What Joe Miller and Sharron Angle tell us about the Republicans

Miller, the Sarah Palin-backed Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Alaska, gained notoriety, in part, by proposing elimination of two of the most popular reforms in U.S. history, Social Security and Medicare, and calling unemployment insurance “unconstitutional”.

Even after his primary upset, Miller did not change his tune. Asked by CNN’s John King September 1 if someone born today should “grow up in an America where there is not a federal Social Security program if you got your way,” Miller replied, “absolutely.”

Angle has sounded a similar tone, most recently telling a conservative talk show host that extending unemployment benefits “doesn’t really benefit anyone.” (The 15 million or more unemployed Americans would probably disagree).

While some might dismiss Miller and Angle as an anomaly among Republicans, their views readily parallel the more conventional wing of the party. Those include Republican leaders in Congress now giddy that winning a majority in the November elections could permit them to shut down the government rather than allow any funding for the new healthcare law, and the many Republican candidates running on platforms of slashing government programs, extending the Bush-era tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans, and further reducing corporate regulations and taxes.

The mantra is that “government” is the problem. In reality, they mean not just “big government,” any government.  Is that really what Americans want?

Would we be better off with no paved roads, no bridges, no street lights, no police and fire departments, no libraries, no public schools, nobody trying to keep salmonella out of our eggs or pesticides out of our food, no limits on air and water pollution, no sewage systems, no safety requirements for hospitals or nursing homes, no limits on HMO abuses, no inspections of unsafe mines or other workplaces? And no Social Security or Medicare?

Behind the anti-government rhetoric, that’s the ultimate program of the Miller-Angle Republicans who would dismantle decades of federal programs and shift even more resources to the have-mores. As if the income chasm were not already wide enough, in a country where 61 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck while the average CEO makes 350 times the pay of the average worker, up from 40 times more 30 years ago.

That’s the class warfare that Wall Street and the candidates they elect in Congress and the statehouses, of both parties, have practiced for years. So when the Miller-Angle-Congressional Republicans say the way to create jobs is to give the biggest corporations and wealthy even more tax shelters and loopholes, the question we should be asking is what’s stopping them from creating jobs now?  As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert observed in July, non-financial corporations alone have seen a jump of 27 percent in on-hand cash, reaching a level not seen in five decades, all while cutting jobs in hopes of getting more tax breaks.

In its September, 2010 Index, Harper’s noted that 31 states face a 2011 budget shortfall, yet in the projected decline in money the states receive from corporate taxes just since last year is a whopping $2.5 billion. 

The 3 million richest Americans today have combined investable assets – money readily available to invest, excluding their homes and consumables – of about $12 trillion. A one time wealth surcharge of 15 percent on those assets could wipe out the current U.S. national deficit, fund a year of AIDS medication for 142 million patients or create 34 million jobs paying $50,000 a year, calculates the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy, research arm of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

That’s the program that would be the best response to the Miller-Angle Republicans.

Deborah Burger is a registered nurse and a co-president of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of direct care RNs.