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Saturday, October 25, 2014

2014 – A “Watershed” Year: elections have consequences!

  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.”) We must not allow Republican Radicals to determine the directions or the agenda for this nation, and yet, some pre-election polls indicate that such a possibility is about to be reality.  

The 2014 "off-year" election may be one that has consequences far beyond our wildest expectations. This off-year election could mark a turning-point in our approach to governing, taking us back to a time when our central government was so weak it could not even mount an effort to research and destroy bacteria that caused often fatal diseases We are already headed back to a time when workers were exploited by big (and small) companies to the point of low wages, few benefits, long hours and continuous exposure to a toxic environment.

The problem is, the average voter does not see the consequences inherent in a view of government that obsesses on the welfare and aggrandizement of the richest 1% of the population while attacking the "welfare" and opportunities 'handed out' to the other 99%. Nor do most voters believe that political parties, once in power, will carry-through on what they espouse before being elected. Too many voters somehow feel that politicians will inevitably move toward the middle ground once in office. In this case, a huge mistake! Here are a few of the themes to which the current Republican Party is viscerally connected. They are serious, and they are committed. So beware of voting for a Republican (even if billed as a "moderate"), or of not voting at all, because you will definitely feel the effects and the deleterious consequences of that vote or lack of vote.

If the radical Republican Party is allowed to grab more seats in Congress, it will mark the questionable ascendancy of a Party bent on using states to undermine or destroy federal and national programs and policies. Look carefully at what has happened already in states controlled by Republicans: varying forms of restrictive voter ID laws are now active in 34 states; following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a core provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, 11 states passed voter ID laws, reduced time for early voting was passed in eight states, and some students are being prevented from voting where they reside for college. 10 states have made it more difficult to register to vote. 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!

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. 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.” Moreover, 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” and unrestricted "carry" laws, and to make sure, thereby, that the “others”, the “outsiders” (read: "minorities and immigrants"), and even "guv'mint" agents can be threatened with loss of life if they venture into this nether-world of "nullification."

One of the most egregious examples of nullification is an attempt in 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).

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, it appears that too many voters in states like Colorado, North Carolina, Iowa, and perhaps New Hampshire and South Dakota have not been listening carefully to what the Radical Republican Senate candidates have been spouting for a long time. Apparently, their radical ideas have been hidden behind fabricated "moderate" language that is bamboozling the electorate. This lack of understanding of what is about to happen if a Republican-held Senate materializes is appalling. After all, elections do have consequences, and here are just some that our citizens will encounter if the Right-wing Republicans maintain the House and takeover the Senate.

  • Millions will lose their recently acquired status of being covered by affordable health care, but more personal perhaps is the fact that ALL of us will lose the reforms of health insurance and the added benefits provided by the Affordable Health Care Law. You will be paying more money for insurance and getting less. You will also find that all the abuses of coverage restriction will return and impose on you once again the burdens of pre-existing conditions, lack of free contraception, the threat of loss of coverage if you have an acute illness, plus the loss of free check-ups and annual physicals. Moreover, you will see the return of the dreaded "doughnut-hole" of drug coverage in Medicare Part D, and the loss of federal protection provided under the ACA for consumer fraud and abuse by the insurance providers. Your ability to appeal rulings against you and your coverage will be gone. Vote in the Radical Republicans and be ready to pay the piper for that huge mistake! You will have been bamboozled! 
  • Next will come the increased coddling of the rich which means that YOU will pay more in taxes and receive less in your paycheck. Right-wing 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 of international corporations in this country; 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, and generally protect the ability to gouge the public by diminishing all acts of consumer protection. If you vote Republican, you will reap a whirlwind of debt and disadvantage.
  • The Paul Ryan budgets tell the real story of what these Right-wing nuts have in store for you. Austerity is the goal for all but the rich who will gain even more in this climate, but the return to prosperity for everyone else will be thwarted and extended. You're going to pay and pay and pay for the tax cuts that will be put into effect for the richest 1% --further reductions in (their) income tax rates, corporate tax rates, the inheritance tax, and elimination of the tax on long-term gains. On top of that, there will be a continuation of the welfare for the rich extracted from our tax system (with no accountability for that extraction) through tax loopholes, subsidies, and special exemptions. The increased taxes you pay will go right into the pockets of the richest people in this country and you won't even notice it because there is no budget or document that enables you to see how this tax money is stolen from you. Get ready to turn over more of your money to those who already live on Easy Street. You have been bamboozled!
  • Next come the greedy Wall Street financiers and the bankers to hand you more grief. Let's just say that it will become harder for you to manage your meager funds because the financiers are out to get as much as they can from YOU. Credit card interest will rise, fees on checking accounts and credit cards will slowly eat you up! Loans will be harder to obtain at a reasonable rate. Don't forget -- banks are losing money because the Fed has kept interest rates as low as possible. That will not last under a Republican administration. But that's not all -- the banks and the brokers want to get at the funds held by the central government. Social Security reform is coming and under the Right-wing that means getting social security income out of the SS Trust Fund and into personal bank accounts that can then be charged interest and fees that benefit the bankers.
  • Medicare and Medicaid will go on the chopping block. The Medicare voucher system proposed in the Ryan budgets will, over time, save the Feds a good deal of money because those voucher amounts do not have automatic cost-of-living increases attached and will be worth less and less over time. That means that the money saved can be funneled into the operating budget and used for reducing taxes on the rich. Meanwhile your Medicare coverage that you have depended upon will shrink and shrink and shrink until it becomes a speck of dust to be finally wiped away. That's right -- Medicare is headed for the garbage dump and that process will begin as soon as a majority of Radical Right Republicans are elected to the Senate. You have been bamboozled!
  • Are you on Medicaid for any reason? Well, it will be scrapped by giving it off to the states where it will languish and die because the states can't afford to staff the program, can't afford the costs of coverage as it now stands and can't afford to pick up the amount of money that will no longer come from the federal government for special waivers or even for administration. Say good-by to Medicaid and to long-term care, and provisions for home care plus the coverage for individuals with disabilities. Say hello to the new nursing homes and supported living arrangements to be built that will revive the long-term care nursing home industry. Meanwhile, you have been bamboozled again because your state taxes will be increased to pay for what Medicaid will not cover and for subsidizing the nursing home/respite care/supported living resurgence. You have been bamboozled and you get to pay again for your mistake!
The Republican agenda is harmful to children! Take a look:
  • schools are run-down; resources limited, classes are too big; curriculum is skewed; public education is threatened by a charter school movement aimed toward for-profit privatization of education. College tuition is rising out-of-sight while college grants and scholarships decrease and government help is under attack. Pell grants are on the chopping block, and the interest rate on federal loans is on the rise (watch it move up when Radical Republicans get control). 
  • universal pre-school education is under steady attack from the Right -- Head Start - a proven program - has already gotten the ax, is a target in Ryan budgets and the Right-wing aims to eliminate it! And this in spite of studies that show that such preparatory pre-school education is of lifelong benefit to children. It increases their readiness for school and gives them an 18-month advantage in terms of readiness, achievement and success. It is one of the best investments that can be made in education, but NOT from the perspective of the Right-wing nuts. You have been bamboozled again!
  • children learn more effectively if they have adequate food, yet the Right-wingers have already cut out lunches and snacks for kids in school. In concert with such elimination of food in schools, they want to get rid of Food Stamps as well, thus attacking the needs of millions of children who have limited resources. Combined with the eventual elimination of the WIC program, these cuts will ensure that children of color, homeless children, and children of poor mothers will fall further and further behind in good health and good education influenced by adequate food in small bellies. That "falling behind" is costly in the long-run: it results in extra costs to each of us for malnutrition, ignorance, health care, lack of a college education, menial job wages, generational poverty, crime, and detention. YOU will pay the costs for child neglect by the Radical Republicans. Bamboozled again!
Two more areas that will affect your pocket-book and your children include the cuts in research for childhood diseases and the lack of concern about changes in our environment. Both are costly in the long-run; not only to pocket-books, but to the health of your children. You think Ebola is a major problem in this country? Your thinking is short-sighted. What is a major problem are medical conditions in children that cannot be treated or that result in permanent damage to health or education. Cuts to scientific research into childhood diseases are increasing the likelihood that you will be paying more for childhood diseases we thought were eliminated like measles, mumps, whooping cough and polio. Believing the Right-wing blather about vaccinations being harmful or causing autism is costly to all of society because of its dangerous consequences in the outbreaks of old diseases caused by this neglect. 

And how about neglect of our environment? asthma is on the increase in children; lung cancer and other cancers on the rise near certain kinds of power plants; damage to the ozone layer is causing damage to children's skin, eyes and organs, to say nothing about the lowering of the ages at which auto-immune diseases like MS are showing up. The cuts envisioned for research in the Ryan budgets are insane, but real. YOU are going to pay the projected long-term costs and again: You have been bamboozled!

Briefly, let us look at some other Right-wing actions that will hurt you, and harm your ability to cope from paycheck to paycheck:

Take our crumbling infrastructure, for example. Republicans point to deficit reduction as our 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; they call it wasteful. The 2014 elections could cement these attitudes into the forefront of our local, state and national governments. Is that what you want?

Republicans deny climate change is caused by humans and their industries, and don’t seem to care about their effects on people. 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. 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. Delayed turnover to alternative fuel sources is going to cost each of us a pretty penny. How do you want your planet – crispy or grilled?

Republican hostility to women and their rights: No equal pay. No equal access to health care. Built-in glass ceilings. Denial of the Right to an abortion for certain accepted reasons. Women subjected to sonograms as a prerequisite to an abortion. Imposed Health care restrictions that men don’t have. Child care opportunities cut. 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, “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

From PoliticusUSA we also hear many examples of Republican hostility to average working- and middle-class Americans; among them: raise taxes on things like Girl Scout Cookies, groceries and gasoline. A new craze is drug testing for welfare recipients with an aim to stop welfare recipients from using illegal drugs, but 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. How come we don't drug-test the wealthy who extract billions in "welfare for the rich" from our tax system? Because we are being Bamboozled!

 Under Republicans, Pentagon costs are not only safe; they are sacrosanct. Republican Radicals want to increase that budget, especially for government contracts to private companies (their "bread and butter"). Contract overruns, inflated provisions, no oversight and special breaks for contractors -- like not having to hire union workers -- are all included in the Radical Republican approach to DoD. They even want to continue spending your money on outmoded and useless weapons and armaments. You are being bamboozled!

I know. Voters don't think these things will happen. Many think that Radical Right-wingers have moderated their agenda. Be Forewarned: Moderation is not part of their vocabulary or their ideology; neither is "compromise." We are being taken to the cleaners, and don't even recognize it. Too bad voters haven't paid attention and haven't done their homework.

"Politics" is not something separate from life; it determines much of our quality of life. We have been bamboozled into thinking that the election of representatives, the making of rules and laws, the control of our finances, the reform of our health care, the rates of our credit cards and loans, the rise in our wages; plus, the regulation of our environment, our food and even of our medicines, along with the prices we pay -- don't matter! Such basic denial, naiveté, ignorance and escape from reality is hurting our pocketbooks and will affect our children's future. The damage the Radical Republicans plan to do now will take an entire generation (30 years) or more to undo.