Congratulations, Republicans! You’ve managed to do it again. Even in the face of adversity and what seemed two years ago to be an impossible task, you’ve somehow regained the House of Representatives during a Democratic administration. I’ll bet this new legislative arrangement makes you want to party like its 1996, right? It’s evident that the media is having a fiesta with these headlines, imparting such labels unto the GOP as “rejuvenated,” “confident” and “determined,” even going so far as to define them as “turbocharged.” That’s right, “turbocharged.” In a bizarre twist, though, I find this last description to be shockingly accurate.
The Republicans do have high voltage rhetoric and a newfound position of superiority within the House, but this energy is in no way indicative of a new direction or a fresh perspective on this nation’s controversial issues. They are still the same dilapidated GOP they were prior to their resurgence of power, who still in good conscience cannot correctly prioritize this nation’s problems and prescribe any effective remedies. In terms of imaginative capacity, this “turbocharged” party is a cricket that somehow got strapped to a rocket, gaining enough velocity and accumulating enough interest to somehow impede upon a progressive legislative process.
The GOP’s repetition of ill-conceived ideas has given birth to an adulterated truth that many Americans are considering credible and passively buying into. Make no mistake though, the new Republican Party is only transforming themselves as much the new Hezbollah did: relying on fresh faces and assertive language to distract the public form their unalterable stances and unwavering interests.
John Boehner, our new Speaker of the House, exemplifies the replacement of persons over ideas like no one else.The Ohio Republican with David Hasselhoff’s tan and the political capital of the Baywatch cast was recently quoted saying that, “For too long, Washington has been doing what’s best for Washington and not what’s best for America. Tonight that begins to change.” This comes from a man who has been spotted handing out checks from big tobacco corporations on the House floor, a man who is so entrenched in representing the interests of big business that it is shocking he is considered a legitimate politician. He lacks eloquence, a clearly articulated course of action and, apparently, Kleenex. He might be crying for any of several reasons.
Maybe he has been crestfallen ever since someone divulged his true political identity, or someone is continually whispering the idiom “social democracy” in his ear or reminding him that his favorite activity, golf, is not actually a sport. But most likely the tears emanating from his perpetually perplexed puppy eyes are tears of happiness, as he and fellow compatriots such as obstructionist Senator Mitch McConnell have managed to hijack America and put the country into an elaborate holding pattern.
Last November, a discombobulated America beseeched the government to provide something prescriptive. In response, the new management has conjured up a “Pledge to America.” The GOP’s newest legislative agenda is counterintuitive at best and unpatriotic at worst. This plan recently posited by Republicans will not only cause stagnation and deter long-term growth on a massive level, but negatively and disproportionately affect American citizens who need assistance most while lining the pockets of the recession-proof class. The political parody that is the GOP must be exposed for what it truly is: irresolute, irresponsible and irrational for working off an agenda that will irrevocably damage the American future.
First and foremost, the GOP can’t seem to comprehend that taxation and government spending are two components that are absolutely necessary for the state to function. As our nation has grown, our national government has increased in size to cater to the needs of more Americans with greater demands. Although it seems rational to augment taxes and spending to allow the government to achieve something other than being a placid figurehead, Republicans portray these two governmental elements as invasive and unconstitutional even though the state depends on them to exist. Putting this relationship in terms that a conservative can understand, it’s similar to wanting a healthy economy but telling every citizen that they can’t acquire monetary resources, and if they have them, they can’t purchase anything. Taxes and state spending aren’t demonic Democratic devices used to strip you of your rights, but essential factors that buttress the ability of the government to protect your rights.
We should not characterize taxes as government theft of our income, but the rather the sacrifice we make to live in a nation that protects and provides for us. For generations this country has been built upon the sacrifice of its citizens, and we cannot continue with the current trend of asking nothing from Americans. We cannot reap that which we do no sow.
When applied correctly, taxes can be used to influence certain behavior, discourage others and generate positive norms for Americans to follow. Taxing gasoline, cars that get less than 20 MPG, office buildings that leave their lights on at night, fast food and unhealthy food would bring in money that reduces our deficit (the number one Republican priority) and reinforce positive tendencies that are beneficial to our collective well being.
The GOP, however, would never tax these items, as it would mean Americans having to be accountable for their futures and actually put in the effort to change. Instead they propose and uphold massive tax cuts that they believe will alleviate our economic problems. One foundation of the Republican “Pledge to America” is “stop job-killing tax hikes.” If referring to small businesses, I couldn’t agree more. I believe that small business owners should receive tax breaks and assistance, but big business should not receive the same benefits as mom and pop stores. Sorry but not sorry that the government would be taking a higher percentage out of your annual multi-million dollar revenues to ensure the health of this nation and maintain its needs.
Big business will always do what’s in the best interest of their shareholders, and that is why our government must do right by us and tax wealth when it becomes exorbitant. This makes the continued implementation of the Bush-era tax cuts even more incomprehensible, especially when we saw how the Republicans employed them as a precondition for their cooperation. It is highly unlikely the money that a billionaire spends on his next Ferrari or mink coat will stimulate the businesses of average Americans or have any formidable effect on industries that are in trouble, taking away the only excuse not to tax our upper echelon heavily.
How can Republicans lobby for reduced taxes on businesses and the wealthy when ninety-five percent of the wealth of this nation is controlled by close to one percent of its population? How about we suck all the oxygen out the room and try to light a match? Because this is exactly what they are attempting. Their failure to properly implement constructive taxes is fittingly accompanied by unwillingness to spend money to stimulate our nation. Historically, has it ever been a solution for the government to cut spending to reduce the deficit in the midst of an economic recession? In addition to ironically displaying a failure in our educational system (as most Republicans seemed to have not taken or passed an American history class), the GOP’s actions illustrate a failure to enact a policy that has facilitated our ascent out of tough economic times in the past: spending today to save tomorrow.
Deficit spending was invented for a specific purpose: to jump start the economy and provide millions with jobs, each of whom would subsequently use their income to consume and inject money back into the circular system of capital. Instead of using this strategy, one that has stood the test of time and history, the GOP has decided to rollback the deficit (as if this were Wal-Mart) to the levels of 2008, consequently making the eyes of economists roll back into their skulls.
One can’t be completely averse to scaling back the deficit, as it is important for America to invest in a sustainable future, but it must be done in the correct manner. Republicans could have built their idea of reforming malpractice suits by additionally reforming court appeals processes, which extraneously use millions of dollars each year. We could also stop using billions of tax dollars to pursue, try and incarcerate non-violent drug offenders, and instead consider cutting back gratuitous, hegemonically-instituted programs like abstinence-only sex education (which has a billion dollar annual budget). These practical cutbacks serve as simple examples of how to wisely diminish our deficit, thus freeing some of our nation’s money to invest in alternative energy, infrastructure, small business, smart business and a bright American future. The probability of this actually happening? About the same chance as Newt Gingrich opening up a chain of soup kitchens for the homeless.
The methods that Republicans are employing to bring down the deficit in these tumultuous economic times are quite possibly the most inflammatory since the Reagan era. The programs this so-called “Pledge” plans to cut are the ones that provide aid to Americans in the most vulnerable positions, subtracting nearly one hundred billion dollars from our budget, as well as any dignity the Right may have had before these provisions.
The first system to come under attack is government pension systems, although they make up only a fraction of national and state budgets. Apparently, Republicans want our elderly to work until they die, stating out of the blue that a system fully functioning for over fifty years is no longer working. But wait, it gets a whole lot richer. The Right is also aiming to cut programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which subsidizes heating costs for low-income households, the Women, Infants and Children Program that provides a million pregnant women with assistance and, the icing on the cake, cutting 1.4 billion dollars from special education.
The message these cuts sends is clear: the poor can freeze, pregnant women can starve and disabled Americans don’t deserve an opportunity for advancement. These insensitive, insulting actions exemplify how much Republicans truly care about protecting our inherent rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This must be why the Right thinks that a new improved healthcare system, protecting average Americans form extortion by for-profit healthcare companies and insuring thirty-two million new people is unthinkable. But as calamitous as it may be to consider helping the desperate and the despondent, this bill helps what Republicans love most: our economy. Healthcare reform implicitly provides myriad economic benefits, yet Conservatives are unable to perceive this measure as preventative medicine. The benefits of having a healthy and vigorous American population far outweigh the cost of flipping the bill to necessitate this change. And in the long run we actually SAVE MONEY. A healthier population means that less money will be spent in emergency rooms, hospitals will be less crowded and costly medical procedures will happen less frequently. All this will happen against the backdrop of a more productive and driven American populace. This bill appeals to those of all political persuasions, even those who are more concerned with the economy than the general welfare of Americans. To oppose or attempt to repeal this legislation (as Republicans have) is contradictory, ill conceived, and unpatriotic. God forbid Democrats dare slap that emblem on the Right.
Republicans made a “Pledge to America,” but what they’re pledging to do is still a mystery. It’s something I’d rather not see come to fruition. They won’t tax anything, they wont spend anything and yet they claim to protect the rights of our underprivileged constituency. The Grand Old Party is yet again showcasing its grand old detachment from compassion and empathy. They are pledging to do nothing in the face of adversity, pledging not to take advantage of a golden opportunity to rebuild this nation, pledging to stand silent in the wake of inequality. With so much of our future at stake, we must pledge to oppose these statutes with every ounce of energy we have. It is our duty, our responsibility. The Republicans have banished pragmatism and humanity from governance. If we do not act, we are simply pledging to see our nation decline and perish through eyes blinded by indifference. •