Letters

Letters 07-21-2014

Disheartened

While observing Fox News, it was disheartening to see what their viewers were subjected to. It seems the Republicans’ far right wing extremists are conveying their idealistic visions against various nationalities, social diversities or political beliefs with an absence of emotion concerning women’s health issues, children’s rights, voter suppression, Seniors, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid...

Things That Matter

All of us in small towns and large not only have the right to speak on behalf of our neighbors and ourselves, we have the duty and responsibility to do so -- and 238 years ago, we made a clear Declaration to do just that...

An Anecdote Driven Mind

So, is Thomas Kachadurian now the Northern Express’ official resident ranter? His recent factfree, hard-hearted column suggests it. While others complain about the poor condition of Michigan’s roads and highways, he rants against those we employ to fix them...

No On Prop 1

Are we being conned? Are those urging us to say “yes” to supposedly ”revenue neutral” ballot proposal 1 on August 5 telling us all the pertinent facts? Proposal 1 would eliminate the personal property tax businesses pay to local governments, replacing its revenue with a share of Michigan’s 6 percent use tax paid by us all on out-of-state purchases, hotel accommodations, some equipment rentals, and telecommunications...

Fix VA Tragedy

The problems within the Veterans Administration identified under former President Bush continue to hinder the delivery of quality health care to the influx of physically wounded and emotionally damaged young men and women...

Women Take Note

I find an interesting link between the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby and the crisis on the southern border. Angry protesters shout at children to go home. These children are scared, tired, hungry and thirsty, sent to US prisons awaiting deportation to a country where they may very likely be killed...


Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · A war against the middle...
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A war against the middle

Stephen Tuttle - February 28th, 2011
A War Against the Middle
There was a time in recent memory when expanding the middle class was considered such a good thing it was the underlying theme of almost all things political. Candidates and elected officials of all stripes promised, or at least discussed, improvements in public education, assistance for small business owners, protecting retirement programs, new technologies and job growth. In fact, we heard some of those very discussions during the 2010 campaigns.
The campaigns are now over and reality has come calling. Our newly elected leaders and their supporters have almost no interest in protecting or expanding the middle class. Quite the contrary. We are now witnessing a full-blown assault on the middle class.
The peripheral skirmishes have been under way for decades with more and more money and power being filtered into the hands of fewer and fewer corporations and individuals. The companions to this transfer have been ever-increasing attacks on working men and women, especially those working in the public sector.
It didn’t start that way. Ronald Reagan was fond of saying government wasn’t the solution, it was the problem. We all understood he was talking about that amorphous, unresponsive, bloated, overspending thing we call The Government. That has slowly but surely morphed into attacks on something much more specific – government workers. And not just those at or near the top of the bureaucratic food chain, but all government workers at every level. Especially if they are in a union.
In Washington and in statehouses throughout the country, public sector employees are now being demonized as the source of our budget woes. Seriously. The problem here, according to newly-elected politicians and those trying to catch the wave of anger sweeping the country, isn’t mathematically challenged politicians or greedy corporations or even incompetent bureaucrats.
The villains are now teachers, janitors, bus drivers, police officers, fire fighters, snowplow drivers and all manner of other public employees who try to help us every day. You see, they have those damned contracts that actually pay many of them a livable wage, provide some benefits and – oh my God – include a retirement program. Can you imagine such a thing? Healthcare and a pension. Apparently, it’s an outrage.
Working for the government used to be considered an honorable road to the middle class. Economists thought that was a very good thing since the middle class buys more stuff and pays more taxes than any other economic demographic. Their success provided economic stability and a consistent revenue stream to municipal, state and federal programs.
Not anymore. With new leadership in statehouses and in Washington there is a new reality. It is now clear they’ve decided it’s easier to destroy the middle class than it is to expand it.
These New Republicans are not the “compassionate conservatives” of George Bush the Lesser or the traditional conservatives of Ronald Reagan and Bush the Elder. This is a new breed altogether that serves only to tear down that which so many have worked so hard for so long to build up.
Michigan is a case in point. We have about a $1.6 billion deficit out of a $45.9 billion total budget. That’s about 3.5%. Not good but certainly not a disaster indicating a “failure” of the budget and tax systems as Governor Snyder claims. Imagine you have $100 but owe bills in the amount of $103.50. What’s your first move? You could cut your expenses or try to increase your income or some combination of both. Most of us would find a way.
What we would not do is immediately decrease our income by nearly 4% as Snyder did with his $1.8 billion in corporate tax breaks. To be sure, Michigan’s corporate/business tax system is way out of whack and needs reform. Our new governor campaigned on fixing that bizarre state tax code and balancing the budget. Fair enough. But decreasing state revenues by nearly $2 billion when we’re already $1.6 billion in the red is a peculiar way to balance the budget. The concept that those tax breaks will ultimately “trickle down” from corporate headquarters to the rest of us in the form of business expansion and job growth is unproven at best and just flat untrue at worst. An uncertain solution in an uncertain economy.
What is certain is how the various states are going to pay for reduced corporate taxes – we’re going to pay for them.
Here in Michigan, if Governor Snyder and his allies have their way, our kids in public schools will pay with reduced funding and seniors will pay with increased taxes. Public employees, the new villains of the New Right, will pay the most having committed the suddenly unforgivable sins of negotiating a middle class wage with decent benefits and something for retirement. Those salaries, benefits and pensions are now at risk all over the country in what appears to be a nationwide effort to balance budgets by punishing working men and women. In Wisconsin, they’ve taken the extra step of trying to kill public employee unions once and for all by eliminating collective bargaining.
Most of us understand we need to share in the sacrifices being made during this recession. Nearly all public employee unions have made salary and benefit concessions or have said they are willing to do so. But a nearly $2 billion tax break for corporations in Michigan isn’t sharing the sacrifice, it’s sacrificing our share.
The New Right, fresh from electoral victories, is going to war against the government and the people who work for it. It is unclear who the victors will be. It is painfully clear, however, who the casualties will be – what’s left of the middle class.


 
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