Imagine you helped prepare a great feast with 99 other people -- one of them is morbidly obese, the rest are frail and anorexic. Now imagine the morbidly obese man lining up first, piling almost all the food onto his own plate, and leaving nothing but scraps for you and the rest of the dinner party. If he said you should eat less, would that justify his greed?
Republicans in Congress just held their "No New Taxes" gun to the economy's head, and vowed to drive us into a second global recession unless Democrats and the White House paid the ransom. Even though the hostage was eventually returned, it was done so only after the basic needs of America's most vulnerable were cut to shreds. President Obama calls this a "compromise," but this was a deal where the Republicans got everything they wanted -- trillions in spending cuts, and no new revenue.
Government spending hasn't been this low since Eisenhower's presidency, yet taxes for the wealthy are at their lowest since the Hoover administration. Even though spending as a percentage of GDP was low during Eisenhower's tenure, government had plenty of revenue due to a 91% top tax rate. Those high taxes on the richest Americans allowed for the birth of NASA, which eventually put a man on the moon, the creation of the Interstate System, and expansions of Social Security and National Parks.
Now, income for the richest Americans is only taxed at a 35% rate. NASA has since cancelled all manned space flights. Budget cuts are leaving interstate highways in a dangerous state of disrepair. And this debt deal will begin the chipping away of Social Security and Medicare benefits for current and future generations. By the time millenials like me reach retirement age, its highly likely that we'll receive little, if any assistance from these programs.
Republicans refused to offer even the most reasonable concessions. They voted NO to ending $21 billion in taxpayer-funded handouts to tax-dodging oil companies. They've repeatedly stalled on bringing in $100 billion per year by closing corporate tax loopholes. They've rejected a new income tax bracket for households making above $1,000,000 per year. They even voted down ending tax breaks for corporate jet owners. The only spending Republicans spared from cuts was the Pentagon budget.
This week, David Frum, one of George W. Bush's speechwriters, accused Republicans of acting like "student radicals" instead of governing appropriately. Even conservatives like Frum recognize the foolishness of cutting federal spending while ignoring America's real deficit -- jobs. Republicans have held a majority in the House for over 200 days, yet the GOP has yet to produce just one jobs bill. The GOP has made it clear that protecting corporate jet owners, oil companies and big banks is a higher priority than looking after the needs of their constituents.
As wages stagnate and the cost of living increases, Americans all over are forced to take on multiple jobs, all for longer hours, lower wages and less benefits. While the public programs we pay for and depend on get cut away piece by piece, and as more of our neighbors and communities succumb to poverty, we continue to watch the collective results of our efforts pool into the hands of a small, wealthy elite.
Congress may congratulate themselves on passing this deal and avoiding a default, but consequences are destined to come about in the streets, at town hall meetings, and at the polls. In the next election cycle, Americans will remember who voted to protect their interests, and who voted to put their social safety net on the chopping block to protect billionaires and big oil. Shared sacrifice should include all Americans-- especially those with the most food at the table.
Follow C. Robert Gibson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/crgibs