In my lifetime, The GOP has turned the “American Dream” from a badge of honor for our country into a cruel joke. Like a schoolyard bully, they’ve taken the carrot dangling in front of our faces that was an incentive to work harder and move forward and are holding it in the air, out of our reach, and saying “no, sorry, you aren’t good enough for this”.
What the GOP either doesn’t get or simply doesn’t care, is that by taking that carrot and holding it out of reach to 99% of Americans, they’ve also taken away the American trait that made the country great to begin with … an environment that is conducive to risk and innovation . Canada, to some degree China, and India, get that an environment with incentives to get bigger, bettter and stronger is being sacrificed in the U.S. for one in which a smaller group of people hold all the wealth and all the advantages. That’s why they’re beating us in every industrial category. Logic dictates that in that environment fewer and fewer people believe that they can get ahead through hard work and just give up. We used to have the edge over other countries by providing that “incentivised environment” that promoted advancement for all, not just for a few at the top.
We are quickly losing that edge because of the regressive and selfish policies promoted by the GOP.
Columbia Professor and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz states in his new book, The Price of Inequality, that America is “no longer the land of opportunity” and “the ‘American dream’ is a myth.”
He further observes that in the last 30 years the share of national income held by the top 1% of Americans has doubled; for to the top 0.1%, their share has tripled, he reports. Meanwhile, median incomes for American workers have stagnated or declined.
Now Willard Mitt Romney claims that making these facts known is tantamount to “class warfare” and that these things should be discussed “in quiet rooms”. Well why wouldn’t he? He has never had to worry about where his next job, much less his next meal would come from.
He WAS the schoolyard bully…but only because he lead a pack of thugs who thought it was hilarious to demean other students who were less fortunate. When did this become acceptable behavior? Did I miss a memo? Was I taking a 30-year nap? And why are so many Americans willing to sit by and let this happen?
What This Means for You and Your Family
In short, the status you’re born into — whether rich or poor — is more likely to be the status of your adult life in America vs. any other advanced economy, including ‘Old Europe’.
Just 8% of students at America’s elite universities come from households in the bottom 50% of income, Stiglitz says, even as those universities are “needs blind” — meaning admission isn’t predicated on your ability to pay.
Because the children of those at the top of society tend to do better than those at the bottom — thanks, in part, to better education, health care and nutrition — the income inequality that’s slowly emerged over the past 30 years will only widen in the next 10 to 20 years.
If the root causes of income inequality go unaddressed, America will truly become a two-class society and look much more like a third world economy, Stiglitz warns. “People will live in gated communities with armed guards. It’s a ugly picture. There will be political, social and economic turmoil.”
More and more, the GOP makes it a high priority to block bills, propagandize the airwaves, coerces moderate, reasonable Republicans to toe the Tea Party line or face the consequences, and no longer bothers to try and hide it. Among the blatant attempts to accomplish a bloodless coup of the government in a massive, coordinated, power grab in plain sight they have:
- Fabricated fake crises over the debt ceiling to damage the economy and blame President Obama by threatening to default on our outstanding “bills already owed to creditors” if they don’t get their way
- They refuse to let a highway bill out of Congress that would create thousands and thousands of U.S. jobs while they throw tantrums over the Keystone Pipeline which would create primarily Canadian jobs and gain no benefit for U.S. Oil prices for U/S. citizens
- They continue to block every attempt to repeal the $4 billion annual subsidy to oil companies that pays the oil company’s rent on their oil rigs. The same oil companies that are recording the highest profits in history, are NOT American-owned, and who give the U.S. no oil price favorable status despite this annual “GIFT” of $4 billion.
- They insist on cutting taxes again for millionaires, oil companies and corporations that ship jobs overseas, while making middle class families pay for every spending cut
- They are hatching an appalling scheme to devastate America’s seniors and families with $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts.
- They have openly assaulted the rights of women, Hispanics, and are even attempting the most wide-ranging, coordinated, blatant assault by voter suppression, on voting rights since before the Civil Right Act of 1964
- They are attempting to fund every tax break they can find for the already wealthy by cutting budgets desperately needed by the middle class and poor that have suffered the most from their “De-Regulation-fueled” crash in 2008.
What Will it Take For Middle Class America to See What is Happening?
The unconscionable budget cuts the GOP is trying to coerce through Congress via fake Debt-Ceiling crises would also rob our economy of 3 million jobs between 2013 and 2020, and widen the income gap between the super-rich and the rest of us. As Jonathan Chait wrote, this plan is mostly “an attempt to redistribute income upward” – the economic goal of Republicans and their billionaire sponsors. In the private workplace, we’ve already seen that happen. Corporate CEO compensation jumped another 27 percent last year to a median of $9 million, while overall wages rose only 2.1 percent.
Joblessness and the accompanying loss of health benefits drove 3.7 million more people into Medicaid during the recent economic downturn, proving yet again that the program is a lifeline for our society. Yet the Republicans and the corporate lobbyists want to decimate this safety net when people need it the most.
The latest House Republican budget plan (another “Jewel” from Paul Ryan) asks low-income and middle-class Americans to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while simultaneously delivering massive tax breaks to the richest 1 percent and preserving huge giveaways to Big Oil. It’s a recipe for repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration, during which middle-class incomes stagnated and only the privileged few enjoyed enormous gains.
Each component of the new House Republican budget threatens the middle class while doing nothing to add jobs or grow our economy. It ends the guarantee of decent insurance for senior citizens, breaking Medicare’s bedrock promise. It slashes investments in education, infrastructure, and basic research, all of which are key drivers of economic growth and mobility. And it cuts taxes for those at the top, asking the middle class to pick up the tab. It’s a budget designed to benefit the top 1 percent at everyone else’s expense.
The Social Security reforms in the House Republican budget proposal released by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are so vague as to pass unnoticed by many observers. But a close look at what the 2013 budget proposal says (and leaves unsaid) indicates that Rep. Ryan’s proposal would almost certainly cut Social Security benefits for most recipients.
Indeed, the House plan would harm the middle class while providing a windfall for the wealthy. At a time when Americans’ fears about being able to retire are at record highs, as middle-class families struggle with massive wealth losses and high unemployment, the House budget plan would cut benefits for the middle class while providing additional tax breaks to the wealthy.
It’s Now or Never
What we are seeing is not simply the usual partisan disagreements in Washington. The independent scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein said we are witnessing the most partisan environment in their 40 years of analyzing Congress and that the Republicans are at fault for blocking anything that President Obama might want.
Republican leaders in Congress are knowingly consigning a generation of American families, students and seniors to a lower standard of living and are threatening America’s standing in the world economy, all for one crass, partisan purpose – to win political power on behalf of their special interest supporters.
Stiglitz cites as evidence the GOP provision in Medicare Part D which forbids the federal government from negotiating prices with the drug companies. Over 10 years, that rule will generate approximately $500 billion for the drug industry, but no tangible benefit for taxpayers or the economy as a whole.
I’ll say it again — Republican leaders in Congress are knowingly consigning a generation of American families, students and seniors to a lower standard of living and are threatening America’s standing in the world economy, all for one crass, partisan purpose – to win political power on behalf of their special interest supporters.
The Republican plan to win political power by killing American jobs is not just politics as usual, it is the most cynical and destructive partisan strategy yet.