Supply-side sham for spending cuts

With last week’s passage of yet another tax cut with slight benefits for the upper-middle class and big benefits for the upper-upper class, this one for $70 billion over five years, Congress continued its support of supply-side economics. The supply-side theory – in which the government gives our wealthiest profit-mongers more money, which they are then supposed to use to benefit the poor – is an interesting one, akin to overfeeding the wealthy, who then, having relieved themselves, waggle their penises while the rest catch whatever they can in their mouths.

After the latest tax cuts passed, President Bush told reporters that, “By extending key capital gains and dividends tax relief, the House has taken an important step to continue to help hardworking Americans.”

A better way to help hardworking Americans, those who actually work, as opposed to those who invest their already-considerable wealth, would have been to keep those taxes in place and use them to fund health care, education programs, etc. But rather than tax the rich, the government borrows from the rich, and pays them interest for having the pleasure to do so.

As usual, these tax cuts will lead to greater budget shortfalls, which government leaders will use as an excuse to cut social programs in an effort to pretend to cut the budget. From both Democrats and Republicans we hear a lot about the need for a lean budget, but if members of Congress were serious about creating such a thing, there are portions of the budget that could sustain substantial cuts with no harm to Americans. We could cut over $300 billion out of the “defense” budget, for example.

According to the socially liberal, fiscally conservative Cato Institute (one of the few major institutions to actually believe in the “free market”), we could cut our military expenditures and be more, rather than less, secure. Because the U.S. is “blessed with one of the most secure geostrategic environments the world has ever seen,” with weak, friendly neighbors, and two oceans separating it from other major powers, the U.S. “is virtually invulnerable to an invasion,” the Cato Handbook for Congress says. But most important, any nation that attacked the U.S. “would face the devastation of its homeland by the world’s most formidable nuclear arsenal.”

A large portion of military expenditures, which were over $518 billion last year, “has nothing to do with U.S. security and lots to do with the expensive, self-appointed role of ‘world leader.'” This $518 billion was about 48 percent of last year’s world total military expenditures – more than twice the U.S. share of global greenhouse-gas emissions (as well as the U.S. share of excessively overweight individuals) – and more than the United States’ 47 closest competitors, according to the CIA.

Because of its virtual invulnerability to invasion, the U.S. could spend less than other major nations and remain secure. China ranks second in world military expenditures, with over $81 billion spent last year. If we make the conservative assumption that the U.S. must still spend twice as much as its nearest competitor, we could reduce military expenditures to about $150 billion, and save about $370 billion per year. With part of this $370 billion we could begin paying reparations to the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and other countries we have illegally invaded and destroyed. With the rest, we could fund whatever programs Americans would like funded.

And if we were to pretend that it is individual actors who determine government policy, as opposed to social forces, like the collective will of the leaders of the major corporations and financial institutions, we could make other budget cuts in exorbitant government salaries.

Our representatives, if they actually represented us, would have to live at least something like we do. It is no secret that the current president and vice president, who hate taxes and government programs, live in free public housing. In addition to its 132 rooms and 32 bathrooms, the White House itself also has a movie theater, bowling alley, billiards room, tennis court, jogging track and putting greens. The president not only receives a $400,000 yearly salary, but he also gets a $50,000 expense account, a $19,000 official entertainment account and a $100,000 non-taxable account for travel.

Members of Congress, who have refused to increase the federal minimum wage for the past decade, receive an automatic cost of living increase in pay each year unless Congress votes against it. This year’s increase was 1.9 percent, bringing each member’s annual pay up to $165,200. As an added bonus, members of the House will have about 300 days off this year, as they are expected to meet only 71 days.

The same members of Congress, who have refused to pass a universal health-care plan, also participate in the taxpayer-subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which “is lauded as a model for a large-scale comprehensive health-care plan,” according to The Associated Press. And any member who spends at least five years in office can get taxpayer-subsidized health care until he or she reaches Medicare age.

By reducing the annual salaries of the 535 senators and representatives, and the salaries of the president, vice president and the president’s cabinet staff (who make about the same as members of Congress) to just under the national median, to about $30,000, U.S. taxpayers would save over $70 million per year, and our representatives could live like most people do.