Sunday, April 10, 2011

Riders in budget deal more sneaky Republican mischief

Turning on the radio early Saturday morning, I heard an ABC News update reporting that the deal that has for the moment averted a government shutdown was a “major victory” for Republicans over Pres. Obama and the Democrats. At first it is hard to fathom why this should be called a “major” victory, since it was assumed by all parties that a compromise would involve some level of federal budget cuts, somewhere between zero and the $61 billion the Republican House was insisting upon. The $38.5 billion cut agreed upon was slightly above the “compromise” mark (the Democrats wanted $33 billion), and a rider eliminating federally-funded abortions in the District of Columbia was approved. In return, the Democrats managed to get the EPA and Planned Parenthood off the trimming block. Republicans also backed off on efforts to immediately defund “ObamaCare”—except for the part about funding the IRS to track slackers who don’t want to pay anything for health care.

On the surface, this wasn’t the “major” or “historic” victory for Republicans and Speaker John Boehner that the right-wing media (I include the Christian Science Monitor in that group) is claiming. Even Michelle Bachmann pressed for a “compromise” when she was convinced that a government shutdown would hurt Republicans more than Democrats. Bachmann, by the way, claims to be a tea partier—which is the same thing as saying that Tea Party Movement is really just a tacked-on name to describe the extremist right. Nevertheless, Democrats cannot claim victory, either. The price to keep the government running for six months is backing themselves into tight corner by accepting some of the “riders” hidden in the agreement.

For example, the Senate will be forced to vote on repealing the health care law, which the House has already dutifully done. This will put unwanted pressure on several conservative Democrats who are up for re-election; there is every reason to believe that senators like McCaskill and Nelson will turn tail. “Studies”—probably by partisan right-wing “think tanks”—will be required to “illuminate” the “true cost” of health care reform. Of course, such “studies” are meaningless without context; health care costs and insurance premiums have been going through the roof for decades, and no Republican thought that there should be a “study” on this. Without reform, health care costs were still expected to double in ten years, and unlike what the reform bill promises, even more people than today will be unable to afford health insurance; the question then is if voters are intelligent enough to see through this Republican/corporate scam.

The “deal” also forces the Senate to vote on defunding Planned Parenthood—but not Title X, one of the numerous “titles” passed in 1970 that aimed to benefit women (the funds from Title X’s “family planning” mandate are not supposed to be used to pay for abortions, but Planned Parenthood is accused of fudging the books about what they are doing with the funds it receives). Unlike affirmative action (which also helped white women—until they didn’t need it anymore), Planned Parenthood is still a sacred cow to many, strangely enough; the original purpose of the PPFA as founded by feminist hero Margaret Sanger was racial in nature. Sanger was a believer in “racial hygiene” and eugenics—targeting birth rates of “inferior” races and “lower classes.” Even so, a vote would likely discomfit some conservative Democrats; I doubt, however, that such a vote would ultimately pass muster since “moderate” Republicans would be frightened of alienating their states’ female voting block. Admittedly there is hypocrisy a plenty to find on this tar-baby; ending federally-funded abortion in the District of Columbia is less a problem for right-wing ideologues, since it doesn’t matter if it votes 70 percent Democratic every time—Congress uses it as a guinea pig for ideological experiments regardless of what its voters think. Throwing the intolerant Tea Partiers that bone came cheap. The greatest effect of that rider is on the 55 percent of the residents who are black, 27 percent who live below the poverty line; the playground bully Republicans are simply piling on the most vulnerable like they always do, and they’d do it more often if no one was looking. And to turn around again, another “irony” is that saving federal funding for abortion options outside D.C. is more sacrosanct than saving social safety net programs that aid the impoverished of either race or gender.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform act is also under assault. The budget “deal” includes a requirement that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau be audited for its effects on the economy and jobs. The purpose of the Bureau is to prevent consumer fraud by financial institutions offering abusive products and services whose sole purpose is to enrich the provider at the expensive of the unwary and deliberately misinformed consumer; again we see who the right is really speaking for. We’ve already seen the economic damage that reckless, unregulated financial gambling has had on ordinary people, and now we are expected to fall for the Republican shibboleth of making a false choice between having a job—or be cheated and swindled for the fun and profit of another. When are Americans (excepting the tea-baggers, whose minds are just as limp and leached of substance as a wet tea bag) going to wise-up to the corporate-paid propaganda? Republicans hate people—especially the “ordinary” ones; it’s their plantation mentality.

I haven’t heard of a rider to force a Senate vote on defunding the EPA or weakening its powers, but with western state Republican angst about Obama’s wilderness preservation proposals (overturning Bush-era “initiatives”), we haven’t heard the last of the ghost of the still kicking ass James Watt and his disciples. Back in the day, Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt only wanted to “preserve” the land so that they could go exterminate the wildlife on it for fun; now they want to exterminate the land as well.

I really fear for this country. After the hard-fought battles to finally address the abuses of the health care system and from financial deregulation, which Republicans never had any intention of addressing—in fact, if they had their way, they’d make the perps even more unaccountable to the public good—we are being set-up for abuse again. I’m sick and tired of these hypocritical, Janus-faced right-wing commentators I’m hearing who claim they were “unhappy” about Bush-era deficits when the Republicans controlled Congress, yet were either content to blame “liberals” or had no "choice." Now they want “courageous” Blue Dogs to turn-tail and “step-up” to oppose the President; the problem is that the Republicans haven't set a very good example to follow--repeatedly voting for Bush’s bloated war-spending-off-the-books budgets.

In hard times like these (thanks to Republicans), the federal government must step in when the “free market” refuses to; government spending that creates or maintains jobs not only in its areas of responsibility (such as transportation infrastructure—painfully ignored by the previous administration for other projects, like needless warfare), and allows the private sector time to regain its footing by maintaining a certain level of consumer spending. As the economy improves, revenues will increase and the need for spending on job-creation projects will decline. It is all so simple, but apparently too hard for some people to comprehend given all the “socialism” hysteria you hear on Fox News and right-wing radio. Instead of comprehending what is best for the country at this time, Republicans would seem to prefer that ALL of your jobs eventually head to Asia (let’s cut that scapegoating NAFTA BS), and all this just to appease their appetite to chop-up the social safety-net programs that they hate, mainly because they are a reminder of the inequities they do support; southern Republican politicians who pine for a past life particularly like to view the country as a vast plantation that they can lord once more over.

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