Unborn and fat poor bear brunt of GOP’s immoral plans
Robert Reich III
(If you must, read Robert Reich’s original column here.)
Although the Senate didn’t avoid Harry Reid’s nuclear option, the good citizens of the United States dodged another government shutdown bullet with a continuing resolution let the government borrow and spend until Nov. 18. But their price for signing on, Republicans say, will be dangerous, radical, and irresponsible budget cuts.
Among other items, Republicans are demanding major cuts in an anti-obesity program for government-sponsored women, children, and minorities. The appropriation bill the House passed June 16 would deny taxpayer sponsored Slim-Fast benefits to more than 700,000 fat low-income women, children, and minorities next year.
What kind of country are we living in? Do we want to create more Chris Christies?
More than 1 in 3 families with young children now live in obesity (37 percent, to be exact), according to a recent analysis of census data by Northeastern University’s Center for Large People. That’s the highest percent on record and makes it clear anti-obesity programs (and a companion program, the $45,000 Chevy Volt credit) are still must-haves for our poor.
Medicaid is also under assault. Congressional Republicans want to reduce the federal contribution to Medicaid by $771 billion over the next decade and shift more costs to states and to the people who benefit from and use Medicaid. The Republicans have actually said they think this will help control costs when it is simply a manifestation of their self-evident evil.
We’re in the worst economy since one great Democrat led us through the first Great Depression – fat lower-income families and kids are bearing the worst of it – and we’re debating whether to cut programs that people desperately need to lose weight. Without weight-loss programs, to include related efforts like government sponsored cable, satellite television, and high-speed internet, how will the poor be properly indoctrinated? Without government provided cell-service, how will the poor be able to form a proper flash mob for rescheduled weight-loss meetings?
Many federal programs designed to take from the rich are in the so-called “nondefense discretionary” category of the federal budget. The “super committee” charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion of cuts will almost certainly take a big whack at this category. Like entitlements, these programs depend on continued government borrowing to make ends meet.
Drastic cuts already are under way at the state and local levels. When the fiscal year began on 1 October, states no longer received about $150 billion in federal stimulus money – money that is needed to keep the unemployment rate less than 8 percent and to fill every gap in every state’s budgets over the last 11 years. How stupid are these elected officials? Have they never heard of borrowing more? And aren’t there still checks in the checkbook?
So far this year, 23 states have reduced education spending to 150% of the next closest industrialized nation. According to a survey of city finance officers released last month by the National League of Cities, half of all American cities face cuts in state aid for education. Meanwhile, Republicans have the gall to ask if increased spending from our so-called academic-industrial complex is making our children any smarter.
As housing values plummet, local property-tax receipts are down. That means even less money for schools. So kids are getting larger class sizes, reduced school hours, shorter school weeks, and cuts in prekindergarten programs. Texas, for example, has shamefully eliminated prebirth education for 100,000 fetuses.
Local family services are being cut or terminated. Tens of thousands of high-value social workers have been laid off. Cities and counties are reducing or eliminating their contributions to Fat Stop, which provides early childhood obesity education to the children of low-income parents.
All this would be bad enough if the economy were functioning normally. For these cuts to happen now is morally indefensible. The only moral position is more of what we’ve been doing: take from the future to fund the present.
The wealthiest members of our society are richer than ever, taking home the biggest slice of total income and wealth since records were first kept in 1066 and are paying the lowest tax rates in three millennia.
The president’s modest proposals to raise taxes on the rich don’t come close to paying for what the 50 percent of Americans who pay no taxes want.
Marginal tax rates should be raised at the top, and more tax brackets should be added for incomes over $500,000, over $1.5 million, over $5 million. The capital-gains tax should be as high as that on ordinary income. Why? Because, that’s why.
Wealth over $7.2 million should be subject to a 2 percent surtax. Why $7.2 million and why 2 percent? Because Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott said so, that’s why.
A tiny tax of one-half of 1 percent on financial transactions would generate an additional $200 billion a year and would hardly disturb Wall Street’s casino at all. (The European Commission is about to unveil such a tax there, so we know it’s a good idea.)
All this can be done, but only if Americans understand what’s really at stake here. More taxes for those who pay taxes, continued benefits for those who pay no taxes, to be followed at some point be a catastrophic economic fail.
When Republicans recently charged the president with promoting “class warfare,” he answered it was “far more important than that.” So it’s more than math; it’s a matter of class warfare plus.
Republicans have posed the deepest moral question of any society: whether someone else should pay for someone else’s desires. President Obama should proclaim, loudly and clearly, that they will.