By Lynn Paris
Be Careful What You Wish For
Are the Democrats and Obama EVER going to get it? Republicans not only have absolutely no intention of working with them, on anything, but it is in their best interests not to. Since what is in the country’s best interests doesn’t seem to bother the Republicans―whose sole goal is to make Obama a one-term president—it should come as no surprise that there will be no bipartisanship, no compromise (unless it serves the conservative Republican’s agenda) and more belt-tightening and sacrifices from what’s left of the middle class.
I am still amazed that the vast majority of Americans have no voice in this debate, and that the voice they thought they had—their votes in the mid-term elections—will no doubt have an even more crippling effect on our economy (and therefore, on them) than even the most progressive Democrats predicted.
If you ask the average person who or what is responsible for the lousy economy, many of us would reply that it’s big business, Wall Street, and the super-rich who don’t want anything to change. Greed, lack of regulations, rampant corruption, unnecessary wars . . . the list goes on.
But that’s not the answer the Republicans want you to believe, and it’s certainly not the one they’re promoting. Their answer is big government (aka Obama and the Democrats); bureaucrats, and the new progressives.
And that argument worked remarkably well. Scared to death by the high unemployment rate, the voters inexplicably rewarded the party that would let unemployment benefits run out. The party that loudly “pretended” to oppose the stimulus (I say pretended because of all the Republican legislators who bitterly condemned the stimulus for the cameras while happily accepting stimulus funds for their own states). Alarmed by a burgeoning national debt, they rewarded the party that insists on escalating the debt by hundreds of billions with a permanent tax cut for the richest two per cent. Frustrated by what they saw as inaction, they rewarded the Republicans who obstructed every effort to make the crisis less severe, but also diluted whatever they couldn't obstruct.
I just don’t GET it. There’s a right-wing narrative out there that totally dominates the airwaves, at least the 99%-conservative-owned radio waves and, obviously, Fox News, that would scare me too, if it were true.
If I believed that most Canadians and Brits had inferior health care to that of average Americans, and that our government wanted to take over health care so they could dictate what we could eat while instituting death panels, I too would be afraid of health care reform. If I believed that the millions of unemployed in this country were too lazy to look for jobs, preferring instead to sit on their couches and receive handouts from the government, I’d certainly be against extending unemployment benefits. If I believed that torturing prisoners was the main thing keeping my loved ones safe from terrorists, maybe I would reconsider my views on torture. If I believed that the lousy economy had been caused by Obama and big government, and that my freedom was being threatened by big government instead of big corporations, I'd probably be a tea party supporter.
But I know these are all lies, perpetrated on the public by the conservatives. I know those are lies just as well as I know that John McCain, who was once my hero, has turned into a mushy-brained old man. I seriously questioned his judgment when he cynically chose Sarah Palin as his running mate . . . but at least I got it; it was irrational, but it was politics. His total reversals on immigration and on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” however, go beyond politics; they reveal a cowardly lack of integrity I would have never imagined possible from a man once considered heroic. John McCain, the maverick, asking for a study on the study he requested. Giving Admiral Mullen a lecture on leadership. It’s pathetic to watch. But I digress.
We are now all awaiting news of a delightful display of compromise. Delightful, that is, in that way of serving the conservative Republican agenda I described earlier. Having stated, in unison, that they would stymie votes on ALL legislation , including the nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and an extension of unemployment benefits, unless an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts includes the highest income earners, the Republicans have now allowed the President and the Democrats to compromise.
Because, as Democrat Dick Durbin put it, “The notion that we would give tax cuts to those making over $1 million a year, which is the Republican position, and then turn our backs on two million Americans who will lose unemployment benefits before Christmas, is unconscionable.”
So, the Democrats and Obama have been forced to cave; they have no choice but to reverse their position, held since the early months of Obama's presidential candidacy, to allow tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000 a year to expire. Until Saturday, the position of Senate Democrats was that the tax breaks should be extended permanently for poor and middle-class Americans – but not for the wealthy.
And guess what? The majority of Americans agree with that position! Yes, that’s right. A recent CBS news poll indicated that 53 percent of Americans want the Bush-era tax cuts extended only for households earning less than $250,000 per year. Only 26 percent indicated they support extending the tax cuts for all Americans regardless of income level.
In an AP-CNBC poll, 50 percent of Americans were in favor of expiring the Bush-era tax cuts for households earning over $250,000, while a majority in the Gallup poll (57 percent) would set the bar on taxing households at $500,000 rather than $250,000.
But GOP lawmakers aren’t really representing the American people . . . despite the fact that they claim to be, and despite the fact that a majority of Americans voted for even more of them. They have held unemployment benefits for the jobless (and by the way, didn’t I see a lot of you at those tea party rallies?) hostage to the desires of millionaires (the ones who really call the shots and own the radio stations and cable shows that disseminate the conservative narrative to the public). So, mid-term election voters, be careful what you wished for, because it’s only going to get worse.
The really sad part is that I don’t see Obama able to do anything about it. If he and the Democrats couldn’t fashion a compelling narrative of their own when they had a clear majority, a mandate, then how will they do it in the next two years? The most they can hope for are these hollow compromises. Instead of hanging tough and forcing the Republicans to take the heat for cutting off unemployment benefits to millions, they caved.
And they will continue to cave until enough of us build up enough anger and resentment at the ridiculous concentration of income and wealth at the top that we get energized. Until we get so sick of being lied to that we start marching and protesting and voting.
Otherwise, the Republicans will continue to blame government, telling us that it’s too big and if we shrink it our problems will be solved. No more stimulus spending to create jobs. No legislation to curb Wall Street bonuses . . . no leaning on the big banks to help distressed mortgage holders . . . no raising of the debt ceiling.
And a whole lot more hardship and sacrifice for millions of Americans.