In case you’ve been too busy watching Faux News to notice, we live in a global economy, and the current economic crisis is NOT a Tucson crisis, NOT an Arizona crisis, and NOT a US crisis. It is a worldwide financial crisis with roots in multiple housing bubbles, Wall Street gambling, and capitalist greed.
In the US and in the European Union, politicians are trying to balance budgets on the backs of workers. Europeans are taking to the streets and protesting austerity measures proposed by their governments to balance budgets, while Americans– duped by corporate media– nestle into their couches.
Nationwide in the US, there is a movement to cut corporate taxes at the state level while increasing individual income taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes (all of which hurt “us”– not the rich and not the corporations). But we do nothing about it.
In December, President Obama, Congressional Republicans, and reluctantly Congressional Democrats struck a deal to extend the Bush II tax cuts and other questionable giveaways (such as, reducing the estate tax and reducing the “payroll tax”– AKA contributions to the Social Security System). Republicans who campaigned on fiscal responsibility and fought hard against Obama’s “wasteful spending” stonewalled several pieces of important legislation until Obama and the Democrats kowtowed to their demands for tax cuts for the rich (not just the middle class).
Depending upon how you look at the tax cut extensions they are either: 1) a HUGE gamble– betting that the general public will stimulate the economy significantly by spending their increased take-home pay or 2) the riskiest and most fiscally irresponsible act ever undertaken by our elected officials, since the tax cut package costs more than the wars and more than healthcare reform (which was painted by campaigning Republicans as fiscally irresponsible and something we can’t afford); and/or 3) a guarantee that our children and grandchildren will live in poverty with minimal social services because of our greed and unwillingness to pay our own way.
Contrary to what Congressional Republicans like Arizona Senator Jon Kyl say, the giant hole in the budget created by the tax cuts will have to be filled somehow– eventually. If the cuts don’t stimulate the economy– as Obama’s advisors are betting– that hole will be filled by cutting other parts of the budget or raising taxes elsewhere. In recent days, there have been murmurs about revisiting the recommendations of the Cat Food Commission. (This is dangerous stuff. They slip us a few bucks and then try to take away tax credits that benefit the middle class– like the mortgage interest deductions– while we’re busy looking at our slightly larger paychecks.) Again, where is the outrage?
Another budget-balancing move proposed in the US and in France is raising the age of retirement. Although the French took to the streets a few months ago to protest raising the age of retirement from 60 to 62, there has been no outrage (except from me) regarding raising the retirement age to 70 in the US.
Unemployment is high worldwide. Recent college graduates and other young people are having a tough time finding jobs and fulfilling their dreams. In Europe, recent grads are taking action and moving to countries where there are jobs– see Europe’s young grow agitated over future prospects in the New York Times. Eventually, this will lead to a brain drain if countries ignore their young educated professionals and allow them to be unemployed or underemployed. In the US, unemployed grads are… well… nestling into their parents’ couches (if their parents are lucky enough to have couches). We have not seen economic exodus yet but maybe that’s because no one knows a foreign language or has a passport. Again, where is the outrage over continued high unemployment? Banks and businesses have money; they’re just not creating jobs with it.
In the coming weeks, the newly elected Republican-controlled US House of Representatives and Republican-controlled state legislatures will take office. Cut, cut, cut– while handing out tax breaks for corporations– will be their modus operandi– in other words, more trickle-down economics. Will the US populace continue to sit idly by, as our benefits are being auctioned off in exchange for corporate welfare? Only time will tell.