Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Party of Woe: an Essay

“I’ve spent my whole life chasing the American dream,” Speaker of the House John Boehner told ABC News shortly before his accession to the third-highest office of state. “What unites us as Republicans will be the agenda of the American people. They want us to cut spending and focus on creating jobs in America.”

Yet the only thing which seems to be uniting the Republican Party at this time is their grand project to tear apart and rip to shreds the delicately-woven fabric of American civil society. Backed by their masters and benefactors in the corporate sector – in banking, insurance and the military-industrial complex – the 112th Congress and the ‘new breed’ of GOP governor are piece by piece removing what is left of the measly, miserly U.S. social contract.

In sickness and in health

The first step in this direction came with one of the first acts of the 112th Congress: a 245 to 189 vote to repeal the ‘job-killing’ (or rather ‘job-crushing’) healthcare bill. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, among other things, extends the scope of Medicaid, makes illegal the denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions, and institutes an individual and business community mandate on purchasing insurance. In all, some 32 millions will now gain healthcare coverage as a result of this bill.

Some Republicans have argued in debate in the House that the law is unconstitutional because “the federal government is overstepping its powers in requiring Americans to buy health insurance”. Such claims have been dismissed by the Obama administration, but have been supported in a landmark ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla.

Republicans too have been defensive of their efforts, stating that this repeal is anything but symbolic. “It respects the will of the American people and it paves the way to reform our healthcare,” so argues Rep. Nan Hayworth. But, given that this attempt at a rollback was voted down in the Senate, and would have surely been vetoed by President Obama, it is hard to see it as anything other.

More importantly, the repeal of healthcare legislation is, needless to say, completely unrelated to Boehner’s definition of the agenda of the American people: to ‘cut spending’ and focus on job creation. The Congressional Budget Office, which notes that the Affordable Healthcare Act would save the federal government $124 billion over ten years, announced that the bill’s repeal would add $210 billion to the deficit.

Rather, the repeal of what has been dubbed ‘Obamacare’ as an attempt at slander is motivated entirely by a desire to preserve the status quo in American healthcare: where those who can afford skyrocketing insurance premiums receive good coverage, whilst the rest either bankrupt themselves forking out for treatment, or simply turn up at the emergency room and pass on the costs of their care onto others (which, in turn, drives up the cost of premiums).

Back to the future

Their other budgetary proposals are no less dogmatic, and can in no regard be taken any more seriously. Instead of focusing on where the real money is spent in Washington, Republicans have gone back to the future with a resumption of the culture wars. For, no senior Republican, with any clout at least, has put forward serious proposals to tackle the three great bulwarks of federal expenditure: Medicare/Medicaid; social security; and Defence.

Instead, the Republican budget seeks to reduce the deficit by defunding institutions that are precious to certain constituencies: namely the poor, women, minorities, the educated and those in need; in short: those that don’t vote for them. The House has voted to eliminate monies for public broadcasting (including NPR and PBS) for the rest of the fiscal year, an act labelled a “death sentence for stations serving rural and small-town America.” (Currently, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives a paltry $420 million of federal funding.)

In this vein, Republicans have also gone after the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, in addition to cutting 29pc from projects related to climate change. The Legal Services Corporation would be eliminated, saving $420 million but axing a service that predominately aided poorer females. The Republican budget also “dramatically reduces food aid for low-income women with children and women who are pregnant.”

But perhaps the most heinous of all Republican measures was an amendment tabled by Rep. Mike Pence to cut off all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which passed by a vote of 240-185. Planned Parenthood is an organisation which provides family planning and sexual health services, including contraception and abortion. The latter is a legal procedure, for which the organisation receives no federal funding. Planned Parenthood also offers women essential medical examinations including screenings for breast cancer.

Rep. Pence has over the past few weeks conducted a one-man commando-style operation against this mandated and well-intentioned organisation. He has used hidden camera ‘gotcha’ video tapes to accuse Planned Parenthood of “facilitating the abuse of a minor and sex trafficking,” since tapes purport to show clinic employees offering advice to a ‘pimp’ and services for underage prostitutes[1]. “What is becoming more evident,” Pence trumps, “is that [federal funding of Planned Parenthood] has to stop.”

As Rep. Jackie Speier noted in an emotional and affective speech on the floor of the House, this has nothing to do with workers finding jobs or reducing the deficit. It is part of a vendetta against Planned Parenthood, and the right of the American woman to choose whether or not she must go through the difficult procedure of terminating her pregnancy.

Trickle-down warfare

The war against anti-conservative causes has now spread from the federal to the state level. In Wisconsin, previously a bastion of liberalism, rookie Republican governor Scott Walker has announced that he wants to “remove all collective bargaining rights, except for salary, for roughly 175,000 public employees starting July 1.” Moreover, he wants to “force state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to cover pension costs and more than double their health insurance contributions.” This, at the same time as he seeks to provide millions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations that will add about $117 million to the state’s budget problem over the next two years.

Wisconsin has a serious deficit problem: The state has a $137 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, and has a $3.6 billion shortfall in the upcoming 2011-13 biennium (the two-year period that starts July 1, 2011). Gov. Walker has argued that without cuts, he would be required to begin massive lay offs. Public service workers, to their credit, have already declared their willingness to give back to the state some of the benefits won through collective bargaining.

What they will not sacrifice, and what you should not sacrifice, is that right to organise and collectively bargain. It would render the union movement in the state meaningless, a capon among the roosters in corporate America. Moreover, it would set a dangerous precedent, especially as similar bills have already been tabled in Indiana and Ohio.

Conservative pundits are practically foaming at the mouth like retarded, feral horses at Gov. Scott Walker’s budgetary proposals in Wisconsin. Sean Hannity spoke of the “unholy relationship between the unions and politicians,” and became moist recalling how Ronald Reagan broke the air-traffic control strike by sacking all those who did not return to work within 48 hours. Glenn Beck, who has become more unhinged in his doom bunker as the days go by, proposed that these unions are seeking to bring down the Republic, as part of a communist-socialist-jihadist alliance that, in partnership with Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Van Jones wants to construct a New World Order.

Again, Gov. Walker’s proposals are demonstrably utterly unrelated to the serious issue of tackling the state deficit. If that were the case, a compromise would already have been reached. Also, the state would in fact lose $46.6 in federal transportation funding if collective bargaining rights are stripped for these unions. To put it simply, Walker wants to bust the unions in his state for the benefit of his billionaire backers. This has become a crusade for the governor, above and beyond the safety, security and future of Wisconsin.

“A plague o’ both your houses”

This is not to say that Democrats are innocent, either: They too are in bed with corporate America. The Obama administration has achieved next to nothing in the way of regulating reckless and illegal practice on Wall Street. Moreover, they haven’t done anything to prosecute those who brought the world’s economy to its knees via credit-default swaps and bound-to-fail sub-prime mortgages.

President Obama received the following in campaign donations during the 2008 election cycle: $994,795 from Goldman Sachs (the second biggest contributor after the University of California); $701,290 from Citigroup; $695,132 from JPMorgan Chase; and $514,881 from Morgan Stanley. (The Citizens United case, incidentally, will only entrench the influence of big business in political activity.)

It it is patently evident that, over the course of the past fifty years, the Democrats have done more the advancement of America and the American Dream than the Republican Party, in spite of this weighty outside influence. President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act; Clinton created 22.5 million jobs and three consecutive budget surpluses; Obama has attempted to extend healthcare to 32 million uninsured citizens and repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Conclusions

Across the aisle, the Republican Party has since the election of Ronald Reagan driven up huge budget deficits by increasing government outlay at the same time as handing out generous tax cuts for the nation’s elite. As a percentage of GDP, Reagan exploded the national debt from 32.5pc in 1981 to 53.1pc in 1989. Bush 43, by way slashing taxes on the top bracket twice in three years turned Clinton’s surpluses into huge negatives, again increasing the national debt from 56.4pc (2001) to 83.4pc (2009)[2].

The GOP, thus, has come to serve only the needs of America’s top 1pc, at the expense of the health of national body. The Republican Party has raped the United States of America. It is a corrupt, exclusive and morally-bankrupt organisation, which has now been co-opted by the Tea Party: a rag-tag coalition of morons, bigots and prudes.

Now the Republicans have set out once more to shove its primordial values down America’s collective throat. Already, it has succeeded in sustaining the Bush tax cuts, and has, as has been outlined, begun to unleash hell upon the social contract.

In this perpetual war, the GOP never seems to emerge defeated however: time after time, enough voters return slavishly for another bout of punishment from their gun-loving, abortion-hating, evolution-doubting dominatrixes. Rather, the biggest loser is always the United States of America, and the people who live in this most free and liberal of nations.

And with every day, the American Dream dies a little more.



[1] This is not the first time conservatives have used candid camera footage to bring down organisations which aid those in need. Activist James O’Keefe recorded low-level employees at ACORN “sounding eager to assist with tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution”. Its federal funding was removed, and the group collapsed. O’Keefe was later arrested in New Orleans on January 25, 2010 on federal felony charges of attempting to maliciously interfere with the office telephone system of Sen. Mary Landrieu.

[2] President Clinton indeed reduced the size of the national debt as a percentage of GDP, from 66.1pc (inherited from Bush 41) in 1993 to 56.4pc by 2001. The debt decreased by 9pc in his second term. By contrast, it increased 20pc in Bush 43’s second term. President Kennedy, Johnson and Carter all reduced the size of the federal debt, too.