AMERICANS HAVE received a turkey, and it is not a golden brown Butterball.
Last week the Republican-led House passed $50 billion in budget cuts to the poor, working class, and lower middle class.
It was bad enough to slash money for higher education, food stamps, pension insurance, and Medicaid, just as the lights were barely flickering back on in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans and the gulf coast, while state governments scramble to cover the uninsured, while local public school boards still struggle to fit the mammoth mandates of No Child Left Behind into shriveled budgets, and while college tuition threaten to cement a class system.
What makes the cuts reprehensible is that they are only a precursor to $56 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy. The only thing that kept the House from passing the cuts was fear of being seen as utterly craven before Thanksgiving. They will take up the cuts next month. The Senate of millionaires, even more insulated than members of the House, passed $60 billion in tax cuts.
''We got through the first round," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois. ''You've got to get through the first round before you get to the championship."
That is quite a statement that afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comfortable is worthy of a title trophy.
Barely part of the debate is whether the tax cuts of Congress and President Bush work at all. There is evidence is to the contrary. United for a Fair Economy, the progressive economic think tank known for keeping track of the outrageous pay gaps between workers and CEOs, has a new report that shows that the Bush tax cuts already enacted have not produced new jobs or otherwise raised the standard of living. If anything, the cuts have depressed the economy for the average American.
Bush promised to add 1.4 million jobs to the economy with his tax plan, on top of the 4.1 million jobs projected over an 18-month span in 2003-2004. Of the total of 5.5 million anticipated jobs, only 2.6 million jobs were created, according to United for a Fair Economy, less than half of projections. In August a report in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Economic Policy Review reported that there were 3.1 million fewer people working today than in 2001.
In the economic boom of the 1990s, the unemployment rates for all workers and racial gaps in unemployment declined to their lowest levels in three decades, when the working class could still depend on factories. Pay gaps are growing again, particularly for Latinos. In 1974, Latinos and African-Americans made about $4,000 and $5,000 less, respectively, than white workers. Today Latinos and African-Americans make $10,000 and $6,800 less, respectively.
The United for a Fair Economy report found that since World War II, major tax increases by the Truman and Clinton administrations were followed by increases in the employment rate, while tax cuts by the Johnson, Reagan and the current Bush administrations were followed by drops in the employment rate.
''One of the many reasons that tax cuts are not a sure formula for increasing jobs is that tax cuts mean less government revenue and therefore fewer public sector jobs," the report said. Yet, the tax-cut happy Hastert keeps saying things like, ''We want to continue to create jobs in this country." Hiding behind Bush's patented facade of doing the people's work, Hastert said Americans ''want us to provide a better life for themselves and their children and this majority will do it."
The Republican majority is doing us in, according to just about every economic measure. Since the 2001 Bush tax cuts, median household income has declined, poverty has increased, the percentage of Americans without employer-based health insurance has increased and the percentage of people receiving employer-based pension benefits has declined. This is despite a national work ethic in which we work 213 hours more a year, or five weeks more, than our counterparts in the industrialized world.
This is what Hastert calls a championship. In fact you could argue that Congress didn't even deliver a turkey. It delivered a carcass.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.