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“Congress Reinterprets Jesus”: Serve Banksters Or Serve The Poor?

Thank God for Congress, right? When things get out of balance in America, we can always count on our legislative stalwarts to recalibrate the scales of justice.

Take greed, for example. The barons of Wall Street, whose raw greed and casino scams wrecked our real economy five years ago, are back to shoving great gobs of bonus pay into their pockets. Meanwhile, the middle class remains decimated, and millions of workaday Americans who were knocked all the way down into poverty are still stuck there. In this nation of fabulous wealth, our poverty numbers are shocking and scandalous: 50 million people are officially poor; another 51 million are “near poor.” A third of our country!

You’ll be pleased to know, then, that only last week, U.S. House members turned their legislative guns on the greed that’s sapping the moral vitality of our society. Unfortunately, their aim was a bit off. Instead of popping the privileged, they hit the most unprivileged: families who need food stamps to make ends meet.

The food stamp program is out of control, they shrieked, noting that it’s been expanding even as the unemployment rate has been coming down. Yoo-hoo, knuckleheads, the jobless rate has ticked down largely because job-seekers have become so discouraged by the absence of opportunities that they’ve quit looking. Plus, getting a job no longer gets you out of poverty — just ask the barista who’s making your next latte about the joys of working for poverty pay. Food stamp rolls have reached record numbers, because — guess what? — there are record numbers of Americans in poverty!

Yet, the House called for cutting some $2 billion a year (and 2 million Americans) out of the program. On June 20, however, the members balked — not because the cut was too severe, but because it was not enough for Tea Party Republicans, who have been demanding a total food stamp gut job, proposing to slash the program by $25 billion a year.

Also, the GOP majority lost the votes of nearly all Democrats by adding a couple of fiendish amendments to punish poor people for the crime of being poor. One was to put additional work requirements on families seeking the food benefit. “We cannot continue to deny able-bodied people the dignity of work,” blathered a worked-up know-nothing named Steve Southerland of Florida. Then, Rep. Michele Bachmann had a tempest in her teapot of a brain, offering her support of Southerland’s amendment in a sort of Biblical falsetto: “If anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”

Hello, Michele — that’s not exactly in keeping with the moral message of the Biblical Jesus. Nor is it in keeping with reality — today’s poverty does not stem from any unwillingness to work. Indeed, millions of food stamp recipients are working, but not being paid enough to put adequate groceries on the family table. And many more are in desperate search for jobs that aren’t there.

In fairness, though, let me note that House Republicans did try to give hard-hit families something extra in this legislation: drug testing. Following in lockstep with the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council — which has been peddling this vile, insulting slap at poor people all around the country — the House majority added a urine-test provision to its bill. That really puts the mean in “demeaning” — and this from small-government poseurs who piously decry government intrusion into people’s lives!

Once again, the Tea Party congresscritters should have used their ever-present Bibles for instruction, rather than just for thumping. They would’ve learned that Jesus, at the Sea of Galilee, distributed free fish and loaves to everyone there — with no pee-in-the-cup requirement. And if he had wanted to test whether anyone was on drugs, he would’ve passed cups to bankers first, then to lawmakers.

A society’s response to poverty is one measure that speaks directly to its essential character. In particular, a wealthy society’s nonchalant tolerance of poverty in its midst, the willingness of that society’s leaders to disregard the spread of poverty and the callous calculations by some that it is permissible and even profitable to denigrate those mired in poverty — these are three flashing indicators of a meltdown in our society’s moral core.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, June 26, 2013

June 28, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boehner’s New Proposal Could Produce Greatest Increase In Poverty And Hardship Of Any Law In Modern U.S. History

House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.

The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of “class warfare.” If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.

This may sound hyperbolic, but it is not. The mathematics are inexorable.

The Boehner plan calls for large cuts in discretionary programs of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, and it then requires additional cuts that are large enough to produce another $1.8 trillion in savings to be enacted by the end of the year as a condition for raising the debt ceiling again at that time.

The Boehner plan contains no tax increases. The entire $1.8 trillion would come from budget cuts.

Because the first round of cuts will hit discretionary programs hard — through austere discretionary caps that Congress will struggle to meet — discretionary cuts will largely or entirely be off the table when it comes to achieving the further $1.8 trillion in budget reductions.

As a result, virtually all of that $1.8 trillion would come from entitlement programs. They would have to be cut more than $1.5 trillion in order to produce sufficient interest savings to achieve $1.8 trillion in total savings.

To secure $1.5 trillion in entitlement savings over the next ten years would require draconian policy changes. Policymakers would essentially have three choices: 1) cut Social Security and Medicare benefits heavily for current retirees, something that all budget plans from both parties (including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan) have ruled out; 2) repeal the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions while retaining its measures that cut Medicare payments and raise tax revenues, even though Republicans seek to repeal many of those measures as well; or 3) eviscerate the safety net for low-income children, parents, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. There is no other plausible way to get $1.5 trillion in entitlement cuts in the next ten years.

The evidence for this conclusion is abundant.

The “Gang of Six” plan, with its very tough and controversial entitlement cuts, contains total entitlement reductions of $640 to $760 billion over the next ten years not counting Social Security, and $755 billion to $875 billion including Social Security. (That’s before netting out $300 billion in entitlement costs that the plan includes for a permanent fix to the scheduled cuts in Medicare physician payments that Congress regularly cancels; with these costs netted out, the Gang of Six entitlement savings come to $455 to $575 billion.)

The budget deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner that fell apart last Friday, which included cuts in Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and Medicare benefits as well as an increase in the Medicare eligibility age, contained total entitlement cuts of $650 billion (under the last Obama offer) to $700 billion (under the last Boehner offer).

The Ryan budget that the House passed in April contained no savings in Social Security over the next ten years and $279 billion in Medicare cuts.

To be sure, the House-passed Ryan budget included much larger overall entitlement cuts over the next 10 years. But that was largely because it eviscerated the safety net and repealed health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan included cuts in Medicaid and health reform of a remarkable $2.2 trillion, from severely slashing Medicaid and killing health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan also included stunning cuts of $127 billion in the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) and $126 billion in Pell Grants and other student financial assistance.

That House Republicans would likely seek to reach the Boehner budget’s $1.8 trillion target in substantial part by cutting programs for the poorest and most vulnerable Americans is given strong credence by the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill that the House recently approved. That bill would establish global spending caps and enforce them with across-the-board budget cuts —exempting Medicare and Social Security from the across-the-board cuts while subjecting programs for the poor to the across-the-board axe.

This would turn a quarter century of bipartisan budget legislation on its head; starting with the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law, all federal laws of the last 26 years that have set budget targets enforced by across-the-board cuts have exempted the core assistance programs for the poor from those cuts while including Medicare among programs subject to the cuts. This component of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill strongly suggests that, especially in the face of an approaching election, House Republicans looking for entitlement cuts would heavily target means-tested programs for people of lesser means (and less political power).

In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including the many lucrative tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations.

President Obama has said that, while we must reduce looming deficits, we must take a balanced approach. The Boehner proposal badly fails this test of basic decency. The President should veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Congress should find a fairer, more decent way to avoid a default.

By: Robert Greenstein, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government Shut Down, Governors, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Uninsured, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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