The average American citizen – disgusted with tax breaks for billionaires, Wall Street greed, a never-ending recession, attacks on Social Security, two wars and minimal efforts against global warming – will not see their views translated into legislation without the support of progressive members of Congress. We have got to work together. Let’s do it!
In the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing. Meanwhile, the people at the top are doing phenomenally well. The crooks on Wall Street whose greed precipitated this recession are now earning more money than before the American people bailed them out. The top one percent in our country now earn over 23 percent of all income, more than the bottom 50 percent. The U.S. today has by far the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider. While “official” unemployment is at 9.8 percent, real unemployment is over 16 percent – being especially high for blue collar workers. Despite all of this the Republicans, whose campaigns are funded by some of the richest people and largest corporations in the country, want more tax breaks for the wealthy, more government deregulation, more unfettered free trade, more anti-union legislation and no more funding for unemployment benefits.
President Bush converted the large budget surplus which President Clinton bequeathed to him into record-breaking deficits because of Bush’s huge tax breaks for the rich, two wars, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program and the Wall Street bailout – all unpaid for. Now, with the Republicans having successfully won more tax breaks for the rich under President Obama and thus massively driving up the national debt, those same Republicans are hell-bent on moving toward “deficit reduction” by slashing many programs desperately needed by working Americans. They are proposing savage cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, affordable housing, education and childcare, veterans’ needs, infrastructure and environmental protection – among many other areas. In their eyes, tax breaks for billionaires are good. Affordable housing and educational opportunities for working families are bad.
Under the guise of fighting for deficit reduction, the Republicans will unleash an unprecedented attack against Social Security. They will attempt to slash benefits, raise the retirement age and move toward the eventual privatization of a program which has, for 75 years, successfully lifted many tens of millions of elderly Americans, people with disabilities and widows and orphans out of poverty. Make no mistake about it: the attempt to destroy Social Security has nothing to do with deficit reduction. Social Security today has a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus, can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 27 years and has not contributed one nickel to the deficit. This is an ideological struggle on the part of Republicans in Congress and their billionaire backers to undo the most significant government social program in the history of the United States. They want Wall Street to provide retirement benefits, not Social Security – not because this is a better plan for seniors, but because it ensures massive profits for Wall Street.
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY
Most of us share the view of the vast majority of scientists who, having examined all existing evidence, have concluded that global climate change is real and is almost certainly caused by man-made activities. Our goal must be to cut greenhouse gas emissions and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. In the process of moving our country to energy independence we can, over a period of years, create millions of good paying jobs. Almost all Republicans in Congress disagree. Supported by the coal and oil companies, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh believe that global climate change is a “hoax,” and that our energy system should continue to be largely reliant on fossil fuels. The newly empowered Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and, in a variety of ways, give support to the oil and coal companies. This is no small issue. The future of the planet, in terms of extreme weather disturbances, flooding, drought, disease and large-scale human migration, may be at stake. We must vigorously fight for environmental sanity and for energy policies that move us away from fossil fuels.