Monday, December 06, 2010

Bonanza Column 213: Dirty Pool

For all the niceties of form that are observed once candidates are elected to office, electoral politics is and always has been a nasty business, and neither party or end of the political spectrum has clean hands in that regard. Maybe it's an inevitable side effect of the political system, I don't know, but you can go back as far as you want in the US, the UK, or elsewhere and you'll find name-calling, lying, and mud-slinging.

Notwithstanding that, it seems to me that we may be hitting a new low. It used to be that once someone was in office, issues would be debated on the merits and the dirty politics kept to a minimum and outside of the formal processes of government. Opposition from the rich to FDR's New Deal policies was virulent – Roosevelt was called a Communist and worse – but all that went on outside of the formal debates in Congress, regardless of the views of individual legislators.

Now, however, it seems that Republicans in the Congress have abandoned any pretense of legislative decorum or of having the country's interests at heart and is out to torpedo President Obama's chances for a successful term and possible re-election, no matter the cost to the people they were elected to serve. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated after the November elections that making Obama a one-term president was the most important priority for the GOP. Really? In the face of 14% unemployment, an economy in the tank, two wars, escalating tensions in the Middle East and North Korea, this is what the Republicans should spend their next two years on?

Well, it seems so. Right now the smart money says that extended unemployment benefits will end this week, leaving some six or seven million people without any source of income in an economy that remains depressed and a job market that is showing very slow growth, if any. That's millions of dollars that would have gone directly for food, rent, loan payments, etc. – that is, directly into the economy that will not go there and millions of people left without the means to take care of themselves or their families. In what world does that make sense?

Additionally, the GOP is insisting on extending the Bush tax cuts to everyone. The Obama Administration is advocating extending these rates to those with taxable income under $250,000 and reinstating the taxes on those above that – about 1% of the population. This would put about $70 billion to the government's top line and is supported by the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who stand to be among those most heavily taxed. The only world in which that makes sense is one where the GOP are far more beholden to the rich than to the people who elected them.

Politics is one thing, and operating against the interests of the people you are elected to serve is another. The GOP has every right to oppose Obama and his policies and to do everything they can to convince the electorate to vote them in and him out in 2012, but I think we have to draw the line at this level of playing dirty – to block anything that might improve conditions for Americans in economic distress because there's a chance it might make Obama look good is worse than bad form, it's dereliction of duty, and hopefully it will come back to hurt those who are doing it in the long run. Meantime, if you're out of work or losing your home or business, the GOP's message to you is "tough luck."

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