Lately, John Boehner has been talking a lot about reproductive health care and marriage equality. Why? It’s the oldest game in the book, divide and conquer. Boehner knows that progressives will never let his inflammatory statements go without a response or ten thousand. If he can upset us all enough, we’ll be too busy fighting over those basic rights to notice what’s happening to the working class.
A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggests that the top 1% of the population had an increase of 250% in average annual income in 2008, compared with the less than 100% increase in average annual income for the bottom 90% of the population. Another shows that poverty is increasing steadily, and millions of people across the United States are kept from falling into poverty primarily because of temporary unemployment benefits. More than twenty percent of the children in this country are living in poverty. All the while, Americans believe that the wealth distribution in this country is much more evenly distributed than it actually is.
A columnist in my local paper made a very astute observation today about pitting non-union workers against unionized workers, and private unions against their public sector brothers and sisters. And I would say that the problems in this country go much further than that. A handful of people in power have managed to distract the liberal elites who are sympathetic to those causes with so much nonsense that they are also removed from the fight. And for what purpose? To obfuscate a budget process* that cuts funding for critical public services while leaving all manner of things like extensive defense programs and unnecessary expenditures intact.
We are smarter than that. We are stronger than that. And we need to come together and stop letting the top 1% of the population dictate how the rest of us ought to live.
*As a side note, I like to think that I’m a person who knows how to find information. I have plenty of experience in my day job on finding information on government websites and sorting through the bullshit press releases to find the important stuff. And it took me the better part of an hour while writing this to find any sort of up-to-date outline of a Republican budget proposal. The President’s plan is the first search result when you google the phrase “2012 federal budget.” The Republican alternative is buried so you can’t find it. That says something very important to me about leadership’s desire for ordinary people to be involved in their own government.**
**That NY Times page is part of their “Teaching and Learning” series geared towards making the budget approachable for young students, but I think it’s a really helpful tool for the general public as well. These things that Boehner keeps brining up to take our attention away from the budget are easy ones precisely because they cause visceral reactions. They’re moral issues, they’re personal issues, and we have immediate gut responses to them. The budget is drier, denser, and much more complicated. But it is just as important (if not more important, I would argue) for us to be well versed on how the budget works as it is for us to understand, for example, women’s rights.