During the three decades after World War II incomes in the United States rose rapidly and at about the same rate — almost 3 percent a year — for people at all income levels. America had an economically vibrant middle class. Roads and bridges were well maintained, and impressive new infrastructure was being built. People were optimistic.
By contrast, during the last three decades the economy has grown much more slowly, and our infrastructure has fallen into grave disrepair. Most troubling, all significant income growth has been concentrated at the top of the scale.
The share of total income going to the top 1% of earners, which stood at 8.9% in 1976, rose to 23.5% by 2007, but during the same period, the hourly wage declined by more than 7%. Census data for the 100 most populous counties in the US show that the counties where income inequality grew fastest also showed the biggest increases in symptoms of financial distress: largest increases in bankruptcy filings & divorce rates.
The Republican National Committee really wanted to stick it to Democratic legislators for that time they totally punted on holding a vote on the future of the Bush-era tax cuts. And so, they armed themselves with a shiny new study from the Tax Foundation that they thought really aided their criticism. “What excuse will the Democrats use now?”
As it happens, the study compared the actual Dem plan with the GOP one. And it found that for a family of four with an income of $40,000, the Dem plan — continuing the low end tax cuts, plus the stimulus measures — would cause a 7.8 percent jump in after-tax income. That jump would only be 6.8 percent under the GOP plan to continue all the Bush tax cuts.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to CNN Sunday to bash Democrats’ “gargantuan spending spree,” the latest in a long line of Republican attacks over the deficit that began almost immediately after President Obama’s inauguration. But what, exactly, would the GOP do to reduce the substantial budget shortfall–a much of it coming from the sea of red ink President Bush bequeathed to President Obama?
The answer: Who knows?
That, of course is nothing new — talking about belt-tightening in the broad sense is always easier than throwing out specifics. Since Sen. Jon Kyl’s clarification on Fox News earlier this month that extending unemployment benefits is fiscally dangerous but deficit-financed tax cuts to the tune of $678 billionare just gravy, Republicans have been under new pressure to clarify how exactly they intend to reduce the national debt. Sen. Pete Sessions’ (R-TX) appeared Sunday on Meet The Press and under persistent questioning from David Gregory, he failed to offer any specific examples of what spending programs the GOP would cut.
This evasion probably won’t keep them from being elected or reelected, it hasn’t in the past. And if they should regain the majority and are asked to present a budget they’ve painted themselves into a corner. They’ve signed pledges to not increase taxes, they’ve endorsed an array of new tax cuts that blow a further hole in the budget.
The GOP recently rebranded itself as the holy defender of Medicare during the health care debate, putting another huge chunk of the budget out of play. Let’s assume that Defense Spending is an unlikely target as well. That pretty much leaves Social Security and a handful of popular spending programs like SCHIP on the block, which are as politically disastrous targets as they come.
Pinned down by a conservative base demanding drastic spending reductions AND tax cuts, it seems extremely unlikely a Republican House would be able to produce a workable budget that would get past the president’s desk, leading some observers — most notably Paul Krugman — to predict a government shutdown.
“Look, there’s no rush right now. We need to get it right.”
– Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), 4/21/10
“Start over please, Mr. President.”
– Fox News’ Steve Doocy, Karl Rove, 4/19/10
Rather than engage in substantive debate over reform, Republicans decided early on that they would lie about the legislation and slow down its progress. Instead of trying to fix the mess created by their own Party, Republicans are using a rhetorical ploy to confuse the public and kill reform. Over and over again.
Ultimately, Republican efforts to stall, slow, and stop progress on the stimulus and health care reform failed. Hopefully, history repeats itself in the course of Wall Street reform debate.
It’s an interesting stance. Will using the word ‘bailout’ fool and scare some people into backing the Republicans in doing nothing? Will the Republicans be able to make regulations the enemy — regulations against the entities that stuck it to Americans, regulations that will prevent them doing it again?
We all know what opposing regulations says about the GOP, but doesn’t it bring up questions about what it says about Americans? The sharp partisan differences over how to respond to the 2008 crisis that caused a near meltdown on Wall Street should remind us of the need for regulations, and we should all pay careful attention. None of us, no matter our political philosophy, should allow nothing to be done — nothing isn’t a solution!