Friday, November 5, 2010
As published in ...
We live in a democracy that has endured a government for some 250 years bound to serve its people by office holders put in place by we the people. And now, once again and emphatically, the “American people have spoken,” as countless newly elected Republicans and Tea Partiers have crowed in their victory speeches.
Indeed, we have. And we have it dead wrong this time. America is being hoisted by its own petard by an anger-driven and misled electorate, duped by the very powers they are railing against, armed with mathematically flawed financial agendas and swayed by promises impossible to keep. We have become a culture insistent on instant fixes but unwilling to make any sacrifices to enable viable solutions. Ergo, we jump on the extended tax cuts bandwagon for the wealthy, and ourselves, which will only add to the deficit, and for what? Another “trickle down” fantasy?
If the GOP and Tea Partiers want to “take back America,” as Sarah Palin continues to screech, then my question is, “and give it to who?” The same people who got us in this monumental mess in the first place? The ones chomping at the bit to reinstate the kinds of unfunded programs that turned a government budget surplus into a mega-deficit the last time they were in charge??
The Tea Party has managed to rile conservative America into a myopic state of True Disbelief about what the Obama administration has actually managed to accomplish, despite being handed the worst state of domestic and world affairs in recent history. By most measures Obama’s initiatives have: prevented a Recession from becoming a genuine Depression; reigned in Wall Street, mortgage lenders and credit card companies; minimized unemployment by bailing out the auto industry (which is growing again) and injecting stimulus spending into the economy (adding to the TARP bailouts initiated by George W. Bush). He’s also led the transformation of health care for the last remaining country in the industrialized world without a national program. Along the way he’s also managed to engage Russia in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, implement long-overdue regulation of the tobacco industry, revamp the student loan program to eliminate the unnecessary middle-man banks and initiated his “Race to the Top” educational program along with stimulus dollars to keep teachers employed.
Presumably this is the “too much government” that America wants back.
And by the way, the US auto industry is showing Big 3 growth for the first time in two years , the DOW is at a two-year high and nearly twice the index it was in April 09, and for the first time in five months the US economy added jobs to the workforce (151,000).
On the contrary, Obama is being legitimately criticized by many economists for not being even more aggressive with his stimulus programs. But now the Fed is pumping another $600 billion into the banking system in an attempt to further jolt the economy.
The newly empowered Republicans would have none of this. They want to withdraw all unspent stimulus money. Rescind health care reform even though it will generate $500 billion in Medicare savings over ten years – without reducing significant benefits. Extend Bush’s tax cuts for $250k earners – even though it will increase the deficit by $700 billion over ten years (Office of Budget Management). Repeal the limitations imposed on Wall Street – after all, they can regulate themselves, right? – and eliminate the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Some Republicans have even called for the elimination of the Department of Education.
Above all, and through all of this – create jobs, jobs, jobs and balance the budget. Impossible. As reported in the NY Times, in a “blueprint” this week from Eric Cantor, the likely Republican majority leader in the new Congress, “the party has made clear that its main proposals for creating jobs are to cut regulations and taxes – in particular to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for all incomes. Extending the tax cuts, however, would add nearly $4 trillion to the national debt by 2020, and hundreds of billions more in interest owed for the additional government borrowing, greatly complicating another Republican goal: balancing the budget.” (NY Times, “GOP Lists Sweeping Goals, But Their Impact is Uncertain,” Nov 5, 2010).
And yet all of it bought lock, stock and barrel by the “American people.” First of all, the joke is on the Tea Party. GOP office holders will quickly separate themselves from them and their most fervent beliefs. Karl Rove has already scoffed that they are “unsophisticated.” Michele Bachmann’s (Minnesota’s new Tea Party House member) short-fused and public move to have herself appointed the number four position among House Republicans – a position she has little chance of attaining – won’t help any.
Some joke. We’ll be left with the damage that would be imposed on the rest of us by what the latest CNN poll reports are a mere 2% of American’s who consider themselves active members of the Tea Party. A movement dominated by older, white, men (44% of whom say they are “born again” Christians) who believe a fully armed, 21st Century America is what our founding fathers had in mind. Many of those who by definition are already drawing Social Security are the ones who want to privatize it, despite the vulnerability it would create under an unrestricted Wall Street and financial industry, as they would also have it. The same people who either believe there’s no such thing as global warming or if there is, we humans have nothing to do with it.
Fueled by ultra-conservative big business moguls like billionaires and life-long Libertarians David and Charles Koch, with unlimited campaign dollars funneled through anonymous fronts like “Americans for Prosperity,” Karl Rove’s “American Crossroads,” Dick Armey’s “FreedomWorks” and many others – all of which were set free by John Roberts’ Bush-appointed Supreme Court – they’ve been duped into supporting the very things that got us, and them, into trouble in the first place, like rolling back financial regulations for Wall Street. In fact John Boehmer, Ohio’s Republican Senator and soon-to-be Speaker of the House, was the single biggest recipient of Wall Street campaign dollars (NY Times).
He’s also the one who said post-election that since “America has the best health care system in the world,” health care reform is unnecessary and risks “bringing it down.” What planet is this guy from? As of 2006, the United States was number 1 in terms of health care spending per capita but ranked 39th for infant mortality, 43rd for adult female mortality, 42nd for adult male mortality, and 36th for life expectancy. (WHO Statistical Information System (WHOSIS). Geneva: World Health Organization, September 2009).
“Our job is to listen to the American people and follow the will of the American people,” Boehner crowed at his victory celebration. If that is indeed true, then we should be able to expect the GOP to endorse the following and take steps to implement them – all of which a majority of Americans have voiced support for:
· The rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military – which will require ignoring the religious right.
· Stricter gun control, and the ban of assault rifle sales – which will require defying the NRA.
· Proactive moves to reduce global warming and eliminate green house gases – which will first require acknowledging its existence, and our role in it, and then standing up to the coal and oil industries, to name two.
· Financial reform - which will require rejecting the undue influences of Wall Street, Big Business and Banking – and their dollars.
· Greater health care access for more people – which will require resisting the self-serving influences of Big Pharma and much of the medical profession.
All of which will require great courage, a radical change in values and, once and for all, truly listening to “the American people” - a phrase that is quickly being turned into a meaningless cliché by self-serving politicians.
Of course these are all views expressed without undue influence from anonymous corporate dollars, misleading allegations or fear tactics. These are some of the expressions of ‘the American people” that continue to be selectively ignored by Republicans, and now Tea Partiers, put in office to serve them and drowned out by a public who no longer votes on issues and facts, but blinded, misguided anger.
Damn straight! The people have spoken.
Be careful what you ask for.
Croton on Hudson, NY
5 November 2010