Last week, the Republicans in Congress, you know, those heartless shills for big business and big money, voted to cut some $40 billion dollars from the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), thereby ensuring more hunger, poverty, pain and death for the 4 to 6 million American men, women and children who will be kicked out of the program as a result, people who rely on this assistance to meet the basic necessities of life. The NYC homeless population on any given night is at a record high of 50,000, and many of those homeless men and women have steady jobs. Yet, when NYC Mayoral Candidate Bill DeBlasio proposed a tiny tax to pay for universal pre-k programs for the city’s children that would cost NYC’s 400,000 millionaires roughly $900 per year, they screamed bloody murder, with no one screaming louder than billionaire I-got- mine-you-get-yours resident Michael Bloomberg.
95% of the new income generated in this country from 2009-2012 has gone to the top 1%.
A record breaking 46.5 million Americans lived in poverty last year, 16 million of them were children, and 9.1 million were seniors.
The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the county’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting the relevant data a century ago, according to an updated study by the prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. The income share of the top 1% of earners in 2012 returned to the same level as before both the Great Recession and the Great Depression, just above 20 percent, while the average female worker earned $1,775.00 less than she earned in 2007. The middle class is flat-lining fast,as the typical household made $51,017 last year, the same as it did in 1988, a quarter century ago.
Unions membership is down from roughly 35% or the private workforce in the 1970’s to less than 7% today, and 52,000 American factories have closed in America because they’ve been sent overseas by large corporations and their top shareholders can make squeeze out the most profit from paying slave wages, and of course, they could care less about the strength and vitality of the American economy, or the quality of life of their fellow Americans.
Senator Bernie Sanders explains it best: “We have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth, and more inequality than at any time period since 1928. The top 1 percent owns 42 percent of the financial wealth of the nation, while the bottom 60 percent own only 2.3 percent. One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. In terms of income distribution in 2010, the last study done on this issue, the top 1 percent earned 93 percent of all new income while the bottom 99 percent shared the remaining 7 percent.
Despite the reality that the rich are becoming incredibly richer while the middle class dies and the number of Americans living in poverty is at a record high, the Republicans and their billionaire flacks want never-ending amounts of more. This is class warfare.
The Republicans continue to lavish huge tax breaks for the rich, and they squander our taxpayer dollars on the pharmaceutical industry by making it illegal to let Medicare bargain for lower drug prices. They also did away with financial regulations that enabled Wall Street to operate like a casino in Vegas, leading to a severe recession that eroded tax revenue and left more than 14 percent of American workers unemployed or underemployed.
Now, despite the deficits their policies helped to create and despite the enormous suffering which exists in our society, the Republicans want to cut Social Security, veterans’ programs, Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition programs, and virtually every program which benefits low- and moderate-income Americans. They choose to turn their backs on the economic reality facing a significant part of our population: high unemployment, reduced wages, 50 million without health insurance, college graduates saddled with enormous student debt and elderly people living in desperation. And they have tried to slam the door on any further discussion about how to raise revenue by ending tax loopholes and unfair tax breaks for the rich.
Republicans like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner who say the revenue debate is over don’t want you to consider these facts:
• Federal revenue today, at 15.8 percent of GDP, is lower today than it was 60 years ago. During the last year of the Clinton administration, when we had a significant federal surplus, federal revenue was 20.6 percent of GDP.
• Today corporate profits are at an all-time high, while corporate income tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is near a record low.
• In 2011, corporate revenue as a percentage of GDP was just 1.2 percent — lower than any other major country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, including Britain, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Norway, Australia, South Korea, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Ireland, Poland, and Iceland.
• In 2011, corporations paid just 12 percent of their profits in taxes, the lowest since 1972.
• In 2005, one out of four large corporations paid no income taxes at all while they collected $1.1 trillion in revenue over that one-year period.
We know where the Republicans are coming from. What about the Democrats? Will President Obama fulfill his campaign pledge to “protect the middle class” or will he surrender to right-wing blackmail? Will Democrats in the House and Senate stand with the vast majority of our citizens and such organizations as AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the AFL-CIO, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and every other veterans’ organization in the fight against cuts to Social Security and veterans’ programs, or will they agree to a disastrous corporate-backed “chained CPI” concept which makes major benefit cuts to those programs and raises taxes on low-income workers?
The simple truth is there are relatively easy ways to deal with the deficit crisis — without attacking the elderly, the children the sick or the poor.
For example, we have got to eliminate loopholes in the tax code that allow large corporations and the wealthy to avoid more than $100 billion in taxes every year by setting up offshore tax shelters in places like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas. This situation has become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.
Further, we must also end tax breaks for companies shipping American jobs overseas. Today, the United State government continues to reward companies that move American manufacturing jobs abroad, despite the fact that millions of American jobs have been outsourced to China, Mexico, and other low wage countries over the past decade. The Joint Committee on Taxation (the official revenue scorekeeper in Congress) has estimated that we could raise more than $582 billion in revenue over the next decade by eliminating these offshore tax loopholes.
We must also recognize that Wall Street recklessness caused the economic crisis, and it has a responsibility to reduce the deficit. Establishing a 0.03 percent Wall Street speculation fee, similar to what we had from 1914-1966, would dampen the dangerous level of speculation and gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the productive economy and reduce the deficit by more than $350 billion over 10 years.
We are entering a pivotal moment in the modern history of our country. Do the elected officials in Washington stand with ordinary Americans — working families, children, the elderly, the poor — or will the extraordinary power of billionaire campaign contributors and Big Money prevail? The American people, by the millions, must send Congress the answer to that question.