Apr 292011
 
Paul Ryan - Caricature

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

What do you call people who use their power to line their own pockets by taking from people who can’t protect themselves?  “Bullies?” “Thieves?”

What if they also lie about it and attempt to cover their tracks with irrational nonsense that would make Jabberwocky seem like a reference manual? Would they be “liars?” “Thieving liars?” How about “lying, thieving bullies?”

Judging by what’s happening today in American politics, the answer is inescapable . . . we’d all be forced to just call them Republicans.

Congressman Paul Ryan, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee recently released the Republican budget for 2012, and it subsequently passed through the House with all but four Republican members voting in its favor. Labeled the “Path to Prosperity,” the Ryan plan is touted to cut $6.2 trillion from President Obama’s budget over the next decade. But while this may sound promising on the surface, even a cursory look at the details leaves a person asking, “To whose prosperity does this path lead?

According to Ryan, the Republican proposal is “guided by the timeless principles of the American idea,” but unless he was referring to the principles upheld by the Robber Barons of the 19th Century, Ryan must be talking about another America. If the congressman was indeed talking about the United States, a nation that was founded on the notion of a government empowered by the “consent of the governed” to “form a more perfect union” that would “promote the general welfare,” then the only explanation is that the man is either ignorant of the facts of our founding, or he’s just an unethical self-serving liar!

The fact of the matter is that Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” is a full frontal assault on working Americans. It makes a mockery of our Constitution by subverting the federal government for the benefit of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. In short, the proposal that Ryan refers to as the “new House majority’s answer to history’s call,” will end Medicare as we know it, replace Medicaid with block grants, make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and lower both the top individual and corporate tax rate to 25%.

Indeed, Ryan and the other social cannibals of the Republican Party like to talk about being adults while paying lip service to shared sacrifice, but as is evidenced by their budget proposal, the truth of their actions is a different matter. The Republican plan not only attempts to slash social programs to pay on the debt created by years of excess military spending, tax cuts for the rich, and banker bailouts, but it does so by first making matters worse.

In what has become SOP for the GOP, the Ryan plan will trim the tax bill of the wealthy by 29%, bringing it to its lowest level since 1931, and it will attempt to cover the loss in revenue by hacking at the discretionary services  relied upon by everyone else.

So, the Republican plan is to address spending by gutting education, allowing our infrastructure to further decay, and slashing $1.6 trillion total from domestic discretionary spending, while shifting the burden for the high costs of healthcare onto seniors instead of addressing the root causes, and also ripping the heart out of Medicaid, which expends 87% of its costs to serve children, the elderly and the disabled. All told, the Ryan budget will reduce spending by $4.3 trillion over 10 years, but even though the justification for all of these draconian cuts is based on the deficit, Ryan and the snake oil peddling Republicans will actually give $4.2 trillion of that total back in tax cuts.

That’s right, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Ryan plan will reduce the deficit by all of $155 billion over 10 years. But what the heck, the deficit is really nothing but a policy bludgeon created and used by Republicans anyway. Since Ronald Reagan took office, the Republicans have been dedicated to increasing military spending, while cutting taxes, and as a result consistently ignoring the deficit and adding to the debt. The Ryan budget is no exception.

Just why the beltway press has referred to Ryan as “courageous” for proposing what appears to be standard fare for the Republican Party is more than a little curious. The truth of the matter is that the release of the Ryan plan may have been much more “careless” than it was “courageous.” Like the realtor who inadvertently reveals that the field behind that bargain-priced Tudor is slated for a chemical factory, the Ryan budget leaves no doubt regarding the true motives of the Republican Party.

Fortunately, this time around, people are paying attention. Blinded by their own lack of integrity, Republicans evidently believed that by grandfathering everyone 55 and over into the traditional Medicare system, they wouldn’t receive much pushback at their attempt to screw everyone else. But they were wrong. As it turns out, seniors who have learned that the Ryan plan will replace Medicare with a voucher system that will cause future retirees to reach into their own pockets for an estimated $12,500 each year for insurance, have reacted as if the change affected them personally.

Hurray for American seniors! In one town hall meeting after another, Republicans returning to their home constituencies are getting an earful about their illicit attempt to stuff their pockets with money gained by throwing future retirees to the wolves that run the profit-rich medical insurers.

Of course, the big-money Republican damage control apparatus is already underway trying to spin the dismantling of Medicare. Spending millions on bullshit television ads, the voucher system that Paul Ryan euphemistically refers to as “premium support,” is now being presented as a Republican attempt to “preserve Medicare.” Sadly, that preservation would be in name only, preserving the program in much the same way as a classic car is preserved by sending it through a car crusher. But hey, in the Bizarro World of Republican spin doctoring — rhetoric is reality.

So, where does this go from here? Nowhere. There is absolutely zero chance that the Ryan plan will pass the Senate and be signed by the president, which makes it all the more painfully obvious how ridiculously disconnected the Republican Party is from the reality of life in America. Why House Republicans would actually reveal their true agenda, knowing that it would never become law, is anybody’s guess. It’s like a thief giving his victim advanced warning — in writing. But be that as it may, the genie is out of the bottle, and he’s got “Republican doom” tattooed on his forehead.


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Apr 132011
 

Milwaukee’s ordinance requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave would be voided under a bill Assembly Republicans sent Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday.

Walker said he is likely to sign the measure. The city’s sick leave ordinance was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2008 but has never gone into effect because of legal challenges. The Assembly voted 59-35 to ensure it would never be implemented.

Patrick Marley, Journal Sentinel

Scott Walker - Cartoon

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

So let’s see, Milwaukee voters use the rights given them in an American democracy to effect legislation. The initiative is passed and then immediately subjected to judicial review and is left standing, so it becomes law. But then the “small government” Republicans in Madison decide that they don’t like the law, so they scramble to pass legislation that will effectively nullify the will of the people . . .

Isn’t democracy grand?

We presently live in a nation where the “haves” have everything. They don’t worry about paying rent or putting food on the table; they have healthcare; they have the wealth, with the top 1% having more than the bottom 95%. If they happen to get sick, they’re not concerned — they will likely be paid for the time away from work, and if not they have the resources to weather the storm.

But for the 98% of Americans who are the “have nots,” those of us who essentially live month to month, the story is quite different. Our incomes have been stagnant for more than 30 years; millions of us are unemployed or underemployed, with real rates currently over 22%; there are presently 52 million of us without healthcare insurance and millions more who are covered but still can’t afford treatment. When we get sick, we are worried about any loss in pay because we need every cent earned just to make ends meet.

So, the good people of Milwaukee, Wisconsin take the initiative to use their democracy to pass a law that would at least provide a solution for one of the many issues pressing on the working people of our nation. They didn’t fight for higher pay or even for healthcare; they didn’t ask for paid time for leisure — no, they just want to be paid when they get sick, but even that’s too much too ask for in the Bizarro World of profits-over-people American conservatism.

As stated by Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), “This [Republican] bill is a slap in the face to the people of the City of Milwaukee.” But alas, Darth Walker and his hoard of Republican stormtroopers don’t really give a flying flip about the people, about their democracy or about anything resembling ethical behavior. They have the power, so they will assert their rule of the land. The will of the people be damned! The aristocracy has spoken.

All working Americans will be well-served to pay close attention to what’s going on in Wisconsin and other states being overrun by newly elected Republican majorities. They all talk about small government and pay lip service to jobs and workers, but at every opportunity they use the power of government to trash the rights of the many for the benefit of the elite few.

Wake up America! Wake up and learn that in the Republican vernacular, “small government” simply means government that serves a very “small” minority. 


Read the entire Article at the Journal Sentinel  

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Apr 082011
 
Entrance to the Planned Parenthood Federation ...

Image via Wikipedia

Do you think there are many great athletes amongst those who don’t care for sports? How about capable accountants who don’t like numbers? Surgeons who are turned off by blood or teachers by kids?

Regardless of a person’s profession, in order to excel, in order to even become competent, there must be some interest on the part of the individual that will motivate them to perform. Great musicians love music; great scientists are inspired by science; engineers find reward in design and creation, nurses in providing care, and programmers in writing clever code. In order to have effective government, it’s absolutely essential that our elected officials are motivated to “govern,” because those who can’t govern — politic.

This sad truth is the real story behind the cavalier attitude held by the House Republican majority now pressing for a shutdown of the federal government. They have abandoned their constitutional responsibility to fund the government in favor of seizing an opportunity to forward their political agenda, and they’re holding millions of Americans hostage in the process.

As required by legislation, President Obama fulfilled his duty and presented the Congress with a budget for fiscal 2011 in February of 2010. That budget was supported by Democrats in Congress but was blocked by Senate Republicans who would not agree to pass long-term funding. When the new fiscal year started in October of 2010, the government had to be funded or else face shutdown, and the response was bipartisan agreement to pass emergency funding in the form of a “continuing resolution” or CR.

Since that time, the federal government has been funded through a series of CRs, six in all, with the last remaining in effect until midnight tonight. A great outcome for Republicans, who appreciate the fact that the CRs essentially freeze spending at 2010 levels and prevent the implementation of the new healthcare law and financial reform bill. But for the state and local agencies that don’t receive funding under the temporary measures, or for anyone else interested in a functional government, it’s indicative of a failure to govern.

So, with time running out, the debate has surrounded the depth of spending cuts to be passed. The Republicans responded to the President’s $3.64 trillion budget proposal, with a proposal of their own that contains $61 billion in cuts all coming from the $441 billion slice of the budget consisting of non-defense discretionary spending. These cuts are all directed at programs that benefit the needy and the nation as a whole. From billions in cuts to education and HUD and more than $3 billion from the EPA, to nearly $1 billion from energy efficiency efforts, over $1 billion from FEMA First Responders, and nearly $2 billion from job training. Over half ($33 billion) of the Republican’s planned cuts are at the expense of  labor and transportation/housing.

Desperate for a compromise solution, President Obama and the Democrats have countered the Republican proposal with an additional $33 billion in heavy spending cuts to social programs. According to Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, they even upped the ante to $38 billion, in exchange for Republicans dropping all policy riders (i.e. specific policy positions, like cuts to EPA, etc.). But Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner are still refusing to compromise, with the last remaining bone of contention apparently the $317 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Of course, Boehner still contends that the debate is over “spending.” So, according to his map of the world, the $23 billion difference in spending cuts, a whopping 6-tenths of 1% of the federal budget, is worth shutting down the government of the United States.

A shutdown would mean disruption of government services, including pay for military personnel. It would delay processing of applications in several federal programs, close national parks and museums, and require furloughs for 800,000 federal workers. Nobody knows how much a shutdown would cost American taxpayers, but the toll of closing the parks alone is estimated to be $32 million per day, with the lion’s share impacting small businesses in local economies.

So, whether you buy Boehner’s spin on the divide or not, the fact of the matter is that there will be a price to pay for a shutdown, and regardless of the Speaker’s true motivation, the rider to defund Planned Parenthood is still in the mix.

Republicans, and especially Tea Partiers, have painted a target on Planned Parenthood as the national bastion for abortion. According to Senator John Kyl (R-AZ), abortion services amount to “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. The truth is that they actually account for only 3% of services, with the other 97% being centered on preventative assistance. The real focus being reproductive care for women who can’t afford alternatives, Planned Parenthood provides millions of breast exams, Pap smears and other services to a population where 75% of those treated live below the poverty level.

In the end, if there’s any legitimacy in Boehner’s claim that “the big fight is over the spending,” then the Republicans need to end their assault on Planned Parenthood. Federal law has prevented the use of federal funds for abortion since 1976 anyway, and $317 million of the federal budget is less than we spent in a single day bombing Libya.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has already rolled out the Republican proposal for the 2012 budget. That’s where the fight on spending cuts needs to move. After all, fiscal 2011 is already half over.

Right now, Republicans need to drop their “government is the problem” position and pretend for a minute that they’re actually interested in governing. They need to recognize that the Democrats have already compromised to the tune of 62% of what’s been demanded. They need to understand that good governing isn’t based on winner-take-all.

They really need to set aside their partisan agenda long enough to put the wellbeing of our nation ahead of their political gain.


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