Nel's New Day

June 10, 2013

Political Civil War in the U.S.

Conservative Republicans want to shut down government—except for all the benefits they get from Social Security, Medicare, etc. According to Robert Reich, they’ve succeeded. “No jobs agenda. No budget. No grand bargain on the deficit. No background checks on guns. Nothing on climate change. No tax reform. No hike in the minimum wage. Nothing so far on immigration reform.”

The third leg of the government stool to support people has been broken. The branch designed to create law has disappeared, leaving only the sequester that destroys both the country’s infrastructure and limits national defense. Control has moved to the states which have become more and more mono-partied, politically speaking. Both the legislatures and governor’s offices have one-party control in 37 states, 24 GOP and 13 Dem. Only a dozen states are split, and Nebraska claims to have a non-partisan legislature. Obviously, the blue states stay moderate or move left while red states pull in the opposite direction.

In blue Minnesota, hikes in the top income tax rate, increased cigarette taxes, and elimination of some corporate tax loopholes resulted in funding for better education and economic development. Early-childhood education has expanded, and state universities have frozen tuition costs. The state budget deficit has shrunk. Similar success has occurred in California, Colorado, and Maryland. California actually has a budget surplus.

In bright-red Kansas, the higher-education budget was cut by almost five percent, and Gov. Sam Brownback—who occasionally considers running for U.S. president—wants to repeal state income tax and replace it with an increase in sales tax to shift taxes from the wealthy to the middle class and poor. North Carolina millionaires are close to saving $12,500 a year, as sales taxes on electricity and other services for the poor will be raised. Missouri has shaved 50 percent from its transportation budget from five years ago.

Social issues are equally split. Twelve states and the District of Columbia legalized marriage equality, and two states made recreational marijuana use legal. Red states are clamping down on abortions even more; in Alabama, a woman has to wait longer to get an abortion than to buy a gun. Blue states have made it harder to buy a gun, while red states have relaxed laws. In Texas, it’s legal to shoot someone who’s committing a “public nuisance” in the dark, for example, maybe someone spray-painting a highway underpass.

Health care is split between red and blue states because conservative states are refusing to accept over $8 billion in federal funding for Medicaid, with the feds picking up almost the entire health care tab for the poor.

There was a time when the term “one nation” in the Pledge of Allegiance had meaning, but no longer. The wealthy will move to states that give them the greatest advantages while the poor may move to ones that provide better services. It’s literally a race to the bottom.

Despite the attempt of blue states to provide safety to their residents, the spillover from red states allowing anyone to buy guns—even felons and the mentally ill—means that these weapons will end up in states with background checks and other restrictions. States that provide good public education may find these young people moving to cheaper states after graduation.

Minorities are also losing any ability to elect government representatives. The term “states’ rights” has included the attempts of whites to oppress voting for blacks. Red states can allow white supremacists to control voting districts that eliminate the voting power of minorities.

The control of the destructive Tea Party concerns even moderate to conservative GOP members. In Oklahoma, the state legislators’ response to a tornado killing 24 people and destroying millions of dollars of property was to defund Planned Parenthood. GOP state Rep. Doug Cox answered this action with an op-ed piece asking whether his Republican colleagues live in “the real world.”  As a medical doctor, he mourns the fact that his GOP colleagues fail to understand the importance of family planning:

“I cannot convince my Republican colleagues that one of the best ways to eliminate abortions is to ensure access to contraception. A recent attempt by my fellow lawmakers to prevent Medicaid dollars from covering the ‘morning after’ pill is a case in point. Denying access to this important contraceptive is a sure way to increase legal and back-alley abortions. Moreover, such a law would discriminate against low-income women who depend on Medicaid for their health care.

“But wait, some lawmakers want to go even further and limit everyone’s access to birth control by allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraception.

“What happened to the Republican Party that I joined? … What happened to the Republican Party that felt that the government has no business being in an exam room, standing between me and my patient? Where did the party go that felt some decisions in a woman’s life should be made not by legislators and government, but rather by the women, her conscience, her doctor and her God?”

The conservatives have become so obstructive that they labeled former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as leftist during the hearings for his appointment to Secretary of Defense. They only accepted Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as the new Secretary of State because they thought they could replace him with a Republican, a decision to determined by a special election on June 25.

Who does the president have to nominate to avoid these internecine wars in the Senate for appointment? Or who can’t he appoint? Here are a few individuals destined for GOP rejection:

Thomas Jefferson: “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Barry Goldwater: Objections to this person crediting with inspiring modern conservatism would be that he supported LGBT rights, abortion, and, later on, denunciations of the religious right. From time to time, he also defended President Bill Clinton.

Santa Claus: Conservatives would hate the fact that he gives away “free stuff.”

Ronald Reagan: His record of backing moderate immigration policies and championing union rights would make him anathema to the GOP. He also supported gun control and pulled U.S. troops from Lebanon, making him rife for accusations of “cutting and running” from terrorists.

Mitt Romney: The New York Times reported about his “administration relentlessly scour(ing) the tax code for loopholes.” Even corporate tax loopholes. His health care act was also the model for Obamacare, considered by the GOP as socialism or Nazism.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: In a speech soon before he left the presidency after two terms, he warned the nation about the threat to a democratic government—”the immense military establishment” joined with “a large arms industry.” His concern was that this military-industrial complex would take resources from other areas such as building hospitals and schools. He also said, “We must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.”

Dick Cheney: As defense secretary, he oversaw the last big push for cutting the defense budget and derided neocons, claiming that invading Baghdad and occupy Iraq would cause the United States to be mired in an unwinnable “quagmire.” Conservatives probably won’t notice that he got over this attitude as leader of the free world during George W. Bush’s two terms.

Theodore Roosevelt: Conservatives would see him as a radical environmentalist who attacks property rights because, according to the National Park Service, “Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments.” He protected—or as Republican senators would claim, “socialized”—230 million acres of public land.

Jesus Christ: Conservatives would oppose him for many reasons, including support for peace, belief that the meek inherits the Earth, criticism of the right, advocacy for the poor, willingness to change water into wine without a profit, giving free healthcare to those in need, and opposition to free market economics.

God: He would be viewed as a Big Government ideologue. Just consider the Fourth Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath Day”) and the Eighth and Tenth (orders against stealing and coveting) as violations of free market capitalism.

Major polls out a couple of weeks ago, however, show a growing distaste for the Republican party: support is up to 52 percent for Democrats and unfavorable opinions of Republicans is up to 59 percent. The GOP standing is at its third-lowest point since CNN started polling on this issue twenty years ago. Asked whether Congress is concentrating on issues important personally, 43 percent said Democrats have the correct priorities while only 33 percent said the same about Republicans.

President Obama’s approval rating continues to rise. And these polls were taken after Republican legislators tried to smear him with their manufactured scandals of Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP reporter subpoenas.

Now the GOP hopes that the leaks about the National Security Administration collecting metadata on everyone will drop the president’s ratings. They might want to remember that the GOP initiated this problem.

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