Home > Uncategorized > GOP’s Maddening Priorities: Take $$$ From Poverty Stricken Children and Give it to Heirs of Billionaire Donors

GOP’s Maddening Priorities: Take $$$ From Poverty Stricken Children and Give it to Heirs of Billionaire Donors

December 9, 2017

NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman opened his op ed column yesterday with this question and response:

Let me ask you a question; take your time in answering it. Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?

You might think that this question is silly, hypothetical and has an obvious answer. But it’s not at all hypothetical, and the answer apparently isn’t obvious. For it’s a literal description of the choice Republicans in Congress seem to be making as you read this.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is basically a piece of Medicaid targeted on young Americans. It was introduced in 1997, with bipartisan support. Last year it covered 8.9 million kids. But its funding expired more than two months ago. Republicans keep saying they’ll restore the money, but they keep finding reasons not to do it; state governments, which administer the program, will soon have to start cutting children off.

We have a major problem in this country, one that will be extraordinarily difficult to address. The problem is this: a majority of voters have unwittingly elected a political party into office— the GOP— that wants to eliminate the safety net programs government installed decades ago, safety net programs whose scope is largely unknown to them. Worse, the GOP has never made this goal explicit to the voters who support them…. but they DID make their endgame clear to the billionaire donors who put them into office.

Instead of telling voters what they told their donors—namely that they intended to pass legislation that would transfer billions of dollars spent on government programs into the bank vaults of an increasingly small group of plutocrats— the GOP promoted an appealing narrative to voters that their taxes were funding a bungling bureaucracy that created dependency, stifled economic growth by imposing unreasonable regulations on hard working businessmen. Worse, the government programs that help the unemployed and children born into poverty have created a large group of citizens who are dependent on the government for their undeserved well-being. Voters therefore believe heir tax dollars would be better spent if “the government” operated more efficiently by eliminating rampant waste, fraud and abuse.

This narrative was codified into one phrase: “government is the problem”. And it stands to reason that if the government is the problem, then taxes raised to fund the government take the voters’ hard earned dollars and give them to undeserving citizens on the dole or undeserving government workers who are receiving wages, benefits and working conditions that are far better than those paid in the private sector.

This narrative is appealing on several levels: it diverts attention away from the small group of individuals who benefit from changes in the tax code that reward the affluent and focusses it on a larger group who benefit from the generosity of the government. And because their are some inefficiencies in the operation of the government, some government workers who don’t work as hard as those in some private sector jobs, some welfare recipients who “game” the safety net system, and some regulations that are bewildering and counterproductive, it is easy to reinforce the notion that waste, fraud, and abuse are rampant. And the narrative conveniently overlooks the long term consequences of rending the safety net in favor of the short term consequences of providing hard-working taxpayers with a short term benefit.

But the narrative papers over the fact that virtually every American citizen at one point or the other is the beneficiary of a government program and if those programs were not in place our economy and our well being would be even worse.

And, as Mr. Krugman points out in his column, the GOP’s decision to provide $20,000,000,000 in tax relief to billionaire’s children while cutting $15,000,000,000 for the CHIP program is a perfect example of the GOP’s endgame. Here’s Mr. Krugman’s concluding paragraphs:

Children who get adequate care are more likely to be healthier and more productive when they become adults, which means that they’ll earn more and pay more in taxes. They’re also less likely to become disabled and need government support. One recent study estimated that the government in fact earns a return of between 2 and 7 percent on the money it spends insuring children.

By the way, broadly similar results have been found for the food stamp program: Ensuring adequate nutrition for the young means healthier, more productive adults, so that in the long run this aid costs taxpayers little or nothing.

But such results, while interesting and important, aren’t the main reason we should be providing children with health care and enough to eat. Simple decency should be reason enough. And despite everything we’ve seen in U.S. politics, it’s still hard to believe that a whole political party would balk at doing the decent thing for millions of kids while rushing to further enrich a few thousand wealthy heirs.

That is, however, exactly what’s happening.

As the underscored sentences above emphasize, the benefits of programs that help children raised in poverty are not realized immediately, they take nearly a generation to yield a “return on investment”. But the bold, red, underscored sentence indicates the real problem with our current political climate. It is predicated on selfishness and greed. It reflects and reinforces the motives of the GOP’s billionaire donors. And here’s another thing that’s happening: simple decency is not a part of either party’s platform at this time… nor is the need for more taxes to operate the government more efficiently. And until a narrative based on “simple decency” replaces the narrative that “government is the problem” we will continue to see an ever widening gap between the .1% and the rest of America and a widening gap between those who want to treat people humanely and those who want to retain as much as they can.

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