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By Bob King
The 2012 elections will give us all a stark choice.
The Republican Party has embraced an extreme economic ideology that keeps giving more and more money to the rich and taking more and more from everyone else.
This is nowhere more clearly expressed than in the Republican Party's tax policies. Recently, President Barack Obama proposed that Congress extend the payroll tax cut when it expires at the end of the year. If extended as proposed by the Democrats, the average American family would receive $1,500. This would give needed relief to working class Americans and inject up to $120 billion of additional spending into the economy. Unbelievably, many Republicans voted against the continuation of this middle class tax cut. They fought against the Democrats' suggestion to pay for the tax cut with a small, temporary tax on millionaires.
This opposition to reducing taxes for working people contrasts strongly with their commitment to preserving the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans.
This lopsided preference for the wealthy is also clear in the Republicans' insistence that income from investments, or capital gains, should receive a tax rate far less than the tax on income from hard work.
Some Republicans in Congress are also opposing Obama's request for an extension of unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million Americans who could lose their benefits at the end of the year. Unemployment insurance allows people to put gas in the tank and food on the table, and is often the difference between survival and disaster for families. Many economists agree that additional spending is critical to continuing the nation's slow recovery.
If the Republicans win in 2012, they will likely cut taxes even more for the wealthy. This will accelerate a trend that has been occurring for three decades of a growing gap between an increasingly wealthy upper class and everyone else.
The Republican agenda is clear: Cut taxes for the rich while raising taxes for everyone else. Cut public education and public health services. Reduce unemployment insurance and other safety net programs. Abolish collective bargaining for teachers, fire fighters, police, other public workers and ultimately for all workers. Allow corporations to ship American jobs abroad to wherever they can exploit workers.
We must create a new economic justice movement to demand basic fairness for all Americans. Each one of us must get involved in standing up for ourselves, our families and all of our fellow working Americans. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to be active in the struggle for justice for all and in the political process to elect candidates that will support economic justice for all.
We are losing the great American middle class because of Republican policies. We are becoming a land of division where some have enormous wealth and privilege while many struggle with economic insecurity and hopelessness. Please join us in standing up to demand a fair deal for all Americans.
Bob King is president of the UAW. This opinion piece originally appeared in the Dec. 7, 2011 edition of the Detroit News.