Now that the new fiscally
responsible Congress has addressed
the crucial issue of extending tax cuts for the wealthy, it’s time to get down
to the real business of further impoverishing America’s middle class (motto:
“Didn’t we used to be in the middle?”).
Our national economy continues to perform with
the same mix of hope and
futility as Hugh Hefner on his wedding night. The latest blow to our flaccid
economy: a projected 1.5 trillion dollar budget deficit for 2011, nearly a third earmarked to pay for the Bush Tax Cuts.
(Expect a déjà vu moment sometime in the near future when Michelle Bachman has
a hard time looking you squarely in the eye while calling this Obama’s
While we could easily offset those costs with
the sale of bumper
stickers to Republicans proclaiming, “You Can Have Your Tax Cuts Back When You
Pry Them From My Cold Dead Fingers,” the new Congress has other ideas: on
the table are
Social Security, Medicare, education, social programs, municipal jobs, health
care, the home mortgage deduction, and feeding poor people to
underground-dwelling Morlocks so they’ll leave us in peace. (One of these may
not be true, and don’t assume it’s the obvious one.)
other words: nothing that would cause our wealthiest citizens to spill their
sherry or drop a monocle. Because to ask the nation's top earners to help trim
the deficit—by, say, resuming a tax rate that was temporary anyway and under
enjoyed unequalled prosperity—would be “punishing success.” And it’s a lot
easier to punish those who have enjoyed absolutely no
success over the lost decade of the Bush presidency and its
aftermath, the working middle class.
But help is on the way from President Obama in the form of…
um, looser regulations for business. In his State of the Union address before a
united Congress forced to hold hands, Obama distinguished himself as only the
second president to avoid using the words “poverty” and “poor” in an SOTU address since
1948, while pledging to remove “rules
that put an unnecessary burden on businesses,” and
to “knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.” He
sure talks funny for a Socialist!
There’s just one problem: the only visible barrier standing
in the way of business seems to be a giant pile of cash. After growing profits
for two years at some of the fastest rates in history, American business had
its best earnings ever in the third
quarter of 2010: more than
$1.67 trillion. Yet even with enough stockpiled wealth to dive into
and swim around like Scrooge McDuck, businesses
refused to hire and unemployment remained at roughly
9-1/2% through the run-up, even approaching 10% in November before falling
in December, when we needed more part-time Santas.
A reasonable man could argue that America’s business
interests have already been given their greatest incentive—record profits—and
wonder why, larded with wealth as they are, they still aren’t hiring? Because
they do the same thing with an unexpected windfall that the
rich do with a tax cut: hoard it. Which is why a future episode of
A&E’s “Hoarders” may take us inside a millionaire’s home to see all the
money he’s not spending, squirreled
away in custom mattresses, bedazzled
coffee cans and the mummified remains of the family patriarch whose death went
unreported to avoid paying estate taxes.
Simply put, if you give a fat kid more cookies, he’s just
going to eat the cookies, not share them with the skinny, hungry kid. Unless
he’s told to, but that would be Socialism.
So with corporate
America and its wealthiest citizens taken care of, the responsibility to save the nation falls--as it always has--on the over-burdened
shoulders of the working middle class. Because if they haven't been smart enough to fund a hedge or leverage a buyout or bundle
a toxic asset here in the land of opportunity, they deserve what's coming to them. Even if that means ending up Morlock food.