By Clark Hopper
John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House, is taking exactly the same stance he did last year about America’s exploding national deficit. Apparently, Boehner and his party are planning to ignore the sounding defeat they suffered in the November election. The Republican’s keep playing their broken record of increasing taxes on middle class Americans, while increasing tax breaks for the wealthy, reducing or privatizing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid! It is obvious Boehner does not have the leadership necessary to plot the course of action the American people demanded.
Timothy Geithner, U.S. Treasury Secretary, brought the President’s $2 trillion deficit reduction plan to the Senate last week. As usual, it was received with a negative response of, “they cannot be serious, they are not playing fair, and this is not what we want!” Senator Mitch McConnell went so far as to openly laugh at the proposal. The proposed plan is as follows;
$1.6 trillion in additional tax revenues over the next decade from limiting tax deductions on the wealthy and raising tax rates on incomes over $250,000, (rates do not have to rise as high as the top marginal rates under President Bill Clinton).
$50 billion in added economic stimulus (infrastructure building) next year.
A one-year postponement of spending cuts in defense and domestic programs.
$400 billion in savings over the decade from Medicare and other entitlement programs (the same number contained in the President’s 2013 budget proposal (submitted before the election).
Authority to raise the debt ceiling limit without congressional approval.
The $50 billion in added stimulus will improve our nation‘s aging infrastructure problems, while creating needed jobs. We need more spending in the short term in order to keep the recovery going, particularly in light of economic contractions in Europe and Japan and the slowdowns in China and India. By signaling its willingness not to raise top rates as high as they were under President Clinton and to cut some $400 billion from projected Medicare and other entitlement spending, the White House has yielded important ground.
According to Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary, Social Security should not be on the table during negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the set of spending cuts and tax increases scheduled for the end of the year. Carney rightly noted Social Security has nothing to do with today’s deficits. Lawmakers are trying to construct a deal to prevent the “fiscal cliff” from occurring and have pulled Social Security and health care programs into the negotiations. However, Social Security is statutorily barred from adding to the deficit and is fully funded for more than two decades, unlike scores of other federal programs! As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has explained, “Social Security has not added a single penny, a nickel or a dime to the budget problems we have. It never has and for the next 30 years, it won’t do that.” Last year, Social Security alone kept more than 20 million people out of poverty!
If Republicans have spending cuts in mind, they should propose them in detail. If not they should be quiet and vote rather than acting like four year olds crying and threatening to go home! The fact is a year and a half ago Republicans walked away from a $4 trillion deficit reduction framework. They did not want to give the President a victory, even if that meant doing harm to America’s economic recovery! Haven’t they learned anything from “We the People” in the recent election? The President won over 300 electoral votes and won the popular vote. Democrats picked up a number of Senate seats this year, when the Republicans predicted they would take the Senate back! With less than a month to go before we reach the “fiscal cliff” Republicans need to get their heads straight, produce a balanced blueprint for deficit reduction and work together with the Democrats. I believe if Republicans do not change their ways soon, American voter’s will reduce Republican legislators even more drastically in the next election.
If Republicans continue ignoring American demands, here is what needs to be done.
Hold our ground, the wealthy have to pay their fair share as the election directed.
No plan is better than a bad one. Do nothing on the “Fiscal Cliff” and the tax rates atomically go back to the Clinton rates.
After tax rates rise for both the middle class and the wealthy, legislate tax reductions for the middle class only.
Do not cut safety nets.
Do not cut education or infrastructure budgets, they are investments for the future.
Cut military budget. America spends more on military than next 13 largest countries combined.
Cut corporate welfare (Big oil, Big Parma, etc).
Jobs first, before deficit reduction.
For more information, goggle Robert Reich “Understanding the Fiscal Cliff,“
The opinions discussed in this column are my opinions alone and not those of the entire Saline County Democratic Central Committee.