© Josh Sager – December 2013
Tomorrow morning, millions of Americans will wake up early in order to go downstairs and open their Christmas presents. It will be a great morning for many of these people and a time where they will be thanking their friends and family for their presents.
While people have no idea what they will be receiving as gifts from their family until tomorrow, today, we have a pretty good idea what the GOP will be giving us for Christmas this year. This Christmas, the Republican Party is truly channeling the holiday season and has embraced a spirit of giving that makes it look like a real-life Santa Claus—that is, a twisted, Ayn-Randian, Santa Claus who gives the wealthy and powerful expensive gifts while shoveling dirty austerity coal on the poor and vulnerable.
Like the mythical Santa Claus, the GOP has made naughty and nice lists, but, unlike jolly old Santa, the GOP is using these lists to justify passing extremely consequential policy agendas:
- The GOP’s “nice” list includes Americans who are already wealthy and a wide variety of multi-national corporations. Those on this list are looking forward to the possibility of finding extremely expensive tax subsidies and preferential rates under their proverbial Christmas trees this year.
- The GOP’s “naughty” list includes unemployed Americans, the poor, and virtually everybody who is unlucky enough to be reliant upon any social programs. Those on this list are staring down shovelfuls of the dirty coal of benefit cuts and austerity.
Over the past month, the GOP has pursued a series of shocking legislative attacks on less-wealthy Americans on the federal level. These attacks threaten to cause immense damage to the economic welfare of many American families early this year.
Here are a few of the largest such “coal in stocking” measures that the GOP is gifting the poor with this Christmas:
Refusing the ACA Medicaid Expansion — Under the Affordable Care Act (AKA ObamaCare), Medicaid eligibility is expanded in the states through a federal subsidy that pays 100% of the expansion costs for years and 90% into perpetuity. This expansion will help millions of the most vulnerable Americans receive rudimentary healthcare, at a lower price than them relying on emergency rooms and resulting in better health outcomes. Unfortunately, 25 GOP governors have decided to block this expansion in their state, thus refusing healthcare to approximately 5 million Americans—according to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, over 27,000 of these 5 million will die in the coming year because of this rejection.
Farm Bill SNAP Cuts – The Federal legislature is currently trying to reauthorize the federal Farm Bill which has historically funded a combination of agri-subsidies and nutrition assistance for poor people. By connecting the corporate welfare for the wealthy, rural, farming interests with the welfare aimed at helping the rural poor, this Farm Bill has customarily enjoyed high levels of political support from a diverse coalition. Unfortunately, the Congressional GOP is pushing to cut the aid given to the poor through SNAP by $40 billion, while simultaneously increasing the welfare given to agribusiness. Unless they receive these cuts to SNAP, the GOP has refused to reauthorize the Farm Bill, thus the SNAP program will soon risk running out of funding and become unable to provide benefits for all beneficiaries.
Blocking Unemployment Insurance – At the end of this week, 1.3 million Americans will have their unemployment insurance benefits run out because the GOP in Congress have refused to pass an extension of the program. While the GOP argues that unemployment insurance causes dependence, the facts demonstrate that it is the only thing keeping many families off of the streets. This refusal to pass an extension to the federal unemployment insurance program will harm families and the economy as the whole, as poor people will become poorer and less able to participate in the market.
In totality, the GOP’s Christmas present to millions of poor Americans this year is a trifecta of poverty, lack of health coverage, and hunger—it is the ultimate shovel full of coal in the Christmas stocking.
Tomorrow, friends and family members will be exchanging gifts and celebrating the largest holiday of their year. Unfortunately, once the wrapping paper is gone from under the trees, millions of these Americans will be forced to accept a large and long-term coal stocking from the elected officials of the Republican Party; there is no way to reject or re-gift the GOP’s coal stocking.
Poor and middle class Americans must remember this “gift” from the GOP and send them an appropriate thank you in the form of a pink-slip during their next election. Painful austerity for the poor may be easy politically—after all, the poor are the least powerful in society and the least likely to contribute to political campaigns—but it is immensely damaging to society as a whole and worthy of condemnation by the vast majority of the public.