There is a Republican War on Christmas. It is now being acted out as part of the debt ceiling negotiations in Washington, D.C. and has been going on for over a generation all over America. This is an expanded version of a previous post I wrote.
The Republican War on Christmas started in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan ran against a $1 trillion deficit in 1980. In 1980, we heard how many times a line of money of $1 trillion would go to and from the Moon. Mr. Reagan told us that if we cut taxes for corporations and the very rich and increased defense spending by $1.2 trillion, we could balance the budget and insure the future security of all Americans.
Mr. Reagan didn’t really mean all Americans because the Republican definition of an “American” doesn’t include union members, the Middle Class, seniors, the disabled, pregnant women (if unmarried), minorities, students, the young, infants, the poor and the unborn (unless threatened by abortion but, thereafter left to thrive or die as the “free market” decides), widows or orphans.
George H. W. Bush called Reagan’s economic plan “voodoo economics” and predicted massive deficits. Mr. Bush was right. But, that was Reagan and the Republicans’ plan. If America ran up massive national debt, future government spending would naturally have to be diminished in areas Republicans believed were “socialism” or “communism” like Medicare and Social Security.
Please let’s not forget both Medicare and Social Security were and are still attacked by Republicans and Reagan and GW Bush as “socialism,” “socialistic,” communist” and other such tommyrot. See here, here and here.
While those with the highest incomes still pay the greatest percentage of the aggregate amounts of federal income taxes, as a result of Republican tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest, more and more of the burden of taxation for paying for government has fallen upon the Middle Class and the poor. The total percentage as compared to that of the wealthiest of Americans is small but, any increase where income taxes are some 44% of federal revenues and total federal revenues are near some 17% of GDP, the impact of even a small percentage increase is far larger among the Middle Class and the poor. And see here, here, here, here.
I call the Republican plan to destroy Medicare and Social Security and to squeeze out any discretionary non-defense spending and to increasingly tax the Middle Class and the poor “The Republican War on Christmas.”
The first shot fired in The Republican War on Christmas was Reagan’s firing of all the members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). Please understand, the firings had nothing to do with the legality or illegality of any public employee union strike but manifested a deep visceral Republican hatred of any union at any workplace. All over the country, public employee unions are under attack by Republican Governors and Republican legislatures to cut off collective bargaining rights of hundreds of thousands of employees. And see here.
Republicans hate unions because unions interfere with employers’ “freedoms” to hire and fire and shaft employees in any fashion employers please. Even worse, unions frequently support candidates from the Democratic Party and with the recent US Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case which allows unlimited corporate or union giving, cutting off union money is a direct blow to the Democrats.
Republicans made sure that many government employees in the new Department of Homeland Security could not join unions, which may have prevented hundreds of thousands of federal employees to be added to union rolls.
Currently, over 4,000 professional employees of the FAA are on furlough and aren’t collecting taxes from airline tickets for airport improvements and nearly 100,000 construction workers have or will be laid off by work stoppages. US House Republicans refuse to send any FAA re-authorization or appropriation bill out of the House without a requirement that in any federal workplace that a non-vote or failure to vote at all by an employee in any union election be counted as a “NO” for certification of the workplace as a union bargaining unit. If the same standard were applied to Congress and the US Senate, there wouldn’t be any elected members of either chamber! Airlines have raised ticket prices and are still collecting the tax monies but, not turning the revenue over to the federal government and this action is costing $30 million a week in lost revenues.
Also, toss in here an acute Republican disgust for any laws preventing discrimination in the workplace, housing or otherwise.
Unions created the Middle Class in America by championing wage and hour laws, minimum wage laws, child labor laws, restricted work hours, safe workplace laws, employer funded healthcare and defined benefit pension plans, student loans for workers and their children, and may other worker protections which has royally ticked off Republicans and their wealthy and corporate masters since the 1930’s.
Republicans hate unions so much they give US tax breaks to corporations which export US union jobs overseas and tell us that outsourcing is “good.”
Unions are on the top of the Republicans’ “10 Most Unwanted” list and suffered their first body blow with the destruction of PATCO; Republican attacks on unions continue as this piece is written. If wages are down and unions restricted as to what they may bargain for in the workplace, what good are they? Or so the Republican thinking goes. And see here.
After breaking a union, the next shot fired by Reagan and the Republicans in The Republican War on Christmas was the Reagan tax cuts. Reagan reduced the top marginal rate on top incomes from 78% to 28%, reduced corporate taxes, reduced capital gains taxes, got rid of some excise taxes and eliminated the Windfall Profit Tax on oil companies. The shift in taxes was away from the rich and corporations to wage earners.
The public theory was that keeping more money in the hands of the very rich would stimulate spending and investment which would create jobs and economic growth. The reality behind the theory was later cynically revealed by David Stockman, Reagan’s Budget Director. Stockman said of the Reagan and Bush tax cuts; “…as essentially taking uncle sam’s credit card, handing it to the top two per cent [of] taxpayers in the country and saying, go out and have a good time buying some more stuff at Tiffany’s and maybe have a Caribbean cruise on our card while you’re at it…”
The current impasse in the current debt ceiling negotiations in Washington is caused in part by the Republicans’ insistence on even more and bigger GW Bush–style tax giveaways to corporations and the super rich. Republican House leaders, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) seem ready and willing to have the US government default on its debt in order to secure more and bigger tax giveaways to corporations and the super rich. A so-called “clean bill” with only a proposed raise in the debt ceiling was brought up for a vote and defeated in the US House of Representatives with only Democrats voting to pass the measure. And see here.
It is apparent that the Republican strategy could only be informed by a belief that a default would result in higher interest rates on US debt which would further increase the pressure to cut spending and to reward the Wall Street and financial interests which support the Republicans.
Since 1979, the wealthiest of Americans have seen their incomes go up massively and the percentage of wealth they posses go up by 45% to 53.5% of the total of the nation’s wealth. The rest of us wage earners have not even kept up with inflation (even at the Republicans’ discounted rate!).
The percentage of wages as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now at its lowest since government began keeping that statistic in 1947.
The Reagan tax cuts were the first Republican “stimulus plan” for corporations and the rich, and wage earners have been losing ground ever since. Perhaps a fatal body blow to the Middle Class was when George W. Bush enacted his tax breaks early in his presidency. The first round of Bush tax cuts was, again, to reduce top marginal rates paid by the top incomes and reduced or eliminated other taxes, most notably the estate tax on the remainder estates of the wealthiest individuals in America. The second tax break focused on capital gains and dividends.
With the top rates reduced, again, and the income from estate taxes, capital gains and dividends reduced, the Middle Class and the poor were given another round of payments to make to fund the operations of the corporate and wealthy Christmas trees, while the lights were going out at home for the unemployed and the more increasingly homeless as a result of both the Bush Great Recession and the bursting of the housing bubble (caused by the complete lack of regulation of the loan industry by Bush and Co.).
Given the Republican tax and employment policies and the shift of payments for government more and more away from corporations and the wealthiest and more and more to the Middle Class and the poor, it is no wonder that corporations have over $2 trillion in cash in their coffers now.
Given the Republican tax and employment policies and the shift of payments for government more and more away from corporations and the wealthiest and more and more to the Middle Class and the poor, it is no wonder that the gap between the richest and the poorest in America is at its greatest ever.
Given the Republican tax and employment policies and the shift of payments for government more and more away from corporations and the wealthiest and more and more to the Middle Class and the poor, it is no wonder that a “tax revolt” movement among upper Middle Class taxpayers has grown and continues to grow, despite misidentifying the causes of its plight.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that private sector employment decreased by 673,000 over the eight years of GW Bush, while public sector employment increased. Total jobs created under the eight years of the GW Bush administration totaled 1.08 million. Total jobs created in 2010 by the Obama administration number 599,000 (more than half the total for the eight years of George W. Bush). Ironically, increased public sector employment allowed for the Bush administration to not be the first to have net negative employment over its term since Herbert Hoover. Obama has cut public sector employment by over 357,000 since taking office!
The third shot fired by Reagan in The Republican War on Christmas was to change (read “fix”) the way the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and related indices for measuring inflation were calculated. Changing the CPI and the other indices accomplished three huge Republican goals.
The fix” flattened out the number for the amount of inflation in the economy to the benefit of Reagan and the Republicans who had decried inflation under Jimmy Carter. The “fix” reduced the numbers of unemployed as reported by the Department of Labor: and, part of the “fix” changed a related formula which significantly reduced the amounts and numbers of future cost of living adjustments (COLAs) of seniors’ and others’ benefits under Social Security and other federal programs. The COLA “fix” problem was worsened in the administration of GHW Bush. Most recently, and for the first time since 1975, Social Security recipients received no COLA in 2010 or 2011. The “fix” under both Republican Presidents Reagan and GHW Bush were the reason that no COLAs were had by Social Security and federal benefits recipients in 2010 and 2011. And see here and here and here.
The fix allowed Republicans to make a “stealth” attack in The Republican War on Christmas on federal benefits programs like Social Security, Medicare, military retirees’ and federal employees’ retirement benefits by reducing payments to beneficiaries and providers in lowered amounts. Next, the Republicans changed public tactics on Social Security, calling it a “Ponzi scheme,” (and see here) and here; a “cheat on minorities” ; a “cheat on younger people,” ; “broke” or “going broke.”
Republicans have proffered solutions to the alleged “problems” with Medicare and Social security. Both programs claim to leave current beneficiaries alone and only apply in the future to people now under the age of 55.
For Medicare, the plan is to turn the program over to private insurers to administer. Payments would be made in the form of “vouchers” provided to seniors to pay whatever price to insurers for whatever care they wish to supply for that amount. The amount of such vouchers is fixed and will not go up in the future, even if health care costs or insurance prices do go up.
The cost of the Republican program to seniors could be double the current cost with no guarantee of the same coverage now provided under the current program which doesn’t have all the executives, executive bonuses and stock options, dividends to shareholders and administrative costs and overhead of any private company.
For Social Security, the new plan would be for younger people to put some of their money into retirement accounts similar to an IRA which accounts would be managed by the private sector (read the same Wall Street and banker folks who gave us global economic collapse for their fun and profit).
Current Social Security beneficiaries would find their future benefits reduced by another round of Republican tinkering with the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), or received later if currently over 55 but, not yet getting paid, by raising the retirement age to 70.
The next and fourth shot fired by Reagan in The Republican War on Christmas was the “war” against Grenada. In part, to shore up his macho credentials after he saw what a brief little war did for Maggie Thatcher, Reagan invaded Grenada. Most significantly, Reagan didn’t ask Congress for a declaration of war or pass any tax to fund the Grenada War. The important concept of the Republican “war President” was introduced, as well as the Republican way of just going to war wherever the President wanted at whatever spending the President cared to spend for the war without paying for the war with a specific tax which had been done by the US for every other war in history. The twin Republican goals of the imperial presidency and creating additional national debt by unfunded mandates were established by President Reagan.
GWH Bush later invaded Panama, put troops into Somalia, and mustered international support to throw Iraq out of Kuwait after our GWH Bush appointed ambassador to Iraq told the government of Saddam Hussein that “the US had no special or defense agreements with Kuwait” and that she “had served in Kuwait 20 years before; and then, as now, we took no position on these Arab-Arab affairs.” GHW Bush didn’t ask for any tax to fund his wars.
George W. Bush later would involve the US in simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with a general “authorization for the use of military force” but, no declaration of war and without any specific tax to pay for the costs of the two wars. Some estimates for the total cost to the US alone for the Afghan and Iraq wars are in excess of $3 trillion.
George W. Bush also pushed the limits of presidential powers by insisting on greater and greater abilities of a “war president” to arrest US citizens and hold them for unlimited periods, without charge or access to an attorney or the courts. And see here and here. Video here. And see here and here.
George W. Bush also pushed the limits of creating unfunded mandates to raise future debt by passing the No Child Left behind Act and the Medicare, Part D drug plan. Both programs mandated additional spending. Neither program was fully funded by any appropriation or was provided for by any new revenue to the federal treasury. Some estimates of the future cost of the part D program range as high as $9.7 trillion over the next 75 years. And see here.
GW Bush even actively hid the cost of the drug plan, publicly misstating its cost by hundreds of billions of dollars. As an additional benefit to Big Pharma, the federal government as part of the law was prohibited from using its buying power to bargain for lower prices so as to reduce the cost of the program. The price bargaining restrictions legislation increased the cost of the new drug program dramatically for seniors and the government; all the extra money went directly to Big Pharma and onto the nation’s credit card. The debt goes up and seniors pay more.
All the pieces of The Republican War on Christmas were put in place by Ronald Reagan, continued by GHW Bush and GW Bush and are now in place and in play for the continuing Republican War on Christmas.
First, undermine public support for and the bases for unions by generally driving down wages and by driving down union manufacturing employment through giving tax breaks to corporations outsourcing jobs to other countries (which is “good”) and undermining the area in which unions are expanding, public employees, by restricting entry into by federal employees or what the public employee unions may bargain for with the states.
Second, give greater and greater tax breaks and profits to corporations and the very wealthiest which more and more shift the burden of paying for government to the Middle Class and the poor. One byproduct of the Middle Class tax burden shift is that rising unrest among upper Middle Class taxpayers could be misdirected against Republican foes and against Social Security and Medicare. The current “taxpayer revolt” and “Tea Party” movements are just so.
Third, undermine public support for Medicare and Social Security by making false and outrageous claims over decades. Gut Medicare and Social Security by dumping Medicare eligible seniors into a voucher program run by insurers for insurers and Social Security by making changes for current beneficiaries by changing future payment formulas, future retirement ages and restricting or destroying future eligibility by turning some or all of Social Security over to Wall Street.
Fourth, insist upon Presidential prerogatives to go to war when and where the President wishes without a declaration of war or funding by a tax to pay for that war.
So, the pattern of the Republican War on Christmas was put in place by Ronald Reagan and future Republican candidates and elected officials only have to follow the plan and the Republicans would achieve “a permanent Republican majority in America.”
There is a Republican War on Christmas going on right now. The Republican War on Christmas has been going on for the last 30 or so years. America seems to be losing in The Republican War on Christmas. It remains to be seen whether America or the Republicans will win.