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Grand Old Hypocrisy

The elections are over and there is no doubt the American electorate has made its voice heard. The truth of it is that the voice of the American electorate has become a whining squeal of self-interest, whipped into a frenzy by Republican and Tea Party claims that a vote for the Democrats is a vote for higher taxes, increased debt and lost jobs. “A vote for the Democrats is a vote for Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. It is a vote for socialism and Sharia law.”

This past mid-term election was notable for its vitriol and its surfeit of advertising. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that $858 million was raised by Republican candidates for House and Senate campaign ads, while the Democrats raised $759 million. This doesn’t include State gubernatorial elections or money spent on ballot propositions which were often just as contentious. That means that over $1.6 billion was spent on getting people elected to Congress, and when the whole bill is tallied, that number moves well north of $3 billion.  Now that’s just an estimate and the number could well be higher or lower, but either way that could fund a whole lot of jobs, people.

Politically speaking, I’m a reformed Republican. I supported Reagan back in the day and Bush senior. I felt very strongly that the Republicans reflected middle class values and were the party that looked out for the middle class. The Democrats, on the other hand, I believed were the party of special interests and of sinecures and pork barrels. I got these attitudes basically from my Dad, who was a staunch conservative – he had been an anarchist in his youth and believed that the definition of a good government was a government that stayed out of the people’s lives as much as possible. In many ways, I believe he’s right.

I no longer believe those things. While I don’t have great love for the Democrats, I think the Republicans have changed a great deal. I believe that their entire interest now is not only in keeping the wealth in the hands of the wealthy, but finding ways to increase that wealth, even at the expense of what’s best for the nation. I look at the presidency of George W. Bush and I’m appalled at what he did; the trampling of the Constitution in the name of Homeland Security. Allowing the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Gharib. And, lest we forget, the economic meltdown that occurred on his watch – one that came about because of the economic advisors he’d appointed putting their own selfish financial gains at the expense of the country.

What appalls me even more is that Republican advertising has laid the economic meltdown at the feet of President Obama, even though it occurred before he took office. The fiscal bailouts he made, we are told, yielded no results (which is a patent lie – not only did General Motors get back on its feet, it repaid its bailout loan years ahead of schedule), but the Republican blowhards conveniently don’t mention the billions that President Bush authorized for buying distressed mortgage-related assets; approximately $700 billion dollars worth (although nearly half of it wound up going to buying preferred stock in banks instead). This money didn’t create any jobs nor did it stabilize the economy beyond those of the banks who had made reckless loans to begin with. The Obama stimulus plan, so demonized by conservatives, was $825 billion dollars with provisions to create and save jobs, provide social assistance to those impacted by the recession (including providing money for homeowners to renegotiate their mortgage, allowing them to keep their homes) and tax rebates to the general public, which were seen not in a lump sum but over time in weekly paychecks.

For whatever reason, Democrats seemed unwilling to fight back against Republican smear ads who promised that Democratic candidates were “more of the same,” big spending Washington insiders. However, what are the Republicans but more of the same Bush-era sorts who would leave big business to regulate itself – and we all saw how well that worked.

I realize that this is somewhat of a sour grapes kind of blog this time out, but it is really depressing how many people seem more motivated by self-interest rather than in working together to make things better. Now, I know a lot of my friends and readers are conservatives and Republicans and I’m not saying that every conservative Republican is the spawn of Satan – although I suspect that if you looked carefully you might find some cloven feet on Dick Cheney – and I also realize that many Tea Party activists and conservatives are sincere when they say that they feel the best thing for the country is to repeal the Health care bill, lower taxes and eliminate deficit spending.

I don’t have a crystal ball, and I will certainly be the first to say that I may be completely wrong and Sarah Palin is a genius who gets what America needs better than I do. However, I vehemently disagree with her ideas and policies, and I believe that the American greatness lies in its ability to re-invent itself and rise stronger from adversity. However, I also believe that the American greatness lies in its compassion for those who need help, and when I hear candidates trash the Obama health care plan, I can only shake my head in disbelief.

First of all, the health care system needs reform badly. We are allowing medical decisions to be made based on the basis of cost rather than what is best for a patient as determined by their doctor. We have many cases of insurance companies denying treatments to patients that put their lives at risk; by the time the patient is successful in bringing suit against the insurance companies, they often have already died from their disease. There is evidence that doctors employed by insurance companies (as well as non-medical employees) were given financial incentives to deny care. There are far more of those types of stories than there are of Canadians flocking across the border to get care in the U.S. In fact, the Canadian health care system is consistently ranked higher than our own.

However, those that rail about the expense of “Obamacare” rarely have any alternatives to health care reform other than to have things remain as they are. Certainly the insurance companies would like to see that happen. We hear about small businesses being forced to carry health care insurance; the reality is that business that employ less than 50 people will not be affected; only those who employ 50 people or more and quite frankly, when you’re starting to get into that many people working for you, you should be offering health insurance.

There is also the same tired old refrain that the health care plan will bankrupt the country; the truth is that according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office which is as close to being impartial as any agency can be, says that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the formal name for Obamacare) will actually reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the first decade, then an additional $1.2 trillion over the second. Even if this weren’t the case, wouldn’t you think that helping people in need – sick people in particular – is only the Christian thing to do?

There just seems to be so much hypocrisy in the political debate these days, certainly not all of it on the Republican side but it seems to me that there is more of it on the right than there is on the left. As I said, I bear no love towards the Democrats who have failed in my estimation to deliver on their campaign promises of 2008, who continue to be just as in the pockets of special interests as Republican candidates are in the pockets of big business.

The sad fact of our national disgrace is that our elections are run by big money and only the very rich can afford to run for office, meaning that the ordinary citizen literally has no voice in national government. Both parties are just as much to blame for this state of affairs. We need to take money out of the equation of the election promise and impose term and spending limits as well as limit the ability for businesses, PACs and lobby groups to contribute to campaigns, as well as restrict access to politicians once the campaign is over. If the Tea Party would boldly come out for campaign spending reform, for transparency in the process so that we can see where the money for outside spending in campaigns is coming from, I would be more willing to give them some slack, but these seemingly simple, sensible things are something that conservative Republicans are fighting against. Recently, George Will spoke out against campaign spending reform on ABC News, espousing the donation campaign funds as a form of free speech, wondering “The question is, do you have to notify the government before you can speak on politics?”

Well, yes you do if you have an agenda. Money itself doesn’t speak but the source of the money does. If oil companies are donating millions of dollars for a senate campaign in Louisiana, don’t voters deserve to know that? That’s what I mean by hypocrisy; the unwillingness to conduct your affairs in the light of day, then portray yourself as the white knight charging in to save America. Personally, I’d like to know who’s paying for the armor before that knight rides into battle.

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