The mid-term elections are coming up in early November, and the consensus is that the voters will choose to continue the tragic gridlock in Washington. President Harry Truman campaigned in 1948 against the “good-for-nothing, do-nothing 80th Congress.” Then, he was referring to the first Republican Congress since the Great Depression and World War II. But if he were here today, “Give ’em Hell” Harry would have another field day with the Republicans in the 113th Congress, who have been obstructing just about everything.
The Fox-Republican-TEA Party majority in the House wasted so much time pretending to repeal Obamacare that it had little or no time to deal with real issues: the minimum wage, carbon emissions, violent crime, et al. Even though they received a million fewer votes in 2012 than the Democrats, they had 22 more seats in the House instead of 14 fewer – partly because of safe and carefully drawn districts. The Republican majority represents only a minority of the voters, and the deplorable results speak for themselves. That’s unlikely to change.
Thanks to new 2013 rules in the Senate that prevent the filibuster from being used against federal judiciary and executive agency nominees, it is no longer necessary to get 60 votes of the 100 senators to debate and vote on the President’s appointees. The Senate Republican minority abused the filibuster to the point that the Senate became a joke and the judicial and executive branches were understaffed. And, don’t forget that a Republican Senate majority will never approve any Democratic presidential appointee whom they fear will try to do a good job – he or she will never get out of committee to come to a vote.
However, the filibuster can still be used against legislative bills, so Senate Republicans still join their colleagues in the House and continue to sabotage the usefulness of their own legislative branch. If the Republicans win a majority in the Senate, they and the House will be able to actually pass bills to send to the President to sign. Unfortunately, they will squander their tax-paid salaries by passing bills intended to turn the clock back – ultimately to the 19th century’s Gilded Age: before the Affordable Care Act, before Roe v. Wade, before Medicare and Medicaid, before the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, before FDR’s New Deal and Social Security, and before TR’s Square Deal and conservation legacy. That means that the President will have to waste his time vetoing bills that should never have been introduced.
One of the targets of a Republican majority will be “intrusive government,” which sounds good unless you know what they are really talking about. They support “intrusive government” into our private lives, like women’s reproductive rights and same-sex marriage – they know how everyone else should live their lives and want to make their beliefs the law. The “intrusive government” they oppose is the regulatory and enforcement functions of the executive branch.
They object to any intrusions that cut into the profits of their benefactors and mentors, like the Koch brothers and the Club for Growth. David and Charles Koch are spending a lot of money on right-wing extremists and are trying to turn the U. S. Congress and as many states as possible into subsidiaries of Koch Industries of Wichita, KS. They seem to be doing a pretty good job at it. They just about have Arkansas in their bag. When Obama took office, these guys were worth about $20 billion each. Now they are worth about $50 billion each. You have to wonder why they hate Obama so much.
The Club for Growth is an anti-government (anarchistic) group that finances like-thinking politicians. Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas’s 4th District is their poster boy, and he’s running for Democrat Mark Pryor’s Senate seat. Mike Huckabee called that organization the “Club for Greed” because it condemned him for his two finest achievements as Arkansas’s governor: the children’s health program ARKids and the restoration of Arkansas’s Interstate Highways, which truckers had voted the worst in the nation. He’s never forgiven them for that, but otherwise he thinks the same as they do.
A Republican majority will step up its assault on “intrusive government” by demanding further spending cuts. This is a major way to castrate federal agencies. The real purpose is to reduce the likelihood that businesses and corporations will be inspected and fined for any violations, so they can relax or ignore necessary regulations and increase their profits. This leads to several negative domino effects: (1) Public servants are laid off, decreasing the agencies’ effectiveness and increasing unemployment rolls, probably requiring unemployment insurance payments and food stamps; (2) Workers are more likely to face unsafe and unfair working conditions; (3) Consumers will be even more likely to purchase uninspected food, drugs, automobiles, and other products; and (4) All of us will see a decline in air and water quality and further deterioration of our highways and bridges.
According to the polls on the 2014 elections, there is no reason to hope that the Washington situation will get better. It looks like the gridlock will either stay bad, or, if the Fox-Republican-TEA Party gets official control of the Senate, it will get even worse. We deserve better than a sociopathic Congress that only represents the one-percent plutocracy at the expense of the rest of us. Don’t stay home on Election Day unless you truly don’t care.
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published in the October 9, 2014, edition of the Arkansas Times as a letter to the editor.