An Exercise in Absurdity

American politics seems to be an exercise in absurdity these days. The recent self-made crisis regarding the debt ceiling is a perfect example. With unemployment hovering officially around 9-10% (and unofficially closer to 20%), Washington could think of nothing better to do than create a “crisis” that took every scrap of their attention for a few months. All over something that has been done routinely for decades, under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

The fact that getting the economy going again would in itself help to pay down the debt seemed too esoteric a concept for this bunch. The “tea party” – that un-party that managed to elect a bunch of temper-tantrum specialist Republican juvenile congressmen in the last election – shoulders most of the blame, of course. It was they who pressured Speaker of the House “Orange Man” Boehner to insist on draconian cuts to anything that might help those in need in this super-recession, while absolutely refusing to ask those who can actually afford it to give up something.

Still, the Democrats, especially President “the Hope is Gone” Obama, deserve a lot of the blame for letting these fools push them – and by extension, the American people – around.

A vast majority, in poll after poll, favor restoring the upper income tax rates to what they were during the boom years of the Clinton era. Even billionaire Warren Buffet has come out strongly (again) for raising taxes on the rich. But of course, the talking heads on Fox “News” and the toxic-stew-breathing Rush Limbaugh on radio resorted to the same old, worn out, over-misused cliche, calling Buffet a “socialist.” Sure, a billionaire is a socialist… right. That’s how he got so rich. Good one, Fox. How did you find that out? Bugging his cell phone?

Well, now that the debt circus has closed, can we get back to creating jobs (if the new law hasn’t made it impossible)? There are some good plans out there.

Like the one Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky proposed: The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act. “Over two years, her plan would cost $227 billion and would be paid for by tax increases for those earning more than $1 million and $1 billion, closing corporate tax loopholes and ending subsidies for big oil,” according to an article by Michael Winship on, 20 August 2011.

This bill is based on the conclusions of a report titled “Back to Work: A Public Jobs Proposal for Economic Recovery,” written by Rutgers law and economics professor Philip Harvey. It says “a million temporary jobs in a federally administered, direct jobs creation program – jobs in childcare, elder care, education, public health and housing, construction and maintenance, recreation and the arts” could be created, and as many as 414,000 jobs outside the program. “Annual cost in program spending: $46.4 billion. Actual net cost, taking into account revenues and savings: only $28.6 billion.”

As it happens, the federal government would have collected about $295 billion in additional revenue during 2011, if the Bush-era tax cuts had been allowed to expire at the end of 2010. More than enough to cover Schakowsky’s program and put America back to work.

As Jon Stewart pointed out on the Daily Show on Comedy Central, you could increase revenues by $700 billion over ten years simply by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the rich – a few measly percentage points. Or, you could raise the same amount of money – and this seems to be the preferred Fox plan – by taking HALF of EVERYTHING the bottom 50% in this country own.

I say the better plan is to let the ultra-rich top 2% pay something back to the country that helped them attain such obscene levels of wealth. But then, I guess that makes me a “socialist.”

James Israel
Social media