Most Americans, at least the dwindling number of normal Americans, comprehend that investing in the nation is the responsibility of all citizens in one form or another. Over the past six years, Republicans have rejected that concept out-of-hand and concluded that if, and that is a big if, there is any investment in America it will be paid for by the poor, disabled, middle class or the elderly; particularly if the investment inordinately benefits the corporate world and big business.
It is curious that while Republicans can find enough funding for America’s greatest socialistic welfare program, the United States military and its corporate industrial complex, they perpetually complain that investing in America’s transportation system is too costly. Over the past few years, Republicans have barely came up with temporary, last minute, extensions for the highway trust fund, but this year Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to put an end to short term fixes; but only if it is funded by cutting federal employees’ retirement returns to fund the Highway Trust Fund.
McConnell did not come up with the proposed theft of federal employee’s retirement savings on his own, it originally came from House Republicans’ fiscal 2016 budget. Naturally, since the Koch brothers own Congress and they openly promote eliminating all Americans’ pensions, including Social Security, it is no surprise that the largest portion of funding for the Highway Trust Fund is due to be taken from current and future government employees. Democrats and, surprisingly, some Republicans argue vehemently that changing the relatively safe return on retirement savings’ accounts will drastically cut federal employees’ retirement and since robbing employee pensions is a favorite Republican means of upward wealth redistribution, it should not surprise any American that cutting Social Security is on the GOP’s list of possible highway funding options.
Besides cutting federal employees’ pensions, Republicans proposed eliminating Social Security pensions for any recipient with an outstanding arrest warrant regardless if they are decades old or for outstanding parking violations. According to Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, “Almost none of the seniors who would be affected by this provision are actual fugitives from justice and most of the warrants in question are many years old and involve minor infractions.” Richtman also wrote in a letter to Senators that the Social Security Administration has already tried enforcing that ban “with catastrophic effect for many vulnerable elderly seniors, employing procedures that did not withstand judicial scrutiny.” But really, catastrophic effects for vulnerable seniors is par for the course for Republicans and the idea of not withstanding judicial scrutiny will have no effect on Republicans.
The other Republican proposal, and attack on Social Security, targets disabled Americans Republicans have spent no small amount of time and effort pushing to return to the workforce regardless their affliction. Republicans want to end payments of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if a disabled person follows Social Security rules, and Republicans pushing them to work so they can get off SSDI. Richtman noted that “Given the importance that policy makers ascribe to encouraging disabled Americans to return to the workforce, I am perplexed by the desire of some in the Congress to strip working SSDI beneficiaries of their eligibility when, through no fault of their own, they lose a job.”
Funding something as crucial to transporting Americans around the country, especially the business sector reliant on dependable roads, highways, bridges, and rail system should come primarily from the business community. However, Republicans committed to stealing Americans’ retirement savings and preventing big business from bearing any of the costs for their obscene profits will always opt to steal from regular Americans; particularly government employees’ retirement savings. It is why House Republicans and Mitch McConnell’s first call to pay for a transportation funding bill is robbing federal employee pensions instead of taxing big business or the rich who own and profit from a functioning highway transportation system.
McConnell’s Draconian proposal to cut federal employees’ pensions, or eliminate Social Security benefits for the elderly with outstanding traffic violations, or punish disabled Americans attempting to get off disability, is not going over well in the Senate. Senators James Inhofe (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have all said cutting federal pensions is “a non-starter.” In fact, Schumer claimed that, except for siphoning money out of Social Security to pay for road, highway, and bridge projects, “the tentative menu of funding options has the support of neither the Democratic or Republican caucuses at this point.” It is noteworthy that cutting Social Security benefits is not yet on that “tentative menu” and should be a warning sign that cutting federal pensions, including members of Congress’ pensions may be “a non-starter,” but apparently cutting Social Security benefits is not.
In last year’s budget, well over half of the $1.2-plus trillion went to the military and related corporate defense contractors, and foreign governments like Israel and Saudi Arabia; during peace time. It is an abomination that Republicans and some Democrats have no problem allocating over half the nation’s expenditures for one year to the military and yet cannot fund repairs, maintenance, and rebuilding any of the country’s roads, bridges, and highways without robbing Americans’ pensions. It is not like the elderly and federal employees are the only Americans using the nation’s transportation system, or that corporations and other big businesses are not profiting from a reliable means of delivering their products.
All Americans benefit from a functioning highway system, and if all Americans were aware that once again a specific sector is expected to pay they may begin pressuring Republicans to get the funding from the people who have benefitted most from President Obama’s economic recovery success; the uber-wealthy, military industrial complex, the oil industry, and corporate America. However, as long as the Koch brothers own and operate the majority Republican Congress, and there is even a penny in the Social Security Trust Fund or any Americans’ pension account, Republicans will propose robbing the elderly to pay for projects that benefit the rich and corporations. It is, after all, just another part of their crusade to transfer all the nation’s wealth to the rich; the idea of stealing the elderly’s pensions to achieve their goals is for sheer entertainment value.