Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Republicans - Looking to the Future, Dreaming of the Past

I signed up for my social security yesterday. As of August 11, my work life will be over, at least as far as having to report in every day to collect a paycheck to survive. When my Mom retired 30 years ago, she had to take a sheaf of documents to the social security office to apply for her benefits. Now, in the 21st century, you can do it all via computer. Fifteen minutes. Almost five decades of working and in a quarter of an hour, you're checked out.

Now I only have to hope that the Republicans don't get their dirty little hands on the "entitlement" programs during my life time. They say nothing would change for the over-55 age group but I don't trust them. Republicans have despised Social Security and Medicare forever and I absolutely believe they'd love nothing more than to abolish them altogether.

Republicans have always run up deficits. It's part of the plan. David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's budget director, even admitted that it was purposeful. Deficits give Republicans an excuse for saying we have to cut entitlements as well as other programs for the poor and middle class, like student loans and school lunches. Of course, they always want to increase defense spending (not for soldiers but for weapon systems, preferably manufactured in their districts) and lower taxes on their rich pals at the same time.

Two proposed budgets give you an illustration of what I mean:

The first is the scenario proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

> http://grijalva.house.gov/uploads/The%20CPC%20FY2012%20Budget.pdf
>

According to the Caucus, their budget eliminates the deficit and replaces it with a $30B surplus by 2021. It preserves Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at they currently exist. It emphasizes spending on infrastructure and schools. It cuts the defense budget but increases veteran's benefits.

These things are achieved by ending the Bush tax cuts and restoring rates to Clinton era levels (can anyone argue that the rich didn't get richer under Clinton?), taxing capital gains and dividends as regular income (why is money you didn't have to work for more special than money someone did for for?), rescinding subsidies for oil companies (all of which had record profits in 2010), ending the wars and bringing our troops home (have we anything else to gain in the Middle East?) , enacting a progressive estate tax, negotiating the costs of medicines with pharmaceutical companies and raising the amount of income taxed for social security to 90% (it is such an obvious answer, I can't believe we haven't done it yet - all us lower-class people pay social security taxes on every dollar we earn).

That's it in a nutshell. It all seems eminently commonsensical to me.

Budget 2: The Paul Ryan Republican budget.

Repeal Obamacare. Sigh. Didn't you just figure that would be their very first priority? In it's stead, they'd end the government making direct payments to doctors and hospitals. They'd "reform" Medicare by allowing us seniors to purchase private insurance. But not to worry, they assure us, they'd some how make these plans "affordable".  I guess the part of Obamacare that forbids insurers to refuse to cover applicants with pre-existing conditions would go away. Trust me on this - by the time you reach 65, you've got a pre-existing condition, whether it is diabetes or hypertension or acid reflux or arthritis or something!

Ryan's plan converts Medicaid from a partnership with the states into block grants. What this means is that the dollar amount the feds will kick in is finite. It ends when the ceiling is reached, no matter how many recipients the state may have that qualify for assistance. The states can then either pay the additional on their own or they can say, "too bad, so sad". Guess which option most of the red states would choose?

Ryan would also lower the top tax rate from 35% to 25% because God knows, billionaires just pay too darn much in taxes. It's surprising they even manage to maintain their billionaire status...not!

I think in their private musings, Republican politicians dream about England centuries ago when vast estates and castles were passed down from one nobleman to his progeny, enabling a handful of aristocrats at the top to own almost everything while poor children begged for shillings in the alleyways and miners worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day without any breaks.  Heaven to them must be a place where employees dare not even think of striking nor complain if all they have to eat is moldy porridge. Did every freaking Republican politician read David Copperfield in high school and become so enraptured by its vision of  a no-choice-but-to-be-complaint workforce that their mental growth was stunted forevermore?

Actually, I can sort of understand the appeal of that world for people who picture themselves as royalty but why do the rest of us buy into it?