This past Thursday, Republican leaders unveiled their legislative agenda for the next Congress, which they are calling the “Pledge to America.” Unfortunately, however, the plan contains the very same policies that led to the economic crisis in the first place.
In short, the pledge calls for a reduction in government regulation, a repeal of the healthcare reform, extending large tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, ending stimulus spending, and undoing all the successes the Obama administration has accomplished.
First, why do we need government regulation? Without it, Wall Street was able to conduct business in an irresponsible manner that resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Bankers got greedy, misled the public, and contributed to the housing market bubble. Without government regulation, credit card companies were able to raise interest rates on existing balances without notifying you and entrapped students into a never ending pile of debt. Without government regulation, private banks handled federally backed student loans, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in subsidies and making it harder for students to pay back loans.
Second, without healthcare reform, whose provisions only just started to take effect, millions died due to lack of adequate insurance; students were not covered under their parents’ insurance; pre-existing conditions dominated your insurance policy; Medicare finances were being depleted; the cost of prescription drugs steadily increased; and taxpayers were forced to pay thousands extra in premiums for unnecessary and avoidable trips to the emergency room.
Third, extending tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent will do nothing to help our staggering economy. One major proof: the tax cut for the richest has been in place since 2003. But instead of investing, they have saved; instead of increasing paychecks for employees they have given out large corporate bonuses; and instead of hiring American workers, they have outsourced jobs. Throughout Bush’s 8 years in office, even with a 35% tax rate (as opposed to 39% during Clinton), there was only a total net growth of 3 million jobs, and ZERO in the private-sector. Clearly, the tax cuts did not, and will not work. Also, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the CBO, extending the tax cut will cost an additional $3 trillion over 10 years in lost revenue.
Finally, what’s wrong with stimulus spending? What’s wrong with funding public works projects, extending unemployment benefits, and increasing support for cash-strapped state governments so they won't have to lay off teachers and police officers? What’s wrong with saving the auto-industry and allowing companies like GM and Chrysler to make profits and start hiring American workers again? What’s wrong with helping troubled homeowners avoid foreclosures; giving small businesses tax cuts and assist in their lending? What’s wrong with going from an economy where we were losing 750,000 jobs a month to now creating more than 3 million new jobs? The answer is nothing. But the very same Republicans who denounced the Obama stimulus spending plan are quick to embrace stimulus spending when it comes in the form of tax cuts for the rich.
If this is where Republicans are planning to take us after November, I want to get off at the next exit.