I regret to give you this legislative update

I wrote a post-Thanksgiving blog post about the Republican’s big “fuck you” to the disadvantaged in the United States, while insisting on less taxes for those who don’t need it and contemporaneously insisting–in a contradictory fashion–that now is the time to address the federal budget deficit. Today we have an update on how the then-pending legislation ended up faring:

  • Increased spending on health care for 9/11 first responders: today Senate Republicans blocked the vote to end debate and allow the Senate to vote on it. If that’s not anti-American, I’m not quite sure what is.
  • Child Nutrition Act: at the beginning of December the House passed the Senate version of the bill, that funded the $4.5 billion bill with a $2.2 billion cut in food stamps funding (a.k.a. robbing Peter to pay Paul–now inadequate nutrition will just be centered in the home rather than schools.)
  • Extension of unemployment benefits: blocked by Senate Republicans late last week….because it’s not “paid for.” Yet…
  • Republicans continued to insist on giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, they went a few steps further, first essentially blackmailing Congress by pledging to block every piece of legislation that came up–including issues of national security like the START Treaty–until they get their tax cuts, and second, going even further than that by agreeing to extend unemployment benefits so long as they get their tax cuts for the rich. Looks like the Republicans aren’t actually all that interested in cutting the deficit after all, then, since the $75 billion tax cuts for the rich add billions onto the deficit, are far less stimulative than the $56 billion UI bill (they actually cost more than they stimulate), and there’s no good reason to buy the Republicans’ claim that the rich will use the cuts to add job, since jobs aren’t created out of the goodness of people’s heart but are added when they are economically necessary to businesses.

The GOPs true colors are blazing bold and clear–are Americans’ eyes opened yet?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  

GOP screws 9/11 responders, unemployed, and poor: Happy holidays to the rich and corporate elite!

I’m really struggling to prevent my head from exploding over the very revealing juxtaposition of bills, policies, and positions swirling around the end of the 2010 legislative session.

The economy is still bad. There is only one job opening* for every 5 people looking for work, which means that even if all jobs were filled and none were lost, unemployment would only decrease by 20%.

After spending over a trillion on our wars in the Middle East, the GOP is suddenly concerned with deficits.

So what’s on the table right now?

Extending Unemployment Insurance: the clock is ticking on extending unemployment benefits; the bill must be passed next week or unemployed workers’ benefits will begin to stop. The unemployed are accused of being lazy even though there are objectively not enough jobs for everyone looking. In fact, there usually aren’t–100% employment is bad for capitalists because then the employees, not the owners, have the leverage. But typically there are 1-2 people looking for every job opening, not 5-6 as we’ve had in this recession, which makes the negative impact of unemployment on the rest of the economy that much greater. Unemployment benefits are needed not only to help the human beings in need, but to mitigate the negative economic impacts of mass unemployment.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: the Child Nutrition Act gets reauthorized every 5 years. The Senate version passed in August, only after paying for the $4.5 billion program with program cuts, most of which ($2.2 billion) came from the food stamps program (SNAP). The House version did not include those cuts, and has been stalled for that reason. The cuts in SNAP essential shift the locus of inadequate nutrition from the lunchroom to the dining room. If the bill isn’t passed before the break, the process begins all over again.

The 9/11Illness Payout Bill: a bill providing funds to cover the medical costs for 9/11 first responders. the bill passed the House (even surviving a Republicans threat to add an amendment that would bar undocumented workers from receiving the benefits, as if their suffering from helping our fellow citizens wasn’t worth paying for), but the bill is now stuck in the Senate. I can’t believe this is even an issue, but the GOP has made it one: the bill will be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes, and Republican senators are framing it as a tax increase.

So let’s sum this up:

  • We have Republicans who have spent over $1 trillion on wars this decade wanting to cut the deficit, but refuse to fund the health care of those who risked their life in the events that were the so-called reason d’entre for those wars. They also refuse to cut military spending.
  • Republicans also want to increase the deficit by giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, but refuse to allow more adequate child nutrition–that would lower health care costs and improve cognitive functioning of our poorest children, not to mention their basic quality of life–without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • Republicans want the wealthiest in the United States to get tax cuts, and are holding middle class tax cuts hostage to do so, while the unemployed, who by definition cannot become employed, are stripped of their poverty-level average UI benefit of $290/week ($15,000/year). Tax cuts for the rich are heralded by the GOP as a economy booster and job creator, even though unemployment benefits and the aforementioned food stamp program provide more economic stimulus than tax cuts of any sort. Businesses do not hire out of the goodness of their heart or because people need jobs. They hire when there is a need for more labor. Giving them a tax break doesn’t increase their need for more labor. Unemployment and food dollars being spent does. Those programs are not only right (or just), but they are effective.

What on earth is the logic here? The only one I can find is chilling: demanding to maintain military might by misunderstanding the source of terrorism and adherence to economic ideology despite the facts is worth more than helping those in need. Both GOP positions are self-serving. Especially at this holiday time of the year, this ought to be a stinging indictment of GOP policies and positions, if people would only see the forest, rather than the individual trees.

*The Cato Institute has criticized this number, saying that there are jobs available that aren’t advertised, and therefore that number is misleading. Even still, I highly doubt there are enough unadvertised jobs to even get close to filling the gap. further, these jobs are obtaining through personal networks, or what sociologists call social capital, something largely part of the privilege of one’s upbringing, as opposed to human capital, such as one’s education. This begs the questions, are these jobs really “available” to the millions of job seekers, or just those who are already well-connected?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Iowa voter’s fancy themselves above checks-and-balances

Iowa’s ousting of several state supreme court judges who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage is a scary day for those who believe an independent judiciary as essential to democracy.

And supporters of removing the judges for making legal decisions the some don’t like completely miss the whole point of having judges rule on constitutionality issues in the first place:

“I think it will send a message across the country that the power resides with the people,” Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican who led the campaign after losing the Republican nomination for governor, told a crowd of cheering supporters at an election night party peppered with red signs declaring “No Activist Judges.” “It’s we the people, not we the courts.”

One of the roles of judges is to protect the minority against the majority, who could strip them of their rights if it were put up to a vote.  In Iowa’s case, that’s essentially what happened.  Conservatives were able to remove judges, though a huge spending campaign funded largely by non-Iowans, who made a ruling based on the law that conservatives didn’t like. This is exactly why judges should not be chosen by election–because judges aren’t supposed to be beholden to the people, but to the law.

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 11:55 am  Comments (4)  

Thoughts on “This Week…” or, If You Say it Enough it Will Become True

A few thoughts on today’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos

1) Interview with Eric Cantor: Cantor repeats, as many Republicans have, that stimulating the economy via government spending is not what the American people want, that Americans think we are spending too much…yet polls continue to show that Americans put their support behind Obama’s ideas over the Republicans’ ideas 61% to 26% (see clip for cited polling data). Cantor seems to be hoping that if he says it enough, it will become true. (Also, his statement that the best that government spending can do is redistribute wealth and that “it can’t create jobs” is simply not true, and perhaps is in line with that axiom as well.) (more…)

Published in: on March 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm  Leave a Comment