Ten Republican Senators have come up with an alternative to Biden’s COVID Relief Plan. Biden has asked for $1.9 trillion in relief covering a number of areas where relief should help bolster the lives of individuals and the American economy. He explains that experts were consulted and they did the math.
Republicans are offering a bill that totals $600 billion in relief, less than 1/3 of the amount experts say is needed. They know of Biden’s desire to be bipartisan and they have cleverly played him. Now the media is on President Biden’s case, broadcasting everywhere that if he doesn’t give the Republican plan serious consideration, negotiate with them, and come up with a compromise that he will have thrown bipartisanship out the window from the get-go.
There is certainly the possibility of entertaining a different take on this whole charade. Susan Collins, who is leading the charge, all smiles because she loves the media attention, is hardly a trustworthy actor. She claims the high ground in proposing supposedly bipartisan legislation but she often backs down at crunch time.
Isn’t it also a bit humiliating to already question Biden’s ability to assess the needs of the nation? Doesn’t this ridiculously low ball offer reek of condescension? Aren’t Republicans, as always, painting Democrats as big spenders who don’t mind tanking the American economy? If you look back at our tanking economies they followed Republican administrations, and Democrats were stuck with turning the economy around every time. Real bipartisanship would be if Republicans were to come on board with the Biden plan in a show of confidence. They are not being bipartisan; they are being insulting.
It has been true through many administrations that every time Democrats came up with a solution for problems that plague the poorest Americans, the hard-working middle class, those who have suffered from disaster either natural or manmade, that the Republicans have doubted the American people’s honesty and have believed that some people would accept government aid forever (the deadbeats).
Republicans have made people go through complicated bureaucratic processes to take part in programs like unemployment, food stamps, and Medicaid, while attaching a stigma to those who had to make use of such programs. Republicans never approve the funding that would make such programs really effective. In the name of cutting costs and lowering the deficit they cut the funding enough to affect the outcomes of the programs. Then Republicans claim that government programs don’t work.
And so it goes with COVID relief. Offer a bare bones relief package that is too small to meet the needs of the moment and then use the ineffectiveness of Democratic legislation as a Republican selling point in the next election, or at least to prevent Democrats from being able to campaign on their successes.
The Republicans know how to play the media and they know that Biden might look bad if he doesn’t take the supposedly bipartisan bait. But this bait is just another poison pill, cheap bait that looks bipartisan but actually isn’t.
Republicans take every opportunity to sell Americans on believing that the American government bears no responsibility to take care of its citizens, even in a pandemic, and that starving both citizens and the economy will be better for our financial recovery than any assistance the federal government could offer. Republicans are not only insulting America’s new President. They are protecting their new ‘small’ government from the neediness of ordinary (not wealthy) Americans. You’re on your own, but it will be ‘bipartisan’. The Republican ‘relief’ plan is an offer Biden cannot accept, but it appears that he is damned if he does accept it, and damned if he doesn’t. That’s some kind of phony bipartisanship.
We are all adults here. We know that good and evil are never completely separate from each other. We also know that we have the potential for both good and evil within us. We also are aware that for whatever reasons (nature or nurture) there are people who do not seem able to tell good and evil apart, people who cannot suppress harmful impulses, people who make bad choices, and people who go down bad pathways.
We don’t expect that people will wear white hats or black hats so we can tell who might harm us. We know there may be a side that heeds the “light” and a “dark side,” but most of us have access to both kinds of impulses. We try to cut people some slack if we find that they are starting to act out of character, or when an aspect of their character seems to turn more dark than light. (I’m using this tired Star Wars analogy because it is a shared cultural meme.)
In politics this knowledge that we all contain both good and evil is the philosophy behind both-sides-ism. This is the basis of the statement that, “The Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans.” Well when it comes to corruption and money this might be true. There are just as many Democrats who seem to come away from Washington rich as there are
Republicans. At least conventional wisdom says this is so.
But when it comes to governance, and the agenda each side has for the America people, it has become clear that Democrats are moving to the “light” side and Republicans have chosen to champion the “dark side”. Democrats have passed a number of bills addressing issues the American people care about: gun control legislation, drug price controls, LGBTQ rights, paycheck fairness guarantees, a bill to secure elections and make it easier for people to vote, a bill to protect immigrant children born in America (dreamers), a Climate Action Now bill, a bill to restore the Violence Against Women Act, and a Save the Internet Act.
All these bills are sitting in the Senate because Mitch McConnell will not bring them to the floor for a vote and if he did bring them to the floor they would be voted down. But why? Each one of these bills secures a right for some or all American people. There is not one thing contained in these bills that should be considered injurious or that would have a negative effect on America or the American people. Even the most controversial bills protect rights for a segment of America.
Why is it that Republicans can get away with acting as if being born as an LGBTQ individual is a sin that will rub off on anyone of faith who gets near a same-sex couple or doesn’t try conversion therapy on a perhaps already-‘gobsmacked’ teen. In fact why should it be traumatic at all to find out about your sexual preferences? Why would a person of faith assume that it is fine, in fact required by God, to treat any person in this group as unacceptable, or even criminal?
For over two centuries people who were stolen from their homes and sold in America as slaves have been considered by “religious” Americans as less-than-human even as they fathered children by indiscriminately forcing enslaved women to lie with them and they could see that procreation was possible (thus proving the humanity of dark-skinned folks).
Haven’t we already been through this with people who claim that they believe these things because they are conservative when the rest of us can see that they are really just intolerant or bigoted patterns of behavior. People who identify as right-wingers want us to believe that immigrants are also subhuman. While there might be valid reasons that a nation cannot allow itself to be overrun with too many migrant people at one time, and while it may be true that some migrant people could be nursing hate for the land they want to enter, pretending that people are not human enough to live among us takes the fear just a bit too far. It takes it into the “dark side”. It appears that migrations will increase worldwide so it would seem better for the world’s nations to make a plan to make the upheaval of settled populations less unsettling.
It gets tiresome to keep tolerating hate and fear. It prevents a nation from looking to the future and coming up with reasonable ways to solve problems that are trending in the world at a particular time (such as migration due to climate change). These supposedly conservative, republican people are letting themselves be taken over by the “dark side” and there is no rational purpose for sympathizing with them except that they tend to get scary when challenged. They are wrong-headed and we know that they are holding us all back.
For some reason the entire Republican Party has gone over to the “dark side.” They insist that they are saving a nation that they are actually killing. Even before Trump was elected in 2016, Republicans wanted things that helped the Party and the wealthy far more than the people they promised to serve. Elite Republicans in the Senate could never have inspired the Tea Party. Talk Radio and Fox News did that. And they were the warm-up act for Trump.
Why would ordinary Americans, either urban or rural, care about tax cuts that only benefited the wealthiest Americans and corporations. These folks were sold a bill of goods; the trickle-down bill of goods. The Republicans at the base of the party were promised their factories back, which the Republican Party had to know was a lie. Republicans have experts to advise them on economics. The Republicans stick to trickle-down because the money trickles into their own bank accounts and stock portfolios.
Why would average Americans care about state’s rights? I doubt if many people who work every day have spent a lot of time thinking about what the US would be like if the state’s individually had more power than the federal government. Chaos is not conducive to peaceful productive lives, nor does it make America a great place to raise your children. If every individual state made its own laws things would begin to feel complicated.
Why would people who live in states that are destroyed time and again by ever fiercer storms like to see rules passed to stop protecting people from toxic environmental anomalies? We see the tracks of people’s grief, homes turned to splinters. The only reason I can think of is that these folks have been convinced by media that our factories left because those awful Democrats forced them to follow environmental rules. That may have been part of why factories left but cheap labor and new markets were the real temptations to stray.
Why would people fight against the Medicaid expansion that Obama offered and cheer on their red state when it turned the federal money down? These were people without jobs at the time. They needed health care. Why did they vote against their own interests? Tradition? Brainwashing? The fear of creeping socialism planted in their brains by the instruments of propaganda.
It is called budgeting when the American people decide how they want to spend their tax dollars. If they want to spend on programs that help parents who work, help people afford good health care and meds, help turn out productive young people by subsidizing the cost of good post-high school training or education, on updating infrastructure, that is the people’s business. It is not socialism.
Republicans were already going about the business of dismantling bipartisan government and remaking it in the image that was hammered out in meetings between Conservatives, corporate heavies like the Koch’s and Evangelicals. How many people cared about whether Creationism should be taught in schools before these right-wing believers convinced them that this is not a nation that guarantees religious freedom to all; this is a Christian nation they say, and Christians believe in creationism, not evolution. It is so hard to argue that Christians have gone over to the “dark side” but they have. It is no longer easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. Now if you are wealthy you are chosen by God and he proved it by making you rich. That’s not in the Bible I read, however.
If the Republican Party has gone to the “dark side” then Trump is their perfect minion, although now transformed into their “anything-can-happen” boss. He is not even Darth Vader, because Vader still had some light in him. He is Supreme Leader Snoke, that man so evil that he did not realize how ugly he had become. Take heart. Although Snoke did have power, he was not quite as invincible as he believed himself to be .
Trump also has a very weird effect on people. He can turn them into absolute loyalists who scurry to do his bidding even though this corruption could destroy our American dream. Toadyism turns our government representatives, who pledged an oath to uphold the documents that make our country a republic, into something too terrible to contemplate, something we have spent 240 years trying to stave off.
Even if we get rid of Trump as we need to do, we are left with the shameless and lawless Republican Party. I cannot believe that people still interview Republicans and pretend that Democrats are deliberately refusing to be bipartisan when it is totally the other way around. Republicans no longer have a bipartisan bone in their bodies. The only reason I can see for them to behave as they do is because of their ‘Grand Plan’ to take over our government and remake it according to reactionary right-wing visions; to keep our country tied to fossil fuels even if it kills our economy and our planet; and to never again have to listen to a “liberal” idea.
Unless the Republican Party gives up its not-so-shadowy takeover agenda and turns back into a party that helps steer us and keep us somewhat fiscally cautious as we move forward, either the Republican Party will die or the Grand American experiment will. Under the ‘Republican Plan’ we will all become ‘sad’ little subjects of some leader’s capricious whims for many, many ‘sad’ years.
No amount of power, no amount of stockpiled money will suffice to assure that you can keep the future at bay through stubborn will. Despite many flaws recounted in the news every day (we all have flaws) we need to let Democrats lead for enough years to guide us smoothly into what promises to be an increasingly global future as leaders of a nation involved in determining what that future will look like.
Compromising with Segregationists and Old School Bipartisanship
Biden talked this week about compromising with some pretty stubborn and reprehensible segregationists because it was the only way anything could get done. You would think someone who said hateful racist things every day in Congress and blocked programs designed to effectively lift up the children of slaves and other Americans of African descent would have a difficult time in Congress and in elections. You would think s/he (usually a he) would be shunned and ignored. But this has not been the case in America or in the American Congress. Because these men loved to make outrageous racist arguments to prevent black Americans from assimilating into mainstream culture, the media knew that giving these crude voices a bullhorn was a moneymaker. We seem to enjoy whatever is most outrageous, or perhaps some of us just enjoy feeling outraged, however powerless we feel to do anything about it.
So when Biden says that he compromised with segregationists and got things done, it is possible to conclude that the compromises that were made in Biden’s days, and throughout our history, gave us legislation with all the teeth taken out of it.
Conservatives and segregationists may not have had rabid racism in common but they do not like spending money on social programs and they all do have that in common. Because they don’t believe desegregation is desirable or is the province of government every program is assembled piecemeal out of stony opposition and supposedly plain-spoken debate that is actually prejudice, and by the time the assistance program appears in its final form it is watered down almost beyond any hope of proving effective.
Conservatives also worry about the few people who will abuse the system far more than they appreciate the numbers of people who could benefit from the system. To counter real and imagined felonious tendencies of recipients of programs – programs that are supposed to help equalize opportunities for all Americans, to at least provide for basic needs in order to allow people to satisfy higher needs like owning a home or getting a certificate or degree to lead to a better job – the process of obtaining assistance is made so onerous that receiving what was supposed to offer a lift up becomes stigmatizing and demoralizing.
Why have the problems of our inner cities been so stubborn? Why have some black folks been essentially trapped in our inner cities, or in segregated neighborhoods? Given all the time and money dedicated to eradicating differences in opportunities why are so many black people still so poor? Why are so many black people in jail? Why have other groups been eventually accepted in the fold and able to climb the economic ladder?
Conservatives like to pretend that Americans of African descent have low IQ’s and that this makes them inferior to white people. How much of this is still resentment about losing their property? How much of this is still resentment about losing the Civil War? How much of this is about the way the demise of the plantation system changed the entire economy of the South and left it languishing until factories began to leave the North and migrate to the old slave states? How much of this is simply about the color of someone’s skin?
How much of this is the fault of these ancestors of the very people who snatched Africans from their homes to enslave them? How much of this is because of laws that did not allow slaves to learn to read and write? If you prevent people from being educated you really cannot turn around and deride them for being “ignorant”. How much of Conservatives’ active moves to undermine all attempts at desegregation arise from fear that vengeance will be wreaked one day?
We understand the roots of racism pretty well, but we have been far less successful at ridding ourselves of this unwarranted prejudice. So when we passed a welfare program to give struggling folks living in areas of stubborn poverty a living wage recipients became Welfare Queens and those Welfare Queens were black.
Pretty soon poor white and black folks, many of them single females with children or families with absent fathers, were required to either go to work or go to school, even though they might have to make less than satisfactory arrangements for their children. This put their children into situations that left them behind other children in school, or perhaps exposed them to traumatizing adult situations that then made it difficult for them to socially adjust to schooling.
We funded housing programs, but white neighborhoods with better schools were made unavailable to black folks through informal white segregationist practices like red-lining. Thus people could get assistance with low rent housing with all its inadequacies but they could not buy a home outside of the inner city neighborhoods. These neighborhoods had the advantage of creating and solidifying black unity, and the disadvantages of gangs and violence that come from a need to have control over at least a small corner of the world as your own space and a pathway, however illegal, to wealth.
The intent of these programs may have been to tear down invisible walls that were separating black and white people, especially economically. However we will never know if these programs would have worked if they were allowed to stick to their original configurations and intentions. Compromising with segregationists turned them into reluctant and temporary kinds of assistance that subjected recipients to a loss of personal pride and did not end up lifting any one up. We chose a path and we will never know if the other path would have been better.
I think that today’s Progressive Dems and the apparently despised Liberals are saying that perhaps those Democrats who felt that compromise was a good thing were wrong; that giving in to racists cannot offer any benefits to America or to Americans.
They may also be sad that fifty years or more were wasted. It is likely that we have caused the very problems that haunt our inner cities by allowing what should have been supportive services designed to end segregation to be subverted by segregationists through the very compromises that allowed the laws to be passed. In other words, compromise took all the heart out of the laws and injected meanness.
If bipartisanship means compromises like these blasts from the past, Democrats can no longer afford to compromise at all. This is even more true because Mitch McConnell, drunk on the power of “no”, will never allow for bipartisan compromise as long as he controls the majority in the Senate.