Budgets have a way of slicing through political rhetoric and revealing the truth. For example, Obama’s budget choices show him to be a right of center politician willing to sell out progressive principles, notwithstanding the progressive speeches he makes around election time.
The Ryan Budget, a bit of budgetary pornography embraced by the Mitt Romney and the entire Republican leadership, shows them to be advocating a radical agenda leading to a nation of, by and for corporate America and the ultra-rich, using means and policies that would hurt the majority of Americans – policies the people rightly oppose.
For example, an overwhelming majority of Americans want to see the rich pay more in taxes, and most believe the poor and middle class share to be about right as is. Yet the Ryan budget actually doubles down on the Bush tax cuts, reducing taxes for the rich from 35% to 25%, while raising taxes on the poor. Under the Ryan/Republican/Romney proposal, if you make $10 million a year in wages you’d get a $1.25 million dollar tax cut. But if you make $30,000 a year, you’d owe more taxes. Really.
Similarly, poll after poll shows the overwhelming majority of Americans support keeping and paying for the social safety net, student aid, and Social Security. The Ryan Budget, however, drastically cuts middle class benefits to offset its massive give-aways to the rich. Medicare and Medicaid get turned over to the free market where overhead costs are more than twice as high as government programs; Pell grants for students get cut; unemployment, job retraining, and other benefits get gutted. Finally, it establishes a commission to “fix” social security – a thinly disguised attempt to destroy it, after last year’s overt attempt to kill it got shut down by the American people.
Most Americans favor cuts to the Defense budget as a means of dealing with the deficit. In fact, the more they knew about the federal budget, the more they wanted to cut Defense. The Ryan Budget, of course, protects Defense spending.
How about deregulation? Here again, the majority of Americans (54%) think regulation of business is about right (17%) or should be increased (37%) and only 31% believe there’s too much. When we look at specific targets of the Republican jihad on regulation, such as EPA or Wall Street, support for government regulations is even stronger. Yet the Ryan budgetguts environmental protection, regulation of the workplace, regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, consumer safety efforts, food safety, oversight of Wall Street – in fact, it cuts virtually any government function other than Defense.
Which brings us to Americans’ most pressing concerns, getting the economy going and creating jobs. The Ryan budget cutsproven job-creating investments such as infrastructure projects, education and student loan programs, investments in R&D for health, medicine, renewable energy … on and on it goes. By doubling down on their cynically stupid starve the beast strategy Republicans are eating our national seed corn, cooking the goose that used to lay the golden egg, and leaving the door open for emerging economies to pass us by.
Finally, while Americans are fed up with chicanery and dishonesty in Washington, Romney, Ryan and the Republicans are pushingthe most dishonest budget in the history of the US. It’s full of tricks, gimmicks and outright lies. For example, the Ryan Budget claims that it will come up with $700 billion per year in cuts using unnamed “loopholes” to achieve a balanced budget. But when asked, Ryan can’t name a single “loophole” he would close.
The Budget For All stands in stark contrast to the Ryan Budget. It invests in job creation and infrastructure, preserves the social safety net, cuts defense, taxes the rich, balances the budget long before the Ryan proposal would – and it uses policies that the majority of Americans support.
So we are left with this conundrum. If the majority of Americans oppose the main elements of the Ryan budget and support the individual components of the Budget for All, why has the media virtually ignored the Budget for All, why has Obama ignored it, and why do Americans not oppose the Ryan Budget?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that Republicans are adept at branding things and talking about them in terms of values. Thus, the Ryan Budget, as a whole, is being characterized as “serious,” and “responsible” while the Budget for All is being dismissed as “unrealistic,” “politically naïve,” and “irresponsible.” The discreet elements get lost, and so does the public’s strong opposition to Ryan’s individual policies and their equally strong preference for the progressive ones.
The Republicans have also been on a 30-year campaign using hate, fear and anger to divide and distract us. They’ve successfully made government – once viewed as the means we use to collectively pursue our common welfare and to confront plutocratic power – into an all purpose bogeyman. They’ve created scapegoats such as immigrants and gay marriage to scare and distract us and myths such as “trickle down” to deceive us so they could eviscerate the only entity capable stemming the tyranny of unbridled wealth, and unchecked corporate power.
The corporate-owned press has been their cheerleader. Today’s media has more in common with Pravda than it does with the free press envisioned by Jefferson.
Finally, Americans have been deceived because there is no real opposition Party. Democrats run at the first sign of a fight, perhaps because they feed at the same corporate trough.
What’s clear is that without an effective advocate, our representatives don’t represent us. Our press doesn’t serve us. This is a country of, by, and for the rich. Not simply the rich, but the extremely – dare we say, obscenely – wealthy.
As we organize for Spring, we should focus on one issue and one issue only – all else will flow from winning this one battle. That issue is the budget.
When all the rhetoric has been spewed -- when the PACS and candidates have taken truth and tried to burry it beneath an avalanche of special interest money spawning, lies, spins and deceptions – budget choices will show who the candidates and parties really represent and what they actually stand for. They will also determine what this country ends up doing.
The 99% Spring must make the next election about the only real choice before us: The Budget for All or the Romney/Ryan/Republican Budget – a budget for the 1%.