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Is our moral principle “dog eat dog?”

by Bob Gerecke

Vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan exemplifies the right wing of today’s Republican Party: reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves.  Dog eat dog.

Ryan’s views are revealed in the budget he proposed last March.  It would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade.  The biggest cuts would be in Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the nation’s poor, forcing states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Ryan’s budget would reduce food stamps for poor families by 17 percent ($135 billion) over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger – particularly among children. It would also reduce housing assistance, job training and grants for college tuition.

Ryan would turn Medicare—for which people have paid insurance premiums for many years—into vouchers whose value won’t keep up with rising health-care costs, thereby shifting those costs to seniors, many of whom won’t be able to afford them.   Poverty, homelessness, illness and premature death among seniors would increase.

By contrast, Ryan would provide a substantial tax cut to the very rich, who are already taking home a huge share of the nation’s total income.  Today’s 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together. Some analysts estimate that the Ryan proposal would probably reduce Romney’s taxes to one percent.  Perhaps that’s why Romney won’t reveal his tax returns.

Although Romney has carefully avoided specifics in his own economic plan, he has said he’s “very supportive” of Ryan’s budget plan.  “It’s a bold and exciting effort, an excellent piece of work, very much needed...very consistent with what I put out earlier.”

Romney hasn’t put out much, but what he’s proposed would, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, throw 10 million low-income people off the benefits rolls for food stamps or cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or some of both.

At the same time, Romney wants to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, reduce corporate income taxes and eliminate the estate tax.  These tax reductions would increase the incomes of people earning more than $1 million a year by an average of $295,874 annually, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

Romney and Ryan also want to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law, thereby leaving 50 million Americans without health insurance.

And there’s no way that Romney/Ryan would make it easier for employees to organize and bargain for a better share of the profits or would make it harder for multinational corporations to offshore American jobs. Romney increased his fortune by sending jobs overseas, which undercuts the pay of every American employee and threatens the success of local businesses.

It’s no wonder Romney and Ryan see the world from the perspective of the wealthy.  As the son of a corporate president and political leader, Romney began life on third base.  Ryan and his wife have substantial inheritances.

In the 20th century, America created a large middle class that became the engine of our economy and our democracy. We built safety nets to catch Americans who fell downward, often through no fault of their own. We designed regulations to protect our pocketbooks, health and lives against the excesses of free-market greed. We taxed the rich and invested in public goods—public schools, public universities, public transportation, public parks, public health—that made us all better off. Romney and Ryan would roll that back, closer to the days of the robber barons.

The Preamble to our US Constitution states that one of its purposes is to “promote the general welfare.” It doesn’t mention increasing the wealth of the already wealthy.  Helping those in trouble or in need is a moral imperative in most religions. I don’t recall that helping the rich is.

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