Well, I have been a touch distracted with a major renovation project in our house. Not that I am doing the work, mind. But, we finally decided to have our two bathrooms overhauled. So, what with the banging of hammers, the squeal of power saws, the garage turned over to work space, and ever present dust in the air, my thoughts have been stymied. Add to that my utter perplexment (is that a word?) over the current budget "debate" and I think you'll forgive my silence.
So, the federal budget. That's a thought stopper, isn't it. Maybe my thinking has been also been somewhat inhibited by the radio that the workmen who are redoing our bathrooms listen to. They actually have Rush Limbaugh on the whole day. OK, not the whole day--it just seems like it.
Back to the federal budget. I am not an economist, but let me put it to you this way. Say you earn $50,000 a year. Go ahead--say it. Now, say your boss tells you he is going to cut your salary to $25,000 a year, BUT the bills you have to pay stay at exactly the same level, or maybe even go up a bit. Would you have a budget crisis?
That is a bit like our country's situation. I know this is oversimplification, but we have cut our income. The tax reductions that President Bush touted for 10 years now seem to have become permanent. And when you cut salary, but still have bills to pay, you will suffer a financial shortfall.
One party in Congress is jumping up and down yelling--it's not that we don't have enough money; it's that we spend too much. So, we have to cut down our spending. What puts me at a loss for words is that--as a country--we seem to be buying this argument.
Let me point you in the direction of someone who has more skill expressing this point than I--Matt Taibbi has a wonderful opinion piece in the current issue of Rolling Stone (thank you, Carol, for referring it to me). Taibbi concludes, in reference to Paul Ryan (the congressman proposing the Republicans' spending plan) that "Ryan’s gambit, ultimately, is all about trying to get middle-class voters to swallow paying for tax cuts for rich people."
What makes this current push even more breathtakingly brazen is underscored by a current piece in Vanity Fair. This article points out that the disparity in income gap between the top 1 % in this country and the other 99 % has widened. The top one percent takes in one quarter of all the income in the U.S. and controls 40% of all wealth. The article points out ominously that:
"Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul."The article goes on to enumerate why this income disparity is bad for the country's economy. So, how does the budget crisis link to income disparity in the U.S. It links directly because those programs that are on the chopping block are precisely the ones that benefit low income Americans.
I don't know about you, but that cold-hearted approach leaves me at a loss for words. How have we arrived at this place--where political leaders convince us that the rich should become richer, that the poor are the cause of all our financial woes?