Is President Obama's attempt to "reach across the isle" a waste of time or will it pay off in the future? Like many, I was disappointed to see 100% of House Republicans vote against the proposed Stimulus Bill--but not surprised. Conventional thinking is that Republicans, by voting no, will be in a better position to take back the Congress and the White House, should the stimulus fail. No one can say for sure exactly what needs to happen nor can anyone promise that the proposed stimulus will work but there is no argument that we are in the direst financial situation since the 1930's. "The U.S. economy suffered its biggest slowdown in 26 years in the last three months of 2008," says Dean Baker, co-director of Center for Economic and Policy Research. From Krugman to Friedman to Feldstein, all agree that immediate action is necessary. How, I ask, can Republicans in the face of all this economic disaster put their own political fortunes ahead of the welfare of the entire country? Does the big radio ape (I refuse to dignify anything by the use of his name) really speak for the Republican Party?
Republicans sent emails to reporters stating their objections to the Stimulus because it included: 50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts, 150 million to insure honey bee farmers, 335 million for preventing sexually transmitted diseases, 150 million for repairs to the Smithsonian Institution, 426 million for the CDC, 20 million to remove fish barriers in rivers, and 25 million to clear off-road trails. Republicans can certainly ask the question, "why would we support the arts" but believe it or not, as one of my artist friends told me years ago, art is the historical record of "who we are as a people." Besides that, artists are among the lowest paid people in our society and funding the arts is a form of economic stimulation. If anyone has read a newspaper in the last year, the disappearance of honeybees has been of great concern across the country. Scientists are not certain of the cause--but without bees, any 6th grade student knows that life cannot exist. Believe it or not, Republicans, bees keep us alive. Of course we could ignore the Smithsonian--that is probably one reason it is in need of repair---but it is one of the largest tourist attractions in the country. Do we want it to fall down? The last time I checked, the CDC was the place where people turned when they were scared to death of SARS, Ebola, new strains of Flu, or other threatening diseases. But lets just say, we don't need art, the CDC, bees, and the rest; the total of this part of the stimulus is something like 0.149 of the 800 billion. So there you have it, the Republicans voted 100% against the bill because 0.149 of it went to things they did not like.
I, like many, was unsure of the bank bailout and still remain so but I do not know--nor does anyone else--what it would be like if we had not taken that action. In the same way, how can we argue against so many economists and their belief that something must be done to get the economy going again? It is easy to be a sideline pundit, pontificating this and that and I have been guilty many times but when the rubber hits the road, I would be a little shy in stating people like Krugman and Friedman are simply wrong in their economic opinions. My father was a physician and we argued about everything but when it came to medicine, I took his opinion. Republicans seem to think that the Stimulus just does not have enough tax cuts, yet Moody's Economy has tracked stimulus spending and tax cuts for business's put only .33 (cents) per dollar back in the economy, whereas expanding the food-stamp program puts into the economy a $1.73 for every dollar spent and expanding unemployment benefits puts $1.64. Of course one cannot object to feeding people and also support programs like this. I could remind Republicans that our President's mother was once a recipient of food-stamps, but then again that might be the very reason for them to be against that "LIBERAL" program.
The only group that was rated lower than former President Bush was the Congress and it would seem Republicans are anxious to retain that position. As the President stated in his acceptance speech, 47% of the voters did not vote for him, and therein lies a big part of the problem. Living in South Alabama, I know many of this 47%--my family for example and almost the entire congressional delegation. They are strong pro-lifers, supported Bush and his illegal war, want government to "stay out of things." Of course that does not include the plans to build air tankers in Mobile, and as much of the stimulus money as they can get--and of also government help after hurricanes. Their mentality is, "government should stay the hell out of things--unless we call on um." Therefore, the elected officials must appeal to that voter or better yet, "be one of them".
Sen. Jeff Sessions is one such character. Sessions was born in Selma AL, the sight of the famous 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. Later he was nominated by Reagan as a United States Attorney. In 1985, as U.S. Attorney, he unsuccessfully prosecuted three civil rights workers for voter fraud. He spent hours interrogating black voters in predominantly black counties, where 1.7 million votes cast produced only 14 allegedly tampered votes. The jury spent less than 4 hours before acquitting all three. In 1986 Reagan nominated Sessions for a federal judgeship but he lost when the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to let a vote come to the floor, reminding the committee of his remarks about the NAACP, KKK, and the ACLU. Sessions had previously stated that the KKK was not so bad; except he had learned they smoked pot. Sessions once labeled the ACLU and the NAACP as "un-American, and they forced civil rights down the throats of people." He also called them "communist inspired." In Oct. 2007 TIME reported that lobbyist Lamar Young told prosecutors that on May 8, 2002 he paid thousands of dollars in apparently illegal contributions to big names in Alabama, Republicans--including Sessions. Young was a key witness in the trial of former governor Don Siegelman who was convicted and sent to prison. Forty former state attorney generals, both Democrats and Republicans cited "irregularities." Sessions supported Bush's war 100%, opposed a bill by Sen. Specter that would allow Congress to file a lawsuit to get presidential signing statements declared unconstitutional, opposed Sen. McCain's anti-torture amendment in 2006, has a zero-rating on the environment, and a 100% vote with big oil. But, he was just re-elected by a landslide.
I know the President campaigned on "reaching across the isle" and I also know that is something the majority of the American people--including myself--desperately want. But we must get the message across to both parties that we simple citizens are not going to take it anymore. The election of Barack Obama, if nothing else sent a message loud and clear, that the machines of both parties are still not stronger than a unified citizenry. We must also remember that 47% that voted for McCain, in my case, they are friends, and family and certainly not bad people. As the President moves our ship of state forward, he will need us all and if we are to survive, we had better all come forward.