Throughout the last two years, we’ve heard one Republican after another bash President Obama and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for supposedly jamming a “radical agenda” down people’s throats. But other than a watered-down health-care reform law that still allows private-sector insurance companies to play a major role, there is little evidence of substantive change or bold initiatives.
It can’t be due to TARP — the Troubled Asset Relief Program — which was the bailout plan for banks that were “too big to fail.” That was pushed in the final days of George W. Bush’s term and lobbied for on the floor of Congress by a weepy John Boehner (R-West Chester), who was for it before he was against it.
And it can’t be because of Obama’s plan to implement a cap-and-trade program of tax credits for carbon emissions reductions that businesses could buy and sell in an effort to reduce global warming. That plan went nowhere and appears dead.
When all is said and done, Obama has continued many of the war and national security policies of his predecessor, in violation of campaign promises and to the stinging disappointment of many progressives including myself.
Certainly all the chatter about Obama being a radical isn’t because of fears about increased government spending.
Yes, Obama has increased spending. He had a $1.3 trillion deficit last year, and has proposed a $1.5 trillion deficit for 2011. As The Los Angeles Times notes, long-term forecasts estimate the deficit would drop to $828 billion in 2012 and decrease even further to a decade low of $706 billion in 2014, but then start rising, reaching $1 trillion by 2020.
Independent analyses show the blame for the bleak fiscal situation falls on both Republicans and Democrats.
For example, The New York Times found that the major causes for current deficits could be divided as follows: Recessions or the business cycle (37 percent); policies enacted by Bush (33 percent); policies enacted by Bush and extended by Obama (20 percent); and new policies from Obama (10 percent).
It doesn’t get much more even-handed than that.
The Times wrote, “President Obama’s agenda ... is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits” but added he “...does not have a realistic plan for reducing the deficit.”
Regardless, Republicans’ sudden concerns about fiscal responsibility ring hollow.
Dubya had more than $2 trillion in deficit spending during his eight years in office, and the national debt increased from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion on his watch. In fact, most Republicans conveniently ignore that the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan and nearly doubled under George W. Bush.
None of those spending records should be a source of pride, but as neocon hero and former Vice President Dick Cheney famously said, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”
(Unless, I guess, you’re black or a Democrat.)
Now compare that record to what’s happened in three months since the GOP has reclaimed control of the House of Representatives, just one of our three branches of government.
Although Republicans allege healing the economy and creating jobs are their top priorities, they wasted the first several weeks of the new Congressional session introducing at least three bills that would restrict access to abortions. This occurred despite polls showing that the number of Americans who want to keep abortion safe and legal is growing.
Last month a poll by the Pew Research Center found 54 percent of the public supports legal abortion in all or most cases, while 42 percent believe it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Similarly, a Quinnipiac University poll from February found most Americans support federal funding for Planned Parenthood, despite the GOP’s efforts at cutting it. Fifty-three percent supports funding, with 43 percent opposed. That’s not even close.
Then there was all the time and effort wasted by the GOP on its symbolic vote to repeal the health-care reform law. Although a House majority supported repeal, there wasn’t enough votes in the Senate and nowhere near enough to override a likely presidential veto — all of which was known before the foolhardy effort began. Still, Republicans persisted in their “bread and circuses” display.
No matter that poll after poll has found that a sizable portion of the “opposition” to the reform law is from people who think it doesn’t go far enough in overhauling the system. Clearly, those people want to see more changes, not the repeal of the ones already made.
When that segment is combined with those who support the law, a majority emerges. Yet another majority ignored by state and national GOP leaders.
We haven’t even gotten to the findings about collective bargaining by public-sector labor unions yet.
A poll last month by The Wall Street Journal found a sizable 77 percent support collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers, compared to 19 percent opposed. Similar findings about collective bargaining have been found in recent polls by Gallup, Bloomberg, and a joint survey by The New York Times and CBS News. It’s not an anomaly.
The results make a person wonder exactly whose wishes are being so zealously followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and their minions.
None of these poll numbers are surprising. Each continues a trend seen in previous surveys conducted by various independent organizations.
Still, crafty Republican politicians somehow have convinced the American people that it’s Democrats who are out of touch with the common person’s views.
To push their extreme, ideologically-driven agenda, Republicans now are threatening to shut down the federal government over a budget impasse, all while refusing to touch one of the biggest sources of spending, the bloated defense budget.
It’s going to be an exceptionally long two years with this crowd in charge. I’m not sure we’re going to survive it.
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