The issues and choices between Democrats and Republicans in midterm elections could not be starker. And the stakes for the outcome of the elections could not be higher.
Democrats are in a hole, we are told. If that is true, here is why and what Democrats need to do in this final stretch:
For a solid nine months, the Beltway Pundits have been trumpeting the ascendancy of Republicans in the midterms – a tsunami – because of distress with unemployment rates, budget deficits, stimulus spending, Obamacare.
When there were 600 Tea Partyers in a room at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, that was worth wall-to-wall coverage. 20,000 Progressives in Chicago? none at all.
All through the summer, the “enthusiasm gap” between Republican-leaning voters and Democrats in generic match-ups was blared. It becomes the “fad” to bash Democrats.
Many of the actual [fill in name here] candidates were not even determined until September primaries, when faces could actually be filled in. Instead of Congressman Mike Castle opposing Democrat Chris Coons to win Joe Biden’s old Senate seat, you had the Sarah Palin wannabe, Christine O’Donnell (the Tea Party darling whose latest revelation is that she is not aware that the First Amendment guarantees separation of Church and State); instead of Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, Republicans put up Sarah Palin’s protégé, Joe Miller.
Funny thing happened: the Democrats’ numbers started going up when people finally saw who would be filling the place, and even more, when people started paying attention to where these rightwingnuts actually stand.
Still, the pundits report the horserace, and not so much the issues; they like the colorful personalities, the quirky comments and do not even bother to probe deeper than the slogans. (Cut taxes and cut the deficit? What spending would you actually cut?)
And the set-up is always the same: Democrats are in trouble because unemployment is hovering at 9.6% (yes, because of the obstruction of Republicans to do the things that Obama wanted to do to would spark employment, including removing the incentives to companies to outsource jobs to foreign countries); there is a rebellion against Big Government taking away choice (no, that’s this batch of radical extremists who would take away a woman’s right to choose even in the case of rape or incest).
The biggest cause celebre for the Republican case for Big Government coming to get you is health care reform.
The Affordable Care Act was the most significant social reform since Medicare in 1965 – solving a true life-death need for Americans, 50 million of whom had no access to health care, with thousands more losing health insurance every day. Some 25,000 people die needlessly each year because they don’t have access to health care.
It should be heralded as a singular achievement, but Democrats are being vilified by shadow operations like Revere America, headed by former New York Governor George Pataki, who has been mounting ads that are blatant lies (and he knows it) that warns ominously, and with no basis: “Your right to keep your own doctor may be taken away.”
“Those who voted for the bloated healthcare bill will now feel the heat for supporting a bill the American people didn’t want,” the former Republican governor said in a statement. “We will take this ad straight to the districts of those who support this destructive bill.”
So, taking aim against freshman Democratic Congressman John J. Hall, D-Dover Plains, Pataki’s Revere America is paying for ads that say:
“Congressman Hall voted for Obama care—government run health care.
It’s a bad plan.
Government bureaucrats will benefit. Seniors will get hurt. Costs will go up. Care will go down.
Longer waits in doctors offices. Your right to keep your own doctor may be taken away.
It’s a plan we didn’t want and don’t need, but Hall voted for it anyway.
Defeat Congressman Hall.”
In Wisconsin, Republican Ron Johnson, a millionaire plastics manufacturer who doesn’t think that BP should be responsible for cleaning up the spill and compensating those who lost their livelihood (and hardly a populist or an outsider) is using the line in ads against Senator Russ Feingold, a progressive champion (who has broken with his party on such issues as Wall Street Reform because it didn’t go far enough).
Feingold is doing what Democrats should be doing: fighting back, standing up for having stood up for health care reform.
Feingold’s ad says: “Russ fought to stop insurance companies from denying Wisconsin children health care due to preexisting conditions.
“Mr. Johnson would put insurance companies back in control… letting them raise premiums and increase our costs whenever they want.”
If anyone who has health insurance stops to think a second (and only 58% of employers, down from 65%, even make health insurance available anymore, a big reason why 50 million Americans have no insurance at all and millions more pay a fortune), they would remember that they don’t ahve the right to keep their own doctor now: The insurance company tells you which doctors you can get reimbursed for and which procedures you can get, and doctors often bolt when they are not satisfied with the compensation, leaving you to find another from “within the program”.
Here’s the other irony – the slam at incumbents who voted for TARP, (teh shorthand is The Bailout) a Bush Administration “Hail Mary” scheme to keep America’s capital markets from collapsing altogether which even Republican Presidential candidate John McCain and Ohio Congressman John A. Boehner (now Minority Leader) pleaded for Republicans to vote for to avert the looming financial apocalypse, and yet, the very same are supposedly also angry about Wall Street Reform intended to protect Main Street America form the same abuses.
Deficit? The Bush tax cuts – the first in the history of humankind in a time of war – immediately turned a $500 billion surplus inherited from Clinton into a $1 trillion budget deficit; Republicans voted to push up the debt ceiling 9 times, beyond $9 trillion – and this was before the financial collapse that put America on the brink of a Great Depression (in comarison, Obama’s spending added only $2 trillion compared to Bush’s $9 trillion). The only way Republicans could get the Bush Tax Cuts – controversial even then – was to allow them to expire at 2010, that was the way around all the debate and opposition that Democrats could have waged. So now it is 2010 – extending the Bush tax cuts would add $4 trillion to the national deficit – but this is not a problem to the very same voters who say they believe that the federal deficit is “the number 1 threat to this nation.”
Obama – and most Democrats – want to extend the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, allowing only the rates for those earning $250,000 or more to revert back to the levels they were in the Clinton years – remember, when the economy was booming, and all boats were lifted? As Robert Reich told Steven Colbert, who would see his rates revert back, “Would you rather have a smaller share of a growing economy or a bigger share of a shrinking one?”
Stimulus spending? Just about every economist – even conservative ones – say that government spending is necessary to wrest the country from recession, and Lord knows, the neglect of infrastructure after 30 years of anti-government, anti-tax rants, have cost America its competitive edge, as well as lives, as when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed. New Orleans’ levees could have been repaired at a cost of millions; it was their failure, not Hurricane Katrina, that cost 1300 people their lives and billions of taxpayers’ money to restore the destroyed city.
Energy independence and climate change? Clinging to fossil fuels to power America in face of rising and manipulated costs, billions of dollars being exported to countries like Saudi Arabia which are incubators for anti-Americanism, and the destruction of the environment, as the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrated, is completely irrational. But the Midwest potentially has more energy than Saudi Arabia if we could harness its wind energy and biomass; the deserts have solar power and the coasts have geothermal – all that would create jobs that could not be outsourced, save households money that they could use for their families.
Which brings back to jobs. Republicans have used the persistent unemployment rate as their biggest .. to draw voters. They make the utterly false charge that Obama Administration policies – primarily the Recovery Act stimulus – hasn’t produced a single job (and yet they happily pose for pictures in their home districts at ribbon cuttings for projects that put people to work) In fact, the Recovery Act, Hire Act, funding for state governments to keep teachers, police and firefighters working, have created or preserved 3 million jobs – going part of the way to recover the 8 million jobs lost under the bush Administration policies. Nonetheless, Republicans single job-creation proposal is to cut taxes for the richest 1% (they used to say give tax breaks for Small Business, but they obstructed that legislation). But we have had that policy in place for 10 years –
IT HASN’T WORKED.
There are many reasons that there is such persistent unemployment: one of the biggest is that middle class households require two working adults just to survive; another is that companies are incentivized to outsource jobs. Republicans blocked legislation – as well as small business credits – which would have removed tax incentives to companies that outsource.
Again, the evidence is against Republicans – they are getting exactly what they want: smaller government, because those are the jobs that continue to be shed in the economy, while private employers are adding jobs by the tens of thousands each month. Still no credit to Obama or the Democrats for policies that are clearly working.
In fact, Wall Street is doing a booming business – record bonuses and profits for the second year in a row (so why is New York State’s economy, which drew 40% of income tax revenue from Wall Street, still stuck in quicksand?). Companies are doing brilliantly, too, with some $1 trillion in their bank, which they are using to buy back stock (that props up share prices so CEOs can get even more earnings from their stock options, which they don’t pay income tax on) and undertake mergers and acquisitions which put even more millions into the Wall Street deals makers, but do nothing to create jobs or put money into working families.
Republicans love to accuse Democrats of “class warfare” when it is pointed out that their policies have led to the greatest gap between rich and poor – created because middle class Americans are literally falling off the ladder into poverty – since 1928. The top 1% control 23% of all income; the top 2% control as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the country.
That means that 66,000 people have as much wealth as 330,000,000 of the rest of us.
John Raese, the Republican Candidate for Governor of West Virginia, is proud to say he made his money the old fashioned way: he inherited it. It would appear, then that his platform to end the estate tax (which Republicans like to term the “death tax”) is a bit self-serving, don’t you think? Raese is another of these Republican multi-millionaire/billionaires who advocate policies purely for self-aggrandizement (and yet they love to profess that they are more patriotic than Democrats).
But the Founders (Republicans love to suggest that they are purists, closer to the true intent of founders) purposely wanted to prevent the rise of aristocracy, and set into motion the idea of upward mobility. Republican tax policies, including Capital Gains tax (at half the rate of income taxes) and estate taxes mean that wealth is untaxed but work is. If you are a working stiff, you are screwed.
Raese, whose family-owned Greer Industries mines were fined $98,160 for 627 safety violatoins between 1995-2010, , also is really, really resentful that there is such a thing as a Minimum Wage – a lousy $10.50 an hour, raised for the first time in the first few months of Obama’s Administration after 25 years of being stuck. I am betting he also wants to make sure the Mine Safety inspectors go back to the good ol’ days of the 1930s when 1,500 miners a year died (what a contrast, the Massey Mine disaster to the rescue of the 33 miners in Chile). Not surprisingly, Rease also wants to abolish the Departments of Education, Energy, and the Internal Revenue Service.
In fact, there is a common thread among these so-called populists, these millionaire/billionaire candidates who call to end Big Government, by which they mean end regulations such as food inspections, limits on how high interest can go or how big companies can get or their ability to hydrofrack to get natural gas or cut down a mountain and spew the sludge into streams to mine – they have made their millions and they really don’t care about anyone else.
Is that what the American Dream was all about? Or was it about making a level playing field, where anyone with the talent, energy, innovation could succeed?
Republicans – especially the batch of crackpots who are poised to take over Congress – have made it clear what they will do: go back to the same exact policies of the Bush Administration. Bush was dumb but he wasn’t actually running anything – he was the figurehead for the neo-conservatives. Cheney was running Energy and Iraq War policy, Karl Rove was running domestic policy.
They have made clear: they want tax cuts, to continue to promote outsourcing (free trade), privatize Social Security, repeal health care reform, repeal Wall Street reform, mount a new round of special investigations into everything and including the White House party which a couple managed to crash. they plan to take the obstruction of the past two years to bring government to a complete standstill. They will reverse what little progress there has been on clean, green energy to create new industry, new jobs and combat climate change.
Which party, which ideology will best restore that America?
Democrats should not run from their record of reversing hemorrhaging job losses, foreclosures and bankruptcies, giving consumers protections against predatory credit card companies and banks, giving small businesses tax credits to expand health insurance coverage (only 58% of companies even offer health insurance) and hire people (Hire Act) without adding a dime to the deficit, helping states keep teachers, police and firefighters on the job, preventing private health insurance companies from dropping people when they get sick, capping lifetime benefits, refusing to insure children with “preexisting conditions”, raising premiums 39% while pocketing ballooning profits, and spending only 67% of $1 on actual health care (under Health Reform, they have to spend 85%), and providing access to health care for 50 million uninsured Americans (25,000 people a year die simply because they do not have access to health care). And by the way, Obama’s Health Care Reform will reduce the federal deficit by $149 billion.
There are too few Democrats like Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) who declared at his recent League of Women Voters debate, “I’m a proud Democrat… a supporter of Obama. I proudly voted for health care creating the ability for 30 million who had no access to insurance to have insurance. I believe in marriage equity, a woman’s right to choose. There is a big difference between the candidates on all those issues. I am proud to fight for your interests in Congress.”
–Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
© 2010 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com or email [email protected]