Monday, March 14, 2005
( 9:28 AM )
The Eve of Destruction
I don't really know why Bush and his cronies want to kill or hurt all the most vulnerable people in our society - except that it somehow gets more for them when they retire into private life. But I don't really see how - if we start imprisoning people because they can't pay their credit card bills, that costs society more money. If the only way people can get medical care is to go to the emergency room, then that costs society more money. If people can't support a family on the minimum wage, then they will seek other ways to do that, which can most certainly cost society. When there is no retirement insurance left for old folks, that will cost society. What is going on? The Republican leadership in Congress refused a simple minimum wage raise - something that hasn't happened since 1997, except that they raised their OWN salaries SIX TIMES since 1998. Joe Conason nails it in his most recent Salon column:
Watching the behavior of Republican politicians during the past several days, we are learning the true meaning of "compassionate conservatism." Not the public-relations version promoted by George W. Bush and his party propaganda apparatus, but the core philosophy enunciated by the deep thinkers of the religious right.
With legislative maneuvering designed to punish and deprive the least fortunate among us -- working people at the lower end of the American economy and their children -- the Republicans don't seem to be upholding the caring Christian ideals often proclaimed by the President. They're pushing down wages, snatching away tax credits and food stamps, slashing Medicaid and children's health insurance, and removing bankruptcy protections from families that suffer medical catastrophes. But they're extending tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, and making sure that those bankruptcy laws still protect the richest deadbeats.
In short, they are stealing bread from the mouths of the poor and stuffing cake into the maws of the wealthy.
The bankruptcy bill that 18 Democrats also voted for - shame on them - will further hurt working people who are trying to survive. The Social Security plan (not that there IS a plan - Bush has yet to show us any details) does not address those who are surviving on SS disability or survivor benefits, and of course implies that SS is an investment, which it's not - it is an insurance plan, and only a fraction of the retirement insurance Americans can depend on.
I don't understand why the Dems are not standing in the way of ALL of these horrible bills. Of course they don't have the majority and can't win, but isn't THAT the time to take a stand? What can they lose standing for the people against the big business power structure? The whole "we need to pick our fights" crap has got to go. EVERY fight is their fight - they are the opposition party. I can't believe that even Harry Reid voted for that bankruptcy bill. Dems must take a stand on EVERY issue for the people - the more the Bushies screw their red state voters (more red states have bankruptcies, more depend on minimum wages, etc). the more we need to stand as a new option. Instead of rolling over, why aren't the Senate and Congressional Dems coming up with NEW plans? Where is OUR Social Security reform plan - by presenting a basic plan to adjust the things that are wrong with it without the privatization crap, we would go miles further by giving Americans another way to look at it. Why aren't Dems doing this? Why are Dems voting WITH the Republicans to hurt Americans? I don't get it.
And the Republicans with their God-given mandate aren't stopping here:
Meanwhile, the House Republicans are not hesitating to trample upon those who are already beaten down. In their version of the 2006 federal budget, Medicaid would lose as much as $20 billion, at a time when state governments already are under severe pressure in sustaining the program. This will inevitably mean depriving poor people of health coverage. Those cuts will also diminish the states' capacity to enroll low-income kids in the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Their parents shouldn't expect too much assistance from the government at tax time, either. The Republican budget decrees reductions in the Earned Income Tax Credit program, a highly successful effort to supplement the income of the working poor that was even supported by the late President Reagan.
None of that money will be wasted, of course. Every dollar taken from poor and working families pays for the preservation of tax breaks on dividends and capital gains for investors, most of them earning no less than $200,000 a year.
The savage litany could go on, and no doubt will.
Appalling as these policies may be, however, they are in no sense inconsistent with the cosmology of the religious right, which melds laissez-faire economics with fundamentalist orthodoxy. Underlying these conservative attacks on the poor by professing Christians is a worldview that dates back to earlier centuries, when the church defended privilege and declared that the wealthy and powerful were God's elect. From that perspective, minimum wages, subsidized health care, and other such laws and regulations only corrupt the poor, who must earn charity by their temporal and spiritual submission.
If these ideas sound a bit old-fashioned -- or even primitive -- be assured that they represent the latest thinking on the evangelical far right, which is where "compassionate conservatism" originated. Guided by the most literal interpretation of Old Testament law, the preachers who have influenced the President are determined to undermine every modern protection enjoyed by poor and working-class Americans. Let's hope they draw the line at bringing back public whippings and debt slavery.
This is fast becoming "One Nation, under Mammon, with Liberty and Justice for the Rich." We are quickly returning to the pre-regulation days before the Progressive Era, when working people will be more and more exploited, when there will be no social insurance or benefits for the poor or elderly, when the CEOs of corporations make 400 times that of their workers, when none of us can even afford our basic health care needs or even food and shelter needs. The Monopoly Corporate Powermongers of the past are re-emerging to little protest - from either Senate Dems or the people who voted for Bush. When will working people in the states that voted these guys in wake up? They are screwing you! And they will till you die unless you fight back and demand the progressive ideals that have already become endangered: the 40 hour work week, the weekend, no child labor, health insurance, pensions, food stamps, social security, clean air to breathe and water to drink, food you can afford to buy... these should not be luxuries. They are basic and fundamental rights. When will Americans demand these rights be returned?