It was very disingenuous for Arizona Representative John Shadegg to claim that the poor amongst us don’t employ anyone. Every dollar that the poor spends is just as valuable as every dollar from the wealthy. When the poor buy gasoline, somebody has to go through all the motions of pulling crude oil from where it’s found, refining it, and delivering it to the gas station where it’s purchased. When the poor spend money at the grocery store, somebody has to pull that item from its raw form, process it or refine it, package it, deliver it, and stock it on the shelf. Just out of the sheer volume of numbers, the poor are responsible for a great deal of hiring. Despite Mr. Shadegg’s best impersonation of ignorance, this concept isn’t even close to resembling rocket science.
But it reconfirms one of the core suspicions of modern day politics that some of our legislators really do dismiss the poor as unimportant and inconsequential in the grand scheme of the American economy. Mr. Shadegg and his kind argue that any program that targets the poor such as unemployment insurance must be paid for because the money that goes to the poor simply evaporates into the financial ether. It is Mr. Shadegg’s thoughtless theory that when the poor receive an unemployment check, the poor are reluctant to spend that money and would save it in order to make it last as long as possible. That might be true. But, the reality is that as much as somebody would like to stretch that unemployment check out, as much as somebody might want to make it last for months and months, an unemployment check rarely covers all the expenses the unemployed may have and the money is quickly exhausted.
It is my understanding that extending the unemployment benefits another twelve weeks, on top of the already record breaking ninety nine weeks, would cost the nation something short of twenty billion dollars. Conversely, the Shadeggs amongst us are more than happy to spend seven hundred billion dollars to extend tax cuts implemented during the Bush Administration to the wealthy. Now this begs the question, what would a rich person, someone who can pretty much already afford everything he or she needs, do with that extra money from that tax cut? Would they be more likely than a poor person to spend that money? I would guess not. There is little doubt that the wealthy would save their government sponsored tax break. That money would go into a bank or would be invested into corporate America.
And right now, corporate America is literally sitting on tons of cash, hoarding trillions of dollars, unwilling to spend money to hire new employees and instead squeezing the employees already on the payroll for more efficiency. It’s an employer’s market right now with unemployed people competing for that rare commodity commonly referred to these days as an employment opportunity. These days, with tons of people out of work, many corporations are boasting huge profits of billions of dollars. Even General Motors is able to make a boast about operating in the financial black for the entire year for the first time in a handful of years. No surprise since it was able to cut thousands of employees from its payroll. Efficiency is the word these days. And a lower income tax rate for the wealthy will do little to inspire the rich, cash heavy corporations to turn the situation around.
For many people, it has been hammered home that it is unfair to make the rich people pay more to help simply because they can. A lot of people think that we’re all paying enough in taxes already. But if that was truly the case we wouldn’t be running trillion dollar deficits now. People want to say that all we have to do is cut spending. Just don’t cut any spending from any program that they may benefit from. It’s always somebody else that needs to do the sacrificing. And if people truly believe that mantra, then people should understand that the people who can sacrifice more need to do their share in this social collective. In this respect, we are not a nation of equals. Some of us can do a lot more than others.
And please spare me the less than clever twist of illogical thinking that those who think people should give more should feel free to do so. Not even the richest billionaire can make a dent in our ten trillion dollar deficit. That’s like saying if somebody feels that the government should destroy al Qaeda then they should get on the next Pakistani air liner to the war zone. Nobody is equipped to do this alone. No one got us into this sorry state by his or her self, no one person is going to get us out. We need to do this as a collective. And as a collective we need to up the ante and pay the taxes needed to get our collective going again.
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