The makers, like the takers, need all the help they can get

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican who represents Kentucky, is taking some flak for comments he made about the danger of extending unemployment benefits to the nation’s jobless. He said to do so would be a “disservice.”

Says Paul: “When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” he said late last year on FOX News.

As part of a spending bill passed just a few days after Christmas, Congress voted to cut long-term federal unemployment benefits, which economists say will affect as many as 1.3 million Americans.The move — predictably enough — shook up Democrats and other Progressives, like New York Times Keynesian-in-residence Paul Krugman, who called the cutoff a “perfect marriage of callousness and bad economics.” What a wet blanket.

Paul, though, like Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, regards too much government intervention as a disincentive to take responsibility for one’s own life. He contends sitting around waiting for an unemployment check is a sure-fire way to not get up and go look for a job.

Ryan, a onetime vice-presidential nominee, demonstrated just as keen an understanding of this dilemma when he said the country’s safety net for the poor is in danger of becoming a hammock. Most likely that image was forefront in the minds of House Republicans when they also voted earlier this year to strip food stamp funding from the reauthorized farm bill. Teach a man to fish, and all that.

Call them what you will, draconian, Ayn Randian, barbaric, but Republicans might be on to something. Nothing focuses a man’s mind for a meal or a paycheck as much as the absence of one. If the long-term unemployed can’t find a job after 99 weeks on the dole, clearly they’re not looking in the right places — like China, India or the tar sands of Alberta.

In fact, so good an idea is forcing the poor to make it without any government help I’d like Republicans to consider applying this commitment to complete self-sufficiency to the rich, too. Right now, rich folk enjoy historically low tax rates, both for income and capital gains, as well as record-high CEO and professional compensations. And just look at them. If these are the job creators? Where are the jobs?

Clearly the issue is not a lack of investment income: the stock market is going great guns with almost all of the wealth lost to the Great Recession having been regained and then some, but with almost all of it having gone to the tip-top percent.

The Dow has set an all-time high, so has the S&P 500 but the Nasdaq has done better than them both, gaining 38 percent in 2013. Corporate profits are also sky-high, accounting for more than 11 percent of gross domestic product last year, according to the Christian Science Monitor, which calls the gain the highest one ever recorded.

Yet there’s been no jobs to show for all that wealth, despite what the talking heads at FOX News tell us as the justification for keeping upper-income and capital gains rates as low as dirt. Either they’re selling us a line or they don’t know as much about how to motivate the rich as they know about how to motivate the poor.

Clearly, our tax and corporate policies are not doing right by the wealthy. This country is letting them down, and big time. You want innovation? Competition? Resourceful self-interest? You need a fire in the belly. A hunger for a better life. Just ask any dumpster diver.

If the wealthy are ever going to help themselves to the good life, we need to start treating the rich the way we treat the poor. Clearly, all this rigging of the rules by our nations’ lawmakers to make the 1 percent innovative, competitive and industrious has failed, and spectacularly. In order to get the rich truly making the most of the opportunities available to them, and creating jobs again, we need to shoot some holes in their golden parachutes, tax ‘em till they don’t have two shares to rub together and slash CEO pay back to European levels. It’s the only way.

This isn’t about punishing the rich and the lucky — I have friends who are rich! It’s for their own good. At last, they can begin to reap the benefits of scrambling for every cent they need to put a roof over their heads, food on the table, a yacht in every marina, the very finest clothes on their backs and top-of-the-line health care.

This coddling of the rich by our government has gone on too long. It’s a roadblock to the life they deserve.

After all, why should poor people get all the breaks?


— Robert Snyder is the editor-publisher of the Spirit of Jefferson


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