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Friday, 28 February 2014 06:39

Basking in Republican Paradise

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STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ElephantHerd(Photo: Arnabjdeka)According to a New York Times/CBS poll taken at the end of February, 2014: "Republicans are in a stronger position than Democrats for this year's midterm elections, benefiting from the support of self-described independents, even though the party itself is deeply divided, and most Americans agree more with Democratic policy positions, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows." How could that be, you might say? After all, the Times story went on to say: "A majority of Americans surveyed also said they wanted both parties to do more to address the concerns of the middle class, reduce the budget deficit with both tax increases and spending cuts, and let illegal immigrants stay in the country and apply for citizenship. Mr. Obama shares those positions on the budget and immigration."

On top of that, a majority of U.S. were against two of the major national legislative initiatives of the GOP last year, which were to shut down the government in October and come perilously close to driving the nation into default. On their other major initiative, repealing what they have conveniently labelled as "Obamacare," the House of Representatives of course voted a zillion times (well, that's an over-statement, but I think they did it 40-plus times) to repeal it. Because of the Democratic majority in the Senate, that went nowhere legislatively. And so, they became the Party of No.

A majority of U.S. also disagree with them on such issues as marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage, and (hold your breath now) gun control. And still they appear to be ahead of the Democrats in the upcoming Congressional races next November. Once again, how could that be, you might say? Because since the 2008 election they have created a Republican Paradise and President Obama and most elected Democrats, at the national, state, and local levels, have allowed them to bask in it.

I learned the hard way very early on in my earlier career in public health/health administration (that was back in the 1960s) that you should never take a job in which you had responsibility but little or no authority. Bad for you, the job, and the program you were supposed to be running. However, for most of his Presidency, for most domestic, non-national-security matters, President Obama has been in the responsibility-but-no-authority position. He still doesn't seem to realize that. Which is why the Republicans are in paradise, and will continue to stay there unless and until the Democratic Party as a whole and President Obama in particular come to the realization themselves and then do something about it?

In December 2008, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority leader, announced that he'd "filibuster any bill he didn't like." On January 21, 2009 there was a not-so secret meeting of top Republicans in Washington to plan how they were going to obstruct the Obama Presidency to the greatest degree possible, as their number one objective. Then there was McConnell's famous announcement after the 2010 election that his number one objective for the next Congress was to prevent the reelection of the President. And so on and so forth. Except for the short period of time that the Democrats had a majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the Republicans have controlled the legislative agenda, and they have made sure that virtually nothing to meet the needs of the nation has been done.

As is well known, unemployment is down somewhat, but there are still three unemployed persons for every job that is available. "Wall St." has recovered from the Bush Administration caused financial crisis virtually unscathed. The nation's infrastructure, highways, railroads, airports, river and reservoir levees, water supply systems, the electric grid, is literally falling apart (to say nothing of an Internet that is fog-bound compared with Europe's and China's), and etc. That information comes not from a "bunch of liberal tax-and-spenders," but from a fascinating and very depressing series running on the History Channel. Fixing it could provide millions of jobs, with spending then circulating through the whole economy. But paying for it would require significant tax increases, best coming from those who could best afford to pay. But the so-called "stimulus package" that Obama managed to get through at the beginning of his Presidency was riddled with non-productive tax cuts, mainly for the wealthy, and there has been nothing since. (Oh yes, there has been a stimulus coming from the Fed's controlled money-printing program, but that mainly benefits folks who already have money).

Then see the "Sequester" and massive cuts in national domestic spending for programs that actually help people and solve problems. Then of course there is Obama's signature program, "Obamacare." Essentially it is "Romneycare," originally designed by the Heritage Foundation, which works not-so-great in Massachusetts, but is having the devil's own time getting going nationally. This is because of a) major defects in its design, b) the refusal of many Republican governors to help implement it through the expansion, with Federal funds, of Medicaid, and, accidentally c) Obama's very poorly staffed claim that "if you like your insurance you can keep it." (He should simply have been told to say "most Americans will be able to keep their insurance if they like it," and that would have been the end of that). And so on and so forth.

But who overall gets the blame for all of this? Well, for the most part not the Republicans. Instead the mantra is "Washington [as a whole] doesn't work" (even though it actually does work quite well for the Corporate Power and their GOP servants. Through the clever use of their control of the Congress (and yes, through the unprecedented use of the filibuster as well as their gerrymandering of the House districts nation-wide, they control the Congress for the most part), they have maintained the authority. In this they have been massively aided by their TV Propaganda Channel (otherwise known as Fox"News") and the vast reactionary radio talk-show universe. But through a combination of Obama's, and for the most part the Democratic Party's, refusal to confront, expose, and then go on the offensive against the obvious Republican strategy, Obama is the Chief Executive of a country that is running on Republican policies, while he gets the blame for the outcomes. Yes indeed, Republican paradise.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy. Dr. Jonas' latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.