Oh my, what a mess. At least we have to give Paul Ryan credit for honesty. The plan he put forward was actually the most generous version of what they actually wanted. Benefits for those that can afford them and little or nothing for those who can’t. This, to them, is the American way; real freedom rewards those who work hard and punishes those who don’t. While this perspective is attractive and seemingly rational in a perfect world I think it overlooks a couple of fundamental truths.
The first is that in any economic system somebody must occupy the lower end of the income scale. There will always be poor folks, relative to those at the other end of that scale. To imply that these people are undeserving of respect simply because they occupy that position is insulting and leads me to believe those politicians who make these claims don’t really know any poor people; people who struggle every day to hold it all together with some dignity.
In a more equitable culture the ratio or spread between those at one end of the economic curve to those at the other is fairly low. This is what happened during the 1950’s and 60’s. There was great economic activity and fortunes were made but the top tax rates for the upper incomes were in the 90% range. We built an interstate highway system, good quality community hospitals, respect for working people with good jobs to work at and poured enough money into research that we were able to go to the moon and reach out to the planets. We no longer do that.
One of the by-products of low taxation and trickle-down economics is the accumulation of enormous amounts of money into fewer and fewer hands. A large part of the economic difficulties this nation is currently experiencing goes to this enormous pot of money not circulating. The skim by the elites has become so extreme that there simply isn’t enough to blood in the system to keep the veins inflated. It is instructive to note that George Washington died as a result of excessive bloodletting.
The other point was expressed most clearly by a north Georgia woman who said that “with all the money the government gives to those already rich they could at least give us health care”. It would be hard to deny that the government doles out dollars at a prodigious rate. Whether it is building schools in Afghanistan, giving billions to Israel or bailouts to banks, there’s a lot of taxpayer money going out to folks that already have a lot of money. What the folks are saying is that they can live with the corruption and the double-dealing if they get to enjoy some of the benefits too. What the folks are saying is don’t give billions to billionaires and then cry poor mouth when our turn comes.
That being said, it is also important to recognize the context within which the ACA, “Obamacare”, was passed. The economy was teetering on the brink of catastrophe at the end of George’s turn in the White House, employment was in the tank and the federal government had just obligated itself to what would turn out to be trillions in bailouts to banks, foreign and domestic, corporations and just about anyone else who was connected. As the story unfolded it became clear that the event which had nearly caused our country to collapse was brought about by the unbridled greed of those at the top.
During the Savings and loan scandals of the ’80’s and ’90’s bankers went to jail, laws were changed, new rules written and careers ruined. If the bankers hoped to avoid that this time around they needed some sort of smokescreen to divert attention from their misdeeds.
One of the new President’s first pieces of legislation was the ACA and for the next eight years we have argued about little else. The bankers and the war profiteers have not been brought to heel and so they have continued to play their doomsday games with all of our lives in the balance. Had they been made to account for their crimes we could afford Medicare for all.
If we get our priorities right, start promoting peace instead of war, cooperation instead of discord, use of the law instead of the rule of force, we would find trillions of dollars available for the rebuilding of our nation, our cities and our communities