As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Other

All of the health care bills offer their subsidies to those who need help affording coverage through tax credits. This is seen as completely normal and a cost-effective way to provide such subsidies, since it only requires a new line item on the tax form instead of some new structure for paying out credits. But it actually hurts people who have to lay out money for health insurance and then wait all year until April to get their money back. In addition, some groups, like nonprofits, don't pay taxes. But they also provide health care for their workers, which means they cannot benefit from any tax credits for small businesses to help with affordability in the plan.

The main bill in the House would award a tax credit to small businesses that provide their employees with health insurance — but nonprofits do not pay income taxes and thus would not benefit.

“Why should employees of nonprofits be treated worse than employees of for-profit businesses?” said Jonathan A. Small, government affairs consultant at the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York.

Nonprofit groups were hoping that the president would include them in his speech to Congress on Wednesday, but instead he mentioned only “families, businesses and government.”

“There was nothing in that much-repeated trilogy of those needing help that spoke to nonprofits,” said Lester M. Salamon, director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

This sounds like a nitpicky point, except that nonprofits are collectively the fourth-largest employer in America.

And there are dozens of little inequities like this. We've heard about the canceling of all individual health insurance, essentially, for undocumented immigrants, even when they have the ability to pay with their own money. Then there's the issue of nurse home care for the children of the poor, a proven crime reduction strategy that has run aground amid shouts of "billions for babysitters" and the like.

It's part and parcel of a long-running strategy by the right to cry martyrdom for their tax dollars being given to the undefined "other." It doesn't matter if a government program reduces crime or saves money or just makes moral sense. This boils down to a largely homogenous Republican Party not wanting their money to go to people who don't look like them or don't act like them or don't work like them. "Illegals" or the undeserving poor or "do-gooders" in the nonprofit sector need not apply. It's been a time-tested tactic going back to Richard Nixon's Southern strategy.

This is the paradox of the tea-party movement and other right-wing protests fueled by genuine citizen anger and fear. It is true that the federal government embraces redistributive policies and that middle-class income is seized in order that "someone else benefits." But so obviously, that "someone else" who is benefiting is not the poor and lower classes -- who continue to get poorer as the numbers living below the poverty line expand and the rich-poor gap grows in the U.S. to unprecedented proportions. The "someone else" that is benefiting from Washington policies are -- as usual -- the super-rich, the tiny number of huge corporations which literally own and control the Government. The premise of these citizen protests is not wrong: Washington politicians are in thrall to special interests and are, in essence, corruptly stealing the country's economic security in order to provide increasing benefits to a small and undeserving minority. But the "minority" here isn't what Fox News means by that term, but is the tiny sliver of corporate power which literally writes our laws and, in every case, ends up benefiting [...]

What's really happening with these protests is that the genuine rage and not unreasonable economic insecurity of these citizens is being stoked, exploited, distorted and manipulated by movement leaders for entirely different ends. The people who are leading them -- Rush Limbaugh, the Murdoch-owned Fox News, Glenn Beck, business-dominated organizations of the type led by Dick Armey -- are cultural warriors above everything else. They're all in a far different socioeconomic position than the "middle-income Americans" whose anger they're ostensibly representing. Their principal preoccupation is their cultural contempt for various groups (illegal immigrants, the "undeserving" poor, liberals) and their desire to preserve the status quo whereby the prime beneficiaries of government policies remain themselves: the super rich and the interests that control Washington. It's certainly true that many of these protesters are driven by the standard right-wing cultural issues which have long shaped that movement -- social issues, religious fears, cultural and racial divisions, and hatred for "liberals" as Communist-Muslim-Terrorist-lovers. For many, all of that is intensified by the humiliation of being completely thrown out of power, at the hands of the first black President. But much of it is fueled by the pillaging of the corporations and Wall St. interests which own their government.

Matt Taibbi called it the peasant mentality. The powers that be get the lower classes to fight amongst themselves and split along ideological or tribal or other identifying lines, leaving room for them to prosper. For Republicans, that means painting their opponents, who are less homogenous and are made up of so-called "outsiders" of society - the poor, the disenfranchised, African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, etc. - as undeserving of really anything; and painting the leaders of that party - whether it be a Governor from Arkansas or a war hero from Massachusetts or South Dakota or a multicultural community organizer from Illinois - as the head of a movement to destroy American culture. That's really basically it. And sadly, considering that Democrats have over the last several decades abandoned their role as protectors of the weak, the poor and the voiceless, you can almost sympathize with the misled in the teabagging protests, who finds nobody standing up for them.

Except, their susceptibility to what is essentially a racial argument leaves me little room to share sympathy for their concerns.

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