An Answer to 2011's Austerity Arguments: 'We Won't Pay For Their Crisis'
First, Washington squandered our tax dollars enriching the corporate contractors that profiteer upon unnecessary and seemingly endless wars. The cost figure just for the Iraq imbroglio is now far in excess of $3 trillion, according to The Washington Post.
Next, Washington bailed out the big banks and the multinational corporations that got so greedy they wrecked themselves and the U.S. economy. How much did that cost? In addition to the initial $800 billion shifted their way by President Bush and the Congress in 2008, there's the little matter of the Federal Reserve's "backdoor bailout": low-interest loans and other deals doled out to the largest banks and corporatuions. According to data obtained by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the 21,000 transactions from December 2007 through July 2010 that totaled more than $3 trillion.
Three trillion here, three trillion there... sooner or later, we're talking about real money.
And a real big hole in the federal budget.
In 2010, the new theme of the Washington elites was that the U.S. had spent itself into a financial mess. President Obama's "Deficit Commission," Republicans in Congress and even some Democrats were all saying that the country was broke and that it was going to be necessary to put Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs at risk to balance the books.
That's right. They want working Americans to sacrifice in order to pay off the debts they ran up on their wars and bailouts?
And what do defense contractors and big banks get under the scenario that is currently in play? More federal contracts, more bailouts, more tax breaks.
The close of 2010 saw the Obama administration and congressional Republicans working together to extend tax breaks for billionaires, create new estate-tax exemptions for millionaires and weaken the underpinnings of Social Security. Now, Washington is abuzz with speculation about the prospect that the next Obama-GOP project will be a formal assault on Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid-with an announcement coming in the State of the Union address.
What's the proper response?
Remember who got us in this mess?
Reject the spin of those who would suggest that "entitelment programs" ever were or are the problem.
Recognize the genius of the slogan heard on the streets of European cities as governments sought to spread the pain caused by financial speculators to the whole society.
The banners declared: "We Won't Pay For Their Crisis."
That should be the starting point for any American response to the threat of austerity.
Of course, there is a place for fiscal responsibility. But there is also a place for moral responsibility. Those who created the mess should shoulder the burden of cleaning it up. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid did not create this crisis, war profiteering and Wall Street speculation did. So before any working family sacrifices, the first demand should be that the profiteers and the speculators pay for their crisis.
© 2011 The Nation