Mitch McConnell was serious when he said that his primary goal after President Obama was elected was to make him a one-term president. To achieve this goal, he has encouraged Republicans to block every single proposition for improving the economy that Obama has offered to Congress by playing the filibuster card. They have filibustered no less than 60 bills, some of which leading economists agree would help to improve this economy.
Then, with the help of the Tea Party, the Republicans showed how much they care about the future of this country by threatening to allow the government and the economy to collapse if they did not get their way in the debt ceiling debacle. For a party that crowed about creating jobs in their 2010 election victory, this country has yet to see the Republicans put forth even one bill that would create jobs.
Now President Obama has proposed a jobs bill that would expand cuts in payroll taxes for workers and employers, extend jobless benefits, and would create construction jobs for public works such as roads, airports, and bridges, activities that would provide countless jobs and improve our failing infrastructure. It would add tax breaks that hire employees. He also proposed a small tax increase for the wealthiest Americans to help pay for this bill. This, of course, set off loud wails from Wall Street and the Fox News crowd, even while wealthy Americans like Warren Buffett and most Americans urge that the tax be implemented. In the New York Times, Buffett reported that he that he paid only 17.4 percent of his taxable income to the IRS, a lower percentage than any of the 20 persons in his office, whose tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent. He questioned whether it was fair for his secretary to pay more of a percentage of tax liability than he does.
The disparity of the tax system, which has been rigged by lobbyists for the wealthy and implemented by our campaign-hungry legislators, unfortunately illustrates the values that our country seems to have chosen. For example, the average teacher's salary in the United States is around $55,000. The average bonus for Wall Street bankers was $108,000 last year, not including salaries. Do we really value Wall Street bankers so much more than the teachers we entrust our children to every day?
Money earned on investments are "capital gains." Americans pay only 15 percent on the capital gains earnings that they make while sitting on their couches, but working stiffs pay up to 25 percent at $69,000 per year or 35 percent if they make $83,600 per year.
A person making $106,800 pays the same Social Security tax as billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. You pay no Social Security tax on any money you make over that amount. So 94 percent of Americans pay Social Security tax on all of their incomes, but the richest 6 percent pay the tax only on $106,800 of their incomes. Still think the system isn't rigged against the middle class?
And so much for the "job creating tax cuts for the rich" that have been in effect since the Bush administration. The only jobs created by that "welfare for billionaires bill" are those as pool attendants at mansions and security guards at gated communities.
The Republicans, of course, want to close the budget gap that they created by two wars, an unfunded prescription program and tax breaks for the rich by slashing government spending because they want smaller government. What Republicans and Tea Party members seem to ignore is that Americans depend on government to provide for many things that sustain our way of life.
What has made this nation great is the way that the government has provided for the "general welfare" of its citizens as stated in the U.S. Constitution, "general welfare" meaning providing highways, electricity, water and sewer management, hazardous waste control, urban infrastructure, air traffic control, National Parks, mass transit, dams, airports, bridges, public schools, hospitals, the Center for Disease Control, etc. How quickly would we discover the listeria infection in cantaloupes without the FDA? When small government ideologues want to slash government spending, they rarely want to look at actual government functions to cut unless they affect them personally. Case in point: The Tea Party activist carrying the sign, "Take your hands of my Medicare."
Republicans are already stonewalling President Obama's jobs bill. Raising taxes on wealthy Americans just isn't their cup of "Tea." Another filibuster and political fight rather than compromise is assured. My cynical side says that Republicans are afraid the bill would actually help the economy and thereby help President Obama in the next election. This column is not about re-electing Obama, this is about exposing some realities about Republican politics, how they pander to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. This is about hoping that Republican legislators can finally come to realize that our economy and the future of this country depend on their willingness to either approve the jobs bill, be willing to compromise, or at the very least create a jobs bill of their own. Members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, should recognize that their jobs may be at stake, when the approval rating of Congress is at 11 percent and the jobless are taking to the streets. It is time for Congress to act.
Cynthia Neely of Lodi is a retired city attorney.