A damning judgment of Boehner’s recent budget

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote:

House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.

The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of “class warfare.” If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.

This may sound hyperbolic, but it is not. The mathematics are inexorable.


In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including the many lucrative tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations.

President Obama has said that, while we must reduce looming deficits, we must take a balanced approach. The Boehner proposal badly fails this test of basic decency. The President should veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Congress should find a fairer, more decent way to avoid a default.

Just to remind ourselves of our current situation, the current and prospective Federal debt has not produced a fiscal crisis, Social Security is not in trouble, the United States has one of the lowest tax to GDP ratios of all the OECD countries and an austerity budget can trigger a severe economic contraction during a time of high-unemployment. This whole ‘debate’ is class war in its simplest and vilest form. It is a war that the rich are winning, as Warren Buffet pointed out.

Acrid mockery of the Congress

The Onion helps to correctly frame the debt debate:

WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. Congress reported Wednesday they were continuing to carefully debate the issue of whether or not they should allow the country to descend into a roiling economic meltdown of historically dire proportions. “It is a question that, I think, is worthy of serious consideration: Should we take steps to avoid a crippling, decades-long depression that would lead to disastrous consequences on a worldwide scale? Or should we not do that?” asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), adding that arguments could be made for both sides, and that the debate over ensuring America’s financial solvency versus allowing the nation to default on its debt — which would torpedo stock markets, cause mortgage and interests rates to skyrocket, and decimate the value of the U.S. dollar — is “certainly a conversation worth having.” “Obviously, we don’t want to rush to consensus on whether it is or isn’t a good idea to save the American economy and all our respective livelihoods from certain peril until we’ve examined this thorny dilemma from every angle. And if we’re still discussing this matter on Aug. 2, well, then, so be it.” At press time, President Obama said he personally believed the country should not be economically ruined.

Do they have any shame?

No, not at all! ThinkProgress found that:

As states continue to cope with budget shortfalls, the same pattern repeats itself over and over again. Republicans refuse to raise revenues — opposing tax hikes on the ultra-wealthy or ending wasteful tax loopholes for corporations — thus forcing budgets to be closed by targeting the most vulnerable: students, middle class families, the elderly, the unemployed, etc.

California is no different, as GOP legislators in Sacramento refused to budge on tax increases, which forced savings in Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D-CA) new budget to be found solely through draconian cuts. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, cuts to higher education alone will force a nearly 18 percent bump in tuition for UC students. Yearly budget cuts have more than doubled the price of public college in California since 2005.

But as California Republicans rail against “welfare” and wasteful government spending, an investigation by ThinkProgress has found that many of the state’s leading GOP legislators are themselves millionaire recipients of taxpayer money….

I heard a sound of exasperation over the bleating of the sheep and the growls of the wolves

With America’s recent and dismal unemployment report in his hand, Marshall Auerback, a heterodox economist, was prompted to exclaim:

The collective embrace of fiscal austerity has gone beyond perverse. It’s as if Josef Mengele was reborn as an economist, working on some weird new social experiment to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the maximum amount of people. It’s a sick variation on that old joke:

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”

Doctor: “Then keep doing it.”

Famine in Africa

I believe Auerback wrote this bit of gallows humor because the deficit hysterics, market fundamentalists and con artists now holding decisive political and economic influence and power care not one bit about the misery their preferred policies will generate when implemented. And it is easy to see why a professional economist like Auerback would feel as he does when the powerful in the world appear willing to piously affirm economic orthodoxy while the republic and its political economy burn to the ground. Indeed, our elite seem to want to intensify and expand the destruction.

I, for one, wonder whether these influential and powerful men and women are just stupid and do not know what they are doing or whether they will intentionally destroy the lives of so many people, doing so just because they who have a lot will also get much more.

If I were to place a wager on these alternatives, I would choose the second option. I would feel secure when placing my bet because neoliberalism in practice has already laid waste to much of the planet. Its prescriptions have been revealed to be worthless when formed into a developmental program or a program for economic growth. They produce individual and collective suffering around the world. Who amongst the influential and powerful could now claim to be unaware of this historical failure? Anyone? Today these prescriptions are just nostrums used by a group of class warriors. They indicate an elite preference to take more of the stuff in the world when that stuff it there to be taken. And it is unfortunate that they now inform the program President Obama and his GOP stalking horse want to impose on the United States.

I cross-posted this article to Fire Dog Lake

Quote of the Day

It is Paul Krugman‘s turn:

But let’s be frank. It’s getting harder and harder to trust Mr. Obama’s motives in the budget fight, given the way his economic rhetoric has veered to the right. In fact, if all you did was listen to his speeches, you might conclude that he basically shares the G.O.P.’s diagnosis of what ails our economy and what should be done to fix it. And maybe that’s not a false impression; maybe it’s the simple truth.


Michael McAcullif writes:

Having the Senate declare that millionaires should share more of the pain involved in putting America’s financial house in order is “rather pathetic,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) declared Tuesday.

The Gasman came and has achieved the damage he was sent to do

A new Think Progress piece reports that:

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed a disastrous state budget last night that favors the natural gas industry at the expense of the state’s children and least fortunate citizens. The $27.15 billion budget does not raise taxes, but cuts health care for more than 100,000 of the state’s poorest residents. It did this by slashing Medicaid contributions by $280 million, which will result in a $425 million loss in matching federal funds. State universities and community colleges have announced the largest tuition hikes in state history as education funding took a heavy, $863-million hit.

Yet, state Republicans and Corbett did not have to punish children and the neediest to plug a $4 billion budget deficit. Several variations of natural gas drilling taxes were proposed this year, and an extraction fee tacked onto the budget by the state Senate last week would have raised $310 million. However, Corbett threatened to veto any tax, and he strong-armed the state House into withdrawing a vote on the tax this week just hours before it was scheduled to be debated. Corbett’s obstinacy continues even though Pennsylvania is the only major gas producer that does not tax its use.

So why is Corbett very friendly to natural gas, despite its documented dangers? It may be because the governor owes part of his political career to the industry, having accepted almost $1.3 million in campaign contributions from drillers.

One might consider the slashing and burning of Pennsylvania’s next budget a necessary condition for spurring job growth — that is, generating new jobs — in the Keystone State. Taxes on capital and profits allegedly deter investment. Investment in plant includes jobs as an unavoidable consequence. Ensuring profit-taking is therefore a necessary condition for increasing the employment rate. This, of course, is the supply side mantra that Americans have heard for decades. It is treated today as if it were a natural law. However, now that I have reiterated the orthodox — that is, the fundamentalist — take on this matter, I wish to point out that the Keystone Research Center reports that the Marcellus Shale jobs premium has been very modest so far:

Overall, Marcellus job growth is small — accounting for less than one in 10 of the 111,400 new jobs created since February 2010, when employment bottomed out after the recession, the report finds. Even if Marcellus Shale-related industries had created no jobs in 2010, the state still would have ranked third in overall job growth among the 50 states.

“The Marcellus boom has contributed to job growth, but the size of that contribution has been significantly overstated,” Dr. Herzenberg [of the Keystone Research Center] said.

“To explain Pennsylvania’s relatively strong recent job growth requires looking at factors other than Marcellus Shale — such as the state’s investments in education, renewable energy, workforce skills, and unemployment benefits,” he added.

Bluntly put, Pennsylvanians have benefitted little from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale industry. This industry has not generated the kind of employment gains needed to offset the externalities that come along with this industry. Nor will it generate revenue for the state of Pennsylvania. Tom Corbett, on the other hand, has greatly benefited from the industry.

What we can clearly see here is Tom Corbett quickly proving himself to be just another Republican politician promising economic benefits to the “lesser people” while implementing economic policies that are simple forms of economic predation. Someday, if this political trend continues unhampered, if, that is, this reactionary political economics continues to inform policy decisions in states like Pennsylvania, the citizens of those states will lack social rights. Poverty will be a common denominator that unites them. Paid work will gain the aggressively debilitating and inhuman quality found in the kind of labor performed in sweatshops around the world. It will wholly coincide with its function as a commodity input in a raw version of the capitalist system of production. The dignity of labor will be but a myth hobos will tell around their campfires when they recall the old and good times their grandparents knew firsthand.

Like his 2011 classmates Nikki Haley (SC), John Kasich (OH), Rick Scott (FL), Rick Snyder (MI) and Scott Walker (WI), Corbett has sought to make his bones in a political attack on the well-being found among common Americans. Because of this attack these men and women have earned a place among the scoundrels of the age.

You've got a Friend in Pennsylvania

You can find a slightly different version of this post at Fire Dog Lake