While millionaires and billionaires enjoyed another year of federal government handouts in excess of $100,000, I spent the better part of my day in a plasma donation clinic with dozens of others, all of us impatiently waiting to part with our lifeblood in exchange for $25.
This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the tax cut package signed into law in President Bush's first year of office. And while tax cuts were also parsed out to the American poor and middle class, the lion's share of the wealth has pooled into the hands of the richest 2 percent of Americans since Bush's "Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act" became the law of the land. The result of that legislation has been anything but a relief for the other 98 percent of us.
Today's Republicans and corporate Democrats continue to fall back on tax cuts as the panacea for the deficit and the jobs crisis. Yet, by the end of the decade that followed the Bush tax cuts, America had experienced zero net job creation and the widest income gap between the wealthiest and everyone else since the dawn of the Great Depression. Today, that disparity is even more widespread in America than in third-world countries like Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Pakistan.
When President Clinton left office in January of 2001, he had balanced the budget, erased the deficit created by his predecessors and turned it into a towering surplus. The CBO had predicted budget surpluses in the trillions for the coming decade. The BLS had predicted average to faster-than-average job growth in nearly all sectors. All signs pointed to an economic surge that would benefit all of America, assuming we stayed on course.
But by January of 2011, Bush's tax cut package alone had accumulated $2.6 trillion in debt. Median weekly earnings were in decline while the richest .01 percent of taxpayers enjoyed an annual $520,000 handout from Uncle Sam. Rich brats living on trust funds reaped great benefits from the phasing out of the estate tax while nearly half of America's entrepreneurs saw their new businesses fail in less than five years. And as the most recent jobs report indicates, the last 10 years of tax cuts for the rich has had no effect on a dangerously high unemployment rate. The party that tells us all to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps has, for the last decade, enacted and supported policy that flies directly in the face of their stated philosophy. In reality, hardworking, taxpaying citizens are being told to sacrifice more of the public services we depend on so our leaders can shove even larger tax breaks to the wealthy.
Just $2.3 of that $2.6 trillion could modernize America's infrastructure in the next five years and put millions of Americans back to work. That money could have been spent on small business loans that would foster sustainable economic growth in American communities. Folks like me wouldn't have to resort to selling plasma for gas money if we invested those trillions in our communities, instead of on lavish tax cuts for billionaires.
George Santayana famously said, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." If our leaders still haven't learned from the last 10 years of failed tax policy, the road ahead will only become more perilous for the American people.