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Friday, December 16, 2016

Will America Survive?

How far our country has fallen.

Rather than working to take care of the most vulnerable among us, Congressional Republicans, led by House speaker Paul Ryan, are moving quickly to 'reform' Social Security and Medicare. Their idea of 'reform' is massive cuts in benefits. 

In Texas, Republican legislators have enacted drastic cuts to early childhood intervention programs that have resulted in three programs closing so far. The cuts are aimed at reducing Medicaid costs by $350 million over two years.

The GOP's attack on what it calls 'entitlements' is nothing new. As someone who was forced to pay into the Social Security and Medicare programs through a payroll tax my entire working life (more than 40 years), I find this derogatory use of the term to be offensive and insulting. You damn well better believe that I and others like me are entitled to the benefits we were promised and forced to pay for.

The Republicans claim that Social Security is going broke. But they refuse to mention an easy solution to the perceived shortfall -- simply remove the cap on wages subject to the Social Security tax. Currently, all income over $118,00 is exempt from the Social Security tax. There is no cap on the Medicare tax, so why is there one on Social Security?

According to a 2013 opinion piece in the New York Times, "Simply by eliminating the payroll tax earnings cap — and thus ending this regressive exemption for the top 5.2 percent of earners — would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, solve the financial crisis facing the Social Security system."

So why is only 'solution' lawmakers can come up with to cut benefits? And why not admit that the program has enough in its trust fund to fully fund all obligations without beginning to draw down the fund until 2019 if nothing is done?  Its reserves are estimated to be depleted by 2035. But even at that point, there will still be enough income coming into the program to pay 79 percent of the benefits owed. (http://time.com/money/4452457/is-social-security-going-broke/)

These facts make me wonder what the real reason is for the Republican party's zeal to slash benefits. Maybe this party of so-called "family values" hopes that without enough income to live on and without adequate medical care many of these 'useless' poor and elderly will die and not be such a burden on society. Think I'm making this up? Nevada Republican Congressman Cresent Hardy, speaking to a Libertarian Party expo in Las Vegas, claimed that people· with disabilities are a drain·on society. He categorized the elderly as "a draw on the government." 

And in other news, the North Carolina Republicans, whose candidate for governor narrowly lost his reelection bid, are now taking action behind closed doors to severely limit the powers of the incoming Democratic governor. The legislature called a surprise session and introduced bills to limit the governor-elects ability to make cabinet appointments, remove state and county election boards from Democratic control, slow the progress of legal battles to the state supreme court (which has a majority of justices appointed by Democrats), and make elections to the supreme court partisan. And as expected, the outgoing Republican governor signed the legislation.

So the citizens of North Carolina spoke at the polling place and voted to replace the incumbent governor, and now the Republicans in the legislature are acting to ignore the voice of the people by hamstringing the newly elected governor. Is it any wonder the citizens are packing the legislative chambers in protest? 

I read a lot of outrage about these plans to screw the average American, but outrage online isn't going to change anything. Where is the AARP in the fight against cuts to Social Security and Medicare? Where is the outrage about Russia's apparent hacking to influence the outcome of the presidential election? What can we little people do to stop the Trump appointments of insiders with conflicts of interest to cabinet-level positions? 

I don't know what the answer is. Signing petitions to his excellency certainly isn't going to influence him or his adult children, who are sitting in on meetings with international leaders and plan to have offices in the White House.

I have voted in every presidential election since I was eligible to vote. Sometimes my candidate won, and sometimes my candidate lost. But never have I been so upset and frightened by the prospect of any incoming president. I have in the past voted for Republicans for president and for governor. But never again until the party returns to its roots. Trump, and his party, have lost all sense of decency, all sense of responsibility, to the country and its citizens. No longer do they act in the best interests of the country, but in the best interests of their corporate puppet masters and lobbyists.

America has survived a civil war, two world wars, other international conflicts and terrorist attacks. But can we as a nation survive this Congress and incoming president?