The more things change, the more they stay the same”. This venerable adage applies to the newly crowned Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Despite their vows to bring transparency to political deliberations, they have emulated former Vice President Dick Cheney’s much criticized closed door sessions in which a one-sided national energy policy was formulated with industry representatives.
In the House Republicans’ case, the secret consultations with industry involved rescinding regulations imposed on those companies, an action that would directly impact everyone’s lives and as such, entitle the American people to full disclosure.
If that clandestine preferential treatment weren’t bad enough, the Tea Party loyalists in the House GOP are in even a greater state of denial towards social equity and the environmental threats that we face. One need only note that as part of that faction’s plan to reduce the national debt and create jobs, their proposed budget cuts reflect a shocking mix of ignorance and lack of compassion.
Let’s forget for the moment the devastating consequences of Republicans throwing protection of public health and environment to the winds. There is a serious question whether they could cut taxes and roll back regulation enough to entice American industry away from the lure of cheap labor abroad and the steady export of jobs to foreign shores.
Tea Party Republicans’ so-called Spending Reduction Act would eliminate funding and essentially signal the demise of virtually all high speed rail mass transit, including Amtrak. If successful, such a move would contribute to serious degradation of national air quality and lay the groundwork for even worse vehicular traffic congestion than now exists.
The Conservative Tea Party block calls for ending the weatherization program that provides the poor with protection from winter cold, a heartless budgetary deletion if ever there were one. But they don’t stop there. They advocate “power to the people”, yet acquiesce with a corporate takeover of our democracy by proposing a phase out of public financing of Presidential elections.
They seek to slash federal funding for research at the United Nations on global climate change, reflecting either ignorance or indifference towards a major environmental challenge of our times and the need for a coordinated international response.
They want to “sell excess federal property”. We know what that means. Take parcels that are potentially prized additions to our national parks and auction them off to the private sector.
They would slash the budget of the U.S. Agency for International Development to the point of crippling the agency. In doing so, they display a failure to grasp the fundamental interconnection between our fate and that of other nations in a world dramatically compacted by modern telecommunication and other technologies trans-boundary in scope.
If we need to cut spending to reduce the budget deficit, how are we going to finance the vital programs on the GOP chopping block?
We can start with our military, where the more than 500 billion dollars we spend annually on weaponry exceeds the combined total of the next 14 nations on the armaments ladder. And yes, part of the solution may well mean some form of tax increase. After all, one ultimately gets what one pays for, and we have often escaped responsibility for the bill, thanks in large part to an enormous infusion of money borrowed from the Chinese.
As the debate heats up, Washington needs to be reminded: solvency isn’t worth a damn without humanity.
Edward Flattau’s fourth book Green Morality is now available.