Stacking the deck against the poor |

Stacking the deck against the poor

Hal Sundin
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As I See It

It is supposed to be the duty of government to protect the interests of all of its citizens, rich and poor alike. But it seems that our government has lost sight of that obligation and has become the government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy.

The budget cuts currently being proposed to reduce the budget deficit fall almost exclusively on the poor, by drastically reducing funding for programs that benefit the poor, such as financial aid to impoverished women, infants and children, home heating assistance, job training, and education.

But it doesn’t stop there. The deck is being stacked against the poor by what is in effect a bet-your-life lottery and a proposed value-added tax.

Education funding cuts are hurting the poor across the board. Cutbacks reducing the quality of public education mean that the poor, who cannot afford college, will have an even lesser chance of being able to qualify for the scholarships essential to their further education.

At the same time, cuts in state funds supporting state colleges are driving tuition costs higher. These hits, combined with eliminating Pell Grants and raising the interest rate on student loans, are putting college education out of the reach of the poor.

The opportunity of a college education will be limited to only the children of the wealthy.

The only option left for the poor to get a college education is by enlisting in the military, which is a clever way of getting the poor to fight our wars, so we don’t have to have a draft, saving the sons of the wealthy from getting killed or maimed.

For the poor it’s like a lottery – if you live, you win, and if you die, you lose. It is mostly the poor who are suffering the pain of the loss or catastrophic injury to a loved one. The rich aren’t suffering even the pain of being taxed to pay for our wars; instead they’ve had their taxes reduced.

And speaking of lotteries, they are a clever way of getting the poor to provide funding for a variety of causes, so the wealthy can avoid being taxed to pay for them. The poor, who have very little of their paycheck left after paying for necessities, see winning a lottery as their only way of getting ahead.

If, instead of buying lottery tickets, they invested the $5 they may have left at the end of each week at 6 percent interest, in 40 years it would amount to only $40,235, but its purchasing power would be probably be reduced to less than $15,000 assuming annual inflation will be only 2.5 percent.

The current tax rate on the wealthiest Americans (those earning anything from $373,650 per year up to the sky’s-the-limit) is only 2 percent higher than those earning from $209,250 to 373,650 per year, and just 10 percent higher than those earning between $100,000 and $137,300.

But that isn’t good enough; many in Congress are pushing for a national sales tax (a value-added tax in place of income taxes), which would tax everyone equally based on how much they purchased.

This would actually result in the average wage earner, who spends in excess of 90 percent of his income on goods and services, paying a much higher portion of his income than those with higher incomes, who might spend 60 percent down to as little as 10 or 20 percent of their income on goods and services, the rest going into investments. Here again, we are stacking the deck against the poor.

And it is no longer just the poor against whom the deck is being stacked by our government of the wealthy. A steady attrition of the middle class is taking place, as “American” corporations are increasing their profits by shipping overseas the jobs on which the middle class depends for its financial survival, driving increasing numbers of the former middle class into poverty.

I close with a proverb of my father’s that describes the current state of affairs. “Verily I say unto ye, ‘To them that hath shall be given; and from them that hath not shall be taken away – yea, even that which they hath not.'”

– Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursdays in The Post Independent.

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