STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On October 11, 2013, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a rising star of the Republican Far Right (otherwise known as the "Tea Party"), addressed the annual "Values Voters Summit," sponsored by the Family Research Council, one of the U.S. Christian Right's leading organizations (so much for separation of church and state, on the Right).
Although the word "value" would lead one to believe that the organization is concerned with many different issues, from the future of our species and others as well, to what value should be put on helping the poor (as Christ would likely have done), the "values" with which the organization and the meetings seemed to be principally concerned with sex: namely abortion rights, gay marriage, and contraception (against all three).
In Senator Cruz' speech, at least the portion of it which I heard, to rousing applause he focused on "American Freedom" and the American tradition of welcoming folks to the country who wanted to work hard and succeed. (I guess that this Harvard Law School graduate could not see the contradiction between his flowing rhetoric on past immigration and immigrants and his total opposition to even the very limited "immigration reform" proposed by his fellow Senator of Cuban-immigrant parentage, Marco Rubio of Florida, and passed by a two-thirds margin in the Senate. [It languishes in the House, but then again the "illegal immigration" issue is one of which the Republican Right will never be able to let go.])
And so, knowing something of the positions that Senator Cruz has taken on a variety of political and policy issues, I thought that it would be useful to review exactly what his views on "American Freedom" are.
Before getting into that list, however, I should note that while in the current battle over the Federal Government Shutdown and the potential failure to raise the Debt Ceiling, Senator Cruz has drawn the wrath of such Republican worthies as Senator John McCain and Rep. Peter King, and has attracted to himself and his Tea Party colleagues in the House a host of epithets like "crazy" and "crackpot," all this as if the Tea Party were really different from the GOP on substance. With very few exceptions, it ain't.
The Tea Party and the "mainstream" GOP are both firmly for the continuation of Permanent War and the concomitant expansion, not contraction of the US military and the very profitable Federal spending that goes along with it, voter suppression, the privatization of what passes for a "safety net" in this country (pitiful compared to that found in most other "advanced" capitalist countries), underfunding of public education while expanding for-profit private education, neglecting the country's infra-structure because "we can't afford it" while expanding subsidies for the extractive and factory-farm industries, the destruction of every government regulatory function that can possibly be destroyed, and so on and so forth. The differences between the "Tea Party" and the "mainstream" Republicans are matters of style, not substance.
In this context then, let's see just what Ted Cruz' "Freedoms" (for which, at least in the part of the speech that I heard on television he gave no details) are. Leaving his rhetoric aside, to see what "values" he is really for, we need to look at positions on wide variety of policy matters that the Senator has taken, very loudly, in his first year in the Senate. Not in any particular order of importance they are:
* Freedom from virtually any kind of regulation for the Banksters, the Drillers, the Frackers, and the other Exploiters of our natural resources.
* Freedom for the Global Warmers to keep on warming the globe and changing the climate with disastrous outcomes down the road which are no longer "possible," but now are totally predictable, the only variables being "when" and "how much."
* Freedom for the Republican Religious Right to impose their religiously authoritarian dogmas on everyone, and in the matters of abortion and possibly contraception (see former Senator Santorum), using the criminal law.
* Freedom to be on your own in choosing which pharmaceuticals agents to use, before any evaluation of efficacy, effectiveness and safety by such an agency as the Food and Drug Administration. That is, treat all pharmaceuticals just the way dietary supplements are treated, courtesy of Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, home to many supplement makers and suppliers: that is no FDA oversight.
* At the same time, NO freedom to choose which of the recreational mood-altering drugs you might want to use. Those sold by the high-profit (and high-politically-contributing) industries, alcohol and tobacco, OK, those sold by the Drug Cartels (who may well be the biggest financial supporters of the politicians and others promoting the "Drug War" which makes them so rich), and their illegality benefitting the law enforcement and prison-industrial complex industries, like marijuana, heroin and cocaine, NOT OK.
* Freedom to pick your way through National Parks that are littered with oil and gas wells.
* Freedom to buy "sub-prime" mortgages, if you happen to be a potential "sub-prime mortgagee," otherwise known by the industry as a "sucker."
* Freedom to be one of the estimated 48,000 people who die each year because they lack health insurance.
* Freedom to starve because you don't have enough to buy the food that you need.
* Finally, the freedom to stay unemployed forever, because they are no jobs and certainly the government has no role to play in creating them, either in the public or the private sector.
This is a partial list of the "freedoms" that Sen. Cruz supports. I think that if a lot less time were spent on considering whether he is "crazy" or not, and a lot more time were spent on both that a) he differs from the "mainstream" Republican Party only in style, not substance, and b) on what that substance really is, that we could finally begin to make some progress in dealing with both Senator Cruz and his ilk in particular and the Republican Party and its policies in General.
(Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor 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.