What “Austerity” Really Means

You know that I generally need to be whacked by an inspiration stick to write a blog post. Well, this morning, I got hit with that stick. I found this article:

Krugman: ‘Austerity Has Been A Failure Everywhere It’s Been Tried’

Austerity has been a failure everywhere it’s been tried.

Of course it has. That got me thinking. Austerity has failed everywhere it has been tried – because “austerity” is a gigantic scam, that’s why.

Here’s my theory about all these “austerity” measures. I’m sure that a lot of folks will tell me that I’m just another crackpot lib socialist commie Marxist whatthehellever fillintheblank. Eh. Whatever. Do your worst, fellas.

This isn’t any sort of wild crackpot conspiracy theory, though; on the contrary, my theory has been forming and solidifying from watching what has been going on in Europe (particularly Ireland, Iceland, Greece and Italy) and now, here in the US, because we are on the same path – and it’s leading us to the same unsavory place. Most of us weren’t able to see it close up and in real time in Greece, but we are seeing it happen here – close up and in real time. It’s just a question of recognizing it; we have been frogs in the same pot for a long time, and now the water is getting uncomfortably warm.

The Republicans, guys like Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan etc. etc. (ad nauseum) have been trying to convince us for years that our social safety net programs, which they denigrate as “entitlements,” are simply undeserved handouts to moochers, n’er-do-wells, lazy slobs and union thugs. These truly progressive programs were put in place to protect the neediest citizens in our society, programs like Medicare/Medicaid, unemployment insurance, welfare, food stamps, Social Security, and others like Pell Grants by the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of our most visionary presidents. Now today’s Republicans, Mitch McConnell, et. al are insisting that these safety net programs are bankrupting our country and need to be slashed, slashed, slashed, and worse yet, privatized (“for-profit” in GOP-speak).

They tell you that your neighbor is a moocher, your child’s teacher is a thug and that firemen and police officers – who lay their lives on the line for you every single day on the job – are undeserving of their benefits and pensions. They tell us that the salaries of the teachers, our firefighters, police, and city/county/state workers are bankrupting us and that all those people are “union thugs” who are stealing the food from your childrens’ mouths through collective bargaining — even though it has been proven over and over again that those workers earn LESS than those in the private sector by a very large chunk.

Do you believe that? I don’t. I think teachers are unsung heroes who hold the future of our nation in their hands. I think firefighters – or anyone who would put their own body – their very life – between me and a burning house or a bullet has the most exceptional kind of courage and deserves the utmost respect. Remember those brave men and women who ran into the Twin Towers on 9/11/01? Those men and women died trying valiantly to save others. Those are the very people that Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor and Rand Paul would have you believe are the “thugs” who are trying to steal your money. Do you remember the last time your child’s teacher spent her own money on supplies for her classroom so she could teach your child? Maybe she held a bake sale to raise money to buy books or art supplies. Again, she is someone the Republicans would have you believe is a moocher who doesn’t deserve her salary or her benefits.

The Republicans also tell us endlessly and loudly that corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthiest citizens are too high, that we are “Taxed Enough Already.” They fund fake “grassroots” organizations like the Tea Party that spread lies and fear, and then bus in those duped and frightened senior citizens to tell us that the government should keep its government hands off their Medicare.

They tell us that taxes on the corporations and the wealthy must be cut, cut, cut and ladle out an endless stream of the stinky Koolaid, calling them the “job creators” and thus, they need every single cent in order to “create jobs.”

You must have heard by now that the giant corporations pay little or no taxes. It’s true. You and I pay more taxes than GE, Exxon, Halliburton, KBR, etc. etc. – because they not only have all those sweet tax loopholes through which they can shove their billions of dollars in profit, they also have been given by their puppets in Congress and the Senate the gift of even more loopholes that force US to pay THEM tax rebates. They also get to offshore their money – along with our jobs, and then they can count on their friends in the government to regularly propose a “tax holiday,” a scam by which the corporations can take that money they have tucked tidily offshore to avoid paying taxes on it and bring it back into the US and only have to pay a heavily discounted rate – in other words, they profit by scamming the government of the United States out of tax money due to We The People, also known as free money. The latest corporate shills proposing this gimmick are Senators John McCain (surprise, surprise) and Kay Hagen (a Democrat, also wholly corporate owned and operated).

The nearest analogy I can make to this scam is the fencing of stolen property. The corporations steal their tax money from us (the taxpayers) by shipping it offshore, and then they get to sell it back to us (courtesy of their shills in Congress) at a discount rate. Say an art thief steals a Picasso drawing from a museum. He packs it up and sends it to an accomplice in the Cayman Islands, who then sells it back to a private buyer in the US for a fraction of its true value – and the thief and the accomplice split the difference. Same thing. Corporations send their money offshore where it is unreachable and untaxable (like the stolen artwork, which could be valued in the millions of dollars), some Senator proposes a “tax holiday” on the grounds that it will “bring the economy out of the doldrums and create jobs” (see link above), the other shills in Congress dutifully vote “yes,” (the offshore accomplice makes the deal with the US buyer) and voila, the money reappears on the corporate books – after the corporation pays a nominal tax on those billions,  the shills in Congress get large campaign donations (the unethical art collector who bought the Picasso for a fraction of its worth), and everybody’s happy.

Well, everybody except those of us who get cheated:  We the People.

And another thing:  you notice how the Republicans never call for cuts in our defense spending?

Do you ever wonder why? I do. Think about it.

Think about what the Bush administration did during the Iraq war:  they handed out billions and billions of dollars worth of contracts to private corporations like Blackwater, KBR and Halliburton (and others) to do what our Army men and women had always been able to do for themselves before.

In handing out all these no-bid contracts, which also came without any sort of performance standards (or budgets), basically Bushco wrote these defense contractors what amounts to blank checks. You don’t believe me? Just look at the profits of Halliburton over the last 10 years, and the profits of other brazen defense contractors. They tell us that our Army men and women can’t possibly cook their own meals, build their own buildings or guard VIPs. Really…?

We spend a huge percentage of our nation’s budget on “defense.” This includes a huge standing army, bases all over the world, and building weapons, weapons and more weapons, including jets that will never fly and approximately $50 billion on weapons of mass destruction  (nukes) that, I fervently hope, will never be dropped on anyone. Why do we need all that mechanized death?

The simple answer is …we don’t. Our (mostly) Republican leaders would have us believe that [fill in the blank] is out to kill us, thirsting for our blood, hating us for our freedoms – and if we do not have enough nukes to destroy this planet 2,000 times over, we will be conquered and all forced to bow to Mecca 5 times a day, as the Muslims are the current enemy, you know.

It used to be the Russkies – the commies, remember? We were all going to end up bowing to Lenin and speaking Russian. Who’s next? China? Iran? There is already talk of us bombing Iran. For what? What good would that possibly do?

OK, so basically, we are told again and again that we simply cannot spare a single dime of those billions of dollars going to all those defense contractors who are building jets that will never fly and nukes and bombs and tanks, because they are protecting us from the enemy du jour.

Maybe you can now see where I’m going with this.

We are being systematically inculcated by the corporations and our government, first of all, with fear – and that’s a whole ‘nother story – and secondly, and the subject of this post, that we’re broke and the people who are breaking us are the poor, the elderly, the sick, the unemployed, those who teach our children, who save our houses when they catch fire and those who fix the potholes, drive the snowplows, and arrest the murderers, robbers and rapists in our streets.

Our leaders tell us that we are broke, – when corporate profits are at a 60 YEAR high, that corporate CEO’s make approximately 200 times the salary of the average American worker every single year (there is some serious disagreement on this particular statistic, so I have chosen to go with the low end), CEO salaries have risen by nearly 300% over the years, and by 30% this year alone, and that corporate tax rates have been steadily declining since 1964.

So, the question you need to ask yourself is this: if we are truly broke…then WHY?

So, back to the “austerity measures.”

We are being told that we are the ones who have to pay. We the people must tighten our belts.  If you’re poor, well, it’s your own damn fault, says Herman Cain, GOP presidential candidate. If you can’t find a job, too bad – it must be because you’re lazy and you love your new lifestyle. Or, it’s because we have a minimum wage law in this country, we have food safety and other regulations, and that businesses are mandated to provide a safe workplace. Just think – if there were no minimum wage and that coal mine owners could do away with those bothersome safety and environmental regulations, think how many more people they could hire! And when the mines collapsed or coal dust/methane explosions killed dozens or even hundreds of workers – they could hire more!

Maybe they could even hire children – they’re smaller.

If they didn’t have to provide health benefits, well, think how their profits would grow! If you got hurt on the job, you’re fired, bub. You could simply be replaced by another able-bodied worker willing to step over your mutilated body to do your job.

It would be a capitalist paradise! The job creators would be free to create all kinds of jobs – new sweatshops would spring up everywhere, and we’d be competing with a bunch of kids in Bangladesh for the princely salary of $2 a day.

That’s what this “austerity” is all about. This is a blatant grab to steal from us what remaining dignity we have, and to turn this country into another gigantic third world sweatshop from which every cent of profit can be extracted by the wealthy.

Think about it.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by houseofroberts on November 14, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Mornin’ Annie!

    Austerity is when the wealthy charge up a nation’s credit card until the bank (credit rating agencies) raises the interest rate to make paying off the debt even more painful. Then they stick the working poor with the bill, and complain when they don’t pay enough, quickly enough.

    Republicans like to compare the US spending/debt to a family managing its own budget. When it’s time to make spending cuts in a family, food, clothing, and shelter are the last things cut, and all share in the cuts equally, except the baby and Grandma, who get whatever they need. The family takes care of the weakest, no matter what. We, as a nation, used to take care of the weakest, no matter what. No longer, if we allow Republicans to have their way.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Muriel on December 7, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Love most of your comment, the only part I disagree with is that only Republicans are responsible. Obama has continued the same plan that Bush had, step by step, is like he never left office. They are trying to divide us, that’s all. All of them, from both parties are corrupt, corporate owned and funded. (Obama has 1billion for his campaign donated from Wall Street ) it is a sad fact, and this is coming from someone that voted for Obama.

    Reply

    • Posted by Leftside Annie on December 7, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      Ok, I get your point – how about we rate it percentage-wise? Republicans 80%, Dems 20%. Most of the carnage was caused by the Bush Crime Family – er, I mean Bush Administration, though. If you don’t agree, well, we’ll have to agree to disagree. The Dems may not be perfect, but they’re all we have; without them, we’d be living in a fascist theocracy, right?

      Reply

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