Populist Daily

Politics, Culture and American Life

Populist Daily header image 1

The Republican Recession and a Budget for Billionaires

April 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment · Capitalism, Politics, Populism, The Budget

How do we explain the tragic situation in which we now find the country? The simple way to explain it is to say that, particularly since 2001, the Republicans have cut taxes three (3) times and created two wars. They laid back on regulations allowing Wall Street to swindle millions of people out of thousands of billions of dollars and watched the economy crash.

They did nothing to alleviate the suffering they caused. The revenue shortfall, plus their war spending has caused almost the entire current national debt. They spent $7 trillion more from 2001 to 2008 than the government received in revenues.

In 2008, they ignited the Great Bush Recession. That resulted in a total of 15 million unemployed. Eight million jobs were lost in less than nine months from October of 2008 until July of 2009. The first day President Obama walked into the oval office, that month, January of 2009, the economy lost 700,000 jobs…January alone.

The result was that unemployment payments and loss of tax revenues to government increased the deficit to over one trillion dollars per year. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, despite cuts and hiring freezes, layoffs and early retirements the deficits were over one trillion dollars each year.

It need not have happened. President Clinton finally stopped the deficits. While he left a cumulative total of $5 trillion in debt, he also left a balanced budget. Bush then spent $7 trillion more than government revenues between 2001-2008. He then left a Great Recession which cost $3 trillion more in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

If you look on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official employment records, you will see that, at the end of his term President Bush had created a net one million jobs. President Clinton created 22 million jobs. That alone should tell anyone the difference between an administration that spends its time cutting taxes for the wealthy and going to war and an administration that focuses on real jobs.

Then the Republicans obstructed recovery. They used the filibuster loophole in the Senate to kill any recovery. Then the Koch Brothers, using Americans For Prosperity and FreedomWorks, organized the Tea Party. They created huge organizations that demonstrated against middle class programs like Medicare, Social Security, and health care reform. In an alliance with the health care industry, they spread huge lies about the Affordable Care Act, after $400 million in campaign contributions to Republicans did not quite prevent the legislation from passing.

This is where we are now, with 50 or so members of the Tea Party helping Republican Senators to obstruct jobs bills, pass union-busting bills, end child labor laws, end women’s abortion rights, end contraception, entering Christian-only legislation and trying to instigate another war, this time against Iran. The same old Republican mantra…keep women barefoot and pregnant and keep the rest of the world…and American workers…subservient to American corporations.

Now there is a new Republican budget. They want to end Medicare and substitute vouchers that will cover, as they themselves admit, only 32% of the cost of insurance. Measure this against the current Medicare system that covers an average of 75%. And half of those on Medicare have only Social Security as more than half their income. So, by definition they fall into the category of those in poverty.

Each family will receive a check for $8,000 to buy health care insurance. Nothing anywhere says what health insurance companies will be able to charge. So it could be worth, and probably will be worth only about half the insurance costs.

Today there are 50 million people without healthcare and yet the health insurance companies spent $400 million in one year alone, 2009, to prevent them from getting health insurance. President Obama fought for an affordable health care plan, which Congress created. The alternative Republican plan, brought out too late to vote on, merely created health savings accounts which do not work because the people who need them most do not have any extra savings, which is what HSAs count on. The only other thing the GOP plan did was to push for more anti-medical liability. They wanted to encourage malpractice by reducing all payments for malpractice to $250,000.

The Republican budget proposal for the next ten years does reduce the deficit. But it does not create any new taxes. It does not eliminate tax loopholes. It does not create any new revenues from any source. It merely cuts services for the middle class and the poor.

It isn’t a legitimate proposal at all. The Republicans are relying on their control of the media to fool the American people. They hope to continue to control the House of Representatives. They want to shut down government and kill all social safety net programs. They want to shut down Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, student loans and alternative energy proposals.

They want to drill in your back yard or in national parks on the Washington Mall, in Yellowstone Park or along the beaches of Florida and California and South Carolina and Oregon. These Neo-Fascists live in their own little 99% white enclaves, with their other Right Wing “Christian” friends. They want no part of American society at large. These are people who have secure jobs, for now, and who want to use their leverage to diminish the leverage of others who do not believe as they do.

They are relying on their control of the media, on their control of the House of Representatives and their Neo-Fascist obstructive tactics in the Senate to cause trouble for the country, hoping to confuse the electorate as they did in 2009, resulting in a shut down of government, large cuts in recovery programs and this monstrous attempt to kill all social safety net programs while offering more tax cuts to the rich.

This program is being moved forward by a selective group of political forces. It is being led by a large group of very wealthy men who have discovered that they can become immensely rich and stay that way if they support Neo-Fascism. Neo-Fascism is the support of a totalitarian political party aligning large corporations, with the military, with a large number of corrupt Christian churches and one political party, in this case, the Republicans.

The Republicans will not raise taxes. How can this be when the government is losing money and borrowing huge amounts to pay the bills? The Republicans work for the rich and the rich make them wealthy enough…or so they think…that they do not need government. For the top half of the top one percent, this has meant over a million dollars saved over the period of the Bush Administration.

Since the government lost $10 trillion over that period, it is safe to conclude without a shadow of a doubt that money was borrowed. The government borrowed money from China, that all taxpayers must pay back, and gave each of the top one-half of one percent a million dollars apiece. The catch is this. The Republicans won’t pay it back by raising taxes. They will pay it back by using the money already in government.

Their plan is to pay it back by cutting essential government services and using the money that would have gone to you in subsidized health care or the Social Security (that you paid into as insurance) or health services for children…none of which the top one percent of Americans will need. So they get a million bucks on top of tax rates that were already cut in half-and then reduced again by Reagan, lowest tax rates in the world, and everyone else pays for it.

If those who make $380,000 and now pay about 23% in actual taxes, or $87,400, were asked to pay another five percent, another $19,000, would that break the bank? Does a net income of $273,000 after taxes really make that much difference from $292,000?

You can quickly see, when we go higher than $380,000 how silly it is, especially with annual millionaires and billionaires, that they will not pay a slight additional in such dire circumstances as the country faces in 2012. An additional five percent to make all American lives better seems like a small thing to ask of the world’s richest people.

The Republican budget takes non-Social Security spending from 12% of GDP in 2010, to 6% in 2022, and 3.5% in 2050. The budget plan doesn’t say how the Republicans can reduce costs that sharply. But there is a pretty good idea of how they would make it happen. Once there is no other option they will say we must cut more. They will continue the “no new taxes” pledge. Then they will have only one option…because a large part of the Neo-Fascist base is the military-industrial complex…and that is Social Security. They’ll rob it like a small-town bank.

With Medicare, right now with the ACA (Obamacare) in place, about 25% of costs go to the patient and about and 75% are covered by the government from premiums, taxes, etc. Under the Republican plan, this will be turned on its head. Medicare patients will pay 68% of costs and government will pay approximately 32%.

The first thing that the Ryan plan does, if it has not already been done by the Supreme Court is to pledge to repeal Obamacare. The health industry supports this. You have to be stupid to believe that an industry that charges you about $17,000 a year for health insurance, denies medical insurance to anyone who has previously been ill and allows 50 million Americans to go uninsured…then lobbies against any kind of universal care…has your best interests at heart.

How can anyone believe that a group, like Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and literally all the Right Wing pundits, who agreed with Rush Limbaugh’s calling a young law student at a Catholic university a slut, a whore and a prostitute because she wants birth control pills could care about what happens to women’s health? It just isn’t rational.

Unlike Obamacare, there will be no restraint on costs under the Ryan/Republican plan. So you will not only pay more as a percentage of costs, but you will pay a higher percentage of much higher costs. What the Ryan plan calls “premium subsidies” in other words a check for a part of your health insurance costs, will only be 32% of the costs of health care. It is written in the budget plan. With Medicare, you now get a 75% subsidy. And under Ryancare the age of eligibility goes up to 67. Under Romney, apparently it would be 69.

On the other hand, Obamacare shuts down the power of the health insurance industry to pick only the healthiest people and deny anyone who could potentially cost them money. Then it creates real competition across state lines, with large insurance exchanges, and, if costs do not go down, the possibility of a public option. Companies can also form as Co-ops and drive the high-priced firms from the marketplace.

So, in 2022, under the Republican budget, Medicare ends and the private companies take over. That will be a disaster for American senior citizens.

The premium subsidies for Medicare under the Republican budget is $8,000. But the actual costs, according to CBO, for those over 65, a less healthy segment of the population, is $15,000. To some degree there will be means testing but CBO says that this whole plan does not add up. And, as it is a plan written essentially by health care companies for health care companies, it does nothing to control costs for individuals. They simply now will pay more and the government less of a larger bill.

The whole problem with the Ryan exercise is this: health care is not a viable business unless you can charge whatever you want and insure only those that you want. Obamacare says that health care is a needed public service that cannot be done for profit without regard to what happens to the public.

If health care works, it necessarily spends money on patients. The more it spends, the better service it gives to patients, i.e., the more care is being delivered. But the problem is that the more care being delivered, the less profit to the health insurance companies. So the for-profit health insurance model does not work. In order to make it work you must limit those with insurance to the more healthy among the population and provide the least expensive health alternative. And this is legitimate under the for-profit model, where the chief obligation is to stockholders.

That is how the for-profit system works and that it why it is not good for health care. We need to make changes. But Obamacare tries to make a gradual transition. It changes the system in a way that everyone knows will make it less profitable for the health insurance companies and therefore make health care itself less expensive and more accessible to the average citizen.

The goal of Obamacare for the average citizen is to reduce the cost of health care and make it affordable and obtainable for each American citizen.

We spend 18% of GDP on health care but we have the 37th best health care in the world. We have 50 million people uninsured…one out of six people has no health insurance. Europe spends an average of 6% and they cover everyone. And 36 countries have better health care than we do.

So what is the Republican solution? In summary, the Republican ten-year plan once more cuts taxes for the rich and increases Medicare costs and reduces the obligation for high quality care. While the Ryan plan increases national revenues, it does not say where it will get those revenues without taxing.

The wealthy under Reagan, Bush I and Bush II were made fabulously wealthy. Twelve-car garages with marble floors and murals on the wall. Or with a turntable rather than having to…horror of horrors…move one car in order to get another of your dozens of cars out of the heated and cooled garage. It’s only another $200,000. You drop that in a single night in Vegas, don’t you? After all, this is only one room of your 47,000 square foot mansion. (These are not fantasies. These are merely two examples of the amenities in the multi-million dollar homes that one may see on any evening on television.

The rest of us who do not have 12-car garages and 47,000 square foot homes are paying a good percentage of our incomes in taxes. We merely ask that those individuals who are doing so well that they can have a giant turntable in the middle of their garage, or a golf course around their home can make some additional sacrifice in a time of Recession.

America has about 3 million people who have wealth of over $1,000,000 not including their homes. That’s about one percent. There are about 40, 000 people who have wealth in excess of $30 million. Almost half of all members of the House and Senate are millionaires. We have something like 400 billionaires, including, for example, ten or eleven in the Pritzker Family. (Who are, from all accounts, very good people–good employers, philanthropists and extremely hard workers.)

But we also know that there are roughly 1400 to 1500 multi-millionaires and billionaires who pay no taxes. No one is going to complain about someone living on the non-taxable income from a million bucks. You won’t “get rich” on that. But we have people in their peak earning years who are making billions on hedge funds who are paying nothing or next to nothing on their incomes. If we stop those things, stop loopholes, like income earned abroad staying abroad, oil depletion allowances, corporations registering in the Bahamas to avoid taxes, and if we make our natural resources pay the United States as much as they pay those who are already billionaires and work against the United States, then we’ll be fine and we won’t need the drastic measures that the Republicans have laid out in their non-tax, but social services-cutting budget.

The Paul Ryan Republican budget takes good care of those wealthy who have done well but it does nothing for those who are still trying to get there. And it deliberately attacks the poor and the elderly who retired in a time when the Republicans reduced America’s income by 7 trillion dollars.

We’re not talking about government revenues. No, we’re talking about the estimated amount that Americans lost in the Bush Stock Market Crash of 2008 and everything from lost 401ks and evaporated home equity that came in its wake.

Tags: ·····

One Comment so far ↓

  • Proud Populist

    I have some solutions.
    Raise the tax rate on the top 1% to at least 75%. These vultures can pay a lot more!
    End all corporate welfare. This includes the oil barons. Raise the corporate tax rate for the gas gougers. There’s no good reason why Exxon,BP and the rest of the barons can’t pay substantially more in taxes.
    Immediately end all welfare for Senators,former VPs(Presidents etc..) and both houses of Congress. No more free ride with health care and a pension. If privatizing is such a great idea, they should have no problem with investing their money in a 401k.They should pay their own way and have to publish quarterly reports in their home districts listing who they prostituted themselves to and how much it cost to buy them or rent them, what ever the case may be.
    All lifetime security for former presidents and the like should be ended. We simply can’t afford it with the Second Republican Great Depression!
    Same goes for campaign security. If Rick Sanitarium(or any other candidate) wants security on the campaign trail it should be on his dime!
    There is a lot of money saving potential.
    How about folks that inherit their wealth? They should pay at least half for taxes. For that matter anyone that doesn’t actually work for a living should be in the highest bracket. Wall Street would be the logical place to start. That is after Glass-Steagal is reinstated.
    Yep. There are plenty of solutions and we should be looking at Republicans and their owners as the place to start with revenue ideas and budget cuts.