What “spending” really means

Cutting government spending always sounds good until you start looking at specifics. In Wilmington, NC, “cutting spending” specifically means not replacing an ancient fire engine that tends to die when the firefighters need water pressure. In California, Arizona, and Nevada it means a shorter school year. And in parts of Idaho and New Mexico it means a four-day school week — not for any academic reason, but because (as Rachel Maddow summed up) “In America now, we can’t afford to keep all our schools open five days a week.”

This clip from Rachel’s show on Wednesday is worth watching in its entirety, because it pulls together so much.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

For example: Alto, Texas has scrapped its police force — not just furloughed a few officers, but padlocked the door and sent the whole force home for a minimum of six months. Not because they’re not needed — even when it had police, Alto’s crime rate was higher than the Texas average — but because Alto is out of money.

On the federal level, the House has eliminated funding to test American vegetables for the E-coli strain that killed 50 people in Europe. Georgia Republican Rep. Jack Kingston isn’t worried: “The food supply in America is very safe because the private sector self-polices.” But whether we’re talking food or crime, self-policing only works up to a point. Somehow, even before the testing cutbacks, 3000 Americans died each year from tainted food.

State after state is laying off teachers — not because they’ve found some better way to educate children, but because they can’t afford to pay them. We’re slashing transportation funding too, because high-speed trains belong in China, not America.

But don’t tax the rich. We are eliminating all this stuff rather than raise taxes on anybody, even the wealthiest Americans. Republicans claim they are taking this stand because, as John Boehner says, “The American people don’t want us to raise taxes.”

Except that they do. Politifact did the research:

we found a number of polls that indicate people do want the government to raise taxes. That was most clearly the case when it comes to raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations.

Like these polls. Rachel quotes a poll saying that 81% of Americans would accept higher taxes on millionaires to cut the deficit. 68% could support eliminating the Bush tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 a year.

The American people also want to protect Social Security, Medicare, and even Medicaid. By a 60-32 margin, they said that maintaining Social Security and Medicare benefits was more important than cutting the deficit. By 61-31 they said that Medicare recipients already pay enough of their medical costs. 58% think “Low income people should not have their Medicaid benefits taken away.”

And don’t tax corporations. A significant majority of Americans (56% on Question 36) say that corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes. And the most stunning poll result is this (Question 40): 61% say that corporations use tax breaks to pay higher dividends and bonuses; only 4% say they use the money to create jobs.

That jaundiced public perception is accurate. Rachel lists a number of large American corporations (Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, etc.) who pay significantly less than the official 35% corporate tax rate (GE: 7.4%) and have been cutting jobs rather than creating them. Moreover, American corporate taxes are low, not high: Compared to 25 other developed countries, only in Iceland are corporate taxes a smaller percentage of GDP than in the US.

Rich people, poor country. Let me sum up: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says “the people that put us here” want to change “the way the system works so that we’re no longer spending money that we don’t have.” The question that goes unasked is: Why don’t we have that money?

Is the United States a poor country now? Can we simply not afford to have police and full-time schools and safe food? Can we not afford to take care of Americans who are sick or old? To fix our potholes and keep our bridges from falling down?

Other countries manage to pay for such things. They aren’t richer than the United States. The difference is that in America, billionaires and corporations have become so powerful that they can dictate to the government how much tax they are willing to pay. And those dictates are put forward by the corporate media as “the will of the people”, even if (when you ask them) the people say the exact opposite. So if the billionaires and corporations are only willing to pay for four days of school a week, that’s what we’ll get.

At least as long as Eric Cantor believes that billionaires and corporate CEOs are the people that put him where he is.

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  • macduff  On July 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    So too, are the exorbitant monies spent for medical care and military spending in relation to the remainder of the world


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