Leo W. Gerard
By Leo W. Gerard
USW International President
When Herbert Hoover ran for president in 1928, the Republican party promised his victory would assure the prosperity of “a chicken in every pot.” This week, Republicans proffered a similar pledge to America.
Hoover won, and in 1929, after a decade of GOP rule in Washington, Republicans did deliver something foul to Americans. It wasn’t the much-anticipated cooking hen. It was the Great Depression.
Now in the Great Recession, also delivered during a GOP presidency, Republicans have presented a new promise. They pledged to withdraw all unspent Recovery Act money to prevent it from employing even one more worker; kill health care reform to stop 30 million Americans from getting affordable insurance; slash $100 billion from federal programs protecting the middle class; preserve tax cuts for the rich and cut government regulation — like oversight of Gulf-oil-gusher-BP and contaminated-egg-producers Jack and Peter DeCoster.
This time, the GOP downsized the “chicken in every pot” promise. Instead they’re pledging a salmonella-poisoned egg.
In 1932, Americans wisely rejected re-electing Republican Hoover, who is regarded as one of the nation’s most inept leaders, and chose instead Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, revered as one of the best. This fall, it’s crucial that Americans choose sagely again, selecting Democrats intent on reforming Washington and protecting the nation’s middle class.
Eight years of Republican rule in Washington climaxed with the worst recession since the Great Depression. Since that downturn officially began in December of 2007, poverty, unemployment and foreclosures have risen while middle class income and health insurance coverage have fallen.
The poverty rate increased to the worst level in 16 years, with 3.7 million people slipping from the middle class to the ranks of the poor in 2009. One in seven Americans now is impoverished. More than 8 million workers have lost their jobs, and 2.3 million families have lost their homes to foreclosure. Nearly one in four mortgage holders is under water, meaning they owe more on their house than it’s worth. Also, last year, the number of uninsured Americans rose by 4.4 million to 50.7 million — 16.7% of the population. It was the largest annual increase since the government began collecting comparable data in 1987.
By contrast, on Wall Street, where unrestrained and unregulated bankster recklessness caused the recession, happy days are here again. The banks that taxpayers bailed out have resumed paying million-dollar salaries and bonuses. The nation’s top 25 hedge-fund managers each took home an average of $1 billion (BILLION) last year. Those hedgers are among the nation’s richest 1 percent, those whose take home pay grew so fast between 1979 and the start of the recession in 2007 that nearly 39 percent of all income growth went to that tiny number of super-wealthy. Only 36 percent went to the bottom 90 percent of the nation’s population.
Democrats, keenly aware of the diverging experiences of the nation’s sucker-punched workers and its well-heeled elite, have worked to aid the beleaguered middle. They passed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated created between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs by July.
Democrats reformed health insurance so that children with pre-existing conditions can’t be denied insurance; senior citizens won’t have to pay for “donut hole” medications; young adults up to age 26 may remain on their parents’ plans, and insurance companies can no longer choose doctors or place lifetime limits on coverage or drop the sick. On top of all that, the Democrats’ reform will lower federal deficits by $138 billion.
Now, Democrats are fighting to preserve income tax cuts for the middle class while eliminating breaks for the rich. The Democrats would continue to lower by $1,132 a year the taxes of median wage earners, those with incomes of about $50,000 a year. Under the Democrats’ plan, the super rich – those taking home more than $1 million a year — would still get a tax cut of $6,349 – six times that of the middle class. But Democrats would have the super rich pay $97,651 in taxes a year that they now pocket.
Democrats think the rich have an obligation to pay those taxes. To get where they are, in the top one percent income bracket, they’ve used tax-subsidized public services at significantly higher rates than the other 99 percent of Americans. That includes services such as roads and airports, civil courts, the U.S. patent office, the U.S. Department of Commerce and professional licensing, regulation and inspection departments.
Republicans don’t agree. They believe the middle class should pay so the rich can continue getting breaks. The GOP believes it is fine to give tax cuts to the rich that will cost nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, but not pay for them. Conversely, Republicans have refused to extend unemployment insurance for the middle class jobless unless that’s paid for. The GOP believes it’s appropriate to continue tax breaks for multi-national corporations that ship jobs overseas but it’s not to extend aid to the middle class unemployed to pay for health insurance.
In their Pledge to America, Republicans promise to take care of the rich. They said they’d change Washington by decimating the very regulation that protects middle class workers and their families and by cutting off money that is providing jobs to the unemployed. The GOP pledges to undermine middle class America.
It might be called a turkey, but even that would inflate its value. It’s a rotten egg hurled at middle America.
Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama recently appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of the Apollo Alliance, Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute. He is a member of the IMF and ICEM global labor federations and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union.