The eyes of the financial world this week are clearly focused on Washington.
There is a lot at stake. If there is a quick resolution to many of the issues surrounding the “fiscal cliff," then the global economy will get a boost. It may be temporary, but it will represent a widespread sigh of relief that lawmakers in our country can actually govern rather than remaining deadlocked on ideological issues.
On the other hand, if negotiations break down or serious austerity cuts result, then look forward to another recessionary dip, just what we need to make the season bright. Both political parties will then start the blame game all over again, accusing the other side of refusing to deal in good faith or budge from their pre-election extreme positions.
Republicans continue to be the fly in the ointment, so to speak. They refuse to accept that Americans, at least the ones smart enough to see through their thinly veiled arguments, are not buying their brand of cold-hearted economic rhetoric. Corporate America and their wealthy stakeholders have had their way for the past four decades, outrageously enriching their coffers while decimating the middle class.
In some respects, it is though the snake has been feeding on its own tail for far too long. The rank and file of the GOP used to include a broad base of management-level employees in every sector of industry, but these ranks have been “culled” severely from 40 years of outsourcing and, worse yet, off-shoring activities. It is no wonder that GOP support has declined as the rich got richer and corporate greed was allowed to flourish at will.
Yet, the beat goes on. Lobbyists for big-moneyed interests continue to write the rules and hand them over to “bought-and-paid-for” legislators, not only at the national level, but also across the entire spectrum of state and locally run governments. In the absence of any organized resistance, these rules continue to evolve in a fully biased manner. Our consumer-driven economy depends on predictable growth in per capita disposable income, but this statistic has been flat to negative for far too long.
Which brings us back to today’s fiscal cliff proposals. Republican demands have not changed one iota. They may have put a little more lipstick on the “pigs," but they are still pigs, and this pork may not be good for you. Their so-called “gifts” of compromise are little more than modern day “Trojan Horses” – nice on the outside, but insidious as to their intent when you peer on the inside.
What are a few of these positions that would even make Machiavelli blush?
Tax Reform: The majority of loopholes and tax breaks that have been passed in the past few decades have benefited large corporations or the wealthiest among us. The facts are compelling. Do you hear Republicans offering to roll back oil industry tax incentives and corporate farming subsidies or to increase marginal tax rates? Of course not! Boehner keeps preaching that limiting tax deductions is the proper way to go, but why? He will not admit it, but this approach will impact a wide swath of the public, including the middle class, a tactic designed to incur the wrath of the public at large, resulting in fewer Democrats in 2014. This approach also has an “insidious” edge, as well. Higher home values and state taxes are predominantly located in “Blue” states. Imposing a national limit of any kind on deductions will adversely impact the Democratic side of the ledger, as well.
Obamacare: Republicans refuse to back off, especially after insurance companies took a hit in 2012. More than $1.1 billion in premium refunds went back to consumers, as well as an untold number of premium reductions for 2013, due to cost-control provisions that went into effect this year. No one is crying tears for the insurance industry, except for GOP legislators who depend on their hefty campaign contributions.
Medicare: Same thing here – let’s renege on commitments by pushing out the age qualification dates. Corporate plans stop at age 65, and no insurance company in their right mind would offer low-cost plans for the elderly in any event. Converting to a “voucher” program is no “gift” either. The entire approach is to push the liability onto the public, instead of trying to control costs in the health care industry.
Social Security: Corporations have been dismantling defined benefit plans, the ones that promise a fixed income for life at retirement, for decades. Over 20 percent of large companies in America have eliminated these plans in the past five years alone. The GOP is following their lead by claiming we need similar “entitlement” reform. Social Security is not an “entitlement." It is our own retirement plan that we have bought and paid for over time with our own money.
The “Trojan Horses” do not stop here either. Take the Benghazi “debate," for example. All questions have been fully answered, even if a handful of senators, led by, cannot report faithfully what they and others have been told. The simple fact is that the three senators leading the charge are best friends with , who was soundly defeated by Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. If were appointed Secretary of State over , then the GOP would likely gain the Senate seat that Kerry would have to vacate.
Just as Mitt Romney was characterized during the campaign, members of the GOP are beginning to resemble the worst “boss” that you have ever encountered, the one that promised large benefits, bonuses, and commissions, but then fired you before payments were due. Americans rejected the notion of these cold-hearted schemes on Election Day, but many extreme Republicans stayed in office due to clever “gerrymandering” exercises in their home districts.even believes that his draconian ideas are still popular with the electorate. Ayn Rand-ish concepts in today’s environment would even make Atlas shrug at their callousness.
As is often said, “Democrats fall in love, but Republicans fall in line.” Some Republicans have already admitted publicly that a few “tweaks” here and there will solve our long-term financial problems for years to come. Massive program overhauls are both unwise and unnecessary. Hopefully, this courageous band of lawmakers will break ranks for the good of the country, and soon! Lean Forward!