Austerity: The Wrong Prescription

By Carl Gibson

f you were a patient in intensive care, sick and in pain, what would you say to a doctor whose only recommendation was cutting off your blood supply, meals and therapy, and redirecting your pain medicine to another patient who was already healthy and well? Would you follow your doctor’s orders, or sue them for malpractice?

Cartoon by Nate Beeler.

For the first time in US history, our credit rating has been downgraded, meaning higher interest rates on Americans’ personal debt, like credit cards and student loans. Conservatives have jumped on this as an opportunity to bash President Obama, arguing that not enough spending cuts were made in the recent debt deal to avoid the downgrade. The media has allowed this to be the dominant narrative in the national conversation.

But Conservatives and the media are both ignoring page 4 of Standard & Poor’s research update, published August 5th, which explicitly states, “the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.” In their reasoning for our credit downgrade, S&P specifically attacks the GOP for threatening to not pay America’s bills in order to protect tax breaks for billionaires, corporate jet owners and big oil.

While Republicans and the corporate media bemoan the growing federal debt as our most pressing crisis, very few commentators, with the exception of folks like Allison Kilkenny, have mentioned the necessity of addressing America’s most crucial deficit – jobs. We’re on the verge of entering a double-dip recession, and there’s been surprisingly very little conversation in Washington or on cable-news networks about how to actually get millions of Americans back to work.

While America’s middle-class families and small business owners struggle to survive, thousands of tax loopholes for tax-dodging, job-outsourcing companies like GE remain open. We still freely give out $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to oil companies who don’t even pay $1 in taxes. Warren Buffett still pays a lower effective tax rate than his receptionist. Congressional Republicans are calling for $4 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years, saying America is “broke.” Yet, by simply ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, we would recoup $5.4 trillion in a decade.

Republicans like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell continue to give our teachers, cops, firefighters and other public services the axe, all to protect these failed “trickle-down” policies that have blown holes in our budget since the Reagan years. Their adherence to such flawed policy ignores reality – the economy has tripled since 1973, but median income has actually gone down since then. Something is trickling down, but it certainly isn’t wealth.

Our economy is on life support, barely holding on while jobs continue their flight overseas. Foreclosures and fuel prices are rising almost as fast as the profit margins of big banks and big oil. Despite all of this, there is still no real economic prescription offered by Republicans and corporate Democrats to heal our economy and get people working again. Instead of “compromising” with the doctors who want to pull the plug on us, America must demand new doctors who are actually interested in curing the disease.

Carl Gibson, 24, of Lexington, Kentucky, is a spokesman and organizer for US Uncut, a nonviolent, creative direct-action movement to stop budget cuts by getting corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. He graduated from Morehead State University in 2009 with a B.A. in Journalism before starting the first US Uncut group in Jackson, Mississippi, in February of 2011. Since then, over 20,000 US Uncut activists have carried out more than 300 actions in over 100 cities nationwide. You may contact Carl at [email protected].

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