Jonathan Chait calls Paul Ryan’s budget a “War on the Weak” and observes:
Ryan’s plan does do two things in immediate and specific ways: hurt the poor and help the rich. After extending the Bush tax cuts, he would cut the top rate for individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent. Then Ryan slashes Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and low-income housing. These programs to help the poor, which constitute approximately 21 percent of the federal budget, absorb two thirds of Ryan’s cuts.
Ryan spares anybody over the age of 55 from any Medicare or Social Security cuts, because, he says, they “have organized their lives around these programs.” But the roughly one in seven Americans (and nearly one in four children) on food stamps? Apparently they can have their benefits yanked away because they were only counting on using them to eat.
Ryan casts these cuts as an incentive for the poor to get off their lazy butts. He insists that we “ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”
The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work.
[emphasis in original]
Nice of him to qualify his hasty generalization with the word “generally”, but Think Progress disagrees:
The current recession is a global phenomenon caused by the collective bad behavior of the world’s largest financial institutions. Before the recession, the unemployment rate hovered around six percent; it is ludicrious to say that [fifteen million] Americans suddenly got lazier and less able to work within the span of a few months.
But, to return to the subject of Ryan cutting federal revenue by extending the Bush tax cuts, a P-D letter writer pointed out: “There are two parts to a budget. One is revenue. That is not the part you cut.” More specifically, according to WillyK:
if we do nothing about spending, but just let the the Bush tax cuts die a natural death, we would halve the deficit by 2021.
Here at home, that lesson is lost on Lembke et. al., who are slashing state revenue by turning down tens of millions in federal funds already appropriated for us. They claim it’s a protest about federal overspending, though their action does not cut the federal deficit by one cent. But the Lembke loonies aren’t the only Republicans who don’t understand that balancing the budget gets harder if you cut revenue. Both chambers have voted to eliminate our corporate franchise tax, thus costing Missouri $87 million a year.
Does anybody in the state legislature besides Jeanette Mott Oxford speak up for the sanest way to increase Missouri revenue: that is, by raising taxes on the wealthier Missouri families? Our top tax bracket is $9,000. As in $9,000! That was a munificent salary when it was instituted in 1931. It was like making $300,000 in today’s economy. But as a top tax bracket in 2011, it’s ludicrous. August Busch IV is in the same tax bracket as people renting one room apartments in urban ghettos.
Meanwhile, the meanies in Jeff City are doing their best to shove more Missourians out of the top tax bracket. They’ve undone another of our citizen initiatives by ruling that minimum wage workers won’t get automatic Cost of Living Adjustments. They’re making war on unions. Ideally, Republicans would like to pass Right-to-Work-for-Less, but if they can’t get that one through the lege this year, they’ll settle for enfeebling unions by legislating that employees must give their consent before a union can use their dues for political purposes.
We can only wait to see how many of these bad ideas Jay Nixon will veto.
If Missouri workers don’t begin to notice that the GOP views them as parasites and the rich as their rightful rulers, the situation will continue to deteriorate.
Sen. Joan Bray of St. Louis visited West County Democrats last Monday and made some points worth mulling over. One of them was about future redistricting and how the state is currently cut up to favor the Repubs. She made the point that Mssouri is a swing state and “too close to call” in national elections until all the votes are in. Given that we really are a purple state rather than a red one, why do we tell ourselves scary stories about those big, bad right wing voters? Traveling around the state, I hear friends say they live in the most conservative district in the state. Sorry, Charlie, but you can’t all be number one. If we think we’re fighting a losing battle, we’ll probably lose. How much are we handicapping ourselves by repeating the myth of conservative dominance?
Another big topic during Bray’s visit was budget and taxes. Others on this site have reported recent comments by Missouri Budget Project’s Amy Blouin.
After much coaxing, Sen. Bray admitted that the only issues that received fair, if not total, funding this spring were those with an organized group of white, middle class voters behind them (e.g., autism and First Steps.) Everyone in the room felt Bray’s frustration with the cuts in services to people who can’t take care of themselves. A member of the audience with two mentally ill sons described the fear she and her husband live with every day. Sen. Bray agreed that it will probably take some major tragedy, especially a violent one, to make conservatives replenish the mental health budget.
Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford in the House and Sen. Bray in the Senate have offered bills year after year that would bring the state budget closer to what it needs to be. We haven’t updated our income tax rates since the 1930’s. Since everyone pays the same rate, we have already achieved the “flat tax” touted by conservatives.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not happy about living in a state that’s number 50 in all the wrong categories. Even South Carolina – South Carolina, for gawd’s sake – raised its cigarette tax. So now we have the distinction of having the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. Whoopee.
But, what the hell. We’re still number one in meth labs and puppy mills.