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Republicans don't know what they're talking about
Scratch a Republican, and you will find someone who is woefullly misinformed...
This letter appeared in the "comments" section of the NY Times online today(actually a couple of days ago.) Let's see if the writer knows what he's talking about.
"I'm still not sure exactly what all the Commenters want Obama to do. We've been trying to eliminate poverty since Johnson. We spend $1 trillion per year on education. We give massive subsidies to businesses both big and small to employ people. $22,000 is a lot of money. Ask any college kid. Poverty should be defined somewhere less than $9000 per year. And you must include the food cards, the free healthcare, the free schooling, rent discounts, free clothing, and all the rest in the $9000. Given all of that, if you still make less than $9000, you're poor. But $22,000? Plus all of the above? What we've done is create a system that rewards people for gaming it : getting jobs for a few weeks then quiting, making only so much money because more will force them to lose government subsidies. It is well known that many food card recipients in many states sell their food cards in front of major grocery stores for cash. I saw a family a few weeks ago in a state I was visiting hawking their food cards while checking their email on their iphones. It's stuff like this that drains sympathy from taxpayers.
"It's a global economy. We need to get skills for the present and acquire lifelong skills in order to compete. That's the way it is. Obama has finally realized that. Only by expanding the pie can we help the poor. Redistributing the pie doesn't work nor will it ever work. Droning on about the evils of capital doesn't help either. I challenge all the commenters here to posit viable solutions instead of writing tripe about the evils of the world. As I said, Lyndon Johnson couldn't solve the problem and, at the time, we were by far #1."
Ironically, another commenter (after this one) who apparently does know what he's talking about, gives the statistics for poverty percentages over the period before and since Johnson, and the truth is surprising. Poverty actually did decline during and for a short period after Johnson was president. It rose and dipped since then, but remarkably although it has risen dramatically since 2000, it was at such a low level that it is only now approaching what might be called somewhat higher historical (pre-Johnson) levels. So Bush has increased poverty while filling the pockets of the already wealthy, and matters have suddenly gotten worse since 2007--BUT even now there aren't THAT many poor people in our country, compared to levels during the Eisenhower administration (when records actually began to be kept of such matters.)
The problem of unequal distribution of income is actually a separate one from the problem of having large numbers of people in poverty--they are related, but not identical. Government policies that eliminate poverty could also, at the same time, allow for dramatic inequalities in distribution of wealth
If we've been "trying to eliminate poverty since Johnson" then why has the distribution of income become so much more unequal now than in Johnson's time? We've been looking at statistics showing the dramatic rise in wealth inequality in the last forty years, but we haven't discussed the poverty levels, which as mentioned above have fluctuated but without dramatic change.
The writer seems to think that we have really been trying to eliminate poverty. What has actually been done? Spend over 1 trillion dollars a year on education? Is that really enough? It sounds like a lot, but it's not. The writer doesn't mention how much we spend on everything else. Besides, how does education in and of itself reduce poverty?
Free healthcare? No such thing. There's copays for drugs, copays to see the doctor, and then the long, long waits to be seen-- "time is money." Then there's the quality of care given--how much does it cost when they don't solve your health problems and you stay sicker, longer? Your ability to work declines when you're sick.
Free food? Food stamps? Sure, some people sell their food stamps and the free food they get--those who would rather have the cash to buy drugs or booze. What percentage? Maybe five percent sell their stamps. What percentage of people cheat on their income taxes?
Most people who get food stamps depend on them for basic nutrition. The cheapest foods are also the least nourishing. What cost poor nutrition? Lowers a worker's strength and resilience, reducing the quality and quantity of their work output.
Rent discounts? Just how long is the waiting list for Section 8 housing here in Fresno? Two years?
Free schooling? Are you suggesting that we charge people for attending high school? There is no "free" higher education unless you call scholarships "free."
Free clothing? Where is the free clothing? This is one I really don't even begin to understand.
Massive subsidies to hire people? "Massive"?? That is the biggest overstatement of the entire letter. Such subsidies exist, but they are complex, strictly limited and currently represent only a drop in the bucket.
All the rest? Is there any rest? Oh, yeah, I forgot "The right to steal bread and sleep under bridges."
And then, "$22,000 is a lot of money." For a family of four? The person who wrote this has never tried to live on $22,000 a year for a family of four (that's $5,500 each.) Sure, college kids can get by on that much, but they're young, healthy, resourceful, and strong. An elderly, chronically ill individual can't make do so easily.
A system that rewards people for gaming it? A dubious assertion. Have you ever tried that "trick" of getting a job for a few weeks only? No one in his right mind would try this. I challenge anyone to try this "trick" and see what advantage they get from it.
The individual who wrote this letter is not in touch with the reality of being poor. He or she needs to try it for a few weeks and see what really happens.
The real reason Lyndon Johnson didn't solve the poverty problem is that the programs he introduced were eliminated by the president immediately after him: Richard Nixon. The programs that might have worked if they were kept in place for ten or twenty years actually lasted less than five.
The money we spent on Vietnam was more important to Mr Nixon than the poverty programs Johnson started. Then there was the gasoline shortage of '73 and the impeachment crisis of '74, followed by high inflation. Then there was the admnistration of Ronald Reagan, the man who deliberately bankrupted the federal government by dramatically reducing taxes on the wealthy while funding a massive military and nuclear weapons buildup with deficit spending.
Then there was Clinton, who promised to eliminate "welfare as we know it" and started the lifetime cap of five years on cash assistance. Then Bush was selected by the Supreme Court, and the poor really started to go to town to live under the bridges. All of these crises, emergencies, and recessions have completely destroyed the vestiges of Lyndon Johnson's antipoverty programs.
There's almost nothing left to cut back. The Republicans who want to cut waste are going to have to cut it from the military budget and the essential services budgets, because there's very little left of the social services budgets.
I saved the best for last: the pie analogy. You know, "communists want to cut up the same size pie so everyone gets a smaller piece, while capitalists want to increase the size of the pie."
"Only by expanding the pie..." This canard is so old it has whiskers. No one has suggested that we should keep the "pie" the same size. As productivity rises and technology advances, the economy is inevitably expanded. Full employment expands the economy even further. What keeps the pie from growing is ill health and poor nutrition among the working poor. What keeps society from advancing is discontent and frustration among people in general: the very situation we have now, the one that the Republicans are exploiting in order to derail the Democratic agenda.
Unfortunately, the Republicans don't want to actually remedy the situation that is causing our frustration and discontent. They just want to use it to get rid of Democratic politicians who stand in the way of their real agenda. The Republicans want more freedom to exploit the poor.
The Republicans want a rollback of regulations that control and ameliorate the greed and concupiscience of businessmen. Naturally, effective regulations, even moderate ones, are disliked by those who are regulated (see the recent "the regulations you most dislike" propaganda piece--those are the ones they should really keep.) But if all have to obey the same rules of reasonable conduct, there is a level playing field and predictable conditions that are actually good for business. A good businessman can make money under the most stringent regulation as long as it is transparent and not capricious, changeable, or unfairly enforced. What businessmen hate most is change and uncertainty, because it makes planning impossible.
The Republicans want to control the media to prevent the dissemination of news and opinions that might increase people's discontent. But if bad news is only reported as rumors through the grapevine rather than freely admitted by responsible newsreaders, then exaggerations and mis-statements will fill the people's minds with doubt and fear.
The Republicans want to "re-establish the rule of Christianity in America." Well, it is true that Americans are more religious than most, and a large majority are "Christian." But the devil's in the details. When asked specific questions, most people vary greatly from religious orthodoxy. While most believe in God and Heaven, only a minority believe in Hell and the Devil. Even Catholics secretly practice birth control. Women who condemn abortion sometimes change their minds when they are the victims of unwanted pregnancy.
The Republicans want to "re-establish" a sect of Christianity that denies the validity of scientifically proven concepts such as evolution and the age of the Earth. What good will it do our people to force us to hew to a religion that is totally discredited by more and more evidence?
I'm not talking about giving lip service to ideals like love and tolerance, like the Democrats do, but actually forcing us to deny plain facts that have been established by abundant evidence. It doesn't help our scientific education any to eschew the basic evolutionary principle of biology and the basic data of geology showing the real age of the rocks in our planet's crust.
This writer who thinks $22,000 a year for a family of four is a lot of money has been deceived by Republican lies about the poor, because that's all they do is lie. They have to lie to support their agenda, because the truth is so revolting.
What is my solution? First, make the first priority of federal government to be the welfare of the people--all the people. Government should do for people the things they can't do for themselves. What else would be fair? We demand that everyone who can afford it contribute a part of their income to our local, state, and federal governments. What other priority than everyone's best interests (common welfare) would make any sense? Defending us against our enemies is obviously in our best interests, but does it seem fair to let some people suffer hunger, cold, heat, and ill health just because they can't afford to pay for it individually?
The reason why people are hungry is not so important. Some would have you believe that a person is hungry through his own bad behavior, and if he was good he wouldn't suffer. That may be true. Now put yourself in his place. Do you agree that you should go hungry because you made a bad decision? You might agree intellectually, but when you experience suffering, your misdeeds pale in comparison.
We can provide for the welfare of all, not paying cash money that could be misused, but by providing nutritious food instead of leftovers that the rich won't eat(Currently, food programs for the poor depend on donations, mostly from supermarkets that give away what they can't sell, often after the "sell by" date.)
We can help all by giving health care that really restores health instead of giving out only the cheapest medicines and paying only the doctors who see a patient every five minutes.
We can provide for all by having warm and dry housing for everyone--even those who can't follow the rules.
How do we pay for all this? How do we provide for the common welfare of all?
Raise taxes on the wealthy--those who can afford it. Calculations have shown that tax rates for the wealthy need not be raised dramatically (just by taxing capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income), yet will provide huge influxes of money needed to save and expand programs to help the poor and continue the pensions of essential workers.
Matters have gotten so bad that, in order to raise money by any other means than income taxes, states have gotten into the gambling business by establishing lotteries. Lotteries take money from the pockets of those least able to afford it: those not intelligent enough to realize that a lottery is inevitably a losing proposition in the long run. In a true democracy, stupidity would not be penalized in this manner; stupid people would be treatly fairly and educated as well as possible, not exploited.
The bottom line is that we must raise income taxes on the rich. They are the only ones who can afford it. Poor people can't afford sales taxes, property taxes, and license fees. These taxes should be minimized, if not completely eliminated, because of their regressive nature. Those who say "the poor don't pay any taxes" are lying: the only tax the poor don't pay is the income tax.
Reducing poverty dramatically is as simple as that, yet impossible to acheive without the solidarity of the bottom 98%. Only the force of democracy can change things and restore equality of income to the 44 million poor of our country. With the self-interest of the vast majority at stake, you would think that good policies would already be in effect. But no...
The few who control the government and the wealth have prevented good policies by fracturing the togetherness of the majority. They do this by lying: the politicians lie during their campaigns and from there it is a downward spiral. We all know that politicians lie, and the reason is that they need money to get elected. Those who have the money force them to lie in order to get the money.
The force of democracy must eliminate campaigns that depend on private capital to finance their publicity and voter outreach. Campaigns, to be truly democratic, must be equal: all candidates must have equal time on radio and television, on billboards, and on the streets. This one change, I would say, should be the number one priority of all political activists who want the people's voices heard. All other priorities should be secondary.
At the local level, campaigns should be restricted to prime time debates on television and radio, open to all comers. Those who are popular enough to win at the local level should have equal financing to compete at the state and federal levels.
The Republican agenda is based on fear, greed, and stupidity, and only lies can further that agenda. Why would anyone in their right mind support policies that benefit only the wealthiest 2% of the people and hurt the poorest 20%? Only if they have been deceived by lies. Why would a politician support such policies? In order to get money from wealthy backers to run for re-election.
The politician, in our system, is forced to be a hypocrite: to pretend to work for the good of all in order to get votes, but secretly promise to enact policies favored by the wealthy in order to pay for campaigns. Only in a publicly financed campaign system can a politician be honest. Only then can he promise the people to support all of them, and not worry about making secret promises to tiny minorities of the wealthy and powerful to pay for the campaign.
Generous public financing and strict application of "equal time" rules will restore significant degrees of honesty to political campaigns. If a rich man wants to spend his own money, or a wealthy group wants to support a candidate, well then the opposing candidates most also get the same advantages. So if you spend a million of your own money on your campaign, you would have to spend a million more to support your opponent's campaign. Unfair? hardly. What is unfair is when a lie, repeated a million times with private money, drowns out the truth, repeated only a thousand times with one dollar from each tax payer.
You can't distinguish the truth from lies every time--no one can. So the truth must be protected by making it as loud as the lies.