Friday, December 3, 2010

Rappers for the Rich

So the Republican blockade of bills that might actually help the middle class and the poor continues—all held hostage to the party’s demand that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires be extended. You have to hand it to Republicans, they know how to practice togetherness. Not one independent voice among them. Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum, and Tweedle-Dee-Dum—the Boehner, McConnell-Cantor corporate rap trio – lead their faithful lackeys in their continuing assault on government for the American people. It’s nothing new. Ever since President Obama took office, Republicans have turned their backs on the people whom they were elected to represent and have instead refused to participate in governing. President Carter called their behavior “irresponsible” in an interview with NPR’s Diane Rehm on Tuesday, November 30th. Along with raw sewage and flesh-eating microbes, Republicans are right up there with the most toxic elements in public life. Never before in my lifetime – and I’m a senior citizen – have I seen an entire political party work single-mindedly to bring down the country in order to bring down the President.

Congressional Republicans have become the most destructive force in American life. Their efforts to create more economic disaster to gain political advantage in the 2012 election displays disrespect for the Presidency and contempt for the American people, for democracy and for our Constitution. As if their actions hadn’t revealed their seditious strategy right out front, corporate rapper McConnell proclaimed the Republicans’ agenda baldly: “The single more important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” he said in an interview with the National Journal’s Major Garrett on October 29, 2010. Note: not a single word about the good of the country or the American people. Now McConnell has sent his ultimatum letter to Senator Harry Reid basically saying, “It’s our way or the highway.” In the ultimate display of arrogance and hypocrisy, the Boehner/McConnell/Cantor trio refused to extend unemployment benefits for the 2 million Americans whose benefits expired midnight December 1st. For the past two years, this gang of naysayers has voiced support for only one thing – tax cuts for the super rich. In case you don’t remember, these are the Bush tax cuts that raided the U.S. Treasury, squandering the budget surplus left by President Clinton and creating the largest redistribution of wealth from the middle class to millionaires in the nation’s history. No matter that extending these tax cuts will add $700 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. Well, you know, the country can afford a deficit that goes to “feeding” millionaires but not an $18 billion (the cost of extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed) deficit that goes to put food on the tables of people who’ve lost their jobs. Recall Rhett Butler’s line to Scarlet O’Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

It’s all so simple really – not all deficits are equal. Although the “party of No” proclaims cutting the deficit is the single most important thing that Congress must do, this deficit addition that will be created if Congress allows itself to be bullied into extending the millionaire tax cuts doesn’t count. Under a Democratic President, Republicans are for reducing the deficit; under a Republican President, they’re for racking it up. And rack it up, they did, creating the largest deficit in the history of all previous administrations put together. But that was THEN, you know, under the Bush/Cheney team of good ol’ corporate boys.

If the Tea Partiers, or anybody else who voted the new crop of Republicans in office, believes Republican propaganda about working for the American people, they should pay close attention to what Republicans have voted against during these past two years. Then decide what people Republicans are working to help. Here’s just a partial list of what Republicans have blocked, stalled and tried to kill altogether:

- No to regulating the big banks and investment houses, the very institutions whose fraudulent manipulations brought the country to the brink of another Great Depression.
- No to equal pay for women.
- No to requiring oil companies to fully pay for oil spill damage.
- No to increasing bank loans to small businesses.
- No to the health reform bill, which will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the first 10 years and by $2 trillion in the second 10 years.
- No to expanding health coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans.
- No to eliminating pre-existing conditions as insurers’ pretext for dropping coverage.
- No to closing the Medicare prescription “donut hole.”
- No to giving seniors in the gap a 50-percent discount on brand-name drugs in 2011.
- No to allowing children to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26.
- No to eliminating co-payments for preventive health under Medicare.
- No to prohibiting health insurers from placing lifetime caps on coverage.
- No to banning annual limits on coverage.
- No to reforming student aid.
- No to expanding eligibility for the State Children’s Health Insurance Fund (SCHIP)
- No to increased infrastructure spending for roads, bridges and power plants
- No to consumer financial protections

No. No. No. That’s all Republicans have contributed to government over the past two years. It’s a tribute to President Obama that despite Republican attempts to bring down the government, more legislation has been passed during these first two years of his administration than under any other modern President. Yes, Republican opposition has caused some of this legislation to be weaker than it could have been, but it’s out there. Despite Republicans’ refusal to act in a bipartisan manner even after President Obama offered numerous – perhaps too many – attempts to reach across the political aisle, landmark legislation, such as the Health Care Reform Bill, was passed.

The message of Republicans’ behavior has been loud and clear. Their constituency is not the people who elected them; it is the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the big banks, the investment houses, and the two percent of the wealthiest Americans. Anybody who thinks any differently is in denial. If Republicans have their way and are enabled to carry out their corporate agenda, American’s middle class will sink to the level of the poor in Third-World countries, becoming just a cheap labor pool ripe for exploitation. Maybe China will give them jobs. The Republicans surely aren’t.


Unknown said...

Loved this post! Just recently I was commenting that "Democrats" are incorrectly characterized as "Tax and Spend Liberals" - when a more accurate description in many cases is "investing rather than spending" by enacting policies to provide a better future for the majority of the population - ie- the health care bill provisions to eliminate loop holes for an insurance company to deny/limit coverage. Whereas "Fiscal conservatives" no longer applies to Republicans, a more accurate and appropriate description would be "Tax-cut and bankrupt hypocrites" - conservative people wouldn't have been so risky with the financial future of this country - and it is hypocritical to have it both ways "small/no government" for fiscal concerns and "intrusive" government for moral concerns (gay marriage, abortion, etc.).

Often overlooked in the sea of sound-bites is the fact that a "tax-cuts" and "taxes" aren't inherently good or bad - depends who benefits and why. A "tax-cut" doesn't come for free and therefore contributes to the deficit (directly or indirectly) and thus limits the programs that can be provided to society. A "tax-cut" doesn't equal more money in your pocket and a "tax" doesn't equal less money in your pocket if it doesn't apply to you.

Why is "unemployment insurance" so often characterized as if it were some "free money" the government was handing out to anyone without a job -- everyone eligible to receive unemployment benefits had contributions made by their employers while they were working. The maximum benefits $450 per week (in the highest benefit states) are only slightly more than minimum wage (California works out to $11.25 maximum an hour based on a 40 hour week vs. $8.00 minimum wage - lower benefit if you were actually earning minimum wage). Typically this is a level far below what a middle-class worker was earning on the job. It is far below the percentage of earnings formula many other high standard of living countries use to provide a true stop-gap while unemployed; albeit at higher tax rates. Still our system provides a lifeline for someone who finds themselves unemployed, hopefully preventing them from becoming homeless too. As the name states it is "insurance" not welfare. In periods of extended high unemployment it can become necessary for the federal government to step in and provide extended weeks of benefits (adds additional requirements requiring recipients to take "any job" not just one in their field) - remember this is still only to workers who were eligible in the first place (productive, hard working, tax-payers) not just to someone who doesn't have a job. With nearly 10% of the country out of work (higher in some segments of the population) hard to understand any politician voting against extending these benefits to their constituents (definition: the people who live in your district, not the ones who lined your pockets).

If you voted "no" perhaps the solution is for "your corporate buddies" to offer the unemployed jobs in lieu of extending the unemployment benefits. Alternatively, the benefits extensions could be funded with a 100% tax on any 2007-2010 bonuses received within the financial industry in recognition of the stellar work they did in putting the country in such dire straits in the first place. Immediate payback of all bailout money at 24% interest (the rate banks raise the credit card interest rate to on the unemployed) would also work. All "win-win" solutions without raising the deficit.

Helene said...

Great article. I am always amazed at how anybody but the wealthiest Americans can vote Republican. The Republican party certainly does not represent the middle and working classes, yet these low information voters believe the propaganda spouted by Fox News that poses as a real news network. I have actually spoken to people who believe that Obama's health plan will create "death panels' or who believe that Sharia law is taking place in the U.S. Where do they get these ideas? Obviously from Fox and the tea party.

It is amazing that the party that held up signs proclaiming "Country first" during the McCain campaign has as its goal the mission to have Obama fail. How unamerican is that?