House Okays Deal Averting Fiscal Cliff
On January 2, 2013, as the 112 Congress was preparing to make way for the incoming 113 Congress, the House of Representatives passed legislation, sending it to President Obama’s desk for signing, to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” which would’ve led to across the board tax increases for every American. The New Year legislation is a nudge in the right direction towards economic fairness. However, when will Washington be forced to honestly debate America’s undemocratic economic system which enriches the few at the expense of the many? Tuesday evening the House voted 257 to 167 to approve the legislation to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats voted against the measure. The House vote followed the early Tuesday morning Senate vote on a deal spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell which passed by a Senate vote of 89-8. The bill was then sent to the House. Under the deal, tax rates would only rise on wealthy Americans. Individuals making over $400,000 and couples making over $450,000 would see their tax rates rise from 35 percent to 39 percent and tax deductions and credits would be gradually ended for those making $250,000. Unemployment insurance would also be extended for a year. Prior to the vote, President Obama had called for a swift vote from the House saying “While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay.” This legislation is indeed a step in the right direction. However, the rancorous struggle it took to achieve something so basically modest, in terms of fiscal fairness for average American workers, tells us several unpleasant things about the oligarchic system of economic elitism and exploitation that is ruining America. In 2012, the Congressional Budget Office reported that between 1979 and 2007 America’s top 1 percentage of households doubled their pre-tax income as the share of America’s bottom 80 percent saw their income fall. And in 2010, the top 1 percent controlled 20 percent of the American income pie; examined even further, the top 10 percent controlled nearly 50 percent of that pie. Isn’t it time Americans question whether this current financial scheme and wealth inequality is a benefit or detriment to the nation’s general well-being? Let’s be honest about something from the start: today’s Washington politicians are failing miserably to fulfill their duty to average voters. Big business and their money have turned Washington into a sordid den of collaborative thieves who’re unduly influenced by personal financial gain and are accepting the bribes of corporate America and Wall Street moneychangers. Both parties, in this regard, have sold out Americans and are truly not earnestly doing the people’s work. Yet, Republicans are far worse. For years now, these regressive Republicans have been hard at work—occasionally, with the help of Democrats—destroying progressive programs many working Americans and average folks fought for. Starting with their standard bearer, former President Ronald Reagan, Republicans have been busy bees attacking legislative policies that were enacted to remedy unfair economic conditions that have been fostered by the wealthy. In the past three decades, who’ve been rewarded by Republican policies? In the 1980s President Reagan and Republicans launched assaults against Affirmative Action and Welfare—while use racism to fool many poor white Americans into thinking Republicans were only fighting against “unfair quotas” and such. But while Republicans were using prejudice to unravel these necessary remedial programs, they were also laying the groundwork for what we’ve witnessed these last few years: underhanded maneuvers to annihilate collective-bargaining, while weakening unions and average American workers’ rights. President Reagan’s firing of some 11, 345 air traffic controllers may’ve been the first salvo directed toward the current attempts to takedown unions. Lately, we’ve heard a lot of babbling baloney about things like “Right-to-Work” legislation, fighting to strengthen Social Security, reducing spending, preserving Medicare, etc. This tricky talk is, mostly, hogwash. All these tactics are attempts to eviscerate programs big business feels should be killed so workers can be further exploited and impoverished—allowing greedy money-grubbing bosses to claim even more loot than they have now. Unscrupulous state Republican politicians like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are working hand-in-hand with the likes of House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to achieve this. In fact, it’s no secret many of these Republicans have a stated mission to remove New Deal legislation implemented in the years after the 1929 Wall Street Crash and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Imagine these folks have the nerve to tell us there’s too much regulation on Wall Street after the mass global robbery orchestrated by those master thieves of the universe that led to the Wall Street Crash of 2007-8. , Republicans fought the Dodd-Frank bill which is truly not as stringent a bill as should’ve been enacted after this latest scandalous Wall Street money grab. What message does it send if not one solitary person is prosecuted for these crimes that have destroyed the lives of so many people? Republicans’ message is the same for oil and gun merchants. They chant “drill baby, drill” and to hell with any environmental cost that may occur, even after the 2010 Deep Water Horizon disaster in Louisiana. In Connecticut, we witnessed the murder of 20 children., Yet, ever sucking on the teats of big business lobbyists, like the NRA, they look for ever excuse possible to slaughter sensible gun legislation. For 40 years or so the productivity of the American worker has continually risen, while wages have stagnated and CEO pay has skyrocketed. Americans proudly tout American “democracy.” But would a true Democracy—supposedly, based on majority rule—allow an economic system that favors the impoverishment of the many to enrich a few? For a couple years now, Republicans have held tax-breaks for most Americans hostage because they say the richest two percent should get a tax-break. Isn’t it clear whose interests they’re serving? In the last few years, we’ve heard much talk about “controlling spending.” Republicans, who pushed for tax-breaks for the wealthy, while launching two unpaid wars, now tell us we must curb spending by raising the retirement age, gutting programs like Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicaid and Medicare. They say Americans have too much “entitlements.” Apparently, they don’t think we’re entitled to these meager modicums of the democratic fruits that we work and pay taxes for. But while railing against “entitlements,” they tell us the already bloated military budget should be increased—and by belligerent behavior they’d have us engaging in more senseless foreign wars, invasions and occupations. Of course, these campaigns further enriches those merchants exporting death and misery abroad through American foreign policy. We’ve just embarked on another new year: 2013. Many people are crying for fundamental change. Americans elected and reelected President Obama hoping for true change. But can there be meaningful change if economic inequality isn’t addressed?, We must realize Washington’s wanton ways won’t fully change until “We the People” force them to uphold our full democratic rights, including the right to a truly livable income, in an America made prosperous by all of us.