Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Take from the poor to give to the rich

Some days the headlines prove my point: we are in an era when it has become okay to take from the poor to give to the rich, to take from the vulnerable and struggling and enrich corporations further, to use government as a tool to accelerate the growing gap between rich and poor.

And so today. I pick up my morning paper and see this headline: "Panel votes for corporate tax break," and the sub-head below it, "But GOP-run committee further cuts credits for working poor."

Our fearless governor keeps telling us the state is broke. It ain't broke. But in these days of tighter budgets caused by the financial collapse of 2008, money is being moved around, that's for sure. The corporate right, which pays for campaigns like Scott Walker's, has an opportunity right now to convince the public that the poor simply must suffer more because of budget problems. Meanwhile, corporations and their CEOs are making enormous profits and executive payouts while tax policy and government subsidies are being increased for the corporate sector.

The mantra is that we must create jobs. And people fall for it - or at least many do.

The story in the paper describes how Repubs voted yesterday to further cut taxes for corporations and investors while slashing tax credits for the working poor. Very moral, these guys.  But poor people aren't able to contribute much to political campaigns.

Earlier in May I was struck by this headline: "State may lose food assistance funding; Federal officials cite privatization efforts."  You see, in this case, Walker & Co. want to hand over more of the administration of the FoodShare program, including the process of deciding who gets the assistance, to the private sector. The feds are saying, um no, not with federal money. If you go as far as you want to go, you will not only lose federal money, you will have to pay us back.

The feds have seen the results in states that have taken such steps, and it ain't a pretty picture.

But it reveals priorities, doesn't it? See, the thing about government is this - while it is fine to use some public funds to give businesses needed boosts, emphasis on the word needed, it is not the role of government to be at the service of corporations, to be a servant of them, to give them whatever they want to make a profit. The role of government is to represent the concerns of all its citizens, to defend political and civil rights, to promote justice and the Constitution equally for all, and to protect the most vulnerable among us.

Government is not a business and should not be run like one. It is at the service of the people to help promote the dignity and well-being of its citizens, and to protect the common good and the good of the commons.

Right now, these libertarian, Ayn Rand, types of very, very rich people (like the Koch brothers, Paul Ryan, or Rand Paul) who control the Repub party, especially in this state, are trying to force on us a very different idea of government - as an instrument for a survival of the fittest kind of economics. They do not see government as a service and look with scorn on those who need government services to get by in hard times.

Paul Ryan speaks often of people who don't want to work and how government programs promote laziness and indolence - and I wonder if he gets at all what it's like to be poor, and, in this city with deep-seated racism still at work, to be African-American, trying to survive these bad times, raise your kids, find a job in this time of high unemployment and lingering discrimination.

But it doesn't matter if he gets it, because he is a follower of Ayn Rand and the poor are just the social detritus, those left behind while the superior among us go off and run businesses and get wealthy, rising to the top, deserving because of their superiority. They want to rule the world.

This lack of compassion runs through many of these policies and, if we follow this path, our future will be grim indeed. As long as there is more emotion around concealed carry than programs that support poor communities and families trying to feed their kids or find a job, we are a morally and ethically impoverished, compromised society.  As long as we see struggling people, poor people, as other-than-us and deserving of their lot, instead of our sisters and brothers whose fate we share, we are on a road to moral bankruptcy as a society.

One more thing to share, this very good essay by NY Times Editorial Observer Eduardo Porter, A Budget Without Core Purposes, Taxation Without Compassion. He says it. He really lays it bare.
The budgetary policy of the United States has been the least generous in the industrial world for a very long time.
And that ought to make us embarrassed and very ashamed. I urge you to read the rest.

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