“The Owners Are Getting Scared”: If You Want To Say We’re Just Voting For People Who Promote Our Best Interests, You’re Right
Now that President Obama has won–and is being inaugurated today, hooray!–talk about who should and should not be allowed to vote is becoming more common amongst the tea party rank-and-file.
I work at a homeless shelter. Tonight at dinner, as I sat at our service desk and watched all of the people eat, and talk, and laugh, I remembered how disturbed one of my neighbors was when he heard about our efforts to ensure that the residents of our shelter–and all shelters–got out and voted. My neighbor–white, christian, male, conservative, mid-fifties–went from disturbed to downright offended when President Obama won re-election, and the county that it all seemed to come down to was our county, Hamilton County, Ohio. To my neighbor, by bringing local community organizers into our shelter to have residents sign voting pledges, by having state agencies come in to help our residents register to vote, we were essentially delivering the country to President Obama.
“We didn’t tell them who to vote for”. I said.
“Of course you knew who they were going to vote for. Who gave them the free cell phone?” he said.
Ah, the so-called ‘Obamaphone’. Conservatives hate it. To them, it smacks of decadence, and misguided liberal spending. In reality, it’s a very practical investment for our society to make. Newt Gingrich talked about replacing the safety net with a trampoline: we live in a very high-tech world, and in order to function in this world, we have to be plugged in. If we expect disenfranchised folks to even have a chance at competing, wouldn’t they also have to be plugged in? In the shelter business, we are about helping people get housing, but we’re also about helping people eliminate barriers to housing. If our residents have cell phones, that cuts out a lot of walking time, and a lot of paper work. Ultimately, it should help them get back on their feet, and that is something we all want.
“People who are on the government tit shouldn’t be allowed to vote”. he said.
“If you believe that, then no C.E.O. in the country should be allowed to vote.” I said, always the troublemaker.
“The rich worked for what they’ve got. The people who stay at your shelter have been made soft by the system. ” He said.
My response: You are likely to die in the class you are born into. Inherited wealth gives a person an unfair advantage. Being born into a privileged class gives a person an unfair advantage.Yes, a person can rise from the bottom to the top, but what do they have to become to do so? What do they have to sacrifice? I guarantee you a privileged person who rose to the same level did not sacrifice as much. And what if you don’t have the killer instinct? What if you just want to live a simple life, and not participate in the rat race? Should you have to work so hard? Yes, the man born with sand bags tied around his legs can still hypothetically ‘win the race’, but why not take off those sand bags and see how he does? Why not give him the option of not even running the damned pointless thing in the first place?
It’s a frustrating conversation, especially when you consider that my neighbor should be on my side on this: he is not one of the owners of this society. At best, he only serves as one of the owner’s many attack dogs, operating under the illusion that ‘if only I work hard enough, I too can join the ranks of the owners’. But dogs cannot become men.
The point is, this argument about who should and shouldn’t be allowed to vote is coming up more and more. After Romney lost what he and his followers had deluded themselves into believing would be a great white landslide (no way colored and poor folk will vote again like they did last time!), they started talking about restricting the vote.
But it’s too late for that. Us poor people, Us women, Us black people, Us latino people, Us asian people, Us gay people, us disabled people, us non-religious people–we’re voting. We’re being heard. And if you want to say we are just voting for people who are promoting our best interests, then you’re right: but tell me that the rich in this country don’t do the same thing.
And there are more of us.
The owners are getting scared.
And they should be.
By: Spencer Troxell, Daily Kos, January 21, 2013
Speaking at a closed-press fundraiser in Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday night, Mitt Romney offered more details than he ever has to date on what he might do about federal spending and taxes. Luckily, some reporters standing outside overheard him. NBC reports:
“I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,” Romney said. “Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states.”
Asked about the fate of the Department of Education in a potential Romney administration, the former governor suggested it would also face a dramatic restructuring.
“The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I’m not going to get rid of it entirely,” Romney said, explaining that part of his reasoning behind preserving the agency was to maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers’ unions. Romney added that he learned in his 1994 campaign for Senate that proposing to eliminate the agency was politically volatile.
Romney expounded on that lesson—that he shouldn’t publicly admit to his plans to leave society’s most vulnerable citizens without any federal support—in a March interview with told The Weekly Standard. “One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education,” said Romney. “So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.” In other words, Romney believes that if he tells the public what he might actually do in office they will dislike his plans and reject them. This is just as revealing as Romney’s infamous recollection that he told his gardener not to use illegal immigrants on his property because “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake.” Romney doesn’t want to wage an honest contest between his ideas and his opponent’s. His self-described preference is to try to win by telling the American they can have tax cuts without painful sacrifices on spending.
Publicly, Romney has proposed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and to then cut taxes further. He also wants to increase defense spending. In total he would reduce federal tax revenues by $5 billion over the next ten years. The Committee for a Responsible Budget estimated that Romney would add $2.6 trillion to the deficit. He has promised to cut spending as well, but he has avoided mentioning credible specifics.
That’s bad enough. But what is even worse is that what he offers in private doesn’t add up either. It would be one thing if Romney had a secret plan to balance the budget with drastic spending cuts to major federal programs. While it would be dishonorable of him to refuse to discuss that plan while running for president, at least you would know he has a plausible—if totally heartless—plan for governing once elected.
But he doesn’t. Instead the new details he offered were that he might eliminate the mortgage interest deduction on second homes and abolish the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The former idea is a good one, although I’ll believe that President Romney and Congress have the will to stand up to powerful lobbies such as the real estate and construction industries when I see it happen. It would not, however, generate nearly enough revenue to make up for Romney’s massive tax cuts. Perhaps because Romney himself owns three homes he thinks owning a second home is a fairly common middle class practice. In fact, only 6 percent of Americans have a second home. Eliminating the entire mortgage tax deduction would save about $215 billion by 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office, so eliminating it only on second homes would save just a fraction of that. If you want to be generous and assume that a lot of the owners of second homes also have third and fourth homes, and that they take out mortgages to buy those homes, you could guess that Romney’s proposal might save something like 10 percent of that total, or a whopping $21.5 billion in total between now and 2021. By contrast, letting the Bush tax cuts expire only on families making more than $250,000 per year would have saved $40 billion in 2011 alone.
While HUD makes for an appealing target for destruction among rich Republicans because it is the only cabinet department dedicated to addressing poverty, it is not actually a very large agency compared to, say, the Pentagon. Its entire budget for fiscal year 2012 is $47.2 billion dollars. (The Department of Defense budget this year is $645.7 billion.) The vast majority of HUD spending falls into one of two appropriation streams: construction of public housing ($19.2 billion) and Section 8 housing vouchers ($17.2 billion). Romney did not specify whether he would eliminate those programs, or just abolish the department that houses them and redistribute their responsibilities. Assuming Romney doesn’t, or can’t, actually get rid of the federal government’s two main programs to prevent homelessness, he won’t get very much savings by closing HUD and its important, but smaller, programs such as Community Development Block Grants. As I report in a forthcoming feature for Next American City, under President Obama HUD has been dramatically helpful to cities with very small amounts of money through programs such as the Sustainable Communities Initiative. I’ve asked the Romney campaign to clarify whether Romney wants to eliminate all federal housing subsidies and, if so, whether he has any plan to combat the dramatic rise in homelessness and severe poverty that would surely result. Having not received a response, my guess is that his honest answer would be that he has no idea what exactly he proposes to cut. And he certainly hasn’t bothered to come up with an alternative affordable housing agenda.
Republicans are not terribly interested in making serious domestic policy proposals or even dealing with social issues at all. For example, House Republicans have decided that their zeal to keep taxes low on millionaires and even billionaires must be paid for by squeezing food stamp recipients. As Politico’s David Rogers reports, “An average family of four faces an 11 percent cut in monthly benefits after Sept. 1, and even more important is the tighter enforcement of rules demanding that households exhaust most of their savings before qualifying for help.” If they succeed, it will save $3 billion per year.
Republicans, including Romney, are fond of saying that they idolize Ronald Reagan and wish to govern as he did. And they would, with lower taxes, higher deficits, greater inequality and less help for the most needy.
By: Ben Adler, The Nation, April16, 2012
On Thursday, President Obama will deliver a major speech on America’s employment crisis. But too often, what is lost in the call for job creation is a clear idea of what jobs we want to create.
I recently led a research team to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has advertised his track record of creating jobs. From January 2000 to January 2010, employment in the Valley grew by a remarkable 42 percent, compared with our nation’s anemic 1 percent job growth.
But the median wage for adults in the Valley between 2005 and 2008 was a stunningly low $8.14 an hour (in 2008 dollars). One in four employed adults earned less than $6.19 an hour. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported that the per capita income in the two metropolitan statistical areas spanning the Valley ranked lowest and second lowest in the nation.
These workers aren’t alone. Last year, one in five American adults worked in jobs that paid poverty-level wages. Worker displacement contributes to the problem. People who are laid off from previously stable employment, if they are lucky enough to find work, take a median wage hit of over 20 percent, which can persist for decades.
To understand the impact of low wages, in the Valley and elsewhere, we interviewed a wide range of people, including two directors of public health clinics, three priests, a school principal and four focus groups of residents. Everyone described a life of constantly trying to scrape by. One month they might pay for the phone, another, for utilities. Everyone knew how long each company would carry unpaid bills before cutting service. People spoke not only of their fear of an unexpected crisis — an illness, a broken car — but also of the challenge of paying for basic needs like school supplies. Many used the phrase “one paycheck away from homelessness.”
Because their parents cannot afford child care, children move among relatives and neighbors. They watch too much TV. They don’t finish their homework. Older children grow up too fast from parenting their younger siblings. As one person observed, “All you think about is which bill is more important.”
Economic stress strains marriages. Parents cannot afford quinceañeras for their daughters. In church youth groups, teenagers ask why they should stay in school if all they can get are low wages.
Many children are latchkey kids. Accidents are frequent; we heard of an elementary school student who badly burned himself in a science experiment, with his older brother watching. Their father couldn’t take time off from work to visit his son in the hospital. Children come to school sick. Parents miss teacher conferences because they can’t afford time off. Type 2 diabetes is a scourge in the Valley. Since Type 2 diabetics can be asymptomatic for years, many don’t buy medicine; as time passes, they become severely ill, often losing sight or a limb.
The director at one clinic, with nearly 70,000 visits a year, estimated that half of its patients had anxiety or depression. Often people can’t get to the clinic because they cannot afford to lose work time or because gas costs too much. When they go, they take their families, because they have no child care.
And yet the Valley is not hopeless. Teachers stay late to help with homework. They make home visits to meet parents. Health clinic employees work overtime. The community organization Valley Interfaith has pushed for training opportunities and living-wage jobs. There is no “culture of poverty,” but the low-wage economy has corrosive and tragic consequences.
Must we choose between job quality and quantity? We have solid evidence that when employees are paid better and given more opportunities within a company, the gains outweigh the costs. For example, after a living wage ordinance took effect for employees at the San Francisco International Airport, in 1999, turnover fell and productivity rose.
Contrary to the antigovernment rhetoric, there is much that the public sector can do to improve the quality of jobs.
A recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute reported that 20 percent of federal contract employees earned less than the poverty level for a family of four, as opposed to 8 percent of traditional federal workers. Many low-wage jobs in the private sector (notably, the health care industry) are financed by taxpayers. The government can set an example by setting and enforcing wage standards for contractors.
When states and localities use their zoning powers to approve commercial projects, or offer tax incentives to attract new employers, they can require that workers be paid living wages; research shows this will not hurt job growth.
Labor standards have to be upgraded and enforced, particularly for those employers, typically in low-wage industries, who engage in “wage theft,” by failing to pay required overtime wages or misclassifying workers as independent contractors so that they do not receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Americans have long believed that there should be a floor below which job quality does not fall. Today, polls show widespread support for upgrading employment standards, including raising the minimum wage — which is lower, in inflation-adjusted terms, than it was in 1968. It’s time for the federal government to take the lead in creating not just more jobs, but more good jobs. The job-growth mirage of the Rio Grande Valley cannot be our model.
By: Paul Osterman, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, September 5, 2011
Florida’s wildly-unpopular far-right governor, Rick Scott (R), traveled to a retirement community in Central Florida yesterday known for being the most Republican retirement community in the state. Scott was there to sign his new state budget, which helps demonstrate his priorities and commitment to looking out for his most vulnerable constituents.
In his speech Thursday, Scott omitted many of the serious-sounding programs he cut: homeless veterans, meals for poor seniors, a council for deafness, a children’s hospital, cancer research, public radio, whooping-cough vaccines for poor mothers, or aid for the paralyzed.
These are cuts, by the way, he made from an already-austere budget approved by a Florida legislature dominated by larger Republican majorities. Scott thought they were too generous, so he made sweeping changes though line-item vetoes, which is legal in the state.
All told, Scott’s budget throws 4,500 Floridians out of work as a way to help lower unemployment. No, I don’t understand it, either.
The ridiculous governor might have heard from some of his less-supportive constituents had he not banned Democrats from the bill-signing ceremony.
Members of The Villages Democratic Club were barred from the budget signing by Scott staffers who said the outdoor event in The Villages town square was “private.” Other staffers and Republican operatives scoured the crowd and had Sumter County sheriff’s deputies remove those with anti-Scott signs or liberal-looking pins and buttons. They escorted more than a dozen people off the property.
As Tanya Somanader put it, “Many in the community would likely not be pleased with Scott’s cuts, but those voices remained unheard — mainly because they were banned.”
Atrios added the other day, “I normally resist the temptation to blame “stupid voters” for their leaders, but man, Floridians, what were you thinking….”
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, May 27, 2011
How appropriate that Washington’s most challenging budget crisis in decade coincides with the Republican Party’s centenary birthday celebration of Ronald Reagan, whose attacks on “welfare queens” and the social safety net in the name of deficit reduction caused indisputable collateral damage to middle class Americans. The Ronnie-like budget cuts that Republican leaders are proposing today—against unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing—all boast the potential to carry on the Reagan tradition of hurting the very middle class they aspire to help.
Why? Because the cuts to the programs the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives are targeting would increase poverty, and more poverty lowers property values, diminishes the quality of life, and drives up family taxes and expenses of middle class Americans.
Cuts to federal housing programs will increase homelessness. Combine increased homelessness with vacant public housing and you have a cancer that will spread, reducing property values in communities across our nation. Or consider cuts to unemployment and food stamps. These are likely to cause grocery stores in urban, suburban, and rural areas—many of which serve the middle class—to either close or lower the quality and selection of their wares, just to preserve profit margin.
A persistently high unemployment rate may well also translate into desperation and increased property and personal crimes. Not only will more crime lower our quality of life, it will drive up the cost of local policing. That could mean higher local taxes meet crime-fighting demands.
Public schools were once the first choice of middle class families; these schools are the first to fail as poverty rises. Where school was once free, poverty forces many middle class families today to shell out thousands of dollars to educate their children. These new costs are a fact of life for more and more middle class Americans as poverty spreads across the country. Sadly it’s at just the time they can least afford it.
Let’s be clear. No one rejoices at the prospect of spending billions of dollars for subsidized housing or food stamps or Medicaid. And Glenn Beck acolytes and progressives alike can agree that good paying jobs are better for families than a plethora of government subsidies. But the problem is that our economy and the policies that drive it are not creating enough decent paying jobs for all able-bodied Americans to cover their basic household expenses. Federal subsidies for basic needs make up for the shortcomings in our economy. And they help a surprising number of people.
To be sure, we can find ways to run these programs more effectively and more efficiently. And that’s where the hard work of budget cutting should concentrate. The ubiquity of technology, even in low-income communities, presents a huge opportunity to shed administrative costs. We should also find ways to better align these programs so that they enable workers and their families to more successfully move out of poverty. If we are serious about protecting and expanding the middle class, then the tough discussions on how to overhaul the delivery of these income-support programs need to commence.
But it’s simply not in the interest of most Americans to swing an ax at these programs amid a nascent economic recovery. Today, over 10 million Americans are collecting unemployment, and nearly that many citizens are in apartments with rents subsidized by the federal government. More than 40 million Americans put food on the table with the aid of food stamps. Fifty million Americans are able to go to the doctor or the hospital because of the Medicaid program. And fully one in six Americans is dependent on federal and state support for their basic necessities of life.
The consequences of reducing federal income supports will be devastating on the poorest among us. But the impact will not be contained to them. Remember: Ronald Reagan tried to convince us that wealth trickles down. His enduring legacy, however, is that poverty trickles up.
By: Donna Cooper, Senior Fellow-Center for American Progres, February 14, 2011