If you want to understand the failure of trickle-down economics and why conservatives seem determined to punish the poor for being poor, check out Pope Francis and George Carlin.
TIME magazine “Person of the Year” Pope Francis understands the harsh failure of purely market-driven economics: “The (trickle-down) promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger – nothing ever comes out for the poor.“
Yet tea party congressional conservatives keep finding new ways to punish those in need while rewarding those in greed.
The late comedian George Carlin really put his finger on why they do it: “Conservatives say if you don’t give the rich more money, they will lose their incentive to invest. As for the poor, (conservatives) … tell us, they’ve lost all incentive because we’ve given them too much money.”
They believe that folks are poor because they want to be poor or are too lazy to work. Common-sense Montanans know better. Almost all of them are following the American dream of seeking not only a job, but a better job that could lift them and their family out of poverty.
That’s why a raise of the minimum wage is in order, as supported by two-thirds of Americans. But that’s not what tea party congressional conservatives believe, so they stymie the increase.
Bottom line this Christmas: If tea party congressional conservatives were Santa Claus, they would have delivered three lumps of coal to those striving to struggle out of poverty in America, starting with the minimum wage increase denial.
The other two lumps of coal regard food stamps and unemployment benefits.
Three days after Christmas 1.3 million American families, including 539 in Montana, were kicked off extended unemployment benefits. These are work-seeking people – that’s a requirement – but there are three to four unemployed chasing every available job. And, by the end of 2014, another 3.6 million will lose their benefits.
This long-term unemployment problem is a result of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. In past recessions, extended unemployment benefits ended when the long-term unemployed represented about 1.3 percent of the workforce. Today, the long-term jobless still represent more than 2 percent of the labor force. Not yet a time to change.
And these benefits sustain families during a time of stress and help the economy by being immediately spent on Main Street.
What do we hear from Tea Party Santa and his congressional elves? Elf No. 1, Rand Paul, says if you extend unemployment benefits “you do a disservice to the poor.” Elf No. 2, Paul Ryan, still pushes budgets that do nothing on the issue. Elf No. 3, Ted Cruz, votes against anything and everything that helps struggling people. And so on for all the little elves.
Their message: “Here’s a lump of coal for Christmas – enjoy it!“
The Census Bureau recently reported food stamps had kept nearly 4 million people above the poverty level and had stopped millions more of the poor from sinking deeper into poverty. Tea party reaction? Elf No. 4, Eric Canter, responded by cutting $40 billion from food stamps, while continuing to refuse to ask billionaires to provide even one additional penny to support such programs.
And the food stamp cuts fall disproportionately on children. But what the heck, apparently a lump of coal will help “build character.” Just last week Elf No. 5, Jack Kingston, proposed that little kids getting help with school lunches ought to be made to sweep the floors at school.
All the while, congressional Santa and his tea party conservative elves have made no effort to create jobs for America – refusing even the modest jobs proposal of the president. But then, jobs would be a real gift for Christmas – not another of their lumps of coal.
So for Christmas this year it’s three lumps of coal and a hearty ho, ho, ho from tea party conservative Santa and his nasty little elves.
Evan Barrett of Butte has spent the past 45 years at the top level of Montana economic development, government, politics and education. He is currently the director of Business & Community Outreach and an instructor at Highlands College of Montana Tech. These are his personal views.