Published in the Mille Lacs Messenger, March 2, 2011
Budget fact #1: Government doesn’t have a spending problem; it has a budget balancing problem. There are two ways to fix it: cut spending, or raise revenue. Thanks to a media that is in the pocket of the wealthy and the right wing, only one side of that equation is on the table nowadays.
In this climate, the supposedly liberal Obama didn’t even have the guts to let Bush’s tax cuts for the rich expire. All he would’ve had to do to shrink the budget hole would’ve been to do nothing, but he broke under pressure from the right and extended the cuts. Debt problem unsolved. Tea Party thrilled.
Which brings us to budget fact #2: The anti-spending loudmouths are a bunch of phonies.
Two thirds of the federal budget is composed of three things: defense, Social Security, and Medicare. Social Security raises revenue, so it’s not comparable to the other two. Anyone pretending to be fiscally responsible who doesn’t talk about the military and Medicare (45 percent of the total) is full of it. That includes just about everybody.
The Republicans got power, and instead of finding meaningful cuts, they went after every little pet project of Democrats (Planned Parenthood, NPR, light rail, unions, environmental protection).
The anti-government crusaders came up with $61 billion in cuts out of a $3.5 trillion federal budget, revealing their phoniness — and the obvious truth: We can’t cut our way out of the budget crisis.
We should’ve seen this coming. We saw Reagan triple the federal debt in the 1980s. (It’s true! Look it up!) We saw Clinton shrink the federal government and eliminate the deficit in the 1990s. We saw Bush turn surpluses into deficits in the 2000s and heard Dick Cheney say “Reagan taught us that deficits don’t matter.” (You can look that up, too!)
We’ve forgotten the 1990s, when the deficit was eliminated, the debt was being paid down, and the state of Minnesota had a gigantic surplus. The nation responded by electing Bush, who cut taxes, started two wars, and brought back deficits. The state responded by electing Pawlenty, whose “no new taxes” pledge hid the reality that wealthy Minnesotans pay less on the dollar than we middle class and poor folks. Property taxes and fees skyrocketed to keep down tax rates for the rich. “No new taxes” meant higher taxes for you and me.
Which brings us to budget fact #3: Since the anti-tax takeover of American politics and media in 1980, American wealth has moved from the middle class and poor to the top 1 percent, while the real tax rate for the mega-rich has declined. Middle class families have gone from one wage earner to two. Reliable pensions have been replaced by unreliable 401Ks. Health care has become unaffordable.
The question is why the 1 percenters have so many enablers in the bottom 90 percent. Like Oliver Twist, we keep asking for more gruel.
The answer is simple: They have Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to promote their agenda by blaming liberals for the problems of poor folks. Now they have the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which increases the amount of money the 1 percenters can pour into their propaganda campaign.
They’ve used abortion to turn Christians against Democrats, and now they’re trying to use the union battle in Wisconsin to turn working class people against the unions — which gave us all a living wage with time off, health care and retirement.
But since Americans keep buying the b.s., we really have no one but ourselves to blame.
Please pass the gruel.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.