By Charlie Williams
The big debate in Washington, D.C., these days is whether to cut or fund programs vital to our economic growth and well-being. Republicans insist on more and more cuts while Democrats, who have agreed to far too many cuts already, insist Congress not make cuts where job creation is taking hold and there are signs the economy is moving in the right direction.
Adding new jobs and creating opportunities for employers to hire new workers is the stated goal of Democrats and Republicans alike. Republicans, however, do not appear to be serious about economic recovery, judging from their lack of interest in restoring a stable job market, especially if it includes any hint of government help. It seems instead that they are more interested in instituting one congressional crisis after another unlike any we have ever witnessed before, even to the point of shutting down the government if they don’t get their way.
Meanwhile, millions of unemployed workers continue to suffer with little hope for new employment in the foreseeable future if Congress doesn’t act soon. As to those who are lucky enough to have jobs, they worry their jobs may be next to go or their work hours and pay reduced and benefits downsized or eliminated altogether. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned on a Sept. 16 radio show that continued high unemployment could lead to the same kind of riots here in America that swept through Europe and North Africa, according to a report on CNNMoney.
Perhaps we are witnessing some of the beginnings of that playing out in New York City right now by our nation’s youth with their “occupation” of Wall Street. Many desperate young people feel they are at the end of their rope with little prospects for employment, even with their college degree, while corporations rack up historic new profits. Chances are their ranks will continue to grow with millions of disgruntled long-term unemployed who also feel they too are at the end of their rope. Congress must address these growing grievances and act on them soon to avoid future threats of rioting, as warned of by Mayor Bloomberg.
Republican congressional leaders cannot—or so far will not—take steps toward a sound economic solution that both parties can live with. Even their corporate friends are getting worried of late and at times disgusted with their lack of leadership. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has publicly stated his (and their) only goal is to see that President Obama does not win a second term. Little wonder no progress is being made under his leadership.
Any hope for eliminating the hefty Bush tax breaks for the wealthy seems completely out of the question as far as the Republican congressional leadership is concerned, even though poll after poll strongly supports eliminating the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy. Many billionaires and millionaires alike have publicly called for eliminating their Bush tax breaks in order to give our economy a chance to recover.
President Obama has history on his side in his call for modest increases in new tax revenue from the wealthiest of our nation. A perfect example for supporting the president’s position can be found in the history of tax increases during the Clinton years. During those years we saw taxes raised on the wealthy, and as a result some 23 million new jobs were added to our economy. We saw for the first time in many years a balanced national budget. Now compare that to the tax cuts years of the Bush era, where only 1 million jobs were added and our economy nearly destroyed in the process.
If President Obama is wrong in his call for restoring wealth taxes as claimed by the Republican leadership, then one would naturally wonder why the president would deliberately set himself up for sure defeat in 2012? And why would congressional Democrats join his call for more wealth tax revenues, putting their prospects for reelection in jeopardy as well? Could it be Republicans are afraid that if Obama’s job program became law it would get our economy on the mend and spoil their long-term plan to defeat him in his reelection bid?
I recently saw a bumper sticker that may well have answered the question. It read Republicans 2012, Keeping Millions Out Of Work To Put One Man Out Of A Job.
There is also the pressing need to look at putting Medicare and Medicaid on sound footing, as well as time to revisit doing away with the $106,800 cap on Social Security payroll taxes. Doing so would ensure Social Security’s continued viability throughout the rest of this century. Social Security and Medicare are both essential to the continued good health and economic well-being of our nation. These programs have been instrumental in keeping our economy from further deterioration. Without these programs there is little doubt we would now be in a deep, dark depression rather than the serious downturn of our economy we are now experiencing.
When comparing the reliability of the stock market and 401(k) plans to the dependability of Social Security, there should be little doubt as to which program is more reliable. Social Security having never missed a payment date nor experienced cuts in monthly benefits is by far more reliable.
Over the past 75 years, Social Security has been very helpful to our struggling economy as well, helping pull us out of many past recessions. Any kind of privatization of these funds would drain resources from some 55 million people who are currently receiving Social Security benefits. Just looking at the stock market today should send shivers down the spine of anyone who might be banking only on stocks to get them through their retirement years.
There are many crucial issues voters will get the opportunity to vote for or against come Election Day. The issues won’t necessarily be on the ballot as such, but candidates who support those positions certainly will be. The issues of more and more budget cuts versus adding more revenue from those who have seen their wealth wildly accelerate during our economic decline may well be front and center in all political debates once candidates for office have been chosen.
The issues of slow job growth, and the future of Medicare and Social Security will no doubt be among them as well. One thing for sure: American voters will have a clear choice come Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. To anyone not yet registered to vote there is no time like the present to do so. There is far too much at stake to stay home gambling on someone else making good picks for our next president and for those chosen to represent us in the next Congress.
Charlie Williams is chairman of Field Mobilization Committee, Alliance for Retired Americans and former Midwest States Political Director for the Machinists Union.