During the past 50 years, the disparity of wealth between the very rich and the majority of American citizens has widened tremendously.
Most of the country's resources are now concentrated in the hands of a few. Between 1979 and 2007, incomes for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans rose by 281 percent. Compensation packages of American CEO's have bloated from 25 times the average salary of all their employees just after World War II, to more than to 550 times the average salary of all their employees today.
We need to save the disappearing middle class, not lower taxes for people who are already extraordinarily wealthy. In a "60 Minutes" interview with Leslie Stahl, Speaker John Boehner said it was important that kids "have a shot at the American Dream like I did." But they will not have that opportunity if the Republicans shred America's safety net and destroy essential middle class programs. The GOP is holding the American Dream itself hostage.
Our infrastructure is crumbling. Underfunding government to give tax rebates to the rich was the reason there was no money to fix the interstate bridge in Minnesota that collapsed, killing many. Education, public mail delivery, weather satellites, highways, streets and fire hydrants, firemen, policemen, judges and jails are government services shared by rich and poor alike, paid for by tax revenues.
Only 11 years ago, the government had a budget surplus. Today, our government owes trillions. That deficit is the result of Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars and a prescription drug program written by insurance and drug companies.
Yet taxes are lower than they were 60 years ago. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, increasing the income tax on top earners is one of the most efficient ways to grow the economy. And according to Wall Street financier Steve Rattner, the 400 richest Americans, who used to pay 30 percent of their income in taxes, now pay an average of 18 percent.
The Bush tax cuts have not created jobs. If they have, those jobs are in India, China, and elsewhere. According to a Jan. 9, 2009 Wall Street Journal article, President Bush had the worst ever track record on job creations. It is not wealthy Americans, but middle class entrepreneurs who open and grow small enterprises or invent new technologies.
Fiscal irresponsibility is a moral issue. The opportunity to be wealthy and live in luxury should carry with it a responsibility to support the society in which such possibilities exist. If the society falls apart and people can't live on what they earn, it affects the wealthy too.
If we want a government "of the people, by the people, for the people" we have to participate in it and contribute to it. Our elected officials must put their responsibility to the citizens of this country before their greed and thirst for power. Instead, at a time when we have a collapsing middle class, a huge national debt, and a rapidly increasing gap between the richest 2 percent of Americans and everyone else, some Republicans would hold the entire middle class hostage so that millionaires and billionaires can receive huge tax breaks. This is a moral outrage.
Republicans want cuts. Democrats are not against cuts; they only want to increase revenue to pay for them. I would suggest that, since 48 percent of Congress are millionaires, we can begin by cutting congressional pay and eliminating their pension. Since the Supreme Court gave corporations the same privileges as individuals, their profits should count as their income, and they should pay taxes on them. And all government subsidies to corporations - oil companies, drug companies, agribusiness, and everyone else - should immediately cease. Deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice.
Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear.