Class war in the new Gilded Age | Pakistan Today

Class war in the new Gilded Age

2012 was the first class-warfare election of our new Gilded Age. The first since the middle class has come to understand, in the words of new Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), that the “rules are rigged against it.” Business-as-usual may no longer be acceptable.
But Washington didn’t get the memo. Even as ballots were still being counted in Palm Beach, Florida, the two parties lurched into the fierce debate over the fiscal cliff, the noxious brew of automatic spending cuts and expiring tax cuts that would poison the recovery. The debate, a dismal sequel to the 2011 debt ceiling melodrama, focuses on deficits not jobs. Once more, Republicans are threatening to blow up the recovery unless Democrats make otherwise unacceptable concessions. Once more, President Barack Obama looks for a “grand bargain,” seeking bipartisan support for terms divorced from opinion outside the beltway. Once more, what Scott Galupo at The American Conservative called the “clown show” of the House Republican caucus blows itself up.
Republicans are the most clueless about this new reality. The election’s one clear mandate, confirmed in polls ever since, was for Obama’s oft-repeated pledge to let the Bush tax cuts expire on those earning more than $250,000. Yet, House Republicans stood staunch in defense of the very rich – refusing to pass their own speaker’s bill to extend the tax breaks on everyone except millionaires.
This came after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spent weeks insisting that Republicans would allow the Bush tax breaks to expire on the richest Americans only if the president agrees to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the core pillars of family security.
When the president came perilously close to giving him yes for an answer, Boehner broke off talks to get House Republicans to vote on his “Plan B” extension of all tax cuts for income under $1 million a year. But, with near Keystone Cop incompetence, House Republicans then blew up their own speaker’s plan. They recoiled at the horror of raising taxes on millionaires – though they could also eliminate the automatic spending cuts for the Pentagon, while doubling them on education, food safety and other domestic programs. Stunned, Boehner sent Congress home for Christmas, telling the media “God only knows” what will happen next.
Obama’s popularity has soared as Republicans have flailed about.
Yet Obama continues to seek a “grand bargain.” His last offer to Boehner would cut Social Security, veterans’ benefits and other government benefits over time with the lower inflation rate adjustment – the “chained CPI” – in exchange for ending tax breaks for those earning more than $400,000. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she could deliver House Democrats to support that compromise.
Nothing more clearly exposes the stark gulf between conventional wisdom inside the Beltway and the opinions of most Americans. Americans of all stripes are increasingly aware that they have been getting the shaft, while the big banks, corporations and money have been pocketing the gold. Large majorities believe their legislators are essentially corrupt – more responsive to their donors than their voters.
That’s why poll after poll shows that broad majorities of Americans – including majorities of Republicans – support raising taxes on the wealthy. Overwhelming majorities – including most Republicans – want Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security protected, not cut.
In an election night poll sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, voters were asked what they would find acceptable in a deal to cut deficits. Sixty-two percent said cutting Social Security over time was unacceptable. Even more, 72 percent, opposed cutting discretionary spending, like “education, child nutrition, worker training and disease control.” Almost four-fifths, 79 percent, opposed forcing seniors to pay more for Medicare.
As for raising taxes on the top 2 percent, more than two-thirds, 70 percent – including a majority of Republicans – found it acceptable. Far more, 89 percent, supported saving Medicare costs by negotiating lower drug prices from drug companies. Seventy-two percent supported reducing military spending by ending the war in Afghanistan. More than two-thirds supported a minimum tax on corporate profits reported overseas. Americans support compromise.

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