Saturday, May 24, 2014

Do-nothing Republicans find time for exploitation

The Republicans announced earlier this year that it has no agenda this year, save—according to a story in the Washington Post last February—focusing “on calming their divided ranks in the months ahead, mostly by touting proposals that have wide backing within the GOP and shelving any big-ticket legislation for the rest of the year.” This is news? What has the U.S. Congress done since January 20, 2011 when the Republicans and the Tea Party took control of the House?   

One thing they are real good at doing is not accepting blame for things they are at least in part responsible for. They would rather sit back and let the President take all the blame for problems with Veterans Administration health care services. Remember when George Bush was borrowing trillions of dollars to fund his war in Iraq, he was also busy closing VA clinics and cutting funding for the rest? And it's not like military hospitals have ever had a good reputation. Of course, all those veterans “outraged” that Obama was not “outraged” enough at the outrageously poor quality of care at a Phoenix VA hospital—in a state controlled by government-choking Republicans—conveniently “forgot” about that.

And that was after so-called “leaders” of the House Republicans (John Boehner, Eric Cantor and the rest of that lost boys bunch) called on the President to “do something” and pass their legislative agenda. Nothing too big, of course: The Skills Act, supposedly meant to “consolidate” federal job-training programs, but reading between the lines is really just part of the Republicans’ meat cleaver approach to federal programs; the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, meant to eliminate environmental impact studies; and the Working Families Flexibility Act, actually another sneak attack upon working families, allowing gullible people to put their overtime pay into “flex” program to use when they get sick (that is, instead of receiving sick pay)—and like flex health programs, if you don’t use it, you lose it. 

None of these bills had any chance of passing the Senate, although in March the Gabrielle Miller Kids First Research Act managed to get through the Senate, which would send eliminated public funding for political conventions to the NIH for pediatric research. How nice of them to do that. But one should never underestimate the cynicism of Republicans; everything they have “approved” during the Obama administration has been nothing more than partisan political posturing—and on the cheap.

The “do-nothing” reputation of Republicans in both the House and the Senate is well-deserved. Why is anyone so “surprised” by this? Were we not told from the mouth of the horse’s ass that their principle agenda was the complete and total obstruction of the new administration? Didn’t the Tea Party become “official” the day after Obama’s election in 2009?  Congress’ reputation has been in the dumper for years, and recent efforts to dispel the public’s perception have fooled few—save those who have supported Republican efforts to cause government dysfunction. 

So what is a political party in the public opinion dumper to do? To engage in such shameless public relations burlesque as taking advantage of the latest “sex scandal,” the kidnapping of school girls by Muslim insurgents in Nigeria. House Republicans, who want to take away access to affordable health care for the poor in this country, act like giddy school children given a day off from school when provided the opportunity to pass something high in calories and low on protein. Republicans passed five bills last week dealing with human and sex trafficking; naturally the Democrats—despite recognizing the cynicism of the politics involved—couldn’t allow themselves to be seen skipping this bus, so they were constrained to join the charade.

I’ve talked about this issue before, and how a very small number can become a very large number once gender victim advocates—and hypocritical right-wingers—get a hold of it. The 300,000 children “at risk” for sex trafficking in the U.S. that the legislation refers to is a completely bogus number. This is simply the estimated number of runaways under the age of 18; researchers who have actually hit the streets looking for these child sex slaves have found only enough to make estimates in the “hundreds” nationally—and few were actually “slaves,” with less than 10 percent working for a “pimp.” The new laws would also create whole new categories of criminality based on new definitions and reinterpretations, needlessly filling already overflowing prison populations.

“Trafficking” of adult women is also problematic. The reality is that most women who engage in the sex trade do it out of their own free will. Naturally they don’t want to admit this to family and friends back home, and it shouldn’t be surprising that they would feel somewhat uncomfortable admitting to judgmental “victim” advocates that they are engaged in the world’s oldest profession out of anything other than that they were “forced” to. And this despite the fact that women—and white women specifically—have lower unemployment rates than their male counterparts, and have a plethora of community and government services to help them when in “need.” 

The less “controversial” subject of simple human trafficking is also subject to “interpretation.” Most people who are “trafficked” in this country are not kidnapped slaves but people who are trying to get from one country to another illegally, and are fully aware of the circumstances. The numbers would naturally be inflated if undocumented workers from Latin America are counted, but such terminology would suggest too much sympathy for the impoverished plight of many of these people. “Trafficking” more often would apply to Chinese and South East Asians trying to sneak in onboard merchant ships—often dropped off in Canadian ports first. 

And there are cases such as the one that appeared in a local weekly a few years ago, about a teenage Muslim girl who was an illegal entrant into the country, apparently in an effort by her parents to shield her from the violence in her home country. Her uncle was expected to keep her out of trouble in this country, and he was perhaps “overzealous” in doing so, making her help out in his coffee shop without pay, and “grounding” her when she stayed out too late with friends. The girl complained about this to her American friends, and eventually the uncle was charged and found guilty of “human trafficking” for the purpose of “slavery.” At least this was the “politically-correct” way of interpreting the situation; the uncle no doubt saw his responsibilities to the girl’s safety and well-being in an entirely different light.

I am not going to sit here and say that sex and human trafficking isn’t happening; it is, and there is real victimization occurring. But it is cheapened when exploited and enlarged for cynical political purposes, by both the Republicans and the media.

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