It's the latest battle in the corporados' decades-long assault on the middle class.
Riffing on the first few paragraphs of an excellent new article from Alternet:
While our social safety net is under attack, record corporate profits are deemed off-limits in discussions about how to close the budget gap. With our severe economic crisis in its fourth year, the crisis itself is about to be used to batter the remnants of the social welfare state. Having decimated aid to the poor over the last 30 years, especially in the United States, the economic and political elite are now intent on strangling middle-class benefits -- namely state-provided pensions, health care and education.
The initial neoliberal assault under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher reorganized the capitalist economy in part by hammering private-sector unions into submission. This was accomplished, in part, by putting labor back into competition with itself, i.e. by finding and utilizing plenty of very competitive (low-cost) labor elsewhere around the globe. Industrial production was offshored, deregulated, and used to launch frontal assaults on labor rights, organizing and solidarity.
Similarly, the current attack is a two-pronged effort to reorganize state social services, either by eliminating or privatizing them, but also by decimating public-sector unions whose workers provide those state social services. While our social safety net is already withering under this onslaught, police and spying agencies are seeking, and getting, ever more powers and funding, so as to help finish off the attack. Meanwhile, the wealth of the super-rich and their record corporate profits are deemed off-limits to taxation that could easily close any government budget gap.
The elderly and the less-than-completely-healthy have been deemed superfluous to modern American capitalism. With high rates of joblessness becoming the "new norm," more and more people are being made disposable. This leads to an efficient if brutal logic: cutting old-age income and health care will make it easier to scrap older and less durable workers. In fact, this reality is already coming to pass. One study published in 2008 found that over a 16-year period, life expectancy has actually declined for many low-income American women -- precisely those who are disproportionately represented among the elderly and who are heavily dependent on Social Security and Medicare.
But this story is not just about them: Slashing social services affects everyone. How? -- by increasing the pool of competing workers, the large majority of whom become increasingly desperate for any sort of paying job. This newly enlarged pool of competing workers then pushes down wages and benefits for all.
This will all be sold with one of the Republicans' favorite memes, "personal responsibility," and the sale will probably come off without a hitch as long as opposition can be kept weak and divided. (Fox News and the Tea Party, are you ready to play your roles here?)
The main beneficiaries will of course be the wealthy and super-wealthy, who will gain both from tax cuts (as the social sector is chopped up and largely done away with) and from much higher corporate profits (as wages and benefits are slashed ever more deeply).