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Sunday, August 4, 2013

2014–A “Watershed” Year

We cannot allow the Republican Radicals to block all that needs doing for this nation.  They must be rejected at the polls.  2014 is a watershed year.  And what does that mean?  A “watershed year” is “a critical year that marks a division or a change of course; a turning point.”  (A ‘watershed’ itself is “the ridge or crest line dividing two drainage areas; a divide.”) 

If the radical Republican Party is allowed to grab more seats in Congress, and in the state houses and legislatures in more states, the die will be cast.  It will mark the capture of enough power to continue to block and defeat anything that even looks like government activism at the national and state levels.  But worse, it will mark the questionable ascendancy of a Party bent on using states to destroy federal and national programs and policies.  Look carefully at what has happened already in states controlled by Republicans: some form of voter ID laws are now active in 27 states; eight of eleven states in old ‘Dixie’ have passed restrictive voting laws since the 2010 election.  North Carolina became the first state to pass a more restrictive voting law following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a core provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and it looks like Texas, Mississippi and Alabama will not be far behind.  As of April of this year, restrictive legislation had been introduced in 30 states, with North Carolina making that 31.  This ability of states to thwart federal protection of voter rights is a danger, not only to our voting system, but to our entire federal system of governance.  It is the beast of “nullification” dressed-up in sheep’s clothing!

But, don’t forget, there are other equally pernicious movements afoot in the states.  Affirmative Action has been struck a major blow by the SCOTUS, and many state-run colleges will be free to ignore any reference to race as a factor in achieving ethnic balance within their student bodies; another attempt to nullify federal directives and protections.  As pointed out recently on this Blog, the ruling of the Supreme Court mandating the federal government to recognize and support gay marriage has not been applied to the states.  That delay will keep such implementation of gay marriage laws on hold for years in some states.  We must also mention the movement at the state level to pass laws that not only limit access to contraception and abortions, but actually deny funding to “abortion centers.”  Worse, states are beginning to pass laws that actually limit the point at which abortions can be implemented, by using questionable “science” related to a fetus feeling pain or when “life” begins.  Such state laws are nothing short of defiance of the Roe vs. Wade decision.   And, let us not fail to recall the movement abroad in this country to arm every man woman and child with guns; to support “stand-your-ground” laws, and to make sure, thereby, that the “others”, the “outsiders” (read minorities and immigrants) can be threatened with loss of life if they venture into the world of the elite.

In brief, here are some of the great divides ( or conflicts) that the Republican Party has devised or implemented that will negatively affect our lives after 2014 unless they are soundly defeated at all levels.

1)    Ideology vs. solutions for real problems.  Republicans like to talk and bluster about their cherished principles; about their ideology. They like to manufacture problems that exist only in their narrow minds (think lack of prayer in schools or “voter fraud” or “stand-your-ground” laws).  They apparently have little regard for the actual problems that poor people and middle-class people generally face, like no jobs, no increase in wages, no child-care, inadequate transportation, lack of health care and proper nutrition, plus a need for home maintenance, adequate Social Security and pension benefits. In fact, it appears that Republicans in Congress would rather avoid all the real problems and issues of our day, and manufacture some of their own so that they do not have to reveal that they do not care about the real ones.
    Take our crumbling infrastructure, for example.  They point to deficit reduction as the major problem and fail to comprehend the major effects crumbling cities and towns will have on revenues and new industries and jobs.  They don’t care. They want to solve the deficit problem because it is an excuse for diminishing the power of the federal government (and not because it is affecting our GNP); never mind investment of government funds; it is wasteful.
    The 2014 elections could cement these attitudes into the forefront of our local, state and national governments.  Is that what you want?  Ask yourself first:  what have Republicans done to solve any of the problems you face, or that your community faces, or that the nation faces?  Maybe you like Sequestration…
2)    Elite vs. all other classes.  Republicans have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that their destiny is tied into their support of the elite 1% or less of the richest people and corporations in this country, and nothing can dissuade them from that course (except, perhaps, a sound defeat at all levels in the 2014 elections).  It is the middle class that is being squeezed mercilessly by the Republicans as they cut back on every program, tax break, COLA, minimum wage increase, while also adding tax breaks and loopholes, increasing Defense and other federal contracts, and generally protecting the ability to gouge the public by diminishing all acts of consumer protection. 
    From PoliticusUSA we hear that examples of Republican hostility to average working- and middle-class Americans are many; here are just a few.  In Georgia a new bill (HB 385) would raise taxes on things like Girl Scout Cookies, groceries and gasoline but would lower tax rates on corporate income, from 6 percent this year to just 4 percent in 2014.  Also in Georgia, the new craze – drug testing welfare recipients – brings us the Social Responsibility and Accountability Act (SB 292), approved by their Senate on March 7, 2012. BetterGeorgia.com reports that “Republican State Senator John Albers, one of the sponsors of the bill says that the aim is to stop welfare recipients from using illegal drugs. Apparently, only Republican politicians should be allowed to do that. The state’s own estimates show that the drug test program may not save a dime and could cost $84,500 per person.  2014 is the point at which such foolishness will be curtailed or multiplied.  It’s up to YOU.
3)    Myths vs. science.  Republicans have a strong tendency to reject scientific studies and conclusions, unless they advance their pre-conceived ideas.  Climate change, early intervention benefits for children, importance of scientific research especially as regards childhood disease and obesity, plus the effects of war on the mental health of our armed forces are real problems with real consequences.  Instead, Republicans deny climate change is caused by humans and their industries, and don’t seem to care about the effects of other issues.  Their mantra is “drill, baby, drill” – keep on depending on fossil fuels until the planet dies!  2014 is the watershed moment in more ways than one since access to clean water is becoming a priority issue.  In 2014, YOU are voting on this life or death issue, because time is running out for our planet.  Again, ask yourself, what have radical Republicans done to protect our planet, to assure our unfettered access to clean air, water and environment?  They restricted the EPA, de-regulated certain industries, drilled for more oil.  How do you want your planet – crispy or grilled?
4)    Men vs. women.  Equal pay?  Equal access to health care?  Built-in glass ceilings for women? Right to an abortion for certain accepted reasons now denied?  Women subjected to sonograms as a prerequisite to an abortion?  Health care restrictions that men don’t have?  Child care opportunities cut?  This goes on and on under Republican control and governance, at state and national levels.  As PoliticusUSA.com reminds us: “Despite an electorate that is overwhelmingly pro-choice, there is no doubt that the GOP’s first goal is to deprive women of their reproductive rights and to frame that argument not as one of health but religion. It is in fact so important an issue to the GOP that out of some 40,000 laws of all types enacted in 2011, as RMuse wrote here recently, “there were nearly 1,000 bills in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s right to legal abortion services” (up from 950 in 2010). 2014 is the point at which YOU have an opportunity to stop this madness.  What will you do?
5)    State vs. central government.  Under Republicans, as we have seen, states’ rights and nullification of national laws and requirements are at the forefront. One of the most egregious examples of this is attempts by certain states to sneak religion into the public sector.  The South Dakota legislature is promoting “biblical instruction” in public schools, passing a nonbinding resolution that “encourages school districts to voluntarily provide instruction that makes students familiar with the content, character, and narratives of the Bible.”   In Georgia, “A copy of the Ten Commandments could be posted in all Georgia government buildings and schools under a bill passed unanimously by House lawmakers.” (from PoliticusUSA.com). 
    Let us mention one more frightening possibility: the devolvement of national programs to the states, among them Medicaid and food stamps.  Any program of this sort, taken over by already staff- and resource-strapped states spells diminution or outright annihilation of the benefits of such programs.  Eligibility will be greatly restricted; funding will decrease; administration will be abysmal; access will be curtailed.  If you are elderly, disabled, poor or a veteran, think very seriously about what the outcome of the 2014 election will mean to you if your state administers such programs (and many others).  Your goose is cooked if you vote Republican! 
6)    Private vs. public.  If you are not aware of this, then you are being sucker-punched!  The privatization of government functions is already happening but will become rampant under Republicans.  They believe fervently that the private sector can do a better job at running schools, prisons, wars (at least some aspects of them), health care facilities, and even our Social Security!  That’s right, and all these things (and more) are presently under private lucrative contracts with private entities. 
    Don’t forget, private groups are in this for profit; government is not.  The profit motive dictates a whole new set of circumstances, many of which are not beneficial to the client.  You want Wall Street investing your Social Security?  You want teachers and school administrators making a profit from teaching your children?  Then you need to remember that 2014 is a watershed year and if you vote Republican, you get more privatization.  Got a child going to college in a few years and you hoped to send him or her to a good state school because the fees are more reasonable?  Oh-Oh – Republicans don’t care about you; they will inevitably shut down state-supported schools because private education is a lucrative business for their cronies.
7)    Austerity vs. investment.  The greatest gift ever given to Republicans, besides their election victories in 2010, is “sequestration.”  Since it was originally meant as an evil place where no one would want to venture, it was thought that reasoned spending cuts and added revenues would be achieved before sequestration kicked into place.  Nada.  The Republicans played their hand and didn’t have to take any blame for it.  But it was their rejection of a grand bargain that led to it, and they are very much to blame for the draconian cuts that are now occurring in school districts as teachers are laid off, in Head Start programs, in research, in food stamps, housing, veterans’ programs, etc. One example from PoliticusUSA: “Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved the appropriations bill which reduced WIC funding from $6.73 billion this year to $5.90 billion in 2012. The bill will also cut $38 million from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSIP), as well as $63 million from the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAB). If the Republicans had been truly interested in slashing the federal budget they could have saved more money by ending tax cuts for the rich or slashing subsidies to the oil companies. Instead they starve the infants and elderly.” For Republican radicals, sequestration is the gift that keeps on giving because austerity is their goal for all but the rich who will gain even more in this climate.  If you like austerity measures to balance the national budget, then vote for Republicans in 2014.  You will get what you want.  The point of no return will have been achieved.

In my estimation, all of this Republican radical regression comes down to a Party without Virtue, Value or Veracity, all of which we shall review in my next posting: “V” is NOT JUST FOR VICTORY!