Threatening another crisis

Threatening another crisis

May 19th, 2012 in Opinion Times

The financial crisis created by Republicans last year over an increase in the debt ceiling led to a downgrading of the nation's credit rating, harsh budget cuts and a congressional logjam that caused Congress' approval ratings to plummet to record lows. Apparently that wasn't enough for Majority Leader John Boehner and his reckless band of no-nothing tea party destructionists. Boehner and his wrecking crew want to do it all over again this year for election season fireworks.

In his apparent hope that President Obama will be blamed for another congressional stall, Boehner announced this week that he would tear up last year's agreement for $2 trillion in budget cuts and demand even more cuts in the programs that so many Americans rely on.

Last year's cuts were in such programs as: Free-and-reduced price school lunches, which help 85 percent of Hamilton County students get a decent meal and improve their ability to learn; Medicaid, which provides nursing home care for middle-class Americans as well as health-care for the very poor; student loans and Pell grants, which help college students and their families meet soaring tuition costs; infrastructure improvements, for highways, bridges and, hopefully, an essential new lock for Chickamauga Dam's regional barge traffic; Social Security supplemental care, which mainly helps the disabled.

The list of cuts to critical public programs is too long to list here. But it shouldn't escape taxpayers notice that Republicans, in all their demands to reduce federal spending, continue to deny the need and fairness of requiring America's richest corporations and ultra-wealthy billionaires to at last pay their fair share towards the nation's revenue and spending targets.

Billionaire bankers and industrialists continue to pay the low 15-percent rate on their disproportionately huge fortunes, while regular earners in the upper-middle-class pay income tax rates of 25-to-35 percent. The nation's richest corporations often pay no corporate income taxes at all due to indefensible tax loopholes, even as they park billions of dollars in offshore tax havens. The nation's biggest, richest oil companies continue to enjoy billions in tax subsidies, even as they enjoy record, multibillion-dollar profits every quarter.

But setting fair tax standards for rich corporations and zillionaires remains anathema to Republicans, whose policies are guided by lobbyists and rich campaign donations from those they protect -- and not by public fairness.

The gross inequity of such policies is appalling. The top 20 percent of the nation's earners hold fully 84 percent of the nation's wealth. But it is the super-rich -- the top 1 percent of earners, and more specifically, the top one-tenth-of-one-percent -- that control most of that vastly disproportional share of national wealth, and that received both the lion's share of the nation's accumulation of wealth since 1980, and the lion's share of the benefits of the George Bush-era tax cuts.

Yet Republicans are willing to risk another fiscal crisis, downgrading of the dollar and possible recession -- all to extract even more from the 90 percent Americans whose jobs are subject to the ensuing economic stall the GOP would bring. If Boehner and his party hold the debt limit hostage to economic sabotage and more pain on working Americans, voters must hold them accountable in November's election.