The right wing has for more than a generation systematically gone about the business of essentially dismantling the federal government’s ability to regulate business, protect the environment, teach our children, provide medical services to the elderly and poor, safeguard the civil rights of minority groups and promote the American middle class by a process former President Ronald Reagan referred to as, “starving the beast.” In the face of numerous polls which consistently demonstrate the American public’s support of these programs Republicans have not lessened their war against programs such as Medicare, Social Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, Head Start and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (commonly referred to as WIC).
During the past 30 years tax cuts for America’s wealthy elite and corporations have precipitously raised our annual federal budget deficit and correspondingly our collective national debt. After a brief respite during the Clinton administration, this practice reached a crescendo during the illegitimate reign of President George W. Bush, when he presided over the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich in the history of man. Bush nearly singlehandedly doubled the national debt in eight years.
When Bush took office, the national debt was $5.73 trillion. When he left, it was $10.7 trillion. That’s a difference of $4.97 trillion! And, he left this country on a trajectory that, if continued, will nearly double the deficit again by 2018.
Two weeks before President Obama took office, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the deficit for fiscal year 2009 was projected to be $1.2 trillion. The new administration’s 10-year projection estimated the deficit to increase by nearly $8 trillion. The CBO estimated the 10-year deficit at $3.1 trillion. The large had to do with Bush administration tax cuts. The CBO created its 2009 estimate based on the law at the time, which meant they assumed that the Bush tax cuts would end as scheduled in 2010. Of course Republicans in Congress forced the president to agree to an extension of the budget busting tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the rich in order to keep the federal government from shutting down during the holidays last year and the deficits they cause continue.
Does it seem the worse our federal budget woes become and the more bad news we get regarding our economy the more smiles we see on the face of Republican politicians and pundits? GOP negotiators walk out of debt ceiling talks. Are they really serious about fixing the problem or are they more interested in political gains?
Now, with the public demanding an end to the federal government’s seemingly unending deficit spending and to do something to mitigate our alarming national debt, the GOP is attempting to utilize the crisis they created to gut the very programs they have outwardly despised for over 50 years.
They have called for “shared sacrifice” but they are unwilling to even discuss eliminating tax giveaways to big oil or tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, or tax loopholes for hedge fund billionaires, the tax loopholes used by huge corporations to avoid paying their fair share, tax breaks for yachts and vacation homes and tax breaks for people making more than $500,000.
However, as the deadline quickly approaches for increasing our country’s debt limit, something they blindly supported during the Bush years, Republicans seem to be playing an ill-advised game of chicken with the financial future of the country. After squeezing trillions of dollars of proposed budget cuts from Democratic party negotiators as the talks turned to increasing revenue, Republicans stomped out of talks like spoiled toddlers. After proclaiming that, “everything is on the table” they demonstrated by their actions that once again their word obviously cannot be trusted and that they have a troubling propensity to say one thing and do another.
As thinkprogress.org so succinctly put it recently, “The GOP is willing to risk another economic calamity when we can least afford it if that’s what it takes to protect tax breaks for the wealthy, big oil, and huge corporations; tax breaks paid for by ending Medicare, slashing Medicaid and Social Security, and cutting the government programs and services we depend on each and every day.”
Add to that list the political judgment of the GOP leadership in Washington and elsewhere that if they can keep the economy at a standstill at best and our economic recovery at a snail’s pace at worst, they will collectively benefit during the upcoming election cycle and it becomes even clearer that their policies which are tearing at the fabric of middle class families in every region of this country, are disingenuous, self serving and subversive.