the have-nots while another defends the have-mores? As much as I have contributed to
the notion political differences in the United States can be reduced to progressives and
regressives, the myth of common ground won't go away. It is easy to portray Republicans
as the party of the wealthy and privileged and Democrats as the champions of working
Americans; but it isn't true. I believe the Democrats can be seduced by the rich and powerful
and the differences between the two come down to matters of degrees in many instances.
However, lately events seem to be reinforcing the stereotypes and making common ground
almost impossible to find.
The House passed a $26 billion aid bill to help states preserve thousands of teacher's
jobs and prevent the layoff of police and firefighters in communities throughout the nation.
In Los Angeles alone, the money means more than two thousand teachers will not lose their
jobs. Almost all Democrats voted for the bailout while almost all Republicans opposed it.
The Republican opposition, led by Minority Leader John Boehner, attacked the bill saying it
was another example of overspending by the Democrats. The bill would add to an already
burgeoning national deficit. Boehner says, "We are broke. We do not have the money to bail
out the states." Democrats responded by saying the bill would be paid for by closing tax
loopholes for foreign corporations and changes in the food stamp program; and begged
Republicans not to stand by and watch schools decimated and communities become less safe.
Both sides positions seem reasonable. We shouldn't be running up massive deficits if at
all possible and we also cannot afford to have tens of thousands of teachers and police and
firefighters laid off. Reasonable people can disagree. Right? There is one problem. When
the Congress returns in September, it will take up the question of allowing tax breaks for
the richest 2% of taxpayers to expire, returning tax levels to what they were under President
Clinton. Democrats favor letting the tax cuts expire while Republicans oppose a change in
the rates and intend to make this a key issue in the November mid-term elections.
Representative Boehner says we are broke. Republicans, and their TEA-party allies,
say spending is out of control. Between the President's economic stimulus package, healthcare
reform bill, two wars, and growing entitlements, there is no more money. The cupboard is
bare. They are running in November against the profligate Democrats who are spending too
much and creating an economic crisis. Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, and Ron Paul would be proud.
What they fail to mention is if these tax cuts for the richest 2% are allowed to continue for
another ten years, they will add $3.8 Trillion (with a T) to the national debt.
When Bush the Younger took office, he inherited a budget surplus. This surplus was
built on a tax increase for the top 1% of taxpayers passed by the Democrats without a single
Republican vote (Al Gore broke the tie). One of the first bills Bush proposed was a tax cut for
the richest Americans (Americans making more than $300,000 a year). This idea cost around
$2.3 trillion. Add another trillion to pay for unnecessary wars and the surplus was gone. Add
an economic meltdown of global proportions and a Medicare Prescription Drug Program
(another almost $1 trillion) and the national debt skyrockets. Republicans had no objections
to tax cuts for the rich. They were thrilled to go to war and fund the military-industrial
complex. They passed a Medicare Prescription Drug Program with no provision for how to pay
for it and they voted to bail out Goldman Sachs, AIG, and the rest of Wall Street. They showed
no interest in the rising deficits and national debt. Now, when asked to help states cope with
massive revenue shortfalls, they scream deficit and proclaim we are broke. When asked to end
tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and reduce the deficit as well as produce revenue for
infrastructure and the jobs that go with it, they scream bloody murder and accuse the
Democrats of trying to increase taxes on small businesses, papering over who the real
beneficiaries will be. They are also lying. Even if President Obama gets what he wants,
taxpayers who made between $500,000 and $1 million will pay $6,700 less than under Clinton
and those making $1 million or more would realize a tax savings of $6,300 over 2001 rates
(statistics from the Joint Committee on Taxation report of August, 2010).
Is it really this simple? Is it really this black and white? Republicans oppose a bill to
protect jobs and prevent layoffs of teachers and other public safety employees by screaming
about deficits and how we are broke. When asked to support an end to massive tax cuts for
the wealthiest Americans, they balk. They not only balk, but then vow to turn this into a key
issue for the mid-term elections. Elect Republicans and teachers may lose their jobs; but
the richest Americans will continue to enjoy the lowest federal income tax rates in modern
history. Elect Democrats and watch deficits rise as they try to prevent job losses and stimulate
the economy in order to create even more jobs.
I have no idea how the voters will act in November. Perhaps they are so angry they will
throw out anyone in office and replace them with someone new. However, if you are looking
for regressive Republicans to lower the deficit, control spending, and get our fiscal house in
order, if you are voting for them because they are for "the little guys", if you are voting for
the party which appears to care more about average gum-chewing Americans; these two bills
and the reactions to them should give you pause. Is it possible for stereotypes to be true?
What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to