GOP Offering Little But Clever Slogans
Eighth in a Series
This is the eighth of a series in which Moore County’s Republican and Democratic party chairmen will address various political issues. Today's issue deals with the newly installed Congress. Jim Heim is chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party. Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Click here for Levy's take on the issue.
The new Republican congressional majority was swept into office on a promise to reduce the size and cost of the federal government, repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and prevent gays from marrying — which will somehow enhance personal liberty.
And, of course, on a pledge not to cooperate with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. They’re off to a rocky start.
Part of the pageant was a reading of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor. That exercise added $1.1 million to the deficit, and they felt the need to censor it. Earlier, two GOP representatives forgot to be sworn in as provided in the Constitution.
Having fought during the lame-duck session to increase the federal deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next 10 years by extending the Bush tax cuts, Republicans are now trying to add another $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years by repealing the new health care law. It would appear that deficits are only important as campaign promises.
The current fight over health care is especially instructive. Start with the formal title of the Republican bill, “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law.” Here the GOP combines fourth-graderish name-calling with factual inaccuracy.
From the Congressional Budget Office to every news organization that has studied the issue, the facts are clear: Not only will PPACA not cost jobs, it has already led to the creation of more than 800,000 new jobs in the health insurance industry. Given that the cost of health care to our economy is already 17 percent of the gross domestic product and headed for 25 percent in the next five years, doing nothing is simply not an option.
The GOP says it wants to “repeal and replace” the health care reform just enacted. What do they plan to replace it with? No one knows. Since President Obama took office two years ago, health care reform has been a heavily discussed issue, but in all that time Republicans have been unable to produce a plan of their own.
As they grapple with the federal deficit, GOP lawmakers have catchy slogans but little to offer for specific cuts. Asked by NBC journalist Brian Williams to name a single program he would cut, John Boehner, newly elected House speaker, said, “I don’t think I have one off the top of my head.”
His colleagues seem no more adept at budget-cutting. Most radical is a proposal from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to cut 44 percent from the federal budget. To slash that deeply without cuts to Social Security and the Defense Department would require 89 percent across-the-board reductions everywhere else. No one has explained how that could possibly work.
More immediately worrying is the posturing by Republicans on the issue of raising the federal debt. When the government hits the current spending limit by the end of March, the cap will need to be raised. The negative impact of a failure to do so would rock the world’s economy and do lasting damage to our own.
It’s especially rich to hear Republicans complain about the size of the debt, given that $9 trillion of the $14 trillion total was a result of spending under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
As the 112th Congress begins its work, it’s clear that after all the sloganeering, our new GOP leadership has no actual plan for cutting federal spending and no plan to improve our economy and is ignoring the elephant in the room: unemployment.
The length and depth of our current unemployment situation is unprecedented in modern America. Millions of workers have been unemployed for more than a year, and every month of idleness makes finding a new job that much more difficult. Most will never again earn what they once did.
Lost in the noise of slogans and fear-mongering is the fact that we have another critical concern: energy. Global oil production is at record levels, but the price of a barrel is near $100 and expected to climb. The increased energy consumption of developing nations is outstripping the supply.
We cannot drill our way out of this. A program to develop alternative sources of energy is essential if we are to keep the escalating costs and potential shortages from throttling our economy.
With these important issues on the table, what is the tea party exercised about? Here in Moore County, they’re upset because Congress passed a food-safety bill! Apparently, E. coli is patriotic.
The measure of our new members of Congress will be their ability to move America forward. We have many problems, but none are insoluble. Success will require consensus and compromise, two qualities in short supply, having been purged by the tea party in the last election.
Let’s hope they have the courage to take the risks and govern responsibly.
Jim Heim is chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party. Contact him at email@example.com.
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