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Bob Edgar

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Fix Our Campaigns to Fix Our Economy

Posted: 09/14/11 06:27 PM ET

The Census Bureau's new findings about the our economy -- that poverty actually has increased and that the number of long-term unemployed Americans actually went up last year -- simply confirm what most of us already sensed:

The "recovery" exists in name only; the recession continues and is worsening and self-interested big money is eating away at our democracy and our way of life.

So when is Washington going to get serious about tackling it?

President Obama's "jobs" bill might be a decent start but that's all it is; the $467 billion it would spend on job creation is not nearly enough to provide the serious boost our economy really needs.

And Republicans on Capitol Hill already have made it clear that Obama's plan isn't going to pass the GOP-led House. Whatever ultimately emerges there will be even more modest than the President's proposal and almost certainly will not include the tax increases on wealthy Americans that Obama has advanced.

Meanwhile, the budget "super committee" continues its work, focused on what's likely to be a futile search for $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. If it fails, draconian cuts in spending will be imposed across the government, hitting vital programs like Medicare and further shredding what's left of the social safety net. Even defense spending will be hit -- and it should be -- but the across-the-board nature of the cuts means we'll slice into good things like troop pay and benefits and probably end up cutting too little from our unneeded weapons programs.

What ought to be clear to everyone is that while deficit-reduction is critical over the long haul what we need now is decisive federal action to pump life into the economy. That means a large and sustained jobs program, tax relief geared to help the middle class and the working poor and tax increases that make big corporations and the super-rich pay their fair share of the cost of government.

Even David Stockman, who was President Reagan's budget guru in the 1980s, agrees that the wealthiest Americans should be paying more in taxes. Today's 15 percent capital gains rate is "a windfall benefit to speculators and to traders and to high-income investors," Stockman said recently, adding that "it should be abolished and we ought to get to tax rates that are the same regardless of how the income is generated."

Sadly, Stockman's fellow Republicans are in no mood for such talk. And too many Democrats have joined them in buying into the GOP's against-all-taxes doctrine. Officeholders in both parties are attuned to the wishes of the big corporations and wealthy donors who are filling -- often anonymously -- the new "super PACs" that promise to dominate the 2012 election. Republicans and Democrats alike understand that ideologues like Grover Norquist and big-money groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS are ready and eager to spend millions to preserve the status quo and ultimately to drive taxes on the rich even lower.

More than ever, I'm convinced that solving our economic problems depends on addressing this political problem. We must find a way over the long haul, likely through public financing and better disclosure, to let candidates who dare to stand up to big money compete and win at the polls.

 

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