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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/27/10

Why Boehner's Blaming Bureaucrats

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We're moving ever closer to a double-dip. Of course, as I've said before, most Americans never got out of the first one.

In previous postings I've suggested ways to reverse course, including a "people's tax cut" exempting the first $20K of income from payroll taxes and making up the revenue loss with a payroll tax on incomes over $250,000.

Yet Democrats seem frozen in the headlights of conservative supply-siders, blue-dog deficit hawks, and pollsters who say the public doesn't trust anything government does.

As to Republicans, now comes John Boehner, capitalizing on this distrust by blaming the bad economy on government bureaucrats.

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In an address billed as a major speech on economic policy, the House GOP leader yesterday (Tuesday) attributed our economic woes to the fact that "taxpayers are subsidizing the fattened salaries and pensions of federal bureaucrats who are out there right now making it harder to create private sector jobs."

What?

It's true workers at all levels of government now earn more than their private-sector counterparts. But that's mainly because private-sector benefits have dropped precipitously over the last few years. Companies have replaced defined-benefit pensions with do-it-yourself 401(k)s, and have ratcheted up premiums, co-payments, and deductibles on employee health-care. Government workers' benefits haven't yet been sliced the diced these ways, but the cuts are coming.

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The pay gap is also due to the fact that the typical public-sector job requires more education. According to the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, 48 percent of state and local employees have a college degree while only 23 percent of private-sector employees do.

Blaming government workers for this bad economy is absurd, regardless. The Great Recession continues because consumers can't and won't spend. They're overwhelmed with credit-card debt, their mortgages are under water, their nest eggs have become chick peas, and they can't afford health insurance.

Rather than help alleviate all this, Boehner and his Republican colleagues have been busily voting against extending unemployment insurance, against reorganizing mortgages under bankruptcy, against forcing credit card companies to stop charging exorbitant interest, and against giving Americans affordable health insurance.

As far as I can tell, all Republicans want to do is to privatize Social Security, extend the Bush tax cuts to the richest 3 percent of Americans, and deregulate. But none of this seems particularly relevant to the task at hand.

Privatizing Social Security would put retirees entirely at the mercy of the Wall Street casino.

Extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest 3 percent wouldn't stimulate demand because the very rich save rather than spend most of their extra cash.

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And if anything we need more rather than less regulation. Just consider BP's oil spill, Massey's mine cave-in, DeCoster's rotten eggs, Goldman Sach's predations, and Wellpoint's double-digit insurance premium increases.

Boehner delivered his speech at the City Club of Cleveland, a safe distance from those government employees he says are on the make. But of course Boehner is a federal employee. He gets $193,400 a year along with generous retirement benefits. In fact, he has among the fattest salaries and pensions in Washington.

 

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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