When I was a small boy I was bullied more than
most, mainly because I was a foot shorter than than everyone else. They
demanded the cupcake my mother had packed in my lunchbox, or, they said,
they'd beat me up. After a close call in the boy's room, I paid up.
Weeks later, they demanded half my sandwich as well. I gave in to that
one, too. But I could see what was coming next. They'd demand everything
else. Somewhere along the line I decided I'd have a take a stand. The
fight wasn't pleasant. But the bullies stopped their bullying.
I hope the President decides he has to take a stand, and the sooner
the better. Last December he caved in to Republican demands that the
Bush tax cut be extended to wealthier Americans for two more years, at a
cost of more than $60 billion. That was only the beginning -- the
equivalent of my cupcake.
Last night he gave away more than half the sandwich -- $39 billion
less than was budgeted for 2010, $79 billion less than he originally
requested. Non-defense discretionary spending -- basically, everything
from roads and bridges to schools and innumerable programs for the poor --
has been slashed.
The right-wing bullies are emboldened. They will hold the nation hostage again and again.
In a few weeks the debt ceiling has to be raised. After that, next
year's budget has to be decided on. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan has
already put forward proposals to turn Medicare into vouchers that funnel
money to private insurance companies, turn Medicaid and Food Stamps
into block grants that give states discretion to shift them to the
non-poor, and give even more big tax cuts to the rich.
There will also be Republican votes to de-fund the new health care law.
"Americans of different beliefs came together," he announced late
last night. It was the "largest spending cut in our history." He sounded
triumphant. In fact, he's encouraging the bullies onward.
All the while, he and the Democratic leadership in Congress refuse to
refute the Republicans' big lie -- that spending cuts will lead to more
jobs. In fact, spending cuts now will lead to fewer jobs. They'll slow
down an already anemic recovery. That will cause immense and unnecessary
suffering for millions of Americans.
The President continues to legitimize the Republican claim that too
much government spending caused the economy to tank, and that by cutting
back spending we'll get the economy going again.
Even before the bullies began hammering him, his deficit commission
already recommended $3 of spending cuts for every dollar of tax
increase. Then the President froze non-defense domestic spending and
froze federal pay. And he continues to draw the false analogy between a
family's budget and the national budget.
He is losing the war of ideas because he won't tell the American
public the truth: That we need more government spending now -- not less --
in order to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession.
That we got into the Great Recession because Wall Street went bonkers
and government failed to do its job at regulating financial markets.
And that much of the current deficit comes from the necessary response
to that financial crisis.
That the only ways to deal with the long-term budget problem is to
demand that the rich pay their fair share of taxes, and to slow down
soaring health-care costs.
And that, at a deeper level, the increasingly lopsided distribution
of income and wealth has robbed the vast working middle class of the
purchasing power they need to keep the economy going at full capacity.
"We preserved the investments we need to win the future," he said
last night. That's not true. The budget he just approved will cut Pell
grants to poor kids, while states continue massive cutbacks in school
spending -- firing tens of thousands of teachers and raising fees at
public universities. The budget he approved is cruel to the nation's
working class and poor.