When I heard that a heretofore reliably Democratic House Seat had flipped to the Republicans, I wondered which parts of the Republican agenda were suddenly embraced by the good folks of the 9th Congressional District.
Maybe it’s the Republicans’ desire to radically slash government spending so that, for example, Medicare as we know it is dismantled and privatized, or Medicaid for the working poor and elderly is block-granted to states with the result that eligibility for many in need will be reduced, or food safety enforcement weakened because there will be fewer inspectors, or job retraining programs and government-sponsored research will be starved of adequate funding, or unemployment benefits in this recovering economy will be cut off sooner (I mean it only discourages them from looking for work, right?). Better this than asking the wealthiest Americans to pay moderately higher taxes.
Or perhaps it’s the GOP’s environmental and deregulatory agenda that holds promise in the eyes of these New Yorkers. After all reducing the EPA to a shell is a big part of the plan; I mean who really needs clean air and water? And won’t it be nice to have our western landscape torn up and dotted with oil and gas drills, and roads gouged through wilderness (I mean who the heck needs wilderness?) and to be free to exterminate wolves again if the GOP manages to gut the Endangered Species Act.
Getting rid of the pesky Dodd-Frank Act, as the GOP intends, will rid us of any significant means to prevent another financial meltdown in the future so that, with any luck, we can go through this economic mess again – surely a worthy goal.
America has a Swiss-cheese social safety net compared with most advanced countries but at least it’s something, and Democrats have fought to preserve what we have and fill in some of the holes where they can. Republicans on the other are doing their best to further shred it and Americans seem to support them; The New York Times reports for example, that recent polling shows Americans opposed to increased spending to help the poor.
President Obama and congressional Democrats have worked hard on behalf of ordinary, working Americans. The Affordable Care Act, for example, helps not just the medically uninsured (now almost fifty million strong) but those of us who already have insurance by curbing the most heinous practices of the health insurance industry. If the GOP wins in 2012 it will be repealed.
The stimulus bill clearly saved the country from a much worse recession that could have morphed into a full-blown depression. In fact, the exhaustion of stimulus money may well be one of the factors in the now stagnant economy. Yet they get virtually no credit. The same goes for saving the now re-energized domestic auto industry which Republicans were happy to see fail – well, most of the workers were unionized so good-riddance.
None of this seems to have mattered to the good people of the New York 9th District, anymore that it did to Massachusetts’s voters who honored the memory of their beloved Senator Edward Kennedy, by promptly replacing him with a Republican whose election almost killed the last chance of providing near-universal health care coverage in America, surely his greatest dream. I’d like to ask these voters why they believe the party that hates and despises government will lead it competently.
Americans seem to view Washington with a blurred vision. Republicans have made it a priority to foil any policies that might help us out of the economic doldrums. They have fabricated a crisis over the debt ceiling that had genuine consequences to confidence, both here and abroad, in the ability of government to function effectively. Yet the electorate and even the media seem incapable of holding the real culprits accountable, as they excoriate both parties equally for the dysfunction.
The GOP’s chances of winning it all in 2012 are rising as the rate of jobs created falls. And maybe that’s as it should be. Sad though it is for me to admit, I’m beginning to think that America and the GOP deserve one another.