Thursday, December 2, 2010

So, How Do You Feel About the Election Now, America?

Okay, now—let me see whether I have this down right.

Early last month, American voters voted the Republican Party into the majority in the House of Representatives, and increased the number of Republicans in the Senate. The Republicans had vowed to make the nation more ‘fiscally responsible,’ for the good of the majority of Americans.

Now, not quite a month later, according to a December 1 story by Mary Clare Jalonick of the Associated Press, Republicans in the House have at least temporarily blocked legislation that “would give more needy children the opportunity to eat free lunches at school and make those lunches healthier. ... Republicans say the nutrition bill is too costly and an example of government overreach.” This legislation would cost $4.5 billion.

This coincides with action by Republicans in the Senate, who have blocked the extension of unemployment benefits (as reported in a December 1 story in The Christian Science Monitor). The U.S. Department of Labor indicates that this “means the imminent loss of unemployment compensation for some 800,000 out-of-work Americans, with nearly 2 million long-term unemployed expected to be affected by Jan. 1. .... US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis ... said that by next spring, another 6 million unemployed workers will lose benefits if Congress does not act.” Labor Department statistics from October indicate that the national unemployment rate is currently a staggering 9.6%, which the author of this blog considers almost certainly an understatement. And why was this extension blocked? Senate Republicans mentioned the cost, which would be $56.4 billion.

However, this concern is clearly just a smokescreen. The Christian Science Monitor story reported that “Senate Republicans ... this week signed a letter pledging to block all legislation on the floor until Congress resolves how to fund government for the current fiscal year and extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, now set to expire on Dec. 31.” The Bush tax legislation currently gives the wealthiest Americans a $700 billion tax cut. (The Associated Press’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis also reported this story.)

Huh? The Republicans block a total of $61 billion worth of spending to feed hungry children and keep unemployed families off the street, and put the entire legislative branch of government in gridlock, so that they can give $700 billion to the rich? Can it really be that crazy? Has the Republican Party Congressional delegation really become this craven and greedy, as servants to the super-rich? Yes it can, and yes they have.

Davis’s story notes that the 42 Senate Republicans signed a letter stating that they want to prevent a “job-killing tax hike.” Let’s pass by the slick sleight-of-hand that makes cancelling the tax cuts a tax “hike.” Let’s also, for the moment, ignore the fact that what has killed millions of jobs in America has been the fallout of Republican policies, a point that I made in an earlier post on this blog. Instead, let’s follow the faulty logic of the Senate Republicans’ letter.

The assumption in that letter is that the Bush tax cuts created jobs. However, they did not. The old idea that tax cuts for the rich “trickled down” to the general public has long been shown to be a lie. This is why the years 2000 to 2008 saw an immense increase in wealth disparity in our nation, such that never before has so much of the wealth of the country been controlled by such a small fraction of the population.

The Republican Party leadership has shown its true colors here yet again. Rather than feed hungry children, rather than keep the families of unemployed parents off the streets, the Republican Party Congressional delegation is withdrawing from all legislative cooperation, purely to fund the continuation of a $700 billion tax cut for the rich. It is just that blunt and simple. Like the picture above, this is all a maneuver to take from the exhausted poor and unemployed of this country to give to the rich.

Query to all those folks who helped put the Republicans back in power in the House, and increased the number of Republicans in the Senate: How’s all that working out for you?

Because, for America as a whole, it’s working out pretty badly.

Folks, if you also think it's working out pretty badly, tell that to your Republican legislators. Tell them you want them not to keep the government in gridlock, that you want them to feed the hungry children, and that you want unemployment benefits extended, and that you don't want the tax cuts for the rich extended. And remember their responses, in 2012.

Feeding the hungry children, and helping their unemployed parents, are most definitely On The Mark.

(Incidentally, for a take on the right-wing’s view of Congressional cooperation, see Tom Tomorrow’s November 30 edition of his comic strip, “This Modern World.” The frightening thing is, in light of this week’s activities, Tomorrow’s grim world seems all too much like the one we live in.)

[The photo, titled “Concept pic #2,” was created by “Etr13,” who placed the image in the public domain worldwide. It was obtained through Wikimedia Commons.]

(Copyright 2010 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

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