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Sally Kohn

Sally Kohn

Posted: December 6, 2010 12:11 PM

Mean Republicans, Wimpy Democrats

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It is astonishing that, in an era of unprecedented economic hardship for millions of Americans coupled with unprecedented wealth for a very few, Republicans have the audacity to oppose $33 billion in unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans while supporting $700 billion in tax breaks for the super-rich. The Republican stance isn't about economics, and it's not about politics. It's just plain mean.

But as far as I'm concerned, the Democrats are their spineless accomplices. Barack Obama should be railing from atop his bully pulpit explaining to the American people why tax breaks for the rich don't stimulate the economy and why putting money in the hands of people who don't have money does lead to spending and, therefore, jobs.

Obama should be shouting from the rafters:

The Republicans want to call this class warfare? They're right. It is class warfare! This is about the fundamental choice of whether we build a nation and an economy that works for everyone, or just the top 1 percent. If the top 1 percent don't like being part of a union, where we look out for our common good, they can go. Good luck in Ireland or Somalia!


There are more than 15 million unemployed people in the United States. About four million of those people are currently collecting unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, there are 315,000 households in the United States that make more than $1 million per year. It is a myth that the health and well being of our economy depends on the largess of those 315,000 households (only 2.5 percent of which run small businesses, by the way). In fact, throughout history, the health and well being of our economy has depended on taxes -- those who benefit most in our society and are privileged to do well giving back to the common good. Remember that at the strongest moment in our economic history, the top tax bracket was 80 or 90 percent. We're talking now about increasing the tax that the wealthy pay on the income they earn over and above $250,000 from about 36 percent to 39 percent. In this economy, if you're earning more than $250,000 a year, you can afford to give more to your nation and community.

The strongest argument against extending tax breaks for the rich is the most obvious -- these tax breaks have been in effect the entire recession and have not spawned jobs and growth. What delusional insanity makes anyone think giving more money to the rich with magically help the economy now?

What makes America great is not the 315,000 families at the tippy-top but the millions and millions of ordinary, hardworking Americans who made our nation what it is today but who are, unfortunately, being failed by an economy that for too long has structurally favored the rich over the working class and poor. The idea that, at a time of record unemployment -- where the working class need the helping hand of government more than ever -- some want to put the greed of the rich ahead of the needs of the rest of the nation is not only sick and immoral but un-American.

John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, wrote, "Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men." The tyranny from which the Founders sought to protect our nation was not the tyranny of government but the tyranny of wealthy elites. Remember, the King of England was a king. America was founded on hard work and community, not royalty. So why are our political leaders bowing to the financial kings and queens of our day with reckless and wasteful tax breaks?

Republicans, it's time for you to realize that America only works when it works for all people. Trickle down economics failed for the last several decades. Don't expect some Christmas miracle where $700 billion dollars in the pockets of the rich somehow magically find their way into the hands of the unemployed. It's never worked like that, and as far as I can tell, Republicans know it never works and sleep fine at night giving public money to the rich while killing programs for the poor and working class. It's time to call a spade a spade. John Boehner and Republicans in Congress are nothing but schoolyard bullies picking on working families.

Democrats, don't cave. Don't buy into the ridiculous idea that the extremist conservatives who dominated the electorate this November somehow speak for all Americans. To the contrary, Tea Party activists were able to be most active and dominant at the polls because ordinary, hardworking Americans were too busy trying to find a job or scrape together money to save their homes. We need political leaders who, once again, stand up to the tyranny of the rich and stand for an America that works for all of us. In tough times, we need tough leaders -- who stand up to bullies.

 

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