Favorite

The aristocrats 

Never mind that President Bush’s popularity and moral authority are sinking to historic levels, his campaign to remake the United States in the image of Louis XIV’s France is continuing right on pace.

So many Americans believe that the president cannot be trusted to do the honest thing that Bush himself has directed the White House counsel to train his staff on the difference between right and wrong. But by watching a Congress that for five years has turned his every vision but a privatized Social Security into reality, you would never know that Americans are not cheering. If anything, Bush’s political miasma seems merely to have made the struggle to make the country an aristocracy even more urgent. This is another critical week in the process.

Congress — the Republican majority, that is — is rushing through the budget reconciliation process. If we can assume that the White House and the House of Representatives will largely have their way over the Senate, when they put the finishing touches on the budget the country will have taken another stride toward an economic order based on privilege, where the rich get still richer with the government’s help and where the poor and the rest grow ever weaker.

This has been going on since 2001 with the first big tax cuts for the rich and big corporations and the first big rips in the safety net. But the country was hopeful and prosperous then. Poverty was shrinking and opportunity expanding, and the most pessimistic economist could see only giant budget surpluses far into the future. All of that has changed.

When the Republican majorities began hammering out the final budget last week here is what they knew:

• The nation is running the largest budget deficits in history by far, poverty has been increasing every year since Bush took office, the middle class is shrinking, the inequality between the rich and the rest of America is escalating sharply according to the administration’s own statistics, the president has the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover, the number of people who have to go hungry part of the year is rising, the number and percentage of Americans without health insurance is ballooning every year, and for those who are covered the costs are rising and the coverage is shrinking. The government’s healthcare research agency calculated last month that 84,000 poor Americans are dying each year — the equivalent of a Hurricane Katrina each week — because of the imbalance in healthcare coverage for low-income people.

What is Congress doing about those conditions? It is sharply reducing the number of people who can get medical attention under Medicaid and the degree of coverage they can get. Medicaid beneficiaries (an unusually high number of them in Arkansas) will have to make large co-payments and premiums for their care although research shows that this causes many not to access health care and to get sicker. It is cutting back on food assistance to the needy, slashing the government’s child-support enforcement so that poor children will lose some $2 billion a year for clothing, food and medicine they need, and tightening up on help for the working poor for their rising heating bills.

Meantime, the president and House Republicans (the Senate is much saner) are pushing ahead with more tax cuts, the fifth round of tax cuts targeted at the rich since Bush took office.

Can there have been a more counterintuitive sequence of national condition and government policy than this in all the nation’s history?

The budget cuts are supposed to make way for mammoth spending on hurricane victims and to pare the five-year budget deficit by $50 billion. Polls show the public no longer considers Republicans to be the champions of fiscal restraint, so the president’s people are hoping that no one really believes that the fiscal discipline is being done on the backs of the poor. The vast promised aid for Katrina and Rita victims was quietly snuffed in the reconciliation process. But Katrina and the budget deficit are fig leaves anyway.

Next in the expedited reconciliation process is a package of tax cuts targeted at the rich that will enlarge deficit projections by $70 billion over the same five years. You do the math.

The tax package includes the extension of some of Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the upper bracket that are due to expire in the next two years, which will add hugely to deficit projections. One is halving the capital gains tax. Remember when Bush and our own homegrown Republicans were saying that it actually was a bonanza for low- and middle-income families in places like Arkansas, not the well-to-do?

The Treasury Department has posted the statistics on the first year of the tax cut, 2003. You might wonder how it went in our little corner.

Eighty percent of Arkansas tax filers had gross incomes of less than $50,000, but together they received only 7.5 percent of all the tax savings for Arkansans. A total of 1.1 percent of people had incomes that year greater than $200,000. They amassed 69.6 percent of the benefits.

In Bush’s America, as in Bourbon France, that obviously was not enough.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • One dead, two wounded in early morning shooting

    KARK's Susanne Brunner reports that one person has been killed and two wounded in a shooting shortly after 1 a.m. this morning near Roosevelt Road and Cross Street.
    • Apr 17, 2019
  • Reality bites at Little Rock City Hall; spending must be cut

    A followup to Rebekah Hall's earlier report on Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.'s announcement that cuts will be necessary in the city budget in part to pay for "priorities," such as his desire to expand the police force, but also to deal with the reality often mentioned here of stagnant to decling city sales tax revenue. Some quick ideas on that:
    • Apr 17, 2019
  • Speaking of hard times in newspapers: Democrat-Gazette's move to digital

    Word continues to filter in of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's pullback from statewide circulation of a print daily edition of the newspaper — the latest from the Hot Springs area, just 50 or so miles down the road from Little Rock. Subscribers there were told home delivery of a print paper would end in May.
    • Apr 16, 2019
  • More »

More by Ernest Dumas

  • GOP's health care quandary

    Republican officeholders, in Arkansas and everywhere, have found themselves in an impossible catch-22 — caught between mutually conflicting political demands by their voters. I’m talking about the political dilemma of choosing between the widely hated Obamacare and the highly popular provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
    • Apr 5, 2019
  • The worst legislature ever

    Anti-women. Anti-poor. Anti-black. Anti-people. Anti-old-style Republicans.
    • Apr 1, 2019
  • ACA will stand

    If you are worried about your health care — and that ought to be nearly everyone — pay no attention to the triumphant tweet of President Trump last Friday or the hurrah the same day from Leslie Rutledge, the Arkansas attorney general, after the most political judge in America declared the whole Affordable Care Act null and void.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • Shrugging off sulfides

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported a shocker on its front page Sunday. The rotten-egg odor from the Koch brothers' sprawling paper plant at Crossett is still making people sick, but the state's pollution control agency is unaware of the problem.
    • Mar 29, 2018

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • GOP's health care quandary

    Republican officeholders, in Arkansas and everywhere, have found themselves in an impossible catch-22 — caught between mutually conflicting political demands by their voters. I’m talking about the political dilemma of choosing between the widely hated Obamacare and the highly popular provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
    • Apr 5, 2019
  • The worst legislature ever

    Anti-women. Anti-poor. Anti-black. Anti-people. Anti-old-style Republicans.
    • Apr 1, 2019
  • ACA will stand

    If you are worried about your health care — and that ought to be nearly everyone — pay no attention to the triumphant tweet of President Trump last Friday or the hurrah the same day from Leslie Rutledge, the Arkansas attorney general, after the most political judge in America declared the whole Affordable Care Act null and void.
    • Dec 20, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Bernie, the millionaire Socialist

    So Bernie Sanders, the self-anointed scourge of the malign influence of “millionaires and billionaires” on American politics, is himself a millionaire. Firmly ensconced in the top 1 percent of income earners in the United States. Which you’ve got to admit is pretty funny. Only in America, as comedians like to say.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Bernie, the millionaire Socialist

    • If he's rich, he's a hypocrite. If he's poor, he's jealous of others success. These…

    • on April 18, 2019
  • Re: Bernie, the millionaire Socialist

    • Gene: And never mind that Sen. Sanders' own refusal to release his income tax records…

    • on April 17, 2019
  • Re: Bernie, the millionaire Socialist

    • Good ole Bernie, revealed as the champagne socialist. Funny that so many espousing the idea…

    • on April 16, 2019
 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation