The concept of a society and its communal character takes decades to develop into its current state, and any digression or progress is normally slow in coming. America is no different, and over 60 years this country became the envy of the world because the government worked for nearly all the people and it engendered shared sacrifice for the good of every citizen and the nation itself. For the past three years, Republicans have attempted to convert the government into a plutocracy, and if successful, Reagan’s claim that government is inherently bad will reach fruition. It has taken 30 years, but if Republicans have their way, then government is the enemy.
For the past four months this column warned that Romney’s economic agenda decimates the poor with Draconian cuts to critical safety nets, and that the middle class was on the chopping block as well. Pundits claimed Romney’s tax plan lacked details, but he implied that to give the wealthy trillions in tax cuts, the poor would pay higher taxes and education, safety nets, police and fire protection, and construction will suffer deep cuts, if not elimination. This week, Senate Republicans proposed a tax plan incorporating Romney’s ideas, and coupled with deep cuts to social programs, transforms America into a nation of peasants to enrich the wealthy.
Senator Orin Hatch and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed raising taxes on working families by $11 billion to make room for tax cuts for the wealthy. The two main increases affect poor and moderate income families by eliminating the child tax credit and Earned Income Credit that combined, affect 22.9 million families in 2013 alone. McConnell has complained for weeks that the wealthiest one-percent are unduly punished, and that 98% of the population has to pick up the slack in the Republican version of shared sacrifice. At a time when an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the wealthy should pay higher taxes, Republicans are taking the opposite approach and burdening middle-America to help the 2%.
The Republican plan increases the threshold for working families earning $13,300 annually to receive a child tax credit of $1,000, and will deny 8.9 million working-poor families, and 16.4 million children, $7.6 billion in assistance for 2013. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $23,050 annually so the GOP plan is a significant tax increase on every family living under the poverty level. The Earned Income tax credit is for working Americans, and those who qualify have at least one child. President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) increased the EIC specifically for families with three or more children from 40 percent to 45 percent of their qualifying income, and the Republican plan eliminates them affecting 6.5 million families, and 15.9 million children, for a loss of $3.4 billion in 2013. For the record, these tax increases affect families with children earning less than $50,000 annually, and hit tens-of-millions of working families.
In a related assault on the poor, the House Farm bill slashes $16.5 billion in SNAP (food stamps) and will result in 3 million people losing all of their benefits, including 300,000 children going without school lunch, and 500,000 households losing $90 in monthly grocery money. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), most people who receive SNAP benefits are households earning about $8,800 per year on average, and SNAP provided $4.30 per person per day for food, and boosted gross monthly income by 39% for all households and 45% for households with children. Any family who avoided dire poverty with SNAP benefits will fall below the threshold of extreme poverty without food assistance. Although these figures are staggering and demonstrate the Draconian measures Republicans are taking to provide the wealthiest 2% with relief, they are nothing compared to the Romney or Ryan budget proposals.
One need not be an economic expert to know Republicans’ refusal to pass job creation plans is driving unemployment and under-employment, or that declining wages and rising costs are sending millions of Americans into poverty, but the sentiment among Republicans is that government assistance is a waste of money better served as tax cuts for wealthy. Ohio House representative Jim Jordan recently said, “This is harmful for a culture and a country, when you have one in seven people thinking it’s OK for someone else to feed them. We need to reform that, and we need to scale it back.” Jordan’s remarks parrot a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who said “America’s social safety nets have outlived their usefulness, and that it is time to bring them to an end” because he claims the poor are not really poor if they “live in houses, own microwave ovens, or a television.”
Apparently, Republicans are unaware what it means to live at or below the poverty level or struggle to make ends meet, but they have access to the same data as every American so their policy serves no purpose but assaulting the 98% to enrich the wealthy. What is frightening is that Romney intends on sending more Americans into the poverty level by laying off teachers, police and fire fighters, and public sector workers and raise their taxes to help the rich. However, it makes sense for Romney to fire public sector employees because he considers $19,000 a good middle class income regardless it is less than the federal poverty line, and it is an outrage that the cuts make room for tax cuts to “unburden the wealthiest Americans” Republicans claim are suffering. Their argument to maintain the Bush tax cuts for people earning over $1-million is that small businesses will suffer and they will not begin hiring, but only 2% of businesses earn over $1-million annually, and they still are not hiring despite 12 years of reduced rates.
Republicans are waging class war for the wealthy, and they are using the government and tax increases to drive more Americans into poverty. Increased taxes coupled with eliminating health care and housing and heating assistance for seniors, disabled Americans, and children will doom tens-of-millions to a life of dire poverty if the poor can even survive. However, maybe that is their plan; kill off the poor through starvation and ill-health to make room for middle class families they are sending into poverty to repeat the cycle until only the wealthy remain. It is the ultimate expression of death by government under Republican leadership and it is the end of the America that was the envy of the world and a source of pride for all Americans. It is also evil. Pure unadulterated evil for the people’s representatives to deliberately drive as many Americans into poverty just to enrich the two-percent with lower taxes to relieve their burden. And worse, they are unburdening the one-percent that hides trillions of dollars in offshore tax havens to avoid paying any taxes on their investment income.
What is astounding is the number of poor and middle class Americans supporting Republican policies that will be their death knell, and it is down to their racist hatred of President Obama. There have been volumes written about the lunacy of people voting against their own self-interest, and despite knowledge they will suffer the effects of Republican policies, they still support giving everything to the rich. Much of the blame falls on the media who are remiss to inform the voters of the consequences of government by Republicans, but they are wholly owned and operated by the wealthiest corporations in the world so their malfeasance is borne of greed and self-preservation.
Whether Reagan knew when he preached that government is the people’s enemy that his party would fulfill his mantra is unknown, but government controlled by Republicans is the problem and source of all of America’s woes. They oppose healthcare, food assistance, education, public sector employees, women, seniors, children, environmental and consumer protections, fire and police protection, and equal rights laws that benefit all Americans at the same time they legislate religion and perpetual war for oil and profit. Now, they are making no secret that they intend to raise taxes on 98% of the population to help the poor rich people who, as McConnell puts it, are under a severe burden and will create jobs if Americans give them everything they have. It is difficult to quantify evil, but if there is a face of evil, it is the GOP and they will not finish until 98% of the population is at or near poverty and the wealthy get subsidies for being wealthy. That is the America Republicans and Romney intend to create if they control Congress and the White House, and if that eventuality comes to pass, then Reagan was right; government will be the problem that condemns 98% of the people to poverty, despair, and eventually death. It is the Republican version of the American Dream for a few and a nightmare for the rest.