Most of us see an end to collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin and the Pence Amendment (which cuts funding for Planned Parenthood) as vaguely related. But many have already forgotten a third important piece of legislation: the Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2010. Creative name, right? When Obama signed it into law in December, the Bush tax cuts were extended for two years and 800 billion dollars.
I found out the amount (and the name) while googling background information for the Planned Parenthood rally in New York City on Saturday. I wanted to carry a sign comparing what Republicans weren’t buying (reproductive health care for women) to what they were buying. I was thinking of something easy to demonize—an aircraft carrier?—and then I remembered the tax cuts. That amount was easier to find.
For the record, the Planned Parenthood cuts are estimated at about 80 million dollars. The bigger deal is how many times 80 million goes into 800 billion, and that we don’t have 800 billion to spend because we gave it away.
Why are we confused when the programs we value are cut in the wake of a massive tax cut bill? In the fall, Republicans made a lot of noise about fat in the budget but couldn’t identify it when someone like David Gregory asked. We always nod like we know what they are talking about, when all they have done is make the equivalent of a weak mewling sound on Meet the Press. It’s hard to argue against program cuts that haven’t yet been defined. Now Republicans say it’s not about wanting to cut programs, but about belt tightening. Another weak mewling sound. Like we have with the figure of the president, we could project what we wanted onto the tax cuts bill. We imagined a lot of Bridges to Nowhere and crossed our fingers. What we’ve got now is cuts to Planned Parenthood, public media, the National Endowment for the Arts.
It’s a mistake to let Republicans make the argument that there is anything neutral about the budget, when there are very real consequences to paying for one thing and not another. Wisconsin made that clear to me when the governor asked public employees to pay for a budget deficit that he created with 137 million in corporate tax cuts, and then attached collective bargaining to it like a deer tick. At all levels of government, we’re seeing the overarching strategy of asking the poor and middle class to pay when we’ve just given away the money for their programs. Ooops? Not oops. The opposite of oops.
It’s hard to win any election on “how about let’s NOT cut taxes?” but the left’s equivalent of Karl Rove should be able to connect the cuts in taxes to the cuts in programs. Make the Republicans talk about both at once, and for God’s sake, no more mewling sounds. No tax cuts unless you say where the program cuts are. My dream Democratic strategist (Sam Seaborn?) wouldn’t address the bigger picture as a set of separate issues. So, if you care about Wisconsin, you care about Planned Parenthood and vice versa. And you care first about that stupid bill with the stupid name our president brokered and signed in December.
Sam would tell us that abortion is a smokescreen, which is why I was disappointed to see so many Get Your Laws Off My Body signs at the rally. The more we make it about abortion, the less it’s about budget and whose interests the budget serves.