are proposing more massive tax cuts for the wealthy and tax increases on Americans already living in poverty.
Romney proposals guarantee to achieve the much coveted number one ranking in childhood poverty, and with massive tax cuts the economy will go into a deep recession. Republican promises to reduce revenue will not only earn another credit downgrade, destroy consumer confidence and retard job growth, it will make it impossible to maintain social safety nets. Their cruel cuts to food stamps all but guarantee the number of children living in poverty will double, and as they cut healthcare for seniors, veterans, and children, if the poor fail to starve to death, they will perish from lack of medical care.
America is exceptional for being the richest country on Earth and failing to provide jobs, healthcare, and assistance to tens-of-millions of Americans struggling to survive. However, survival is Republicans’ goal for all but the wealthiest Americans, and their plans to hand the wealthy more tax cuts prove they have no regard for economic recovery, job growth, or the plight of children. The GOP has abandoned any pretense of growing the economy or jobs that would alleviate the extraordinarily high child poverty rates, and their drive to slash safety nets will increase poverty and the likelihood of another credit downgrade and devastating economic recession. Republicans want to reclaim America’s glory days under Bush’s leadership, and their agenda will certainly bear fruit, but sending more children into poverty, killing jobs, and destroying the economy is not what most Americans consider exceptional.
It is tragic that such devastating news on childhood poverty and loss of consumer confidence is the result of Republican’s deliberate machinations, and one can only imagine they are celebrating their accomplishments. However, the news that America only rated second place with 23% of children living in poverty informs that Republicans will double their efforts to make America truly exceptional as the richest country on Earth with the highest childhood poverty rate. It may be a source of pride for Republicans, but for decent Americans, the thought that nearly a quarter of our children live in poverty is less than exceptional; it is shameful.