Thursday, December 29, 2005

Republicans Accelerate War Against the Poor, Working & Middle Classes

E.J. Dionne has coined the new oxymoron for 2006 and beyond: "personal responsibility among Republican leaders."

The spirit of Scrooge has never been more alive and well-represented in the halls of power and religiosity. Dionne's WaPo column deserves wide coverage:

Lord knows, a housecleaning in the Capitol is definitely in order. But the Abramoff scandal is just part of the corruption of our political system. There is another level of special-interest influence that cannot be handled by prosecutors: Only the voters can render a judgment on a politics of favoritism that has created a new Gilded Age. It's clear that the national government has placed itself squarely on the side of the wealthy, the privileged and the connected.

Rarely does a single action by Congress serve as so powerful an example of how the system is working. The recent budget bill, which squeaked through the House and Senate just before Christmas, is a road map of insider dealing. It shows that when choices have to be made, the interests of the poor and the middle class fall before the wishes of interest groups with powerful lobbies and awesome piles of campaign money to distribute.

...the agreement hammered Medicaid recipients with $16 billion in gross cuts over the next decade.

... Medicaid cuts include increased co-payments and premiums on low-income Americans, and the budget assumes savings because fewer poor people will visit the doctor. As Kevin Freking of the Associated Press reported: "The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that such increases would lead many poor people to forgo health care or not to enroll in Medicaid at all..."

Ah, say their defenders, but these cuts will be good for poor people. According to the New York Times, Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), an architect of the Medicaid proposals, said the higher co-payments were needed to "encourage personal responsibility" among low-income people. Spoken like a congressman who never has to worry about his taxpayer-provided health coverage.

...that is just one instance among many of corporate interests being shielded from cuts, while child support enforcement and foster care programs were sliced. ....Republican leaders, at the insistence of a group of GOP lawmakers from Ohio, dropped a $1.9 billion cut that would have changed Medicare payments to oxygen equipment manufacturers. The main beneficiary of this change was Invacare Corp. of Elyria, Ohio.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) opposed the original, milder Senate budget bill but turned around and voted for the final, harsher bill. According to Congress Daily, Coleman backed the final budget "after negotiators took out cuts affecting his state's sugar beet growers." Coleman told the paper: "Karl Rove called me and asked what I wanted. A few hours later it was out of the bill."

The good news is that this budget is not law yet. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) used a clever procedural maneuver to force it back to the House for one more vote next year.

When this 774-page behemoth hit the House floor shortly after 1 a.m. on Dec. 19, many members were not fully aware of what was in it. Now that they know, maybe some of the moderate Republicans who caved to their leadership and voted for it will save their party's honor by killing this special-interest mess. If I may borrow from Mr. Barton, doing so would definitely "encourage personal responsibility" among Republican leaders.
Today's Wapo editorial zooms in on the the Bush administration's non-benefits to workers (not simply this year, but every year since he was installed as president):

....on one important measure, the economic news hasn't been as good. The majority of workers have not felt the benefits.

...signs that market forces may be making it hard for workers to win pay gains raise fresh questions about President Bush's tax strategy. Mr. Bush has cut taxes on capital, even though capital has increased its share of the proceeds from the economy; the cuts may ultimately force a compensating increase in taxes on workers, whose incomes haven't done as well. This amounts to common sense inverted. Rather than counteracting a troubling aspect of the economy, Mr. Bush's policy makes it worse.

A million new jobs doesn't count much toward economic health when they're all at Wal-Mart or McDonalds. Let me reiterate: The nasty, hateful, greedy, sociopathic spirit of Scrooge has never been more alive and well-represented in the halls of power and religiosity.

Political History of the American Rich


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