Democrats, Obama Cave to Corporations Unwilling to Close Tax Loophole to Fund 9/11 Responders’ Healthcare

The first responders and families of those who were first to act show support for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. by TalkMediaNews

Add healthcare for 9/11 responders to a long list of concessions or outright capitulation to corporations that has taken place as a result of Democrats and President Obama being unwilling to take a stand against Republicans fronting for corporate executives and the top 2% in America.

The Associated Press reports the pay mechanism for funding health care for 9/11 responders has been changed to appease Republicans, who branded the original bill for 9/11 responders as something that included a “corporate tax increase.” Instead of closing a tax loophole, the bill will now use fees on “foreign firms that get U.S. government procurement contracts,” “fees on certain firms that rely on H-1B and L-1 visas,” and “fees on travelers who don’t present visa travel documents at U.S. airports,” to finance the bill.

It was too much for President Obama or Democrats to come out and boldly defend a bill that would have “required multinational companies incorporated in tax havens to pay taxes on income earned in the U.S.” It was too much to take this issue and say that corporations should be willing to honor the sacrifices made by 9/11 responders by paying for this bill by closing a tax loophole.

Jon Stewart has artfully skewered Republicans on their traitorous abandonment of 9/11 responders. He has demonstrated through several segments how Republicans should no longer be allowed to exploit 9/11. Their failure to defend 9/11 responders here means they will no longer be credible at all when they call for something to be done in the name of 9/11. But, he hasn’t really pointed out the lack of push from President Obama or Democrats on this (except for in a remark to Mike Huckabee, who appeared on the show right after 9/11 responders appeared on Thursday, December 16th).

Since August this year, President Obama has been, for the most part, silent on healthcare for 9/11 responders. When the bill passed the House, he could have held a press conference like he did when he was moving the recent tax cut deal through Congress. But, he did not use the power of the pulpit he has as president to make a speech calling on the Senate to support the bill for health care for 9/11 responders in its current form.

Only recently did he agree to halt the delay of funding for a research study that would end doubt amongst officials and the media on whether 9/11 responders are actually being diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, and other diseases or disorders because of their service in the aftermath of 9/11. The New York Daily News reported in October, “President Obama has quietly forked over millions to study what’s killing 9/11   responders   – after refusing to pay up earlier this year. City officials had expected to get the cash last spring for an ongoing $12 million program, which includes tracking people in the 9/11 health registry and studying the alarming rates of cancer in Ground Zero workers. Federal bean counters initially held up funding for this year’s $4.9 million outlay, saying they were auditing the effort.

Except for Democrats from New York and other states nearby like New Jersey, there has been little leadership from the Democratic Party on this issue. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi finally got a bill to give health care to 9/11 responders passed in the last week of September. Senator Harry Reid has done very little, it seems, to get the bill passed. It could have been brought to a vote every day, and, each time it failed, statements could have been made by Democrats to show how Republicans were betraying the 9/11 responders.

Media coverage, as Stewart pointed out on his show, has been largely non-existent. In contrast to the “Ground Zero Mosque” story earlier this year, there has been no interest in this story whipped up by media pundits on Fox News or other cable/network news outlets. That does not mean coverage of the 9/11 responders hasn’t briefly taken place on news shows. It means this issue has not been turned into something that echoes around the country until elected officials step up and address the needs of 9/11 responders.

Why might this be? Does this have anything to do with the working or lower class backgrounds of the 9/11 responders seeking assistance?

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson spotlight “unrepresentative democracy” in their recent book, Winner Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. They cite a study by two professors who worked separately at Princeton University, Larry Bartels and Martin Gilens. Bartels and Gilens studied the “correspondence between what politicians do and what their constituents of differing economic backgrounds say they want them to do in opinion polls.”

Bartels’ study found that “wealthier Americans” are more likely to earn responses on issues from politicians in Washington than “less affluent” Americans. Bartels looked “at how closely aligned with voters U.S. senators were on key votes in the late 1980s and early 1990s.” He found a “pretty high degree of congruence between senators’ positions and the opinions of their constituents–at least when those constituents” were in the “top third of the income distribution.” (The study by Bartels also found that when the poorest people supported a policy senators were actually less likely to vote for it.)

Gilens took the investigation to another level and collected “survey questions fielded since the 1980s” that asked people “whether they wanted government policy to change.” He broke the population down into “income groups” and found that when policy changes had a good chance of becoming law, there was a huge amount of support for that change from those at the top. Hacker and Pierson write of the study, “When the opinions of the poor diverged from those of the well-off, the opinions of the poor ceased to have any apparent influence.”

There are virtually no opinion polls in circulation on whether 9/11 responders should get healthcare or not, but one can imagine only a small, small percentage being opposed to such a measure.

What makes this hard for the wealthy or top 2% to support is how it would be paid for. Since the 1970s, business has worked together to protect the interests of all businesses in America and the tax loophole, if closed, would have significantly harmed business (at least if you ask lobbyists for business interests in America).

Would Americans vote “yes” in a poll asking if the closing of a tax loophole for corporations should be used to fund healthcare for 9/11 responders? That would likely show a key division in American society, with forty to sixty percent saying corporations have a duty to American society that would be fulfilled through helping 9/11 responders by closing the loophole or with forty to sixty percent saying political leaders should not play politics with this bill and try to fund it by pushing for a “controversial” end to a loophole for corporations.

As corporations and the rich continue to accrue more subsidies or handouts and more policy change victories from government, there will be less and less funding available for measures, which the majority of Americans would support. At some point, corporations and the rich have to be put in a position where they pay for the freedom, services, and environment they enjoy in America. Otherwise, the lower classes will be asked to make sacrifices to fund measures like this and will be badgered into giving certain “causes” funding out of “charity” and “support.”

The ones who should have been badgered and coerced into funding those whom they privately if not publicly have celebrated are corporate executives, business interests or the top 2%, which pushed Republicans to oppose this bill and who are most capable of sparing some change for 9/11 responders.

The bill will likely pass now that it no longer requires a tax loophole be closed. It wasn’t enough for those at the top to get breaks in the tax cut deal. They had to protect a break they’ve been getting from being taken away because men and women, who responded after 9/11, are dying of cancer and other diseases. And, as with the tax cut deal, those at the top will continue to take and keep what they think they should be able to keep and not give up so long as Democrats especially liberals take minimal action to resist concessions to corporate power.

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