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Archive for December, 2010

I see where Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) opted out of riding his horse in the annual Tulsa holiday parade.  The reason?  Seems the parade organizers thought it a good idea to expand the purpose of the parade to include Jewish Tulsans and the current Hanukkah celebration as well.  Inhofe huffed that it was just one more example of “them” picking on Christians.  Not only his response smack of childish pique, but it denigrates the real horrors of people of any faith being targeted for their beliefs, be they Christians in Baghdad or Muslims in Manhattan.

Each year we hear people decrying the commercialism of holiday shopping, of how that takes the Christ out of Christmas.  And I join them in wishing that stores would wait until after Halloween to put up the Christmas decorations.  I recognize that a tree doesn’t need to be knee-deep in presents to make for a joyous celebration.  And that’s true regardless of  how you see the balance between the religious and secular aspects of the holiday.

But it strikes me as especially ironic each time I drive by a house near mine during the holiday season.  It is a riot of lights and lawn displays.  Prominently displayed on its corner lot is one that says “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  But surrounding that sign are snowmen, Santas, sleighs, and other secular symbols of the season — symbols that are intimately connected with the commercialization of the holiday.  I often wonder if the homeowner is even aware of the disconnect.

 

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Perhaps the better question to ask is, “Why are no new jobs being created?”  Answer that question, and the question of where the jobs are will be obvious.  Some members of the punditocracy (and their allies on Capital Hill) continue to serve up the “uncertainty” argument.

Don’t be fooled.  It’s a bogus argument.  Uncertainty is never going to go away.  There has always been uncertainty about interest rates, about tax rates and the like.  Business growth is always marked by uncertainty.

The real reason that new jobs aren’t being created is that there isn’t yet enough demand for products and services to warrant hiring.  And why isn’t the demand there?  People who are out of work don’t have extra money to spend.  And with unemployment running at nearly 10%, not counting the levels of underemployment or the people who are so discouraged they’ve quit looking, a lot of demand has evaporated from the marketplace.  So, if we really want to create an environment that would grow jobs and grow the economy, we need to get more money into the hands of the people who would spend it, not save it.  We need to extend unemployment insurance benefits through 2011 and continue the payroll tax holiday.

Yet, the Republicans continue to preach the benefits of permanently extending the Bush tax cuts, even for the richest of Americans.  It matters not that the majority of Americans don’t want the cuts extended for high earners.  It matters not that history has proven without doubt that lowering taxes on the highest earners does not actually create jobs.  Those who have more money than they can spend don’t need a tax break.  But those of us who would actually spend the money do.  It even matters not that Bruce Bartlett (Ronald Reagan’s head of OMB) and folks like Warren Buffett say that the wealthiest Americans should be paying more taxes.

Let’s look at the realities of the tax cut argument.  Does anyone with more than two or three active brain cells actually believe that a business owner would forgo over $60,000 in after tax profit just to save $4600 in taxes?

The CBO was asked to evaluate 11 potential policy decisions for their effect on job creation, the economy in general and the deficit.  The one that scored the highest — i.e., most stimulative effect on the economy with least impact on the deficit — was continuation of unemployment insurance benefits.  So which one did the GOP immediately refuse to implement?  Extending unemployment benefits.  Go figure.

Most economists worry that the struggling economy will falter with the loss of the billions in spending those unemployment checks represent.  Perhaps the bigger question is whether the GOP will pay a political price for its intransigence.  Even Scrooge figured out that he didn’t want to face the ghost of Christmas Future…  There is a lesson there.  Will the Republicans learn it before there is much more suffering imposed on people who are already struggling to make ends meet?  Will the voters figure out that the GOP cares more about the top 2% than it does about the millions of Americans whose greatest wish for the holiday season is a job?

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