We Need A Government For Us
The recent conduct of business as usual in Washington, particularly the government shutdown caused by failure to pass a budget and the impending default that may result due to a failure to raise the debt ceiling, is sucking all the air out of cable news and dominating most political discourse in the country. The House Republicans have been allowed to or taken upon themselves the task of not only shutting down the government but also any debate on anything other than the budget and national debt. The mainstream media has done everything in its significant power to enable and reinforce this. Congress has done little other than pass continuing budget resolutions, raise the debt ceiling (always at or after a deadline) and take recesses ever since Republicans took control of the House on January 1, 2011. The American People deserve more from their elected officials.
For their part, the Democrats, though being constantly berated by their GOP counterparts as being unwilling to negotiate, have agreed to massive budget cuts in many programs near and dear to the people. The deficit, fueled by the two unfunded Bush wars, tax cuts and revenues reduced by the great recession, has been reduced drastically in recent years. Austerity preached by the deficit hawks has never worked anywhere in the world that they can point to and has been largely discredited as a fiscal policy. Supply side, trickle down economics has done nothing more than redistribute income and wealth upward. Yet, the conservatives continue to defy the will of the people as expressed in two elections and tons of opinion polls and seek to force further cuts to social programs that meet the needs of many in order to maintain undeserved tax breaks for their wealthy patrons and large corporations.
We have issues that need to be addressed by Congress. Immigration, gun safety, the overall economy, jobs and wages are all being totally ignored as they haggle over how long they will let the government operate before the next budget battle. All progress on these matters comes to a halt so Ted Cruz can read Green Eggs and Ham on C-SPAN and the House Republicans can continue passing unacceptable bills and continuing resolutions to defund the Affordable Care Act or repeal it altogether. Sure, we have elections for Congress again next year, but isn’t three years of this déjà vu crap a bit excessive?
The media love this, as shown by the fact that they are paying absolutely no attention to any other issues as being newsworthy. The Republicans, though in a minority in the Senate and out of the White House, are winning, despite the fact that the people despise what they are doing in shutting down the government. Some excellent proposals have been brought forth by both the Administration and Congressional Democrats throughout both Obama terms which have died on the vine due to House GOP neglect and Senate obstruction by the Republican minority. This gets little air time, even on MSNBC, the alleged progressive news network, in favor of covering Democratic and progressive impotence in advancing an agenda that would better meet the needs of the people.
In a recent article, the President of the United Steel Workers, Leo Gerard, made some suggestions that I think may signal a path forward. The Democrats should negotiate from a position of strength on ALL budget issues, protecting and strengthening programs that boost the welfare and opportunities for the masses of American workers and families, as opposed to the greed of the wealthy and the corporations they oversee. If they don’t promote their ideas more forcefully, the Tea Party will continue to dominate Congress until we can vote them out. People will back the proposals below when they realize that the policies involved would enhance their lives far more than those proposed by the advocates of slashing Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, Affordable Health Care, Food Stamps, Public Education at all levels and other programs that may require the reduction or elimination of tax breaks for the wealthy or corporate welfare to fund. Below are some of his proposals:
Democrats’ counter offer must be big and bold. Republicans want the Affordable Care Act repealed? Well, Democrats want gun control, immigration reform, a financial transaction tax, an income tax increase for the 1 percent, a raise in the minimum wage, the Employee Free Choice Act, better Social Security benefits, an end to GOP challenges to abortion rights, re-institution of the Glass-Steagall Act regulating Wall Street, Cap and Trade environmental regulations, a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United campaign finance decision, immediate approval for all of President Obama’s federal judge nominees, a human heart for Grover Norquist, a spine for John Boehner and a chicken in every pot. – Leo Gerard, USW President
The media need to pay attention to issues that affect all of us, not just the folks that run their corporate boards. When all the major cable news networks, as well as the broadcast networks, basically report the exact same thing with varied talking heads is unacceptable. The people wearing the black hats changes from one network to the next, but all the talking points remain the same on both sides. The insanity of the overall discussion is never seen by either party. Neither seems to care about the effects of their action and inaction on the people who elected them in the first place. No wonder people tune it all out. All most Congress members seem to care about is keeping their cushy jobs, not actually accomplishing anything of value for the people they supposedly represent.
I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience, but recently, I have corresponded to all three of my elected representatives in Washington. One Tea Party Senator and one “Liberal” Democratic one each told me basically that the government is shut down so they can’t do much for me in the meantime unless there’s an emergency, la-de-da, then call some number. At least my progressive representative in the House was responsive. We don’t need excuses from those causing the problem, we need long- term solutions from those we elected to run the government.
Re-open the government for the next year and raise the debt ceiling so it will last another year, and do the job of solving the other pressing problems that face US everyday and you’ve been letting slip for years now. Oh, we’ll keep track of who is looking out for us and who is not, and we’ll turn over the Congress next year. In the meantime, anyone wanting to keep that job with a six figure salary for two or six more years needs to start earning it.
Suggested Further Readings: