PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There is no shortage of reasons the the GOP will drag the US down. The litany includes tax cuts for the rich, cutbacks in government programs, obstructing needed legislation, disregard for the environment, denial of women's and other human rights and military escalation.
But the following five reasons have to do with money -- specifically, who's paying for the $1 trillion of annual tax savings and tax avoidance for the super-rich? And who's paying for the $1 trillion of national security to protect their growing fortunes? The Republicans want that money to come from the rest of us.
1. Economic Darwinism -- Republicans want the Poor to Pay
Paul Ryan's proposed budget would take about a half-trillion dollars a year from programs that support the poor. This is a continuation of a 15-year shredding of the safety net by Republicans. The GOP-controlled Congress of Bill Clinton created Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which has experienced a 60% drop in its caseload despite growing poverty, and which, according to the Urban Institute, provides "maximum benefits [that] even in the more generous states were far below the federal poverty level of $1,525 a month for a family of three."
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), another vital program that serves 50 million "food insecure" Americans, would be cut by $16 billion under the House version of the Farm Bill. The average recipient currently gets $4.30 a day for food.
2. Payroll Tax -- Republicans want the Middle Class to Pay
Encouraged by the steady Republican demand for lower corporate tax rates, big business has effected a stunning shift in taxpaying responsibility over the years, from corporate income tax to worker payroll tax. For every dollar of payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it's 22 cents.
It's gotten worse in recent years, as corporations decided to drastically cut their tax rates after the start of the recession. After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, they've paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.
Republicans claim that almost half of Americans don't pay taxes. But when payroll and state and local taxes are considered, middle-income Americans pay at about the same rate as the highest earners. Only about 17% of households paid no federal income tax or payroll tax in 2009. And average workers get little help from people who make most of the money. Because of the $110,000 cutoff for payroll tax deductions, the richest 10% of Americans save $150 billion a year in taxes.
3. Job Shrinkage -- Republicans want Young People to Pay
The jobs that exist for young Americans are paying much less than just a few years ago. During and after the recession, according to the National Employment Law Project, low-wage jobs ($7.69 to $13.83 per hour) dropped by 21 percent, and then grew back at a 58 percent rate. Mid-wage jobs ($13.84 to $21.13 per hour) dropped by 60 percent and grew back at a 22 percent rate. In other words, the median wage is falling fast.
Yet Republicans killed a jobs bill that was supported by two-thirds of the public.
An academic study of employment data over 64 years found that an average of two million jobs per year were created under Democratic presidents, compared to one million under Republican presidents. Similar results were reported by the Bloomberg Government Barometer.
4. Retirement Planning -- Republicans want the Seniors to Pay
There's a common misconception in our country that most seniors are financially secure. Actually, Census data reveals that elderly people experience greater inequality than any other population group, with the poorest one-fifth receiving just 5.5% of the group's total resources, while the wealthiest one-fifth receives 46%.
The senior wealth gap is further evidenced by data during the great 30-year surge in inequality. The average over-60 wealth was five times greater than the median in 1995, as would be expected with a small percentage of ultra-high-net-worth individuals and a great majority of low-wealth people. Further confirmation comes from 2004 Harvard data that shows rising inequality within all age groups, including the elderly. Indeed, an MIT study found that about 46% of U.S. senior citizens have less than $10,000 in financial assets when they die.
For the vast majority of seniors, Social Security has been life-sustaining, accounting for 55% of their annual income. Because of this successful and popular program, the senior poverty rate has dropped from 50% to 10%, and due to life-long contributions from working Americans the program has a $2.7 trillion surplus while contributing nothing to the deficit. Yet Republicans want to undo it.
5. Public Fire Sale -- Republicans want Society to Pay
The common good is threatened by the Republican disdain for public resources. Drilling and mining and pipeline construction continues on public lands, and the House of Representatives has voted over 100 times since 2011 to subsidize the oil and gas industry while weakening environmental, public health, and safety requirements. The "land grab" is pitting corporate muscle against citizens' rights.
Sadly, most of America envisions a new era of energy independence that increases our world-leading consumption of energy while depending on a proliferation of dirty technologies to extract it. Threats of methane emissions, water pollution, and earthquake activity don't deter the fossil fuel enthusiasts.
It gets worse. Republicans are eager to sell public land. Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" proposes to sell millions of acres of "unneeded federal land" and billions of dollars worth of federal assets. His running mate Mitt Romney admits that he doesn't know "what the purpose is" of public lands.
Their reckless belief in the free market, and their dependency on corporatization and privatization to run the country, means that middle-class Americans keep paying for the fabulously wealthy people at the top who think they deserve everything they've taken from society.