GOP Strategy: Distract Democrats and Restore Bush Policies

The Washington Post reported late last night that Republicans are determined to keep in place the Bush policies we fought so hard to get out from under. The policies that have driven this country to the edge of the cliff of disaster, “Even as they hammer Democrats for running up record budget deficits, Senate Republicans are rolling out a plan to permanently extend an array of expiring tax breaks that would deprive the Treasury of more than $4 trillion over the next decade, nearly doubling projected deficits over that period unless dramatic spending cuts are made.” [….]

We cannot afford to get amnesia about the worst administration in modern history and the fifth worst in US history.[….] On every issue, the American people suffered under the Bush administration from the war in Iraq, the soldiers’s families who had to pay for proper protective gear because the Bush administration would not. The unfunded No Child Left Behind Act, the unfunded $534 billion dollar Medicare debacle, the USA Patriot Act and the loss of our freedoms, the loss of our good standing in the world arena due to the torture camps that ignored the Geneva Convention. Remember it was President Bush who authorized the use of water-boarding and other highly controversial interrogation practices, despite the fact that “U.S. Army Field Manuals assert ‘that harsh interrogation tactics elicit unreliable information.’” The loss of 4.5 million jobs between 2007 and the beginning of 2009. And Bush’s economic meltdown that transformed a $128 billion annual budget surplus into a $1.2 trillion deficit. Even Republicans were appalled at Bush’s penchant to spend and leave bare our coffers.

Bush’s approval rating in May 2008 was 28% and falling. And now the House and Senate minority leaders, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, want us to return to the Bush administration policies. This is no easy task for them to accomplish. In order to turn the American people back to a time of total upheaval, the GOP must launch unseemly and unprecedented attacks not just on the President but on the American people. And they have the support of the deep pockets of the Koch brothers (Rupert Murdoc) and Fox News in order to accomplish their goal.

Scoring Political Points By Distraction

Photo by Michael Appleton NY Times

The building of a community center in lower-Manhattan by a group of law-abiding citizens who just happen to practice Islam has proven to be yet another golden moment for Republicans to score political points. First of all, if you lived in New York City, you would understand that the synergy between blocks, while geographically close to each other, are worlds apart. The same group of people owned the same building practicing the same religion for the past 30 years. There are already two Mosques that are near ground zero; one four blocks away and one 12 blocks away. At one Mosque, parishioners have a traditional approach to their religious practice. At the other, parishioners have a more cosmopolitan, New York style approach to Islam. [….]

President Obama came out early on in this unnecessary debate, urging Americans to call on their sense of reason and humanity, and embrace the pillars of freedom of religion, among others, that this country was founded on. The GOP saw a moment to score political points with the far right of their party and instead of joining in the chorus of their Commander-in-Chief (like it or not, President Obama is President to everyone in this nation), they chose to fan the flames of bigotry and hate.

Immediately following the President’s statement, House Minority Leader John Boehner said, “The decision to build this mosque so close to the site of ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it.” Rep. King (R-NY) said, “The right and moral thing for President Obama to have done was to urge Muslim leaders to respect the families of those who died and move their mosque away from Ground Zero. Unfortunately the president caved into political correctness.” Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said, “There is nothing surprising in the president’s continued pandering to radical Islam … What he said last night is untrue and in accurate. The fact is this is not about religious liberty.” [….] Gingrich is right. This is not about religious liberty; its about using hate and bigotry to promote their own hate and bigotry.

Meanwhile back at the House of Representatives, House Republicans banned together [save for 12] and voted “No” on the 9/11 Health Care Bill that would have provided much needed health insurance coverage to 9/11 victims and their families. See Rep. Weiner (D-NY) on the floor of the vote.

Photo: AFP

Meanwhile, back at the House of Representatives, Boehner and others are hopeful that we all remain glued to the television, watching scenes of protestors for the community center, against the community center and against those who are against the community center and that minister’s spokesman and the press conferences they held. (Where did the “spokesman”come from? And how does a minister from a small town with a parish of 50 manage to hire a spokesman and fly up to New York City for several days at the drop of a hat?). They hope the distraction of these events will keep us occupied while they try to slip in an amendment that would critically cut the new health care Act. Naturally, we caught that and a flood of emails, phone calls and letters were sent out immediately to lawmakers, urging them to preserve the health care act and vote no on the Republican’s attempt to weaken it.

Added to the noise dé jour were the final primaries held over this week and last. Meanwhile, insurance companies no doubt wanted to take advantage of all that noise and began filing to raise health care premiums by as much as 20 percent (in Connecticut). Their new battle cry is to blame their proposed increases on the new health care law because they are no longer allowed to deny their clients coverage based on pre-existing conditions and other regulations that the new law has enacted. Fortunately, US Health Secretary Sebelius took notice of these announcements and issued a warning to the insurance industry’s bad faith practices, stating:

There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter to the insurance lobby. … “Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections,” She warned that bad actors may be excluded from new health insurance markets that will open in 2014 under the law. They’d lose out on a big pool of customers, as many as 30 million people nationwide.[….] See also, Insurers Target Health Reform.”

If the American people followed the path back to the Bush era that Boehner and McConnell are pushing, we will go back to a time when health care costs were crushing our economy and killing our citizens, while insurance industry top level management enjoyed obscene bonuses and salary increases.

Bush had a Medicare bill. His unfunded Medicare bill at the outset was projected to cost $534 billion and rising over a 10 year period. That bill did little to help the American people but it did a lot to deliver more subsidies and tax breaks to the pharmaceutical industry, HMOs and doctors.

Bush turned a blind eye to regulations and cut them out when and wherever he could. The lack of checks and balances in our financial and insurance industries were bordering catastrophic. Let’s not forget the Harvard study that shocked us all by documenting nearly 45,000 working American citizens die each year because of lack of health insurance. Nor should we forget the Harvard study that documented 62 percent of the personal bankruptcies filed in 2007 [under the Bush Administration] were caused by health problems – and 78 percent of those filing had insurance.

Under President Obama, we realized the creation of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. An agency that is tasked with ensuring the necessary checks and balances are in place and enforced to prevent banks and financial institutions from fleecing the American people. Boehner, McConnell and the majority of the GOP are at the ready to block the appointment of Harvard law professor, Elizabeth Warren, to head up the new bureau most likely in an effort to marginalize the President and hamper the new bureau from doing its job. [….]

Under Bush, jobs and the economy were beyond dismal. The recession began in 2007 under the Bush administration and not on January 21, 2009. Jobs and the economy were on a death march. Over 4.5 million jobs were lost during that time period. [….]

There is much in the news about the Bush tax cuts expiration. The President wants to correct their unfairness and put back the tax cuts to the wealthy at the rate they were under President Clinton, while cutting taxes that were imposed on the rest of us. Boehner and McConnell have come up with a plan of their own. It’s all or nothing. If Republicans get their way, “it will cost the government an estimated $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.”[….]  And guess who would bare the brunt of the Republican plan? Average American citizens.

Bush left our education system in total shambles as well. His test-centered, unfunded No Child Left Behind Act did little to change the course of a system falling apart at the seams. Even a former staunch conservative supporter of the NCLB has changed her mind.

In 2005, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch wrote, “We should thank President George W. Bush and Congress for passing the No Child Left Behind Act … All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents’ generation.” [….]

Four years later, Ravitch changed her mind as noted in her book, The Death And Life Of The Great American School System. She states in chapter six that, “My support for NCLB remained strong until November 30, 2006. I can pinpoint the date exactly because that was the day I realized that NCLB was a failure. I went to a conference at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. — a well-respected conservative think tank — to hear a dozen or so scholars present their analysis of NCLB’s remedies. Organized by Frederick M. Hess and Chester E. Finn Jr., the conference examined whether the major remedies prescribed by NCLB — especially choice and after-school tutoring — were effective. Was the “NCLB toolkit” working? Were the various sanctions prescribed by the law improving achievement? The various presentations that day demonstrated that state education departments were drowning in new bureaucratic requirements, procedures, and routines, and that none of the prescribed remedies was making a difference. [….]

Where Are We Today?

Nearly 7,000 students dropout of high school every day during an academic school year, totalling an average of 1,226,000 dropping out every year. Purely on an economic level, the loss to our economy from these students not being able to contribute, coupled with the rising costs of taking care of them as low-to-no wage earners and eventual, potential incarceration, fluctuates between $30 and $40 billion annually. So we end up with an unfunded Act compounded with the cost of taking care of the students that are left behind, compounded with the reduced quality of life for these students and the reduced economic life of the communities they live in. Quite frankly, there’s nothing to “go back” to here.

Remember “too-big-to-fail” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Had Bush pushed for tougher oversight on these two giants, we may have avoided the housing market crash, or, at the very least, softened the blow a bit. Now Boehner and McConnell are trying to shift the blame to President Obama for this mess. It wasn’t on his watch. It was on theirs along with President Bush.

In eight years, former President Bush helped transform a $128 billion annual budget surplus into a $1.2 trillion deficit. [….] And Boehner and McConnell expect the American people just to give in, give up and embrace the far right’s rhetoric grounded in hate and bigotry, funded by the Koch brothers and branded by Fox News. We suffered through the Bush kool-aide making process, but we did not drink the brew. We will not go back to one of the worst decades this country has experienced since the great depression. No doubt, Boehner and McConnell are living off that kool-aide.

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