cartoon by David Horsey, LA Times
Article by John Funiciello published in Issue 487 of Blackcommentator.com
Once again, the Republican candidate for president has expressed his contempt for a large percentage of the American people, by claiming that they are “dependent” on government for their very lives and, therefore, will automatically vote for President Obama.
The real wealth of the nation is in its people.
Comments by the GOP standard bearer, Mitt Romney, were caught on tape in Florida last spring and released last week by Mother Jones magazine. In a matter of hours, the comments were seen by tens of millions and caused Romney to call a press conference to explain himself.
What he had said at a private fund-raising dinner was that 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax and that they are Obama’s supporters. USA Today his explanatory statement: “The president believes in what I’ve described as a government-centered society, where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of the individuals,” Romney said in Orange County, Calif. “I happen to believe instead in a free enterprise, free individual society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world.”
By now, it is clear to virtually everyone that Romney doesn’t have a clue about what real Americans’ lives are like. He certainly doesn’t know what it is like to try to stretch a $15,000 annual income and keep a family from starvation. And, he never will. In fact, living on low wages or a low fixed income is one of those weekly miracles that happen and the plight of those millions of families goes unnoticed. Out of sight, out of mind and Romney wants to keep it that way.
The rich are going to be swimming in the same pool as the rest of the country if the whole thing collapses
The GOP, as expressed by Romney in constant campaign rhetoric, wants to reduce the government, so that it never will be able to provide for that 47 percent of the electorate, which likely would never vote Republican. Only the irrational would vote for a party, the main philosophy of which is to cut taxes for the rich and corporations and cut social programs and most functions of government, except for the military and defense. But, books have been written, speculating on why average Americans, who are only one or two paychecks away from needing government assistance, continue to support the GOP platform and its philosophy. They’re out there and they do, indeed, vote Republican.
Democrats are on the horns of a dilemma. They have been subject to the same propaganda from the right wing think tanks and Corporate America for decades and have weakly fought the GOP’s efforts to diminish every function of government at every level. At the same time, they have presided from time to time over a country headed in the same direction, no matter which major party is in charge. The difference is that they don’t sing the same no-taxes-no-social-programs song that the Republicans sing.
For that alone, they have a leg up on the coming election, but this does not leave them in the clear, by any means. Many of their policies on the important issues of our time are much the same as those of the Republicans. These issues include, but are not limited to: global trade, the continuing growth of militarism, the magical vanishing manufacturing base (except for those things that are made by robots), the lack of sustainable and low-cost housing, the food system that is damaging the people’s health, the lack of an affordable universal health system, the staggering cost to students of higher education, endless war, diminishing civil rights, and the continuing assault on virtually every vital aspect of the environment. Other than that, Obama is doing better than the party of Romney.
Many of their policies on the important issues of our time are much the same as those of the Republicans.
Back in the 1980s and 90s, over-the-road big trucks had painted on them something like, “This truck pays $4,467 in road use taxes every year.” That was supposed to show everyone driving a car or pick-up that the truck bearing the sign and weighing some 80,000 pounds was paying more than its fair share to use the roads. A quick check of the “road use” taxes that a car or pick-up truck paid at the time showed that, pound for pound, the car paid about four times what those trucks paid in road use taxes and they didn’t crumble the roads to dust.
So it is with the Republicans and their insistence that the behemoths (wealthy) pay all the taxes, and that there are so many poor and low-wage Americans who pay no income taxes. (We’ll leave aside for a moment that there are giant transnational corporations that pay no taxes and lots of rich folks who pay no taxes, but that’s a subject for another discussion.) The fact is that the poor and low-income wage earners pay plenty of taxes: sales taxes, payroll taxes, gasoline taxes, excise taxes, and endlessly increasing fees for everything from driver’s licenses, to fishing licenses. Low-income Americans pay a much greater percentage of their income than the wealthy or even the middle-income earners.
Somehow, this fact of life has escaped Mitt Romney and people like him, George W. Bush and virtually his entire administration, for example. These are people who are so alienated from the lives of most Americans that they don’t know that the country’s emergency rooms are not universal health care and they are not free.
Thinkprogress.org recently noted: “For example, if you look at state and local taxes, the working poor actually pay a higher percentage of their income in these taxes (all of the other taxes and fees) in every state except for Vermont. (In) Alabama, for example, low-income families (which make less than $13,000) pay 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those making more than $229,000 pay just 4 percent.”
And, Wealth for the Common Good also noted recently that the top 400 taxpayers (those who have more wealth than half of all Americans) pay lower taxes today than they have in about two decades. Their tax responsibilities have declined sharply in 70 years and, during that time, wage-working men and women have been asked to pay more. There was a time when lawmakers discerned a difference between those who could afford to pay taxes and those who were not able to pay taxes and occasionally, they adjusted the tax code to lighten the burden on the poor. This is not one of those times.
Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and most of the Republicans and many Democrats seem to have forgotten that the Democrats once stood for the New Deal (putting people back to work and giving them the means to maintain their living standards, through union organizing), the War on Poverty, and the Great Society.
Instead, at this time, in the midst of a presidential election campaign, the word poverty is barely mentioned. And, if the word “poor” is used, it is to call them lazy, parasites, and a drag on the economy and the national budget. There is no apparent plan from either party to deal with the severe problem of poverty in the U.S. Certainly, there is no plan for the two parties to come up with a plan, and that’s what it takes to solve the problems of a nation that owes its soul to the company store, that is China, Europe, Japan, and several other countries.
Romney doesn’t have a clue about what real Americans’ lives are like.
The right wing (in politics and Corporate America) in this country would do well to hold its tongue when criticizing any of those creditors, because it is people who look and act just like them who have removed the manufacturing base from the country to seek ever lower wages and lower “labor costs.” They are the ones, along with the people they employ in the Congress, who have caused the economic problems, with their constant push for lower taxes for the rich and corporations and the push for rewards for taking their plants out of the country. They have received all of that.
As we have seen, the working class and the middle class, however it is defined, are the ones who pay (remember, they somehow have morphed from citizens into consumers). When they lose their jobs, there’s no one left to pay. How hard is that for the politicians to understand? We’ve had a steady decline of jobs for decades, we have people in mid-life living off their retirement savings, and we have college graduates who might be able to pay off their student loans by the time they are 50 years old.
Like or not, the rich are going to be swimming in the same pool as the rest of the country if the whole thing collapses. Then, they will be seeking out people who have real skills for living, to show them how to do it. Generally, the rich are engaged in enterprises that produce nothing but money and we are beginning to realize that this money is worth about as much as the paper used for printing it.
The real wealth of the nation is in its people. When they are healthy, the nation is healthy. When the people are weakened or sick, the nation is sick. Poverty weakens and sickens a nation and the disparity in wealth in the U.S., at a level not seen in 80 years, has weakened the nation. No one in government at any level seems to be willing to proclaim the danger out loud and, so, the problem is not addressed and the nation is in deep trouble.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist,John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he works with family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. To contact Mr. Funiciello, please go to BlackCommentator.com.