Monday, November 26, 2012

Commentary on the Fiscal Cliff: An "Austerity Bomb" and "Artificially Contrived Trap"

Several interesting educational resources today about the so-called "fiscal cliff" in the U.S.:

For the New York Times, Paul Krugman notes that the "fiscal cliff" is is really an "austerity bomb" that's about maintaining tax cuts for the rich while passing on "austerity" to the poor and middle classes via spending cuts in government services.  

At Huffington Post, Robert Kuttner offers similar analysis.  Kuttner calls the "fiscal cliff" an "artificially contrived trap" designed by the Republicans to try to force continued low tax rates for the rich and cuts in social programs.

In an open letter to President Obama at Huffington Post, Michael Moore gives the president the following advice:

DRIVE THE RICH RIGHT OFF THEIR FISCAL CLIFF. The "fiscal cliff" is a ruse, an invention by the right and the rich, to try and keep their huge tax breaks. On December 31, let ALL the tax cuts expire. Then, on January 1, put forth a bill that restores the tax cuts for 98 percent of the public. I dare the Republicans to vote against that! They can't and they won't.

And at Salon, Joan Walsh asks why so many Irish-American Catholics--her people (and mine)--have let themselves be gulled by the right-wing blather about lazy minorities wanting "stuff" and remaining trapped in poverty due to their "dependency" on the government.  Walsh observes,

It troubles me beyond reason that the face of the white GOP backlash is so frequently Irish Catholic: O’Reilly, Hannity, Pat Buchanan. Reading Kelly’s book again reminded me that everything racists say about African Americans was once said about my own people, and in the famine at least, with a deadly outcome.

And she hopes that for Christmas, O'Reilly, Hannity, Buchanan and others might be given John Kelly's troubling new account of the Great Famine, The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People, where--if they read the book--they'll discover that the very same things they're now saying about lazy, government-dependent, impoverished minorities, the British overlords of the Irish people said about Ireland as they allowed the Irish people to starve in droves during the Famine.

By the time my great-great grandparents Valentine and Bridget Tobin Ryan arrived in the U.S. in 1852 (and 1853: Bridget came after Valentine with their children), Bridget had given birth to seven children from 1838 to 1849.  Four of those children had evident died by 1852, since Valentine and Biddie brought with them to the U.S. only Margaret, Patrick, and Catherine, my great-grandmother.  They left behind in Ireland a little girl they had been raising, who belonged either to some relative or neighbor whose parents had died, and whom they could not bring with them when they emigrated.

The experience of having walked through the atrocious years of privation and disease during the Famine permanently marked these ancestors of mine, who passed down among their descendants a very strong moral injunction that we must never close our hands or our door to anyone in need.  Because the person standing on the street asking for assistance or at our door might well be ourselves.

It puzzles me that some of my own cousins who are now among those hullaballooing for secession after the president's re-election seem to have forgotten that family injunction and those family stories.  I'm just as puzzled as Joan Walsh is by what some of us Irish Americans have made of ourselves at this point in American history.

I expect strong leadership from the president as the spurious "fiscal cliff" crisis approaches.  And I would propose that all of us who helped re-elect him should raise our voices strongly if he shows signs of making concessions to the Republicans who want to hold the economy and future of the nation hostage to keep tax rates for the rich at criminally low levels.

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