Taxing the rich and ending America's military adventures abroad would go a long way to solving America's funding shortages for education, health care, housing, job training and a wide range of other services.
But Congresses's big new plan is to fund new initiatives by taking the money from somewhere else. While raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting the ballooning military budget are not on the political agenda, taking the axe to social security is. Austerity has arrived in America, writes Trish Kahle.
On the very day the new members have been inaugurated, the 112th Congress has already made it painfully clear how it's going to tackle the biggest economic, cultural, and political crisis in decades.
It's not just business as usual. To borrow a phrase from historian Marilyn Young, it's business as usual...on crack.
One of the many changes the new Congress has initialized is a "cut-as-you-go" plan, which replaces the "pay-as-you-go" plan and is going to be the new battle axe of austerity. For every new piece of legislation passed that requires funding, the necessary money must be taken from somewhere else (though presumably not the Department of Defense--that would simply be un-American) and no taxes can be raised even though 61% of Americans said in a recent poll that they favoured taxing the rich as a means of reducing the deficit. In spite of the military propaganda that flows from almost every media outlet, another 20% said to slash Pentagon funding.
Indeed, taxing the rich and ending the wars and occupations would certainly go a long way to solving funding shortages for education, health care, housing, job training, and a multitude of other services that people here need and are demanding right now.
In 2010, the military budget topped off at a staggering $663.8 billion (that we know about). Obama has proposed increasing DoD spending to a whopping $721.3 billion. Add in the estimated costs of Homeland Security, FBI "Counter-Terrorism," and other "mandatory" military spending, and the insane spending is already topping off at well over $1.4 trillion, with less than $100 billion going to pay for veterans' healthcare, benefits, and pensions. On top of the outrageous weapons spending, the Democrats "compromised" (read: bent all the way over) with the Republicans, extending the Bush tax cuts: a cost of $5 trillion.
But House Republicans--and some Democrats--are happy to let the burden rest on the working class, the poor and disenfranchised. This, even though 1 in 6 Americans now live in poverty (and among the elderly, poverty rises to nearly 50% because of out-of-pocket healthcare costs). Congress is happy to give $5 trillion dollars to the richest Americans, and incalculable tax breaks and incentives to corporations that exploit workers around the world, but forces the disgustingly underfunded public schools to "compete" for resources in an effort to push through for-profit education models like those imposed in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Unemployment remains at almost 10%, with real unemployment much higher, and underemployment high as well. Yet, in all likelihood, money from the already tenuously funded social sectors will come under fire as Obama seeks to continue aggressive US imperialist policies around the world.
The Republicans have made it clear that they are willing (and planning) to cut so-called "entitlement" programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The Democrats have made it clear, not just through their jovial "bipartisan" language, but through their past voting records, that they intend to "compromise" as necessary to "get things done." After all, attacking the working class and subjugating people around the world? It's a hard day's work. And that lobbyist money only buys so much champagne.
Interestingly, even though the Speaker of the House John Boehner and his cronies are all about "Constitutionalism," there isn't actually anything in it about "always increasing military spending." They are always jacking off about the "founder's" concept of liberty, but they are doing everything in their power to make sure "liberty" is not exercised by the American people, but coerced to support the will of a vicious empire. (Otherwise it's material support for terrorism.)
We cannot deny it. Austerity is here. It is biting like a rabid dog.
But that's not all the new Congress has in store.
There are lots of other new rules.
Some are sickeningly ludicrous, like a full reading of the Constitution on the first day of the new session, and a requirement for each new piece of legislation to cite its "Constitutional validity." I have a feeling, though, that the much needed trans-inclusive ENDA would not pass with full bipartisan support, even though it is clearly provided for 14th Amendment. In addition, such an approach to legislation is incredibly reactionary. Instead of approaching the making of laws from the perspective of "how do we expand the circles of citizenship to full and inclusive for all?" this way of legislating can be used to strip all of the rights and freedoms we have fought for, for which so many people have given their lives, because that's how the Constitution (or at least the parts the Washington Elite like to read) is written.
Let's face it. The "founding fathers" were racist, sexist, rich bastards if there were any.
On the very first day of their new session too, the new Congress undermined democracy even further.
Yes, apparently, it was still possible.
They removed the rights of the people of American "protectorate" territories--like Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Guam. These rights were already seriously undermined by limiting their delegates' participation in voting activities. Now the delegates will get no votes. The people of these American colonies, rather than being given the rights they deserve--which would include, perhaps most importantly, the right to self-determination--are being further subjugated to the will of an empire in which they have no say.
Boehner claims he wants a government that is "more accountable," but the Congress are certainly not acting as though there will be consequences for their aristocratic behaviour. Think how things might be different if we had the power of immediate recall--something that should be one of the most basic tenets of any democratic society.
But our society is not a democratic one. It is a society of class autocracy.
We may not have government channels. Fortunately, we have the streets.
This column was first published on Trish's blog, I Can't Believe We Still Have To Protest This Shit.