On December 17, 2010, President Obama signed into law tax breaks for the rich, continuing for two more years the infamous tax breaks enacted by President George W. Bush. Obama’s rationale, it was the only way he could get an extension of unemployment insurance benefits for the 99ers, which was appended to the measure.
“How much have things changed in America when we have to invent a new phrase, ‘the 99ers’, to describe the hordes of Americans, at least 1.5 million, that have exhausted two years of unemployment benefits and yet still have not been able to find a new job?” cited in endoftheAmericandream.com.
Unfortunately for the 99ers, the tax cut deal that Barack Obama has reached with the Republicans only includes the existing structure of long-term unemployment benefits. It does not extend additional weeks of benefits for the 99ers.
The average size of an unemployment check across the United States is approximately $302.90 a week. That is not much. But now imagine desperately trying to survive on that pittance and then having even that little bit of income stripped away from you.
Over the next few years we could see literally millions of American families forced from their homes and on to the streets.
At the signing ceremony, Obama said passage of the law was propelled “by the fact that tax rates for every American were poised to automatically increase on January 1st”. If that had happened, “the average middle-class family would have had to pay an extra $3,000 in taxes next year,” Obama claims it would also prevent taxes from rising on New Year’s Day for virtually every American household. The measure also will guarantee unemployed workers in hard-hit states up to 99 weeks of jobless benefits through the end of next year.
The $858 billion package, money that would have to be borrowed from China or elsewhere, will skyrocket the deficit.
The right wing has been gunning for cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “Cut the deficits,” they cry while enthusiastically endorsing these obscene tax cuts for the rich which raises the deficit to towering proportions. This has been used by the right wing as the rationale for steep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
When he ran for President, Mr. Obama made more than just a few campaign promises; promises concerning taxes, the economy, and Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He lost a lot of credibility with Democratic leaders when the President’s Fiscal Commission released its report on cuts in government spending, and Social Security and Medicaid, while not at the top of the list, are on it.
“Shocking! Shocking!” you say when you hear that Obama is now harboring ways in which to hammer the entitlement programs along with the Republicans.
Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont complained of “worrisome reports” that Obama is considering cuts in Social Security. The Senator said, “I urge you once again to make it clear to the American people that under your watch we will not cut Social Security benefits, raise the retirement age or privatize this critical program.”
Sanders also pointed out that a White House fiscal commission appointed by Obama recently called for changes in Social Security. A change in how Social Security is funded as part of the tax deal Obama reached in December with congressional Republicans was another warning sign. Another red flag was raised when Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee evaded a direct question about Social Security cuts. “Let’s not rule everything out,” Goolsbee said during a Jan. 7 interview on CNN.
The Republicans have been beckoning the Democrats to go along with them. They keep talking about the necessity for restructuring Social Security to save it, because it’s going to run out of funds. On Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner repeatedly has said he supports raising the Social Security retirement age to 70.
In fact, the Social Security trust fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus projected to increase to more than $4 trillion by 2023, Senator Sanders noted in his letter. The 75-year-old system will be able to continue to pay every nickel owed to ever eligible recipient for at least another 26 years. “All of us want to work in a bipartisan manner when we can, but needlessly cutting Social Security benefits when that has nothing to do with our deficit situation is not good public policy,” Sanders said.
Which way will Obama go?
Will he turn out to be the consummate con artist and a stalking horse for the corporate oligarchy, as some people think?
STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, writer-producer-director of documentaries, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC. His memoir is now in print. See www.amahchewahwah.com.