Plans being proposed separately by the Senate’s Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and by the Republican House Speaker John Boehner are almost entirely weighted in favor of “spending cuts” – code words for hijacking trillions of dollars from programs that benefit the poor, the elderly and the middle class: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
With the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling only days away, even eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy was no longer being mentioned and President Barack Obama seemed reluctant to make it clear that he would veto any spending bill that does not include additional revenues – or some form of tax increases on the rich.
Mr. Obama and the Democratic leadership seem unwilling to state a position and stick with it. That position should be a flat rejection of any budget plan that does not require the rich to make some “sacrifice” to aid America in a time of economic distress.
It is, of course, a hallmark of the American Dream that Americans are able to become rich – super rich, even – and those who have made it into the one percent who control 40 percent of the nation’s wealth should not be envied for getting there in a system that encourages entrepreneurship and rewards success. But it cannot be that those who have made it to the financial promised land should be able to seek refuge in the tired class warfare argument. In fact, they should ask how and when they can contribute to bringing America out of the financial nightmare into which our great nation is being dragged.
Even when Mr. Obama and the Democrats were willing – perhaps still are, ultimately – to propose a $4 trillion reduction in the deficit, three of every four dollars of that amount, or $3 trillion, was to come from so-called entitlements. Only one dollar in four, or $1 trillion, was to come from the wealthiest of Americans. That was still unacceptable because it would mean the burden of reducing America’s debt would still fall overwhelmingly on the middle class, the poor and the elderly. Yet even that has been unacceptable to the Republicans and their wealthy handlers. Running scared by threats from the “tea party” to field challengers against those who don’t toe the line, the Republicans have been allowing the “tea party” politicians in the House to dictate their actions. As happened in last year’s health care reform debate, the Republicans are standing united. The Democrats are again reluctant to stand firm on the core principles of their party: to preserve the hard-won gains many Americans have enjoyed for half a century.
Whether the nation defaults on its debt or not hardly means anything to the retired person on a fixed income and the millions more who are eking out a living because of the existence of the very programs that are about to be raided to make sure that the rich stay rich and the poor become poorer. That is positively unconscionable and un-American and should not be allowed to happen. Do not solve the “debt ceiling crisis” on the backs of the least among us.