Real Issues vs. GOP Issues
The Republican Congress continues to keep busy. For years, most of their efforts have focused on depriving citizens of health care, mainly because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was enacted by the Democrats, led by Satan incarnate, Barack Obama. ‘Repeal and Replace’ was a euphemism for ‘Repeal’, and it was said that this issue would certainly cause Mr. Obama to lose his reelection bid, and Democrats to be swept out of the Senate in 2012.
Despite over 40 votes to repeal the law, all of which were worthless wastes of Congressional time and taxpayer money, since the repeal vote had no chance of being raised in the Democratic-led Senate, Mr. Obama was re-elected, and the Democrats made advances in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The fury to tarnish the Affordable Care Act as a socialist horror which would kill jobs, march the elderly off to death camps and in general bring an end to society as we know it, all seemed to increase as the March 31 deadline for enrollment approached.
Now, however, that deadline has passed, citizens are enrolling in the numbers anticipated, and the U.S. has somehow managed not to implode as a result. So, the GOP, desperate to gain legitimacy, has manufactured a new target: Benghazi.
Now, this writer is not opposed to determining if additional steps could have been taken to ensure the safety of the diplomatic team members who died there. GOP cuts to security budgets might have had an impact, but it’s unlikely they will be studied in too much depth. Rather, what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said and did, or didn’t say or do, or implied, or might possibly have done if Jupiter had aligned properly with Mars, etc., will, of course, be topics of heated discussion.
One shakes one’s head in wonder at the things the U.S.’s elected ‘representatives’ dream up to earn their salaries. Can we look at a few issues that might, perhaps, in an alternate universe, require the attention of Congress?
* Surveillance. In a country that prides itself, for some bizarre and totally undeserved reason, on being a beacon to the rest of the world of freedom and democracy, its citizens must be very careful of what they email to each other, because Big Brother is constantly on the lookout. What’s posted on blogs, sent to friends, and anything else typed into the internet is fair game for government snooping. Mightn’t there be some merit for Congress to look into this situation, and determine if, perhaps, it possibly violates Constitutional rights to privacy?
* Drones. The U.S., while self-proclaiming its ardent desire to spread democracy to all the world, targets invented and alleged enemies in distant locations, and sends unmanned airplanes to kill them. There are several concerns here that Congress might want to explore. Issues of due process seem to be violated when someone is executed without charge, trial, legal counsel or opportunity for appeal. Defenders of this infamous practice quickly point out that these ‘enemies’ are not (usually) U.S. citizens, and so are not entitled to the same rights that U.S. citizens are supposed to enjoy (the myth of that fantasy is a topic for a different essay). So, the U.S. can appoint itself judge, jury and executioner, because it gives itself the right to do so.
Yet, what if another country took it upon itself to act the same way? Would the U.S. accept drones flying over U.S. cities and towns, killing people that that other country determined were enemies? Needless to say, this issue could possibly benefit from some Congressional oversight.
Another problem with drone strikes that Congress might want to schedule a few minutes talking about is ‘collateral damage’. That is, of course, the pretty term for the killing of men, women and children who were not the intended victims of the U.S.’s bizarre definition of democracy and justice, but were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As each innocent victim leaves behind loved ones who now hate the U.S., wouldn’t the U.S. benefit by Congress taking a closer look at this situation, to determine if the ends justify the means? It would be too much to ask that Congress consider the shocking immorality of condoning the killing of innocent people; moral values and Congress do not seem to have more than a nodding acquaintance, and not a very cordial one at that. But perhaps looking at the practical aspects of creating dozens of anti-American activists while killing one or two suspected ones might be worth exploring.
*Employment. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is now down to what it was in 2008, and it wasn’t spectacular then. The Republicans have blocked moves to provide tax incentives for companies that bring jobs back to U.S. soil, or refrain from moving them to nations with cheaper labor. They talk of ‘job-killing tax increases’ on corporations, yet those tax rates were much higher in the 1990s, and 23,000,000 jobs were created during that decade. The idea of offering incentives to U.S. companies to employ U.S. citizens doesn’t seem all that controversial to the casual observer.
*Minimum Wage. One hesitates to even mention this, since the idea of raising the minimum wage seems so terribly controversial in Republican circles. But since studies show that most of those earning minimum wage are working to support their families, it would seem that helping them escape poverty by providing them with a livable wage would have some merit.
But no, these are not issues with which Congress wishes to concern itself. There are, in their minds, more weighty concerns, the main one seeming to be to appeal to their base in order to assure their own reelection. They can do this by attempting to restrict marriage equality, depriving poor children of food, cutting taxes for corporations and offsetting those cuts by shredding the social safety net, often doing it all in the name of some twisted brand of Christianity that Jesus Christ wouldn’t recognize.
The Democrats aren’t much better; while they hesitantly embrace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, they are always watchful to see which way the political wind is blowing in their district. They heartily endorse citizen surveillance and drone strikes, in the sacred name of ‘national security’. And they seem content to wring their hands about lack of movement on increasing the minimum wage, apparently hoping to use it against the Republicans in their own never-ending quest for re-election. Additionally, members of each party are firm believers in being horrified and outraged when members of the other party do something that is horrifying and outrageous, but seem to consider those same behaviors not only acceptable, but commendable, when perpetrated by their own party.
One looks in vain for representatives with integrity who actually work for the people.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Dill Press).