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|January 29- February 4, 2009
Back to Letters
by Pamela White
Here’s a funny thing about Wall Street execs, bankers and industrial CEOs: they don’t want government to interfere with them and they oppose taxes that provide the poor with health care, housing and food. But when it comes to government handouts, they’re always, always the first ones in line.
In their greed, they’ve helped create the economic mess we’re in today, but rather than paying for their mistakes, they’ve asked for — and received — an unfathomable sum of taxpayer money in what may be a vain attempt to save them and our credit-crazy economy.
President Barack Obama spent much of this week meeting with members of both political parties trying to win bipartisan support for an economic stimulus package that could cost as much as $850 billion more. Where this money will come from is uncertain. One suspects that dollar bills will soon read “Made in China” on the back, but that’s the topic for another column.
At issue in Washington is how this money is to be spent. Laissez-faire capitalists believe that the money would best be spent on business bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthy. After all, if the richest among us can hold onto their multi-million-dollar bonuses, Lear jets, mansions and yachts, those of us about to lose our single-family homes to foreclosure are bound to benefit — somehow.
But the idea of taking hard-earned money from the lower and middle and upper-middle class to benefit the uppity-uppest class doesn’t appeal to most Americans. It’s completely hypocritical for Wall Street types to preach “free market” when they’re making money hand over fist — and then plead for taxpayer handouts when they’re not. Further, it offends the American sense of fair play to watch our government help those who have more when so many who have much less continue to suffer so deeply. While tens of thousands of hardworking Americans found themselves without jobs this week and millions have lost the one and only roof over their heads, Wall Street CEOs are pocketing multi-million-dollar bonuses for mismanaging companies that have lost record millions.
In their great wisdom, economic pundits and analysts trip over themselves to explain why it’s necessary to throw more money at corporations rather than the common person. Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for HIS Global Insight, wants to see tax benefits that are tied to spending money. In other words, buy a new house, get a tax break.
It seems that people with money only think about how to help people with money. If you’ve got the clams to get a loan and buy a home in this economy, then you’re not really hurting.
What about our returning veterans, men and women who face a future of medical needs ranging from burn care to reconstructive surgeries to prostheses to timely psychological treatment? What about their educations and the economic health of their families? Their needs certainly haven’t been met yet. If anyone deserves help right now, it’s our veterans.
And how about those who’ve lost their jobs and now must pay up to 84 percent of their teensy unemployment checks to hold onto health insurance for themselves and their families? Loss of health care results in additional costs down the line in terms of poorer health, particularly when children are involved. A substantial portion of the bailout money ought to go toward overhauling our health-care system so that every single American man, woman and child receives the medical attention he or she needs.
The captains of industry are always eager to see their taxes cut. How about we take tax cuts away from multi-nationals and give them instead to privately owned businesses and the self-employed? I’d love to see the self-employment tax eliminated for people who earn less than a certain amount — say, $50,000. That way more skilled individuals can strike out on their own, generating their own income without worrying about the punitive taxes that accompany self-employment.
There’s talk of giving breaks to businesses that improve their balance sheets by paying down their debt. Can’t the same principle be applied to the average middle-class family? How about a tax incentive for people who pay off their credit cards and pay down the principle on their homes? Oh, but the bankers wouldn’t like that, would they?
So far I’m not that impressed with the ideas coming out of Washington. They seem to prop up the same old system, a system that has failed us, using short-term solutions that offer little benefit to the average person. In fact, some of these solutions sound like a very complicated way of saying, “Go shopping.”
On Sunday, Feb. 1, Boulder Weekly is inviting people to attend a citizens’ hearing on the federal economic stimulus package.
Congressman Jared Polis will attend the first hour of testimony. A variety of organizations will speak first, each for about four
minutes, while individuals will be invited to speak next, each for two minutes. The event will take place from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at Math 100, at Folsom and Colorado, on the University of Colorado campus and is being sponsored by the Weekly, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, KGNU Radio and Students for Peace and Justice.
Please attend and share your perspective on this crucial issue — before the money is spent.
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