Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another Liberal Rant

Four years ago the economy was tanking; jobs were disappearing at the rate of 750,000 per month, gas prices had dropped from over $4 a gallon to less than $2, the stock market was plunging, housing prices were declining precipitously, the banks were revealed to have been gambling with depositors' money but were too big to fail, the auto industry was in crisis, the national debt had almost doubled, we were fighting two wars which were being financed using emergency appropriations bills (does not appear in the deficit figures, but instead is added directly to the national debt), ratings agencies were found to have rated mortgage backed securities (toxic assets) as AAA without having the slightest idea of what they were really worth, and deficits were already exceeding $1 trillion, with promises of more trillion dollar deficits to come.

Since then, Republicans have opposed Obama on every issue since he was elected, and have not allowed Democrats' plans to deal with the economy to go forward. The only things that kept us from another Great Depression were the stimulus and the bail-outs, which were passed in the midst of panic, but which Republicans now claim were failures.

For our future, the radical conservatives want even less oversight, fewer regulations, fewer pollution controls, bigger banks, bigger tax cuts for the rich (including dropping capital gains taxes to zero), no financial or consumer safeguards, privatized Social Security, no Pell grants for students, no minimum wage, no heating assistance for the poor, no Head Start for preschoolers, no community block grants, no infrastructure spending bills, and they want Medicare changed to private health plans with premium support that increases at a rate which is less than the rise in health care costs.

Republican-led states have enacted policies resulting in the laying off of over 600,000 public employees, including teachers, firefighters and police. State funded assistance to cities has been cut at a time when declining revenues have decimated city budgets. Assistance programs for children, the elderly, students, and the disabled are being cut even though the need for such assistance has risen dramatically. Radical conservatives have been busy characterizing the economically disadvantaged and even people on Social Security as "moochers". They have claimed the moral high ground against gays and lesbians, even going so far as to try to enshrine a denial of their rights into state constitutions and federal legislation. They consistently oppose universal health care, refusing to de-couple health care from full-time employment even when it would benefit commerce. Radical conservatives have also been at the forefront of efforts to disenfranchise voters who typically vote Democrat, enacting in state after state restrictions on voting hours along with requirements for specific photo IDs.

The 2008 elections should have resulted in a 60 seat super-majority in the Senate. Instead, Republicans in Minnesota contested Al Franken's election win, and kept him from taking his seat until July of 2009, by which time Ted Kennedy had vacated his Senate seat. Threats of a filibuster kept the majority of legislation that had passed the House from passing in the Senate. The Affordable Healthcare Act could only be passed with the use of a reconciliation bill (simple majority needed to pass and only one bill allowed per year). Meaningful legislation to deal with the banks, with the housing crisis and with the tanking economy could not get by the "Just Say No" Republicans. And yet inaction by Congress was a big reason that Republicans made big gains in the 2010 elections.

The new breed of conservatives do not understand that it is not the wealthy who create jobs. Companies create jobs because someone has the money in their pockets to buy the things that they sell. Without middle class consumers to buy the products and services of businesses, there will be few new jobs created.

Our economy post stimulus has largely been a result of Republican policies, and thus has not gotten out of first gear. Too many people think that the economic meltdown happened on Obama's watch, and too many people think that Obama, and not radical conservatives, are responsible for the sad state of the middle class. Even so, Obama is expected to win re-election. But unless the House and Senate elections result in Democrat super-majorities, which is highly unlikely, we can expect more obstructionism and even less attention to social responsibilities in Congress, at least until the 2014 elections.

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