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Tue, Dec. 10

GOP plan imperils surplus, jobless pay

This is simple. The answer narrows down to two sentences.

Republicans proposed yet another, irresponsible $1.5 billion giveaway to the wealthy which would squander the remaining budget surplus, threaten the nation's long-term financial outlook and endanger Social Security, while doing little or nothing for the newly unemployed or working class families.

Democrats opposed it.

The country began sliding into recession in the first year of the Bush administration, and the Sept. 11 tragedy pulled us in deeper. After the attacks, Democrats and Republicans rallied around the president's war on terrorism and pledged to develop a stimulus plan to cope with recession. Congress enacted many devastating measures which the president signed into law.

Unfortunately, near the end of 2001, the Bush White House and the Republican Party blocked several attempts to enact legislation to help recession-affected families by extending and expanding unemployment benefits and health care coverage.

On Feb. 15, with clear knowledge that the legislation would go nowhere, the GOP rushed through another so-called economic stimulus package composed mostly of corporate tax cuts and individual cuts similar to those enacted earlier.

These irresponsible actions, combined with the June legislation, would have erased a $4 trillion budget surplus. The Republican-led House tried to hide its desire to deny the much-needed extension by tacking on to their doomed bill a Senate-approved extension of unemployment benefits; Congress has granted extensions in every recession since the 60s.

Representative George Miller, D-Calif., said the GOP effort was "almost savage in its insensitivity to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own."

Right now more than 80,000 people have reached the usual 26-week limit and very likely two million will lose their unemployment benifits by June.

Just a few of the facts from the revised Jan.y 29, 2002, Congressional Budget Office projections and the Center On Budget Policy Priorities:

• Excluding Social Security, the budget is in deficit by $181 billion in the current fiscal year. Surpluses are not likely to reappear until 2010.

• In 2002 and 2003 the total budget, including Social Security, will be in deficit for the first time since 1997.

• Over the 10-year period 2002-2011, the budget including Social Security and Medicare has lost $4.0 trillion in projected surpluses compared to CBO's projections of a year ago. This is the largest one-year deterioration since 1982, after the enactment of the Reagan tax cut in 1981.

• The tax cut last June is the largest single component of that $4 trillion reduction in projected total surpluses.

• Because of last year's legislation the treasury will pay $1 trillion more in net interest payments.

A few years back, I asked a friend how he had fared by the Reagan tax cut package. He replied that he wasn't rich enough to afford another tax cut like it. I suspect that our nation is in the same boat this time.

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