I think we all know by now that “the individual mandate” that Republican attorneys general have banded together to petition the Supreme Court to strike down was, in fact, a Republican idea, conceived of and widely endorsed by Republicans. It was their answer to Hilary Clinton’s health care plan.
But it’s hard to grasp the breadth of their prior support for the individual mandate – and the depth of their current hypocrisy in opposing it – until you go to the videotape, as it were.
Rachel being Rachel, she takes her time getting to the juiciest footage. If you’re pressed for time, start 5 minutes in and quit 5 minutes early. You’ll still get one Republican senator “begging the federal government to leave us a shred of freedom.” And 6 minutes of devastating overview – the Republicans in their own words.
THE RICH GET RICHER
My friend Steve Rattner, who helped save the auto industry – and at whose home I have had the most astonishing carmelized bacon hors d’ouvres (“death on a silver platter”) – offered an important op-ed in yesterday’s (indispensable) New York Times, digested here:
NEW statistics show an ever-more-startling divergence between the fortunes of the wealthy and everybody else. . . .
In 2010 . . . a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009 — $288 billion — went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers . . .
37 percent of these additional earnings went to just the top 0.01 percent . . . about 15,000 households with average incomes of $23.8 million. . . .
The bottom 99 percent received a microscopic $80 increase in pay per person in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The top 1 percent, whose average income was $1,019,089, had an [average $118,000] increase in income. . . .
Government has also played a role, particularly the George W. Bush tax cuts, which, among other things, gave the wealthy a 15 percent tax on capital gains and dividends. That’s the provision that caused Warren E. Buffett’s secretary to have a higher tax rate than he does.
. . . Just as the causes of the growing inequality are becoming better known, so have the contours of solving the problem: better education and training, a fairer tax system, more aid programs for the disadvantaged to encourage the social mobility needed for them escape the bottom rung, and so on.
Government, of course, can’t fully address some of the challenges, like globalization, but it can help.
. . . Earlier this week, House Republicans unveiled an unsavory stew of highly regressive tax cuts [for the rich] . . . and an evisceration of programs devoted to lifting those at the bottom, including unemployment insurance, food stamps, earned income tax credits and many more.
Policies of this sort would exacerbate the very problem of income inequality that most needs fixing. Next week’s package from House Democrats will almost certainly be more appealing. And to his credit, President Obama has spoken eloquently about the need to address this problem. But with Democrats in the minority in the House and an election looming, passage is unlikely.
The only way to redress the income imbalance is by implementing policies that are oriented toward reversing the forces that caused it. That means letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy and adding money to some of the programs that House Republicans seek to cut. Allowing this disparity to continue is both bad economic policy and bad social policy. We owe those at the bottom a fairer shot at moving up.
A RICH TAKE ON ELEVATORS
So Mitt is building an elevator in his new home for his cars, yet vetoed an elevator for the disabled when he was Governor of Massachusetts. “That’s just rich,” as old sports used to say around the club in the Thirties and Forties. (Do they still talk that way?)
One could say it’s as it should be – he’s lavish with his own money but frugal with the taxpayers’. We need even lower taxes for the best off, he strongly feels, and if that hurts the disabled, or the 99% (see above), well, so be it. But something tells me we’ll be hearing more about this.