Help Wanted: Exorcist

On a day traditionally associated with paying taxes, the House passed a draconian budget plan that Congress had been tossing back and forth for weeks.

And, thanks to last year’s midterm election, 83 new Republican members of Congress were able to get this budget bill through, despite the absence of a single Democrat vote in favor of it. This must be what House speaker John Boehner thinks is a mandate.

As the Associated Press reports, this “nonbinding plan” sets the table for more than $6 trillion in cuts over the next decade, and ones that the House majority party likes to think of as cuts to entitlements. Importantly, not one single corporate entitlement, or subsidy, that would fall under the umbrella of “tax expenditures” in the budget is on the table. Everything else including Medicare, Education, and Social Security is. House Republicans shouted down Mr. Obama’s proposal to cut $77 billion from the defense budget.

As the president indicated in his budget speech on Wednesday, it should be clear to everyone by now that the plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, is not about reducing the deficit, but finalizing not just tax cuts for the rich, but taking from the poor to get them. For Paul Ryan’s circle of followers, the Pentagon and federal subsidies to the nuclear power industry, the oil companies, and Walmart are non-negotiable.

The devil is indeed in the details. The House spending plan to cut “entitlements” targets the poor in ways that would make even Machiavelli blush. According to the AP, spending cuts are in store for other social safety net programs like food stamps.

Don’t be deceived. The so-called voucher-system for Medicare is code for privatizing Medicare. Essentially, vouchers are the equivalent of store coupons. The federal government would get to choose where they’re redeemable, so it means another big payday for insurance companies, and yet bigger bonuses for chief executives of health management organizations.

What’s more, the Ryan voucher plan is just a warm-up exercise for privatizing Social Security which is the only pet project George W. Bush didn’t complete in his eight-year reign.

Given that even the U.S. dollar isn’t stable, it’s fair to say that the vouchers wouldn’t be worth the paper they were printed on. More importantly, this approach would force people to invest in private insurance companies which are, as the president suggested, the root of the problem in the first place. Turning this country’s financially disenfranchised over to usurers is like suggesting that they take their savings to the pawnshop.

Mr. Ryan’s plan would not only finalize Bush era tax cuts to the rich, but institutionalize poverty by radically curtailing access to those programs that ensure equal opportunity for quality health care and education.

Bottom line: Without increasing taxes, there is no way the budget deficit can be resolved. Mr. Ryan knows this. He’s no fool. His concern, and that of his Republican cohorts, is not raising taxes, but raising taxes on those who go to his country club. Even the president is kowtowing to the interests of the corporations, the same corporations the Supreme Court ruled for in Citizens United, when he acquiesces to lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. Aren’t corporations already making too much, Mr. President?

This nonsense about making the U.S. more competitive for business is just that nonsense. How much more attractive to business can we get when we let companies like GE off the hook without paying taxes at a loss to Uncle Sam of billions of dollars at a time when the deficit has reached record levels.

Why not start collecting taxes on all those corporations that have sheltered billions of dollars in overseas operations thereby skirting the IRS, and have essentially engaged in legal money laundering. Instead of lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent or 28 percent (as Mr. Obama suggests), how about closing the tax loophole that allows some of America’s biggest corporations to get out of past taxes?

Instead of going along with another plan from the Bush era, amnesty for corporations that come forward voluntarily to pay back taxes, how about requiring all corporations to pay taxes regardless of whether they have subsidiaries overseas, and then seizing the assets of those that won’t comply with the new federal requirement? The result would come a lot closer to addressing the $1.6 trillion budget deficit this year than cutting off federal funding for food stamps, Medicare, Planned Parenthood, and NPR combined.

2012 is promising to be a boon year for exorcists if these federal budget plans are any indication. This government had better get ready to take out some full page ads “exorcists needed” if Mr. Ryan and his crowd are allowed to make it any further out the gate without those same pesky redactions that characterized the previous administration.

The one four-letter word one can hope to hear over and over this year in the White House is “veto.” Otherwise, entitlements like food for hungry families will be withheld while billions in subsidies are given to the oil barons and their siblings in the nuclear power industry.

Ultimately, Ryanomics is code for legal usury. Mr. Ryan’s plan turns the federal government into a pawnbroker to which business behemoths bring their toxic assets in exchange for taxpayers’ pension funds.

It’s not bad enough that the haves are growing more corpulent on the labor of the have-nots, the haves want to legalize what amounts to armed robbery.

If Congress and the president stand by and allow usury to become not merely legitimized, but institutionalized, they will be sanctioning what future generations will view as contempt for government, as well as the Bill of Rights.

In the end, there is no greater risk to “free markets” than to allow an Ayn Rand devotee like Paul Ryan to railroad what’s left of the American dream in the name of deficit reduction.

Free markets can be very costly. Just ask 98 percent of Americans, and they will tell you. We have served as life rafts for the rich for too long.

The budget plan the House passed on April 15 is the blueprint for an aristocracy not seen since feudal times. If Mr. Ryan’s budget passes the Senate, too, Mr. Obama must exercise his veto power as chief executive before 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is put up on the auction block, too.

Jayne Lyn Stahl is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

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