I finally sat down and watched the Republican and “Tea Party” response to the State of The Union and I was really hoping for something new, especially since they were supposedly put into office because of a “mandate”. But unfortunately all I heard was the same old, same old.
I was expecting a lot of substance in the response from the Republican Party, but I can sum it up in two words, “Cut it”. There was no real policy, no “thinking out of the box” to solve our problems. Everyone knew that going into the State of The Union that our deficit was one of the most important problems we are facing. While I agree that we need to cut spending, we also need to keep certain programs such as Social Security and Unemployment Insurance as priorities in order to sustain and grow our economy.
If you ask just about any economist, they will tell you that cuts in unemployment insurance will do more damage to our economy than will the massive spending cuts that are being proposed. It has been shown that for every dollar spent on UI, there is an economic effect of nearly double that in local spending. The money is very rarely saved and is used primarily in the local economy, helping to keep local businesses open and local people employed. When that money stops, there is a ripple effect that hurts a lot of businesses and people. For some, UI is their only source of income, the only money keeping a roof over their head and food in their belly.
One of the telling statements that Rep. Ryan mentioned was that..
If we act soon, and if we act responsibly, people in and near retirement will be protected.
– Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Republican Response to the State of the Union 2011
What that says to me is that their plan for Social Security is to privatize it and allow Wall Street maintain this important safety net for our seniors. Do you realize that if this happened several years ago as the GOP wanted to do that there would of been a horrendous loss of value in the Social Security program when the stocks crashed? Do you really want to see millions of seniors lose their only source of income, or for some an important part of it? Social Security, since its inception in 1935, has not missed a payment to millions of seniors. According to Wikipedia, it’s responsible for keeping roughly 40% of all Americans aged 65 or older out of poverty.
We cannot allow this important program to become another carcass in the Republican butchering of America. To even think about this shows how little the GOP thinks about seniors.
When Rep. Ryan mentioned that the stimulus program was a failure (which by all accounts was really a huge success by keeping businesses and the auto industry going), I knew that there would be nothing of substance in this rebuttal. It was nothing but rehashing the lies and half-truths of the past couple years concerning the stimulus, health care, Social Security, and “limited government”.
Turning to the “Tea Party” response given by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MI) – which was “authorized” by Sal Russo’s Tea Party Express and Tea Party HD – claimed that it wasn’t competing with the offical Republican response, yet it sounded like it with the repeat of lies we’ve heard for several years.
To start with, there was no mention of Rep. Giffords and the Tuscon incident. There were no kind words for a missed colleague or a hope for her recovery. Rep. Bachmann went right out of the gate attacking the President.
While I will agree with her statements about the ballooning deficit and unemployment numbers, the statement she made about the 16,000 new IRS agents that will be needed for the Affordable Health Care Act has been proven to be a complete fabrication. The part that the IRS plays in the Affordable Health Care Act is to hand out job credits to small businesses that will pay up to 35% of the health care costs for their employees.
Then she moves to the same old attack that unless we completely repeal “Obamacare” (though I will agree that medical malpractice reform is something that does need to happen, and it’s a way to cut medical costs) the entire country will fall apart, deficits will soar, and we’ll stop being the greatest nation on earth. It’s the same old fear-mongering we’ve heard for the past few years for anything that the President wants to accomplish, even if the Republicans thought of it first. For example, you do realize that the basis for the Affordable Health Care Act was the health care reforms put in place by Former Govenor Mitt Romney (R-MA), right? Same thing with Cap and Trade. It was promoted by Sen. McCain during the ’08 Presidental Elections, then he abandoned it once President obama said he was interested in it.
Every single time any idea is promoted by President Obama or the Democrats, the GOP goes into lockstep “I’m against it” mode even if the idea is the best thing for the situation at hand. That right there sums up the past two years of Congress. When the President or the Democrats come up with ways to move this country forward, the GOP does everything in their power to stall it, hamstring it, or outright stop it.
Another point that Rep. Bachmann brought up as a way to help businesses was the removal of the over 130 regulations put into place during this administration. What she forgot to mention was that the President recently ordered a top to bottom review of all regulatory functions to see what works and what doesn’t. You remember the salmon regulations mentioned during his speech? How that there is one regulatory body for when they’re salt water and the other fresh water…and don’t even start talking about when they’re smoked. There are good regulations that help protect businesses and people, and ones that do nothing more than complicate. I agree with Rep. Bachmann that we need to cut back on the over regulation, but we can ill afford to go back to the days of the Reagan and Bush, Sr. administrations that removed a lot of the consumer protections we had in place.
To close, I really wanted to hear some new ideas from either the GOP or the “Tea Party”, but in the end all I heard was the same old lines they’ve been parroting for the past two years. Nothing but the same fear-mongering and faulty ideas that will hurt the country, not help it. All the talk of lower taxes and limited government and nothing of substance about job creation or the economy. If this is a preview of what the next two years in Washington will be, then I have little hope that things will get any better.
Now that I’ve said my thoughts, what are yours? Do you think things will get better or will it be two more years of the same old, same old?
Since today is the last day of the year, it’s only fitting to look ahead to 2011 and list a few things that I would like to see happen…
1) It’s the jobs, stupid — I would dearly like to see real change on the economy and unemployment. While Stimulus I and Stimulus II passed, they were far from enough to really encourage any job growth. When you have tax cuts for the upper tier of income, the extra money they receive does not “trickle down” to the lower classes. Moody’s Analytics listed the top five ways to stimulate the economy, and tax cuts didn’t even come close…
- Increase in Food Stamps
- Extend Unemployment Benefits – not just fund, give extra weeks to those already out of time
- Infrastructure Spending – Stimulus I did some, but far from enough
- Aid to State Governments
- Payroll Tax Holiday
2) No more gridlock — During the 111th Congress, more bills were held up in the Senate because of its arcane rules than any other Congress before it. Even with the increase Republican minority and the new majority in the House, we don’t have to see everything come to a standstill. During the Clinton administration’s first mid-term election he also lost control of Congress, yet he was still able to pass many important and substantive policy programs. Also, the recent lame-duck session was very historic and a lot of really substantive bills were signed into law. I realize that there will need to be compromises in order to get legislation passed, but “compromise” is really the heart of legislative governing. You need to find a common ground for the greater good and do what needs to be done to move the country forward.
3) Change what needs to be changed — The Health-care plan that was passed earlier this year was a good start, but it’s far from perfect. Currently there are many legal challenges to the plan and a call to defund plan when the next spending bill comes up. I feel that there needs to be some changes made to it, but defunding the plan is not the way to go. Instead, I challenge both sides to come up with ways to improve it instead of removing it.
4) Work on the Deficit, but not yet — We owe a lot of money…we owe a hell of a lot of money…we owe so much money that it’s hard to count. I completely agree that we need to do something about it. With a combination of tax increases and spending decreases, along with long term budget balancing and better planning, we can give to our children and grand-children a country that is free of debt.
The problem with doing that now is that we don’t have the economy working with us on this. Once the jobless are working again (and with it more income to the Local, State, and Federal Governments) we can look at what needs to be done. If we start cutting programs now, including the social safety nets like unemployment and Social Security, we may end up and send us back into economic chaos and from that it could take years to recover.
5) The end of the spin cycle — While not directly related to politics, I feel that both sides need to slow down their spin machines and really listen to what they’re saying and how what they say influences the people who listen to it. There are talking heads on both sides, such as Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh on the Right and Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Schultz on the Left, that at times can be interesting and informative but end up most of the time being nothing more than a distraction from getting things accomplished. It’s important to hear what both sides have to say, but it can be done without all the spin and rhetoric. This country needs and deserves an open and honest commentary on what works and what doesn’t.
6) Campaign Finance Reform, for real — During the mid-terms, we saw an explosion of shadowy campaign advertising groups, nearly unlimited corporate campaign funding, and even funding from interests outside of the country (if the rumored reports about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are true). When large organizations with nearly unlimited money can contribute freely to a campaign, what does that say for the $20 or $100 given by an ordinary citizen. How much interest do you think the campaigns give when comparing the limited money given by a citizen to the millions given by corporations? What needs to happen is real campaign finance reform where corporations and individuals have the same limits, or even better let the citizens have the real power and disallow all businesses and corporations from any contributions.
Well, there is my list of what I would like to see in 2011…what’s on your wish list for the new year?