Thursday, March 3, 2011

And liberty and justice for all . .?

American families have had to tighten their belts. They bought less and, more importantly, they borrowed less money. Our government is in the same, if not worse, position. It keeps borrowing money and very soon the day will come when we'll have to pay our debts – and won't be able to.

It is time to tighten the national belt. Congress is engaging in an orgy of budget-cutting. Some of the victims of the tax cuts are political enemies of conservative legislators. Pro-life politicians want to cut federal subsidies for Planned Parenthood. Arch conservatives are once again out to take money away from National Public Radio which they regard as dangerously left-wing.

But the main target of the budget cutters are the poor. Everyone act's as if only the programs to help the poor are places where we can cut the budget. Nothing is further from the truth.

American business prides itself on its independence and keeps complaining about government interference. But they never mention the wide range of subsidies they receive. These subsidies take them different forms. Some businesses receive direct government payments as do large farming corporations. More frequently businesses are subsidized through complex tax breaks.

Here are some estimates of subsidies for different branches of business:

Oil and gas between $20-$40 billion a year
Coal around $2.7 billion a year
ethanol $4.7 billions a year
Agriculture between $10-$30 billion a year
Big banks $34 billion a year
Interstate trucking $60 billion a year

No one who is eager to cut the federal budget has seriously mentioned reducing these enormous subsidies. Instead everybody is looking at programs that help the poor, single mothers with children, the disabled, the elderly and the sick.

This is blatantly unjust. The new austerity takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

The obvious reason for that, which everyone understands, is that flourishing industries spend a good deal of money on lobbyists. They get to introduce special favors for their clients into different pieces of legislation. Businesses buy government subsidies. 
But a very interesting article in the magazine N+1 suggests a deeper reason. The author provides a history of conservative movements in the United States and shows how they are rooted in traditional anti-back racism. Overt racist talk is no longer acceptable in large parts of American society. We have all become very accepting of differences. White supremacists, once anti-back racism and became shameful, mutated into present day conservatives who are more or less constantly on the war path against the poor, the elderly, the sick and those who, generally, begin life behind the eight ball. They are equally down on the unemployed who cannot find work in the present economic crisis.                        
 The connection is obvious. A disproportionate number of poor people are black or Hispanic. In the guise of a new austerity, the old white supremacy still rides high.