Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let's starve some children! On budget cuts at the edge of the fiscal cliff, cruelty to children, and the growth of the super-rich fat cats.

New York's State Senator Liz Kreuger occasionally sends a letter to her constituents that hits bulls eyes and hits them hard.

Her latest letter is one of those. I wish she had also mentioned Medicare and Social Security, but her explanation about what other potential federal budget cuts will mean provides a pretty solid rationale why Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and, yes, John Boehner, ought to be given a good hard whack across their fannies and sent to bed without any dinner – if not sent to reform school.

The news reports say from time to time that Boehner is negotiating with the president, but I put no faith in the negotiating integrity of a guy who, if Walt Disney had cast him as one of the seven dwarfs, would have to be named "Weepy." Most of the rest of them could take turns playing "Sleepy" and "Grumpy."

Anyway, Senator Kreuger didn't request this, but I herewith reproduce part of a recent letter from her to voters in her state senatorial district:

Once again, basic social safety net programs are at risk in federal budget negotiations. The outcome of the current battles over the so-called “fiscal cliff” will go a long way toward determining if the United States will become even more divided between the haves and have-nots. 
President Obama has been adamant that the long-term solution to our fiscal problems must include increased taxes on the wealthy. The reason why this is correct is simple – any other strategy for reducing the federal budget deficit will fall disproportionately on those who can least afford it. Vital programs including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Unemployment Insurance, education, housing, and disaster relief programs would all have to face draconian cuts, with devastating effects for those who rely on these programs and for the economy as a whole.
One program at great risk in the current negotiations is SNAP(previously known as food stamps). The House farm bill cuts SNAP by $16 billion over 10 years, which would result in the loss of benefits to 1.8 million people each year, and would result in 280,000 children losing access to free school meals. The Senate bill, though less draconian, still proposes cuts of $4.5 billion over 10 years. 
SNAP is the foundation of our safety net. It lifted 3.9 million Americans out of poverty in 2010, including 1.7 million children and 280,000 seniors. It is also an incredibly effective economic stimulus program – much more effective than tax cuts for the wealthy, because people spend their SNAP benefits immediately, in their local neighborhood food stores creating jobs. Moody’s Analytics and the US Department of Agriculture estimate that the economic impact of each $1 in SNAP benefits ranges from $1.73 to $1.79. 
The last election was about a lot of things, but it is undeniable that both candidates made clear their fundamental disagreement on whether to allow the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans to expire. Both candidates made their arguments, and I am happy that in this election at least, a majority of voters supported President Obama, who made the case for higher tax rates for the wealthy because he believes, as I do, that we need to rebuild a strong and secure middle class, while not reversing the trend of growing poverty for our youngest and oldest. 
This is the right policy because it will enable the federal government to preserve vital programs, such as SNAP, that help lift Americans out of poverty. Perhaps more importantly, it is the right policy because allowing the yawning gap of economic inequality in our society to grow further is fundamentally unjust and will cripple the political and economic system on which our society is based. 
Economic inequality is a growing problem for both our country and for New York State. A recent study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found the ratio of wealth held by the top 20 percent of Americans increased from 7.2 to 8.0 when the years 1998-2000 are compared to 2008-2010. New York has consistently had above average levels of inequality, which have only gotten worse in recent years. In 1998-2000, the ratio in New York of the top 25 percent’s average income to the bottom 25 percent’s average income was 8.7. By 2008-10 that ratio had risen to 9.2. 
For the extremely wealthy, the ratios are even more extreme. The average income of the top 5 percent of households was 13.3 times the average income of the bottom 20 percent of households. The states with the largest such gaps were Arizona, New Mexico, California, Georgia, and New York, where the ratio exceeded 15.0. The full report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities is available at 
We must ensure that fears about the fiscal cliff do not result in decisions that only worsen these trends of growing inequality and further undermine the stability of our democracy. Fortunately, our U.S. Senators and Representatives have been strong advocates for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. I have written to our U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand urging them to stand strong and demand that any final deal protect vital programs and raise revenue through our country’s historically more progressive tax structure.

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Crank, both Boehner and McConnell are nothing more than criminals doing the bidding of corporations and banks. I doubt seriously that any "fiscal cliff" deal will be made. Let those damn Bush tax cuts expire. Why do the most helpless in our society have to endure more misery? Why is it always so acceptable to take from children? What a disgrace! I don't get how we can spend billions in other countries, but when it comes to the poor in our own backyard, there's no money. It's a damn lie. Now I'm cranky.