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Tax Cuts For The Rich, Program Cuts For The Rest Of Us

April 6, 2011

Where to begin? So much to unpack, so much to say. This may have to be done a little bit at a time.

Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee has presented the GOP budget proposal. It includes cutting $389 billion from Medicare for seniors over the next 10 years, $735 billion less to Medicaid for the disabled,  and slashing other government service programs by an additional $923 billion over the decade. Medicare will be “voucherized” and “privatized” in stages, that is, dismantled in  stages and replaced by fixed-amount vouchers payable to private for-profit health care providers and insurers, forcing recipients back into dependency on the tender mercies of the for-profit private sector insurers and providers, whose costs will continue to skyrocket, being unregulated. Unless you control soaring health care costs, you  must reduce and deny benefits. Otherwise Medicaid and Medicare costs will soar, since they are determined by the going rate in the private for-profit sector.  When your fixed-amount voucher is exhausted, well, you are SOL. So any savings will come out of the pocket of the elderly Medicare recipients. There is no intent to really cut the deficit. The real agenda is to dismantle the most popular key programs of government: Medicare, Medicaid, and later, Social Security.

Most of the media will repeat the spin that this proposal is an “overhaul” or a “reform.” It is not. It is a dismantling with the long-term goal of completely abolishing it.

Of course, the GOP proposal also includes continued subsidies to Big Oil and a bigger military budget than the Pentagon even asked for. Oh, and coincidentally, a one-third cut in the top income tax bracket for the rich, from 35% to 25%. (More “shared sacrifice”?). This from lawmakers on record as wanting to abolish the capital gains tax, too, now that the inheritance tax is gone.  So only middle-class and working-class wages and salaries will remain taxable as income. All this in the name of ‘deficit reduction’, the New Holy Text of American politics, the Sacred Cause whose merit cannot be questioned.

The goal is clear: eliminate any social obligations of the rich, and eliminate any programs that benefit the poor.  “Put these two parts of the Ryan design together–tax cuts for th rich, program cuts for the poor–and its radically redistributionist purposes become clear..” (E.J. Dionne, Jr. in his Washington Post story, noted below).

Remember all the Republicans last fall campaigning on “jobs creation”? Any concern with job creation has disappeared from both parties’ agendas. This is another GOP bait-and-switch. There never has been any popular mandate for cutting or privatizing Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. The last reliable poll I saw showed only 12% of the electorate in favor of that. Has  even 20% of the population ever favored such actions? If so, when? Please write and show me. I’d like to see the evidence. This is not now and never has been “the will of the people.” And it was the GOP who last fall used the scare tactic of telling people that the Democrats were going to cut Medicare! Vote for us to protect your Medicare!

The Democratic Party’s timidity and passivity is another issue. Will Obama & Co. have the stomach to fight this vigorously? Or will they give in for the sake of “bipartisanship”? What I hope is at odds with I fear will happen.

 Joseph Stieglitz summed up the intended result: “Government of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, and for the 1 percent.” 

A few good sources of info on this:

Paul Krugman,

Joseph Stieglitz, at

E.J. Dionne, Jr.. “The End of Progresssive Government”

Robert Creamer, “Why the Republicans Persist in Demanding the Elimination of 700,00o Jobs”

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