Once again, the Republican
candidate for president has expressed his contempt for a large percentage of the
American people, by claiming that they are “dependent” on government for their
very lives and, therefore, will automatically vote for President Obama.
The real wealth of the nation is in its people.
Comments by the GOP
standard bearer, Mitt Romney, were caught on tape in Florida last spring and released last week
by Mother Jones magazine. In a matter
of hours, the comments were seen by tens of millions and caused Romney to call
a press conference to explain himself.
What he had said at a
private fund-raising dinner was that 47 percent of Americans pay no federal
income tax and that they are Obama’s supporters. USA Today his explanatory statement: “The president believes in
what I’ve described as a government-centered society, where government plays a
larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of the
individuals,” Romney said in Orange County, Calif. “I happen to believe instead
in a free enterprise, free individual society where people pursuing their
dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy
in the world.”
By now, it is clear to
virtually everyone that Romney doesn’t have a clue about what real Americans’
lives are like. He certainly doesn’t know what it is like to try to stretch a
$15,000 annual income and keep a family from starvation. And, he never will. In
fact, living on low wages or a low fixed income is one of those weekly miracles
that happen and the plight of those millions of families goes unnoticed. Out of
sight, out of mind and Romney wants to keep it that way.
The rich are going to be swimming in the same pool as the rest of the country if the whole thing collapses
The GOP, as expressed by
Romney in constant campaign rhetoric, wants to reduce the government, so that
it never will be able to provide for that 47 percent of the electorate, which
likely would never vote Republican. Only the irrational would vote for a party,
the main philosophy of which is to cut taxes for the rich and corporations and
cut social programs and most functions of government, except for the military
and defense. But, books have been written, speculating on why average
Americans, who are only one or two paychecks away from needing government
assistance, continue to support the GOP platform and its philosophy. They’re
out there and they do, indeed, vote Republican.
Democrats are on the horns
of a dilemma. They have been subject to the same propaganda from the right wing
think tanks and Corporate America for decades and have weakly fought the GOP’s
efforts to diminish every function of government at every level. At the same
time, they have presided from time to time over a country headed in the same
direction, no matter which major party is in charge. The difference is that
they don’t sing the same no-taxes-no-social-programs song that the Republicans
For that alone, they have
a leg up on the coming election, but this does not leave them in the clear, by
any means. Many of their policies on the important issues of our time are much
the same as those of the Republicans. These issues include, but are not limited
to: global trade, the continuing growth of militarism, the magical vanishing
manufacturing base (except for those things that are made by robots), the lack
of sustainable and low-cost housing, the food system that is damaging the
people’s health, the lack of an affordable universal health system, the
staggering cost to students of higher education, endless war, diminishing civil
rights, and the continuing assault on virtually every vital aspect of the
environment. Other than that, Obama is doing better than the party of Romney.
Many of their policies on the important issues of our time are much the same as those of the Republicans.
Back in the 1980s and 90s,
over-the-road big trucks had painted on them something like, “This truck pays
$4,467 in road use taxes every year.” That was supposed to show everyone
driving a car or pick-up that the truck bearing the sign and weighing some
80,000 pounds was paying more than its fair share to use the roads. A quick
check of the “road use” taxes that a car or pick-up truck paid at the time
showed that, pound for pound, the car paid about four times what those trucks
paid in road use taxes and they didn’t crumble the roads to dust.
So it is with the
Republicans and their insistence that the behemoths (wealthy) pay all the
taxes, and that there are so many poor and low-wage Americans who pay no income
taxes. (We’ll leave aside for a moment that there are giant transnational
corporations that pay no taxes and lots of rich folks who pay no taxes, but
that’s a subject for another discussion.) The fact is that the poor and
low-income wage earners pay plenty of taxes: sales taxes, payroll taxes,
gasoline taxes, excise taxes, and endlessly increasing fees for everything from
driver’s licenses, to fishing licenses. Low-income Americans pay a much greater
percentage of their income than the wealthy or even the middle-income earners.
Somehow, this fact of life
has escaped Mitt Romney and people like him, George W. Bush and virtually his
entire administration, for example. These are people who are so alienated from
the lives of most Americans that they don’t know that the country’s emergency
rooms are not universal health care and they are not free.
Thinkprogress.org recently noted: “For example, if you look
at state and local taxes, the working poor actually pay a higher percentage of
their income in these taxes (all of the other taxes and fees) in every state
except for Vermont.
for example, low-income families (which make less than $13,000) pay 11 percent
of their income in state and local taxes, while those making more than $229,000
pay just 4 percent.”
And, Wealth for the Common
Good also noted recently that the top 400 taxpayers (those who have more wealth
than half of all Americans) pay lower taxes today than they have in
about two decades. Their tax responsibilities have declined sharply in 70 years
and, during that time, wage-working men and women have been asked to pay more.
There was a time when lawmakers discerned a difference between those who could
afford to pay taxes and those who were not able to pay taxes and occasionally,
they adjusted the tax code to lighten the burden on the poor. This is not one
of those times.
Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan,
and most of the Republicans and many Democrats seem to have forgotten that the
Democrats once stood for the New Deal (putting people back to work and giving them
the means to maintain their living standards, through union organizing), the
War on Poverty, and the Great Society.
Instead, at this time, in
the midst of a presidential election campaign, the word poverty is barely
mentioned. And, if the word “poor” is used, it is to call them lazy, parasites,
and a drag on the economy and the national budget. There is no apparent plan
from either party to deal with the severe problem of poverty in the U.S.
Certainly, there is no plan for the two parties to come up with a plan, and
that’s what it takes to solve the problems of a nation that owes its soul to
the company store, that is China,
and several other countries.
Romney doesn’t have a clue about what real Americans’ lives are like.
The right wing (in
politics and Corporate America) in this country would do well to hold its
tongue when criticizing any of those creditors, because it is people who look
and act just like them who have removed the manufacturing base from the country
to seek ever lower wages and lower “labor costs.” They are the ones, along with
the people they employ in the Congress, who have caused the economic problems,
with their constant push for lower taxes for the rich and corporations and the
push for rewards for taking their plants out of the country. They have received
all of that.
As we have seen, the
working class and the middle class, however it is defined, are the ones who pay
(remember, they somehow have morphed from citizens into consumers). When they
lose their jobs, there’s no one left to pay. How hard is that for the
politicians to understand? We’ve had a steady decline of jobs for decades, we
have people in mid-life living off their retirement savings, and we have
college graduates who might be able to pay off their student loans by the time
they are 50 years old.
Like or not, the rich are
going to be swimming in the same pool as the rest of the country if the whole
thing collapses. Then, they will be seeking out people who have real skills for
living, to show them how to do it. Generally, the rich are engaged in
enterprises that produce nothing but money and we are beginning to realize that
this money is worth about as much as the paper used for printing it.
The real wealth of the
nation is in its people. When they are healthy, the nation is healthy. When the
people are weakened or sick, the nation is sick. Poverty weakens and sickens a
nation and the disparity in wealth in the U.S., at a level not seen in 80
years, has weakened the nation. No one in government at any level seems to be
willing to proclaim the danger out loud and, so, the problem is not addressed
and the nation is in deep trouble.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John
Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who
lives in the Mohawk Valley of New
York State. In addition to labor work, he works
with family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous
pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click
here to contact Mr. Funiciello.