The Washington Post today (Sunday, 10/9) continued its coverage of the efforts to curtail spending to control the budget deficit, pour more money into Iraq, pour money into the pockets of companies getting rich off hurricane relief, and maintain the tax breaks for the rich which have done such an extraordiary job at trickling down to the needy. (You'll have to take my word for the coverage--the Post's web site is on the blink. Check out page 2, "House GOP Vows Broad Cuts in Spending" by Jonathan Weisman.)
They claim the cuts are to pay for hurricane relief, but I was confused, so I called my good friend, Butch, who once studied economics. That is, back in the '60s, he took an economics course by mistake and attended once--then disappared--but that puts him one class ahead of me.
Me: Heya, Butch, what's happening?
Butch: Just made a fortune in fake photos of Tom Cruise's teeth.
Butch: Sold 'em on some auction site. Fifty bucks a pop. Sold over 15,000 in 4 hours.
Well, that establishes Butch's credentials as an economic wizard as far as I'm concerned.
Me: So, Butch, I've got a question about these spending cuts Congress is considering to help pay for the hurricanes and Iraq and the rich.
Butch: You've come to the right place. It's all straight forward.
Me: They're going to cut tens of billions of dollars from programs for the poor, including Medicaid, food stamps, and student loans. But that'll include all the victims of the hurricanes--who'll need food stamps and other aid.
Butch: Oh, they'll get it through other programs. Halliburton has just established a disbursement company to ensure that only the needy get hurricane relief money.
Me: They're going to take money from the poor who weren't in the hurricanes and give it to people--rich and poor--who were?
Butch: Stroke of genius, don't you think? That way, you maintain the average standard of living. Think about it, if all you do is spread around the money you're already giving away to the poor, poverty levels stay the same.
Me: But government established poverty levels are absurd. If a family of 3 makes $16,000 a year, they're not counted as living in poverty. You know how much that family probably pays in health care?
Butch: They don't pay anything.
Butch: Don't be a chump. They can't afford it. Let's make it easy. They bring in $1333 a month. Let's say they get an apartment for $600 a month.