political convention

political convention

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Republicans at the Kitchen Table

Comparing your family’s budget to the budget of the United States of America has the ring of common sense to it. Your family lives within its means and so should the federal government, Republicans are fond of saying.  But now that Republican budget ace Rep. Paul Ryan has released his plan for the next few years, will the resemblance hold up?  Hardly.

First, do any families actually make paper and pencil budgets?  And, in the unlikely event that they do, would they start with an ideological credo that will predetermine the results?

Rep. Ryan’s budget, according to the man himself, is not simply a budget, but a “cause.”  By this he isn’t referring to frugality, careful calculation, and anticipation of  emergencies.  This is what families do.  At the top of Rep. Ryan’s page is a declaration that Americans as individuals and families need to become more immersed in the system of private capital and less engaged with government as a source of services such as health care and old age security.  Mr. Ryan’s aim is to eliminate or greatly reduce these services so that two things will happen:  Taxes paid by wealthy people and corporations can be cut; and individuals will be forced to pay directly for private alternatives to government programs so more money goes into corporate coffers.

Under these conditions, the quaint fictional scenario of a family sitting around the kitchen table planning the year’s budget would be radically altered, as follows: 

Dad, who at 56 is edging toward his golden years, begins by giving thanks to his stock broker who has promised that his retirement account won’t lose more than 25 percent of its value because of this week’s stock market funk.  Billy,14, makes a pitch to put an extra $200 into his stock portfolio so he can buy the motorcycle of his dreams when he hits 18.  Mom reminds him that grandma has a chronic pain in her abdomen and has developed jaundice.  She will need that money to help pay the 50 percent deductible now required by her private insurer for senior medical care.  Janet, 16, announces that she has had to make a risky investment in credit default swaps, now back in vogue, in order to meet the down payment on fees at the local community college where she hopes to attend in two years. 

By the end of the evening Dad has to acknowledge that things aren’t looking very bright.  The family is just about broke.  But Dad tells everyone that, like the Republicans and their budget leader Paul Ryan, he has resisted any move to increase the amount of money coming in.  As the Republican manifesto says, taxes will not be raised—at least for the rich and for corporations—under any circumstances.  Dad tells the family that as a matter of principle he has declined  a wage increase offered by his boss. No.....Just kidding. In fact, he has learned that income taxes on his annual earnings of $50,000 are going up because of the Republican budget plan.

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