New Orleans As children of the Cold War all of us learned there’s nothing like the “big lie.” I can find no better proof of this than the preposterous argument made by the right when they try to twist all manner of logic and common sense to have us believe that Congressman, and now putative Vice-Presidential wannabe, Paul Ryan’s shocking budget proposals are in fact designed to “help the poor,” as the guest op-ed writer Gary E. MacDougal maintained in the New York Times today, “The Wrong Way to Help the Poor.”
First, MacDougal tries a blatant Vegas style sleight of hand trick. He argues that the USA is now spending $1 trillion a year to help the poor. Eye catching, right? Yes, but so is horse manure. MacDougal concedes that about 25% of that money is spent on Medicaid which is for everyone over 65 years old and is not income tested. He also grudgingly notes that Pell grants are “more focused on promoting education than stemming poverty.” Hello! More dishonestly, he doesn’t mention, as detailed in my book, Citizen Wealth, that one of the single largest categories in any listing of these programs supposedly helping the poor is the mortgage interest deduction on income taxes, which also goes to everyone owning homes and filling out tax forms in the US, and fewer and fewer lower income families as the foreclosure rates have established.
Secondly, despite the fact that MacDougal has already showed some cards and hidden others that establish that we spend nowhere near $1 trillion on the poor, he then builds his whole argument on this same house of cards, as he says, “But for now, let’s use that $1 trillion figure….” He does some ridiculous math that divides his fanciful trillion by the number of poor in America and wonders if we should move to cash grants of $21700 per person or $87000. Now, we’re talking! In fact if that were a true number, which it of course it isn’t, and, if there was any willingness to actually made cash payments to the poor, which from what we know about everything in our welfare systems is patently not the case, as states apply more and more onerous barriers to receiving a dime of aid, that would be wonderful. But, in the meantime you wonder what drugs MacDougal and the editors of the Times op-ed pieces are taking?
Thirdly, and this is enough for me, MacDougal flips the deck around and admits that all of his math and any such political speculation that would imagine that are nothing but hooey, and says that the “middle path” is to go with Ryan’s budget proposals and block grant the money to the states. Talk about putting the inmates in charge of the prison! The rest of this crazy, dangerous piece argues that the real problem in helping the poor is “bureaucracy and duplication” and accuses anyone who disagrees of being stupid as a brick and “embracing every program and spending more on each.” What balderdash and poppycock!
The evidence in state legislature after state legislature now as the Republicans have taken over more than half of them is that they will slash all budgets that remotely benefit lower income and working families, that many will avoid any healthcare program that expands coverage for the poor, that they will suppress the votes of their lower income and racial minorities so that they need not be accountable for their actions in the future, and they will try to balance their out-of-whack budgets on the backs of their employees by slashing their pensions, wages, and job protections. What fool would hand them more money and pretend that they would lift a single pinky finger to aid the poor?
No one, really, not even MacDougal if there were an honest bone in his body after he tripped over one lie after another and all the cards in this facetious argument crashed on the table.