For most Americans, a vacation or holiday is a once a year trip or journey, usually for the purpose of recreation or holiday observances, and are usually spent with friends or family. Yesterday, after a week of posturing and wasting precious time, the House of Representatives adjourned after accomplishing nothing to avert the nation’s economy from going over the so-called fiscal cliff, and headed home for the holidays. In a sense, maybe it is just as well that Republicans who have achieved nothing substantial to help the economy or the American people went home to luxuriate with their families and enjoy a pleasant Christmas, but for tens-of-millions of Americans, the prospect of either the economy going over the GOP-created fiscal cliff, or Republicans’ savage cuts to the budget, there is precious little to celebrate or enjoy during the holiday season. This Christmas is shaping up like every other year’s end since President Obama has been in office, with Republicans holding the economy hostage over the level of damage they can inflict on the majority of Americans.
Late Thursday, lacking support for John Boehner’s absurd Plan B proposal to prevent tax increases on all Americans and automatic across the board cuts to defense and domestic programs, House Republican leaders scrapped a planned vote on Boehner’s measure and adjourned for Christmas. Earlier in the day, Republicans passed Draconian spending cuts similar to the Sequester Replacement and Reconciliation Act that passed the House earlier this year, and it made one thing perfectly clear; Republicans are of one mind in doling out hardship to the poor, middle class, and elderly, but they cannot reach consensus in how far to go in protecting the wealthiest Americans. Apparently, Boehner failed to convince enough Republicans that a miniscule tax increase on the top 1/10th of 1% was not too much of a burden on the rich and they withheld their support even though a Tax Policy Center analysis found the plan resulted in a tax cut of $108,000 for millionaires.
The multi-part Republican plan to avoid the fiscal cliff epitomized their long-held view that there are no cuts to domestic programs and safety nets that are too harsh, defense increases too high, or tax rates too low for the wealthy to push on the American people. The Republican plan eliminated the defense cuts set to begin at the beginning of the year due to sequestration, and pushed through $633 billion defense bill for next year in spite of Pentagon complaints it spares outdated weapons at the expense of the military’s ability to fight. Democrats argued the bill is counter to demands for fiscal discipline, and according to Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass), “is more money than the Pentagon wants.” However, Republicans made up for their gift to the Pentagon with vicious cuts to safety nets, domestic programs, and banking and healthcare reforms that actually help the American people; it is what Republicans do best.
The GOP reiterated their austerity measures included in last April’s attempt to assuage sequestration cuts, and as usual the poor, children, and elderly will bear the brunt of the pain and suffering inherent in any Republican proposal, and particularly the Republican Spending Reduction Act. The Paul Ryan-sponsored plan calls for very severe cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, and Agriculture, Energy & Commerce, and Financial Services departments in order to defund and weaken banking and finance reforms, the Affordable Care Act, and in a particularly brutal move, terminating temporary increases in food stamp benefits contained in the Democrats’ “stimulus.”
The cuts Republicans voted for are typically Draconian in what House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called “common sense spending reforms that reduce our deficit and protect our national security by replacing indiscriminate cuts that are neither strategic nor balanced.” Of particular note are cuts putting 300,000 children off food stamps including reduced or free school lunches, and 300,000 off Medicaid, 1.7 million seniors off programs like Meals on Wheels, cuts for child assistance for 4.4 million children, cuts for 1 million Americans with disabilities, and cuts to child protective services affecting 1.8 million children. America already boasts the second highest rate of children living in poverty, but Republicans have spent no small amount of time and energy in a desperation attempt at knocking off the number one country, Romania, for the most children in poverty. The Republican measure of cutting food stamps, if adopted, would have launched America into the top spot and taken billions-of-dollars out of the economy further weakening recovery.
President Obama submitted a well-balanced offer to Republicans that hit targets Boehner called for earlier, and is remarkably close to the so-called grand bargain the two worked out in the summer of 2011 that drove teabaggers to nearly send the nation into a credit default and definitely inspired S&P to downgrade America’s stellar credit rating. Republicans continue claiming the President’s proposal was not a balanced approach, and yet Boehner’s Plan B was so out-of-balance that the Joint Committee on Taxation said it would increase the national debt by $4.1 trillion over the next decade. Besides being fiscally irresponsible, the Republicans must have rejoiced that their Spending Reduction Act had the potential to cause a great deal of harm to the most vulnerable Americans (children and seniors) while sparing defense and the majority of wealthy Americans any significant sacrifice. They also had to have been celebrating the cuts to the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act for the damage the insurance and banking industry would be allowed to inflict on the American people. Perhaps inflicting more damage on the American people was the GOP’s Christmas gift to themselves and their conservative supporters.
The Republicans’ are not serious about preventing another economic recession if the economy goes over the fiscal cliff, and one wonders if that is their true intention. Regardless if they do nothing, or convince Democrats and President Obama to accept their Draconian Spending Reduction Act and tax cuts for all but the richest 1/10th of 1%, the economy will take a hit, and after a report that third quarter GDP was much higher than expected, severe austerity will send the economy back into a no, or negative, growth mode. Hopefully, as Republicans go on holiday to be with their families and relish their good fortune, they will give thoughtful consideration to the plight of America’s children, seniors, the disabled, and middle class who will bear the brunt of their “common sense” damage and reconsider their approach, but if history is any indication, they will have ample time to devise harsher cuts and look forward to returning after their holiday respite with a new round of cuts that epitomize their typical Christmas wish for America; go hungry, get sick, struggle to survive, and support the rich.