22 December 2010: Tax cut extension not good for the economy

Congress isn’t helping the economy

Last week the Denver Post reported on Census Bureau numbers that show poverty in Colorado neighborhoods doubling and even tripling.

“Neighborhoods with at least 20 percent of people in poverty,” writes Colleen O’Connor, “doubled from about one in 10 at the start of the decade to one in five by the end of the decade.”

Numbers show “one in five neighborhoods had at least 20 percent of its children living in poverty in 2000, which increased to an average of one in three neighborhoods between 2005 and 2009,” and “the number of neighborhoods with at least 30 percent of children living in poverty nearly tripled, to 206 in the second half of the decade from 74 at the start.”

For a backdrop to this, recall this came about during the decade of tax cuts implemented by former president George W. Bush.

This is also the time one percent of the population consumes 25 percent of the income pie and obese corporations that could end this economic madness today are sitting on two trillion dollars in board rooms. It’s enough to warm the cockles of Scrooge McDuck’s heart.

While researching the history of the deficit, unemployment, and poverty rates, I came across this gem from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities dated September 26, 2001:

“The economy grew for the ninth consecutive year in 2000, with the unemployment rate falling to 4.0 percent, its lowest level in more than three decades.”

Census Bureau data on poverty and income “show the overall poverty rate dropping to its lowest level since 1979 and tying for the lowest level on record.”

The CBPP then adds this caveat: “Unfortunately, the year 2000 is likely to represent a high-water mark for the economy.”

Its crystal ball was only meant for 2001 numbers, but Oracle of Delphi could not have been more prescient if the CBPP had looked 10 years into the future.

For Thoreau’s mass of men living lives of quiet desperation, the unrelenting un-/under-employment rate is devastating. For Corporate America however, it’s good for business given the law of supply and demand not applying only to goods and services, but also able to work its magic on the work force. The higher percentage rate obviously means a greater number of candidates in the pool from which to choose. From herein, only A players need apply—B’s and certainly C’s, well, good luck.

If you’re among the economic elite, you will have a happy holiday season; if not, it will suck once again, but get used to it. We’re 13 trillion in debt, mostly to Wall St. but also to China, Saudi Arabia, and other nefarious countries. The latest tax bill brokered by President Obama and congressional Republicans only digs that hole deeper. But, hey, the uber-rich got a two-year extension of their unneeded cut and out-of-work Americans were tossed a bone with a 13-month unemployment benefit extended.

All the talk about reducing the deficit is nothing more than hot air and a ruse to go after another portion of the American economic pie: Social Security and Medicare. Keep in mind that when former President Bill Clinton left office, the budget was in the black, with the salutary effect of reducing the deficit.

Two unfunded wars, a massive tax cut, corporate bailouts, and stimulus packages later, including this latest $900 billion porker, we find ourselves in a world of hurt, which promises only to hurt more. Nero fiddles, Rome burns, and instead of fire brigades, we get more of the same: wealthy fat cats clicking their heels and out-of-work Americans appreciative of scraps they’re tossed.

Until rank-and-file Americans understand that Wall St. and its political arm, the Republican Party, are not on their side, the prognosis is not good. Obama called Senate Republicans “hostage takers” and then made nice with them. Some argue he got hosed in the process, but in reality it is we, the American people, who have been hosed.

His defenders like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews argue he had no choice, that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2011 would pass an even-worse bill. But Senate Republicans re-wrote the manual on how to control the agenda through the filibuster.

If 41 Republicans can halt the public’s business and get rewarded, surely 52 Democrats could muster 40 with spines. And then there is a little provision in Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution that provides for a presidential veto, which takes a two-thirds majority in both houses to override. That would require mustering only 34 spine-stiffened Senate Democrats.

That would be less formidable odds Abraham faced in finding righteous men in Sodom. You’d think there would be at least that to stand with Sen. Mark Udall. But then, you’d be wrong.

May all your days be merry and bright.

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