The other night, while channel surfing, I paused to listen to a saccharine discussion between Timothy Geithner and a few members of the Senate Committee on Finance as they discussed their dilemma with trying to control and decrease the federal deficit. I try to avoid listening to politically correct verbal pong sessions because the participants are not really interested in imparting knowledge or stating facts. Political committees, their members and the people who appear before them are all politicians with defined agendas. The current, generally modulated slugfest between Republican candidates questing for delegates nationwide exemplify the politicians necessity to rebrand and enhance political ideals that will ensure their individual bid for the presidency. Oddly, few of these candidates have spoken conclusively about the federal deficit or how they would specifically solve the “deficit crisis.”
The federal deficit became an issue of catastrophic importance to conservative Republicans and Tea Party aficionados after Barack Obama took office and assumed the deficit, trillions, from George W. Bush. After the economic collapse of 2008, the Tea Party arose with its holier than thou mantra of, “If average Americans have to balance their checkbooks and live within their means, so should the United States government.” The reality, in the face of such madness, is that federal government deficits are about as routine and common as taxes. From 1940 until 2011, the US government only posted 12 surplus years during a span of 71 years, with 59 of those years being deficit years. It is important to note that those surplus years occurred during both Republican and Democratic presidencies. So, based on the facts, exactly why is the current deficit such a rallying cry for Tea Party supporters and conservative Republicans? Perhaps these aggrieved fiscal mavens are really less concerned with balancing the federal budget than they are with creating greater wealth for themselves and the people they believe to be real Americans?
One of the many lynchpins needed to effectively reduce the federal deficit is to cut spending and to increase taxes, specifically, to tax the rich. Orrin Hatch, a long-standing Republican from the state of Utah stated at the committee meeting to Geithner; “Fifty-one percent of Americans do not pay taxes.” That unexamined, oft-bandied, half-truth reiterated by Republicans and Tea Party supporters, was not corrected or challenged by Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, who remains the bat-boy for Wall Street and the Banks too big to fail. Ah, rebranding, a political necessity in today’s technologically advanced, information-overloaded world where few voters care enough to examine the veracity of the words that spill effortlessly from the mouths of public servants who earn their bread and butter from self-interest lobbyists.
The statement from Sen. Hatch is a good example of rebranding mixed with a selective use of facts. The fact is that over the last 30 years, taxes have fallen for the wealthy, especially the very wealthy, while their incomes have soared. In contrast, average workers and their incomes have barely kept pace with cost-of-living increases. “Poor families pay more in payroll taxes than they receive through benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit” (Leonhardt, David NY Times 04/13/2010).
It is true that some wage-earners have recouped federal tax dollars through tax credits. On the other hand, the Congressional Budget Office, an entity apparently unfamiliar to Senator Hatch, states; “at most, 10% of all households pay no net federal taxes.” Granted I haven’t taken a math course in eons, but if my math skills are even slightly still intact, there is a massive difference between Hatch’s stated 51% of none taxpayers and the 10% researched by the Congressional Budget Office. It’s kind of like stating you own a Bentley but drive VW Jetta.
Bob Williams, from Urban Justice at the Brookings Institute states: “The US tax system does not just collect funds but also distributes them as well. Tax expenditures, and there are lots and lots of them, more than a trillion dollars a year – but the bulk of those (expenditures) go to the top end of the income distribution.” So, while senators debate how to cut the deficit and balance the budget by cutting funds earmarked for public education, health-care as provided by Medicare and Medicaid, vital infrastructure repairs needed in every city across America, conservative Republicans, Tea Party members and blue dog Democrats would rather cut funds to vital programs and raise taxes on the middle class and poor rather than remove subsidies to multi-million dollar corporations and tax the uber rich.
Based purely on one of the bills that didn’t gain Republican support, one can ascertain the callous disregard this group holds for the average American. House Republicans oppose the STOCK Act’s intelligence provision, a bill that would eliminate Congressional Insider Trading, something that is already illegal for the rest for us. Just ask Martha Stewart. If these cut-spending altruists were sincere, why would they not support such legislation?