The Real Evil Behind the Republicans’ Tax and Budget Plans

Republicans have long dreamed of destroying the social safety net once and for all.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Neal Gabler / BillMoyers.com

Link: https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-long-game-tax-cuts?akid=16463.123424.ZIXTn7&rd=1&src=newsletter1086211&t=17

Emphasis Mine: 

Bloggers additions:

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=   In memory of the late Belle Likover – http://obits.cleveland.com/obituaries/cleveland/obituary.aspx?pid=186268198        =

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It isn’t easy watching the country you love fall down a black hole from which it is not likely to emerge, but that is precisely what happened this past week with the Senate passage of the so-called “tax reform” bill. Bernie Sanders spoke for many when he said it will “go down in history as one of the worst, most unfair pieces of legislation ever passed.”

To which I’d add, not only the worst legislation, but also the most radically transformative passed in our lifetimes. The bill seems to have something to hurt every American, except for the wealthy. It raises taxes on most middle-income wage earners over the long haul, eliminates the individual mandate for health care (which will send insurance premiums soaring) and allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The House version removes deductions for large health care expenses and compels graduate students to pay taxes on tuition waivers, though the Senate version retains both. Speaking of the health care provisions alone, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers predicted millions would die.

But to be perfectly honest, bad as they are — and they are very bad — these aren’t likely to be the worst problems with this patchwork legislation. Though it was seemingly thrown together at the last minute, with senators scribbling changes in the margins even as it was being debated on the floor, and though it was concocted solely to give the Republicans and their monster-in-chief a legislative victory — any legislative victory — it would be misguided to think that there isn’t some grand scheme behind it.

In fact, for all the haphazardness, the tax reform measures passed by the House and Senate, which must be reconciled in conference before final passage, achieve a deliberate and much-cherished GOP goal that supersedes short-term victory. Republicans have long dreamed of destroying the social safety net once and for all. This is the bill that finally threatens to accomplish their plan.

The New Deal, which created that safety net, arose in the Great Depression precisely because the free markets that Republicans insist to this day are the answer to every problem failed Americans miserably. Government was needed to bail them out then and to protect them in the future.

New Dealism was a set of programs — Social Security, public works, fair labor laws, conservation and dozens more — but it was also an attitude about government and the role it could and should play, from actively helping citizens in distress to equalizing an unfair tax structure.

The proof of its success is that Republicans didn’t dare revoke it when they came back to power. Frankly, they couldn’t, because New Dealism was too popular for them to do so. Dwight Eisenhower didn’t even reduce the highest marginal tax rate of the 1950s, which sat at 91 percent. And believe it or not, no one outside of right-wing extremists called him a socialist.

Still, there were elements of the Republican Party that chafed over New Dealism and never gave up hope of rescinding it and returning America to its primordial state — when the wealthy controlled everything and ordinary people were left to fend for themselves. The Republicans, a coalition of big business, farmers and small-town Rotarians, hadn’t been the party of the people for a long time.

The GOP’s two deepest strains may have been personal responsibility and Social Darwinism, and neither was especially hospitable to government intervention of any sort. In combination, these beliefs challenged the very foundations of New Dealism, assuming not that government was a collective instrument to help Americans when they needed it, but that government assistance subverted self-sufficiency and undermined the natural order of things: the poor were poor and the rich were rich because they deserved it.

(N.B.: Social Darwinism was a product of Herbert Spencer – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Spencer.  The Principle of Natural Selection is Survival of the Fitter, not Survival of the Fittest, as is often misstated.)

This was by no means the entirety of the Republican Party. Though it is impossible to imagine right now, there was a progressive wing of the party with stalwarts like Robert La Follette, George Norris and William Borah. And there were moderates who, while favoring Wall Street, didn’t abhor all government involvement in the economy.

With this concession, New Dealism not only endured the griping against it, but, during Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, grew — with Medicare and Medicaid signal achievements. By necessity, even Richard Nixon was a sort of New Dealer, introducing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

That’s the way it was throughout the postwar period — until Ronald Reagan.

Of the many ways Reagan changed American politics, among the most important was taking the extreme right-wing factions of conservatism who had been knocking at the party’s door and letting them in. This was a sneaky trick and a cataclysmic one that eventually would lead to Donald Trump.

(N.B.: It is often stated – as in ‘Reagan changed’ , above – that a POTUS was alone responsible for legislation. In Fact – as Donald J. Trump and many of his supporters have learned – a bill becomes law only after it has passed both houses and signed into law by the President: the PPACA  is a example.  I might also observe that when 40 was in office, his mental capacity to comprehend what was happening was always in question.)

Once upon a time, these folks were widely dismissed as kooks and pushed to the margins. Now they were at the heart of the party. All you need to know is that Reagan got his political start delivering speeches about “the ant heap of totalitarianism” and reviling Medicare as inevitably leading to a socialist dictatorship. (We’re still waiting.)

Reagan and his right-wing friends shared one great ambition: to destroy New Dealism. Part of this was to further enrich their rich benefactors and disempower the poor under that old guise of free markets and Social Darwinism. But there’s another possible reason, more psychological than ideological: You hurt people because it makes you feel more powerful and because you think they have it coming. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) admitted as much the other day when he said, in defense of the estate tax repeal, that if you give ordinary Americans tax breaks, they will just waste their money on “booze, women and movies.”

Inevitably, New Dealism and Republicanism cannot coexist, because New Dealism is about helping people and Republicanism is about insisting that people can only help themselves. There is not a shred of empathy in the latter.

And therein lies the real driving force and the grand strategy behind this so-called tax reform. The House and Senate bills will both increase the deficit — the deficit about which Republicans have caterwauled for 50 years — by more than one trillion dollars! But rather than admit such rank hypocrisy, they deny that a trillion dollars will actually be added to be the deficit. The biggest dissemblers say that the resulting economic growth from tax cuts will take care of it, which is utter nonsense. The less egregious liars say that they will raise taxes if the deficit balloons, which is also nonsense. But — and here is the fine print — they say that if necessary they will cut government programs to keep the deficit under control.

That is the basic point. The object of tax reform is to create a gigantic deficit to justify ending the New Deal.

The time will come, and it is not far off, when every New Deal and Great Society program will be on the chopping block. And when they are, Republicans will start their deficit hawk mating call again. And because the deficit will have swelled so much, programs will be slashed. They won’t just nibble away at the edges. They will try to kill the whole thing.

Democrats will protest. They may even be in power. But if they are, they will be handed an untenable situation, having to choose between deficits and programs. In effect, Democrats are being set up. You can already hear Republicans saying we can’t afford Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps or even Social Security. It is government as cruelty.

In the past, when it came to New Dealism, Republicans always had to hide their true intentions because when they dared reveal them, as George W. Bush did when he sought to privatize Social Security, the hue and cry was deafening. In fact, a few weeks ago I wrote about how Americans were wising up, and it’s true that the more they learn about this “tax reform,” the more opposed they are. Right now, the opposition is overwhelming.

But with Donald Trump in charge, Republicans feel no need to conceal. They have been emboldened, I think, to show their true selves because they feel Trump has their back with his supporters — and as long as they have that army behind them, they are willing to take the risk of promoting a “reform” nearly everyone else hates. Those aggrieved white men who form the bulk of rank-and-file Republicanism don’t care if they have to pay more taxes. They don’t care if premitheir health insurance premiums soar. They don’t care if their children can’t afford to go to college. Surveys show that they are more devoted to Trump than to their own welfare, and they will follow Trump wherever he leads, even if he leads them to financial disaster. He voices their hatreds, and hatred trumps policy. Such is modern Republicanism.

In a way, you can’t blame Republican office holders for being fired up. They have the New Deal in their sights, and they are eager to pull the trigger. Yet this country already has suffered grievously from Republicanism and Trumpism. It has lost its moral compass, and is about to put an alleged child molester in the Senate. America is going to suffer a great deal more once the deficit reckoning comes and the great unraveling begins. When the social safety net is gone, what happens to those who fall — which in truth, could be every single one of us?

Neal Gabler is the author of five books and the recipient of two LA TImes Book Prizes, Time magazine’s non-fiction book of the year, and USA Today’s biography of the year. He is a senior fellow at the Lear Center for the Study of Entertainment and Society.

 

Republicans call Obamacare a ‘failure.’ These 7 charts show they couldn’t be more wrong

Source: LATIMES.com

Author:Michael Hiltzik

Emphasis Mine

Congressional Republicans, evidently hoping that by repeating an untruth they’ll convince American voters, and perhaps themselves, that it’s a truth, on Wednesday said the Affordable Care Act has “failed.”

The undistilled version of this view came from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who emerged Wednesday from a meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence to assert: “This law has failed. Americans are struggling. The law is failing while we speak. … Things are only getting worse under Obamacare. … The healthcare system has been ruined — dismantled — under Obamacare.”

Every one of those statements is demonstrably untrue. How do we know this? We know because every measure of healthcare spending, access and cost has improved since the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Timothy McBride of Washington University in St. Louis has done the heavy lifting of pulling together the relevant charts and graphs, and posting them online in a series of 12 tweets compiled on Storify. We’ve culled some of the most important, and present them here.

We should add, first, that Ryan also pledged, once the GOP repeals the law, to “make sure that there is a stable transition to a truly patient-centered system. We want every American to have access to quality, affordable health coverage

This is nothing but fatuous gobbledygook. The GOP has had six years to come up with an alternative plan, and never has done so. Its current strategy is to repeal the Affordable Care Act now, and then cook up a replacement sometime in the next two, three, even four years. (They can’t even agree on a time frame.) What exactly is a “patient-centered system,” anyway?

Here are the charts, courtesy of professor McBride.

First, the overall uninsured rate has come sharply down since the advent of Obamacare:

Trump Is Going After Health Care. Will Democrats Push Back?

Source:NY Times

Author:

Emphasis Mine

Where should Democrats head after their recent electoral rout? As it happens, coming fights about federally subsidized health insurance offer the party a golden opportunity to engage people far beyond its urban strongholds, in communities that will be hard hit by Republican plans to shrink Medicaid, privatize Medicare and eliminate the taxes that pay for Obamacare subsidies.

Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College, and Republicans maintained congressional majorities, because of overwhelming victories in small cities, outer suburbs and rural counties. Yet the president-elect and the Republicans are poised to deliver blows to the social fabric and economic underpinnings of those very communities. Along with Representative Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, congressional Republicans say they want to move quickly to revolutionize all types of federal health insurance spending, using special procedures that require only 51 votes in the Senate.

Congress will be asked not only to cut the taxes levied on businesses and the rich to finance Obamacare benefits for 20 to 30 million low and middle-income Americans; Republican leaders also plan to slash federal commitments to Medicaid, giving states the authority to shrink this health care program for the poor and elderly. And Republican House members, led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, seem determined to abolish traditional Medicare insurance for retirees and replace it with “premium vouchers” that would throw older Americans on the mercies of private insurance markets and require them to pay more for their care.

Trump voters will be especially hard hit if just part of this sweeping agenda comes to fruition.

Conservatives often point to poor blacks and Latinos as the primary beneficiaries of federal health insurance programs. But such rhetoric obscures the enormous importance of Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare subsidies to economically struggling white Americans living in small cities and rural areas. In Pennsylvania, where Mr. Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton with overwhelming support outside big cities, about 17 percent of residents are 65 or older, above the national average. Meanwhile, some 16 percent of Pennsylvanians benefit from Medicare, and 18 percent from Medicaid. With the bulk of Medicaid going to elderly and disabled residents, that program is the single largest federal subsidy flowing into the Keystone State.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also hit Pennsylvania hard. Under the act, some 468,000 low-income Pennsylvanians had gained Medicaid coverage by August 2016, and another 439,000 bought private coverage on the Obamacare marketplace, with more than three-fourths of those people getting tax credits averaging $251 per month. Health care is often sparse in nonurban areas, and the providers that do exist depend on federal insurance programs that help many patients pay for care. If radical Republican cutbacks in federal contributions to health insurance are enacted, Pennsylvania hospitals and health care businesses will lose vital revenues, leaving many lower-income and sick Pennsylvanians at risk of losing access to care.

This is the case in other states as well, meaning many rural and small-town Trump supporters may soon see that Make America Great Again means accelerating economic decline and social devastation. Mr. Trump shows little understanding of the intricate interplay of subsidies and rules in the health care system, and probably has no inkling that federal taxes collected from liberal states like California, Massachusetts and New York heavily subsidize vital health services, businesses and family benefits in the very places that voted heavily for him. In delegating plans for huge health care cutbacks to hard-right congressional Republicans, he will be hurting his own base. But will Mr. Trump suffer repercussions if the Republican Congress plows ahead? Its proposed changes are unpopular — including repealing the Affordable Care Act, which only one in four Americans support — and eliminating benefits usually arouses anger in the affected groups. But political punishment will not be automatic, because Democrats currently have little organized presence outside urban areas. Small cities and rural areas are overwhelmingly represented in Congress and state capitols by Republicans, who will do all they can to displace blame.

For the Democratic Party, the coming Republican assault on public health insurance represents a huge political opportunity. But to seize it, the party will have to beef up state committees and place a priority on activating volunteer supporters everywhere — getting people to write messages to local newspapers and social media sites, and reach out to hospitals, health care providers and nonprofits to beat the drums about losses the Republicans are inflicting. Even if Democrats cannot soon win outright majorities beyond their urban base, they must be actively involved in communities damaged by Mr. Trump’s false campaign promises.

Democrats cannot just defend Medicare; they must loudly point out that repealing Obamacare means eliminating the taxes that subsidize health care for low- and middle-income people. That huge and immediate tax cut for the rich would lead to the demise of subsidized health insurance for millions of less privileged Americans in rural, suburban and urban communities. Proclaiming this truth could help Democrats gain a new hearing from many Trump voters. But it remains to be seen whether the party can rise to the challenge of showing up everywhere.

See:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/opinion/trump-is-going-after-health-care-will-democrats-push-back.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_ty_20161221&nl=opinion-today&nlid=67843644&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

Obamacare is helping a lot of people. Not everyone thinks that’s good news.

Source: WAPO

Author: Paul Waldman

Emphasis Mine

In politics there are some issues where liberals and conservatives share the same goal, but disagree about how to achieve it — we all want to have as little crime as possible, for instance, but there are different ideas about how to accomplish that. Then there are issues where the two groups have different goals — liberals want to preserve women’s reproductive rights, and conservatives don’t. And sometimes, there are issues we think fall in the first category, but actually belong in the second.

Health care may just be that kind of issue, where we talk as though we all have the same fundamental goals, but we actually don’t. There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today on a major success of the Affordable Care Act that demonstrates why we’ll never stop arguing about it. Here’s how it begins:

The first full year of the Affordable Care Act brought historic increases in coverage for low-wage workers and others who have long been left out of the health care system, a New York Times analysis has found. Immigrants of all backgrounds — including more than a million legal residents who are not citizens — had the sharpest rise in coverage rates.

Hispanics, a coveted group of voters this election year, accounted for nearly a third of the increase in adults with insurance. That was the single largest share of any racial or ethnic group, far greater than their 17 percent share of the population. Low-wage workers, who did not have enough clout in the labor market to demand insurance, saw sharp increases. Coverage rates jumped for cooks, dishwashers, waiters, as well as for hairdressers and cashiers. Minorities, who disproportionately worked in low-wage jobs, had large gains.

Before we go farther, we should remember that the ACA is a complex piece of legislation that affects every area of American health care, but for now we’re going to talk just about insurance coverage. When liberals see a report like this one, they say, that’s terrific — some of the most vulnerable people in America, and those who had the hardest time getting covered before, now have health insurance. They offer this as practical evidence of the law’s success.

But conservatives (not all conservatives, but many of them) don’t see that as a success at all. If the government is helping an immigrant who washes dishes for a living get health coverage, then to them that means means that government is redistributing tax money from deserving people to undeserving people. The two groups look at the same practical effect, and interpret it in opposite ways.

That isn’t to say that the ACA didn’t give benefits to everyone, because it did. Millions of middle-class and even upper-class people were hurt by the fact that insurance companies used to be able to deny you coverage if you had a pre-existing condition, but the ACA outlawed that. And if the payment reforms in the law bring down overall health spending, we all benefit. But the most visible and dramatic parts of the law relate to the tens of millions of Americans who used to be without health coverage but now have it.

This is why Republicans continue to call the ACA a “disaster” and a “catastrophe” despite the good it has done. Liberals hoped that once the law was implemented and its practical effects became clear, the law would become hugely popular. Instead, views of the law divide closely on ideology and partisanship, and that hasn’t changed and won’t change.

That’s because there’s a fundamental clash of values at work, which means that liberals and conservatives will always judge it according to different standards. Because the law did a large amount to bring coverage to those who couldn’t afford it (through both the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies), and because it included a raft of new regulations meant to solve a variety of problems within the health care system, conservatives will always oppose it, whether it succeeds on its own terms or not. To doctrinaire conservatives, a government regulation that accomplishes what it sets out to isn’t a success at all; it’s a moral failure by definition. That’s why liberals will never convince them to support the ACA by pointing to its practical successes.

That isn’t to say that conservatives don’t make practical arguments against the ACA, because they do. But they’re mostly window dressing placed atop their moral objections to government involvement in health care. So yes, they predicted that Obamacare would destroy the economy, and cost millions of jobs, and lead to fewer people with health coverage, and balloon health care spending, and make premiums skyrocket. When they turned out to be wrong about all these things, conservatives didn’t say, “Well gee, I guess this law was a pretty good idea after all.” Because the fundamental moral objection remains, whatever the practical impact.

You can see it in the decision to accept or reject the law’s expansion of Medicaid. The federal government offered states a huge pot of free money to provide coverage to their poor citizens, and though some conservative governors tried to argue that it would be too expensive, those arguments were laughably weak. As one independent analysis after another has shown — from groups like the Rand Corporation, not exactly a bunch of lefties — taking the expansion leads to healthier state finances and better economic growth, on top of helping your state’s constituents. But for many governors, insuring poor people isn’t a moral good at all; just the opposite, in fact. So they were even willing to incur economic damage in order to avoid it (and to give Barack Obama the finger, of course).

Where this all leaves us is that the ACA will never become something we agree on, no matter what it does or doesn’t do in the real world. But even that’s not the whole story, because there are political factors at work. Smart Republicans understand that with each passing year, the law becomes more and more entrenched and harder to unwind, no matter how much they hate it. It’s one thing to keep people from getting insurance, but it’s something quite different, and far more politically dangerous, to take away insurance people already have — and if they really repealed the law, that’s what they would be doing, not just to a few people but to 20 million or so.

That’s why Republicans have so much trouble coming up with their “repeal and replace” plan. It’s not because there aren’t conservative health care wonks who could give them an outline. It’s because any real repeal would be so spectacularly disruptive to the system that it would a political nightmare. Just today there’s an article in The Hill on the efforts of the Republican task force charged with producing the new repeal-and-replace legislation, under the title, “GOP group promises ObamaCare replacement plan — soon.” If you’ve been following this issue, you know that title is a joke. As the piece says:

Coming up with a plan to replace ObamaCare has been an aim for the Republican Party for so long that it’s become a laugh line even in conservative circles. Despite voting more than 50 times in the House to repeal the law, the GOP has not once voted on legislation to take its place.

But every couple of months, they say that they’ll be releasing their plan any day now.

If Republicans actually took the White House and held Congress, my guess is that they’d pass something they called “repeal and replace” but which would leave the ACA largely intact. Just as they propose to privatize Medicare but rush to tell seniors who love it that their own coverage wouldn’t be affected, it would be some kind of time-delayed change that would avoid kicking people who now have insurance off their coverage. And if Hillary Clinton gets elected in the fall, it’ll be another four or eight years before they could even try this. No matter what happens between now and then, conservatives won’t ever decide that the ACA has worked out well, whether it actually did what it was designed to do or not. As far as they’re concerned, the design itself was the problem. But they may decide, as they did with Medicare, that doing away with it isn’t worth the bother — at least not worth bothering to to try all that hard.

Paul Waldman is a contributor to The Plum Line blog, and a senior writer at The American Prospect.

See:https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/04/18/obamacare-is-helping-a-lot-of-people-not-everyone-thinks-thats-good-news/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_popns

American Medical Association: Obamacare Is A HUGE Success, GOP Is Wrong

Source: Occupy Democrats

Author: Colin Taylor

Emphasis Mine

As of July 2015…

If the jury wasn’t in already, it definitely is now. The Journal of the American Medical Association has just released a report declaring the Affordable Care Act a rousing success, especially for minorities without healthcare.

Over the first two enrollment periods, 10.2 million Americans have received private coverage through Obamacare, and another 12.2 million have been covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Program- and thanks to Obamacare, costs for Medicaid have dropped dramatically and the program is fully funded for the next thirty years.

Six measures were used to survey the pre-ACA respondents: Self-reported rates of being uninsured, lacking a personal physician, lacking easy access to medicine, inability to afford needed care, overall health status, and health-related activity limitations.

The AMA ‘s report found that “all but one of those measures—days limited by poor health—improved significantly after Obamacare plans went on sale,” reports CNBC.

There was an 11.9% decrease in uninsured Latinos and a 10.8% decrease in uninsured African-Americans. The study concluded that “As states continue to debate whether to expand Medicaid under the ACA, these results add to the growing body of research indicating that such expansions are associated with significant benefits for low-income populations.” If there’s any proof that the Republican Party lives in a reality entirely of their own creation, where the truth is made up and facts don’t matter, it’s their reaction to the Obamacare program. No matter how many times they attempt to repeal it, every one is met with another report trumpeting the program’s success. Which is obviously why it makes sense for the Senate to waste even more taxpayer money on yet another attempt to repeal the law. President Obama’s healthcare law has changed the face of America for the better, and it is here to stay.

See: http://www.occupydemocrats.com/american-medical-association-obamacare-is-a-huge-success-gop-is-wrong/

10 Brutal Ways the American Safety Net Is Being Shredded

http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-brutal-ways-american-safety-net-being-shredded?akid=13331.123424.rqA_Q7&rd=1&src=newsletter1039872&t=1

Source: alterNet

Author: Alex Henderson

Emphasis Mine

On the 80th anniversary of the Social Security Act of 1935, which established the social security system in the United States, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal is on life support as the American middle class continues to be squeezed and millions of Americans struggle with poverty.

1. Income Inequality Is Going from Bad to Worse

FDR firmly believed that capitalism cannot function well without a strong middle class, and even auto magnate Henry Ford agreed with him: Ford famously said that American workers needed to be paid a decent wage in order to be able to afford his products. And during the post-FDR America of the 1950s and 1960s, having a robust middle class was great for a variety of businesses. But in 2015—with the gains of the New Deal having been imperiled by everything from union busting to the outsourcing of millions of American jobs—income inequality in the U.S. is a huge problem. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released a report on income inequality among OECD members and found that the U.S. was among the worst offenders. The U.S., Mexico and Turkey had some of highest income inequality of OECD countries, while Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland and Belgium fared much better. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría commented that “high inequality is bad for growth,” and he’s absolutely right.

2. Republicans Yearn for Social Security Privatization

Although President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Republican, he supported elements of the New Deal and saw the need for a strong social safety net: in fact, Eisenhower expanded social security, and in 1954, he bluntly asserted that any oligarchs who would “attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor law and farm programs” were “stupid.” But in the 21st century, Republicans have been going after social security with a vengeance. The privatization of social security was proposed by President George W. Bush in 2004, and far-right Republicans, the Tea Party and wingnut lobbying groups like the Club for Growth have been doubling down on the idea of privatizing social security. GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush called for social security privatization at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire in June, and he also favors raising the social security retirement age to 69 or 70, which would be especially bad for blue-collar workers who have spent decades in physically demanding jobs.

3. The 1% Continue to Dodge Taxes

FDR had no problem asking the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes: the U.S.’ top marginal tax rate rose to 94% in the early 1940s, when the country entered World War II. Taxes for the ultra-rich didn’t go down much under Republican Eisenhower, who lowered the top tax rate to 91% in the 1950s—and after that rate decreased to 28% under President Reagan, it rose to 39.6% under President Clinton and decreased to 35% under President George W. Bush. Looking at the last 80 years of tax history, one sees a clear pattern: the American middle class does much better when the 1% pay their fair share of taxes. And even though the Tea Party tries to paint Barack Obama as a soak-the-rich president, their assertion is laughable because Obama extended the Bush tax cuts and hasn’t been nearly as forceful as FDR or Eisenhower when it comes to taxing the 1%.

4. The Minimum Wage Is Much Too Low

One of the important elements of the New Deal was FDR’s strong belief in a national minimum wage. FDR began to push for a federal minimum wage after taking office in January 1933, saying, “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of a decent living.” And Congress enacted one in 1938, when the U.S.’ first federal minimum wage was set at 25 cents per hour. But in recent years, the federal minimum wage (which was raised to $7.25 an hour in 2009) has not kept up with inflation. Economist Robert Reich has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which he sees as a crucial part of economic recovery. And in some cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle, city councils have raised their local minimum wages to that amount. But at the federal level, an increase to even $10.10 an hour (President Obama’s proposal) is a steep uphill climb when both houses of Congress are dominated by far-right Republicans who hate the poor with a passion.

The U.S. desperately needed a New Deal 3.0 after the crash of September 2008 and a program of aggressive reforms. Instead, most of the welfare that followed the Panic of 2008 has been corporate welfare rather than programs to help America’s embattled poor and middle class. Overall, the U.S. has been moving away from the New Deal when it should be reinvigorating it. Below are 10 ways in which the New Deal (and by extension, LBJ’s Great Society) continues to be under attack in the United States.

5. Infrastructure Continues to Deteriorate

The New Deal was great for the U.S.’ infrastructure thanks to programs that built or strengthened everything from roads to water and electric systems to municipal power plants. But in recent years, the American infrastructure has been seriously decaying—and a major wake-up call came on May 12, when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia and eight passengers were killed. But the nation’s railways are only one of the ways in which the U.S.’ infrastructure has deteriorated. According to Ray LaHood (former secretary of transportation for the Obama Administration), 70,000 bridges in the U.S. are now structurally deficient. That is in addition to all the roads that are in desperate need of repair. And when it comes to high-speed rail travel, the U.S. lags way behind Europe (where one can get from London to Brussels in just under two hours or from Madrid to Barcelona in less than three hours).

6. Union Representation Has Reached Historic Lows 

One of the most important pieces of New Deal-era legislation was the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, a.k.a. the Wagner Act, which did a lot to advance labor unions in the U.S.: by the mid-1950s, around 35% of America’s labor force was unionized. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a mere 11.1% of salaried U.S. workers (factoring in both the public and private sectors) were union members in 2014. Among private-sector workers, the number was a paltry 6.6%. And the decline of unions has been encouraged bad working conditions: according to the Economic Policy Institute, executives at large companies earned, on average, 296 times as much as their average workers in 2013 compared to only 20 times as much in 1965. But as much as labor unions have declined in the U.S., Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (a GOP presidential hopeful for 2016) and his fellow Republicans would like to see them decline even more. Walker recently set a disturbing precedent in that state when he supported anti-union legislation that prohibits private-sector unions from requiring members to pay union dues; Walker has, in essence, made Wisconsin a northern “right to work” state. And it’s safe to say that Walker, based on his actions in Wisconsin, would be among the most anti-union presidents in U.S. history.

7. “Too Big to Fail” Is Bigger Than Ever

Unlike many of today’s extreme-right Republicans and neoliberal corporatist Democrats, FDR was not afraid of offending the banking sector. FDR said of the banksters of the 1930s, “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.” One of the New Deal achievements that banksters detested was the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which mandated a strict separation of commercial and investment banking and was designed to prevent another major Wall Street calamity like the crash of 1929. Glass-Steagall served the U.S. well for many years: although there were some tough recessions in the mid-1970s, early 1980s and early 1990s, none of them cut as deep as the Great Depression. But the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 was a major blow to the New Deal and paved the way for the crash of September 2008, clearly the most devastating financial event in the U.S. since 1929. Unfortunately, there was no real banking reform after the 2008 calamity, and as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders points out, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are now “80% larger” than they were in 2007. Critics of the banking sector propose bringing back Glass-Steagall, including Reich (who warns that another major Wall Street crash “is not unlikely”) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And Sanders has proposed New Deal-like legislation that would break up the U.S.’ largest banks.

8. Medicare, An Expansion of the New Deal, Is a Major GOP Target

Medicare, which established a single-payer health care system for Americans 65 and older, was not part of the New Deal per se: Medicare came into being in 1965 as part of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society (which was very much an extension of the New Deal). And the program proved to be so popular that even Republican President Richard Nixon (who was considered an arch-conservative in his day) expanded Medicare in both 1969 and 1972. But these days, far-right GOP wingnuts in the House of Representatives—especially Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—have repeatedly called for drastic Medicare cuts and for replacing traditional Medicare with a privatized voucher program. In June, a variety of pro-Medicare groups (including the Alliance for Retired Americans and the Medicare Rights Center) sent a joint letter to the House criticizing representatives who wanted to cut $700 million from the Medicare program.

9. Home Ownership Is Becoming Increasingly Difficult for Many Americans, and the Rent Is Too Damn High

Before the New Deal, five-year or 10-year mortgages were the norm in the U.S., and were unaffordable for most Americans. But FDR saw home ownership as a crucial part of building a strong middle class: between the Federal Housing Administration, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and the introduction of 30-year fixed-rate mortgages—all of which came about under FDR—home ownership in the U.S. gradually increased. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, home ownership in the U.S. went from 45% in 1920 and 47% in 1930 to 55% in 1950, 61% in 1960 and 62% in 1970. But the Crash of 2008 has been terrible for American homeowners, resulting in countless foreclosures, and banksters have been allowed to acquire and rent out many foreclosed homes. The private equity firm Blackstone Group had, as of late 2013, bought almost 40,000 homes in the U.S. in order to rent them. To make matters worse, all those post-2008 foreclosures have caused rents to skyrocket all over the country. And the more one pays in rent, the harder it is to save for a down payment on a home. To quote Jimmy McMillan, the rent is too damn high.

10. Wingnut Attacks on Food Stamps Never End

The American food stamps program started on a pilot basis under FDR’s secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, in 1939 but became permanent when LBJ signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 into law as part of his Great Society. In recent years, the U.S.’ economic decline has been so painful that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of Americans poor enough to quality for food stamps was 46.2 million in 2014 compared to only 17 million in 2000. Food stamps, as envisioned under the New Deal and the Great Society, are designed to be a stepping stone for the poor—and the benefits (which presently average $127.91 per month per person, according to USDA figures) are hardly lavish. But that has not prevented Republicans in Congress from repeatedly proposing dramatic food stamp cuts during the Great Recession. And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to punish and shame food stamp recipients by subjecting them to drug-testing.

Alex Henderson’s work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-brutal-ways-american-safety-net-being-shredded?akid=13331.123424.rqA_Q7&rd=1&src=newsletter1039872&t=1

Paul Krugman Reveals the Outrageous Con Job Behind the Savage GOP Budget

“The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.”

Source: AlterNet

Author: Paul Krugman, Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

It can be tough, Paul Krugman allows in Friday’s column, to keep up the level of outrage at Republican lawmakers who do not seem to be in any way bound to the rules of honor or honesty in their budget proposal. Like, not at all.

“Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits,” Krugman opens, “but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar ‘magic asterisk’ — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

“But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spendingone on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.”

How bad is it? It is beyond horrendous. It may be tempting to ignore these budget proposals, or convince one’s self that such budgets never become law, but the fact is, as Krugman points out, the “modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.” Some of the proposals are well known: drastic cuts in food stamps, Medicaid and a disastrous end to Obamacare health insurance subsidies, both of which amount to a deliberate plan to roughly double the number of Americans without health insurance. Other cuts would have to come from Social Security and Medicare, though the Republican authors do not come right out and admit that. It almost goes without saying that the budgets call for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which includes the taxes that pay for it, or, Krugman estimates, $1 trillion in revenue, with absolutely no hint on how to make up for that. “It’s very important to realize that this isn’t normal political behavior,” Krugman writes. “The George W. Bush administration was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, but it was never this blatant. And the Obama administration has been remarkably scrupulous in its fiscal pronouncements.”

What’s really going on? The charitable explanation is that the Republicans honestly believe the demonstrably false horseshit that tax cuts for the rich help anybody but the rich, and somehow magically create revenue for the government. (Yeah, makes no sense.) Krugman, of course, does not buy it. And it makes him very, very angry, as it should make all of us.

I’m partial to a more cynical explanation. Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.

But this is, of course, not a policy direction the public would support if it were clearly explained. So the budgets must be sold as courageous efforts to eliminate deficits and pay down debt — which means that they must include trillions in imaginary, unexplained savings.

Does this mean that all those politicians declaiming about the evils of budget deficits and their determination to end the scourge of debt were never sincere? Yes, it does.

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/paul-krugman-reveals-outrageous-con-job-behind-savage-gop-budget?akid=12915.123424.Qf-t4O&hrd=1&src=newsletter1033571&t=3