Morning Report 10/17/05
GOP Gets Bolder. Prepare to Be Crushed

The monumental disaster of the GOP's new drive for budget cuts — you'll think you were wearing Kashmir

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Harkavy

Rocky horror picture show: Above, Rove, DeLay, Abramoff, and Cheney look down on their cloddish front man, and on us all. (See the end of this item for the original photo of Bush at Mount Rushmore.) Below, a helpless person in Muzzafarabad, Pakistan, is at the bottom of this classic pancake collapse of three floors of a hotel. Disease and more death are being heaped atop this crushing Asian tragedy.

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Edward Parsons/© IRIN

All you Americans out there who love the feel of cashmere: Enjoy it while you can still afford it, because pretty soon you'll feel like a hapless Pakistani wearing a different kind of Kashmir.

I don't give a shit if you don't want to plow through documents or even sit still long enough to absorb financial information. Here's the situation:

You've hired Tom DeLay as your financial planner, like it or not. And as the Washington Post reports this morning, in a frightening but far from complete account, DeLay and his henchmen are about to loot you as if you were some Native American tribe.

Among your other monumental blunders is not taking a pickaxe to pols like Dick Cheney, who enriches himself and his pals at your expense, and Karl Rove, who has a history of peddling judgeships.

They're always getting over on you and your wallet. And if you don't start getting some outside financial advice concerning the GOP's renewed effort to cut the budget, your grandparents will curse you now, and your grandchildren will curse you a few decades from now.

A mountain is about to fall on you — figuratively, of course, but who can predict? This disaster is manmade, specifically by the men of the GOP, primarily DeLay, who's about to bilk you again, but legally this time.

As the Post's Jonathan Weisman writes today:

    House Republican leaders have moved from balking at big cuts in Medicaid and other programs to embracing them, driven by pent-up anger from fiscal conservatives concerned about runaway spending and the leadership's own weakening hold on power.

    Beginning this week, the House GOP lawmakers will take steps to cut as much as $50 billion from the fiscal 2006 budget for health care for the poor, food stamps and farm supports, as well as considering across-the-board cuts in other programs. Only last month, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and other GOP leaders quashed demands within their party for budget cuts to pay for the soaring cost of hurricane relief.

Weisman does a good job portraying just how the GOP leadership regained its heartlessness. But you have to turn to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) for the real impact — mainly, the outrage that the GOP plan, which the radical-right congressmen plan to pursue with renewed vigor, calls for even more tax cuts for the wealthy.

So for just a minute, set aside Harriet Miers and Judy Miller and Plamegate and Wampumgate. The GOP leadership, still operating under the direct leadership of DeLay — he's indicted, for Christ's sake — is renewing its pre-hurricane push for Draconian cuts.

You literally can't afford to let this shitload of bad news fly under your radar. You can't let this bolder GOP drop this boulder on you.

It's an outrage. The post-hurricane package proposed by the GOP was bad, as the CBPP's James Horney and Robert Greenstein noted on October 5:

    On September 21, the Republican Study Committee of the House of Representatives, a group of that chamber’s most conservative Republican members, released a large package of program cuts that it proposes be used to offset the cost of relief and recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

    The recognition that deficits are a problem is welcome, and some of the cuts proposed by the RSC should be considered as part of any deficit reduction plan. Yet the package as a whole is highly unbalanced.

    It calls for deep cuts in basic programs for the poorest and most vulnerable Americans.

    It also would hit the middle class substantially, raising the costs of health care sharply for elderly Medicare beneficiaries with modest incomes and increasing the costs of school lunches for middle-income families.

    Yet it calls for virtually no sacrifice from the most well-off Americans, who have benefited heavily and disproportionately from the tax cuts enacted over the last four years.

    In fact, it leaves in place generous new tax cuts — predominantly for millionaires — that are slated to start taking effect on January 1, 2006, even as the package cuts deeply into programs for poor families and for elderly people getting by on modest incomes.

Let's not even talk about poor people or black people. It's clear that they're marginalized by our increasingly undemocratic process and that they will suffer the most.

But the rest of you are playing a sucker's game by letting this House play with your money. More from the CBPP:

    The package includes substantial cuts in programs upon which millions of middle-class Americans rely. It proposes to delay implementation of the Medicare prescription drug program for one year (a proposal immediately disavowed by the Republican leadership in the House).

But now, as Weisman points out this morning, that disavowal has now itself been disavowed, and it's full steam ahead. Rolling over your head, that is. The CBPP continued:

    It also would substantially increase Medicare premiums and raise deductibles and co-payments in Medicare. For most Medicare beneficiaries, these changes would raise out-of-pocket costs by an average of about $1,700 per couple in 2006 and by larger amounts in subsequent years. The package also would terminate support for school lunches provided to middle-income families, requiring such families to pay more for their children’s school meals.

Well, what about natural and unnatural disasters? Here's what:

    The package would even cut $6.8 billion over ten years in grants that help local governments improve their “first responders” capabilities and be better prepared in cases of emergency, and would cut $25 billion over ten years in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which helps protect the country from epidemics of infectious disease, biological and chemical terrorism, and environmental hazards.

    Grants to help state and local governments promote energy conservation and meet water quality standards would be slashed as well.

Finally, do you really want to see even more pledge drives on public TV? As the CBPP noted:

    Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities would all be eliminated.

And now for the bad news:

    In contrast to these large cuts aimed at people at the bottom and middle of the income spectrum, the RSC package proposes no scaling back of the large tax cuts enacted since 2001 that have been of greatest benefit to the nation’s wealthiest individuals, and no action to close abusive tax shelters.

    The Urban Institute–Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center has reported that the tax cuts enacted in this decade are reducing the taxes of people who earn more than $1 million a year (the top 0.2 percent of taxpayers) by an average of $103,000 this year.

    In addition, the RSC does not suggest deferring or shelving two tax-cut measures enacted in 2001 that are not yet in effect, will start taking effect on January 1, 2006, and will benefit only people at high income levels.

    The Tax Policy Center reports that 97 percent of the tax-cut benefits from these two new tax cuts will go to people with incomes that exceed $200,000 a year, and that a majority of these tax cuts will go to people who make over $1 million a year.

    For people making over $1 million, the two new tax cuts will cut taxes an additional $19,000 a year, on average, when fully phased in. This will be on top of the $103,000 in average annual tax cuts these individuals are already receiving.

In case you still don't understand this crisis, here's how the CBPP summarized:

    In other words, under the RSC package, lower- and middle-income Americans would face substantial reductions in basic services and large increases in out-of-pocket costs, even as the already-hefty tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans were allowed to grow still more generous.

I told you you'd feel crushed. But that's not what Bush's handlers wanted you to feel back on August 15, 2002, when he stopped off at Mount Rushmore for a campaign speech. This is part of what he said, according to the White House transcript, which dutifully notes the reaction of the crowd of suckers:

    In order to help our economic recovery, we need to make the tax relief package we passed out of the Congress permanent. (Applause.)

    Those tax reliefs came right at the right time. See, when you're in the middle of a recession, it's important to let people keep their own money. (Applause.)

    It's also to important to remember when we're spending money, it's not the government's money we're spending, it's the people's money, it's your money. (Applause.)

That last sentence is true. Why people applauded this monumental idiot, I can't tell you. Maybe it was the setting. See photo below.

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White House


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