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Archive for January, 2011

During the campaign leading up to the midterm elections, the GOP hammered the Democrats on the issue of jobs.  Yet, the first order of business when the GOP-led House began its session was to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The repeal effort is loaded with irony, being almost exclusively a symbolic act that has no chance of succeeding through the Senate and surviving the inevitable presidential veto.  Contrary to GOP claims (and the title of the bill) that health care reform is a job-killer, it seems far more likely to be a job creator — mostly jobs in the private sector.  I enumerated some of that in my previous post, and while the numbers I suggested may have been inflated, I didn’t mention the new jobs in the health care sector itself that would be created.

The very next bill the House GOP is taking up is also largely if not totally symbolic: a permanent ban on Federal funds being used for abortion services.  Speaker Boehner and the GOP seem to have overlooked the Hyde Bill, which does prevent Federal funds to be used for abortions.  And the dreaded “Obamacare” act also contains provisions that ensure that no Federal funds will be used for abortions.  And this bill, as well as the health care repeal bill accomplishes nothing to create jobs and is more sound and fury, signifying only a sop to the GOP base.

Somewhere after they finish the symbolic moves, the GOP has signaled that they’re going to attack the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.  And, not surprisingly, they’re pointing to the “job-killing” aspects of regulations they don’t like.  Actually, it’s more like regulations the oil industry doesn’t like.  The truth of the matter is that moving to alternative forms of energy creates jobs.  Yes, there will be some jobs that will be phased out — jobs in the petroleum industry.  But that will happen over decades as the supply of petroleum on the planet is exhausted.  And the sooner we can begin a shift to non-petroleum-based energy, the longer the petroleum will last, along with the jobs in that industry.  Meanwhile, thousands of new jobs will be created — many more than will likely be lost.  That doesn’t sound like a job-killing idea.

Mr. Speaker, when are you actually going to do something toward creating jobs — something other than constantly using the phrase “job killing” when describing anything that might actually move the country forward?

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That seems to be the rationale of people like Glen Beck and Sarah Palin.  Both have chosen to respond to criticism that perhaps their political rhetoric has contributed to the vitriolic tone of our discourse by claiming that they are just doing what the other side has done.

Let me put my “mom hat” on for just a minute.  Since when do two wrongs make a right?  Blaming the other guy is a pretty poor excuse.  No body else can be held responsible for what another person says or does.  Someone can make us angry or frightened, but what we do with that emotion is entirely our own responsibility.  And just as that applies to an ordinary citizen who might feel that the heated rhetoric serves as a kind of permission to take action, so too does it apply to political and media figures who feel the heat when their own words or actions are called into question.

If political and media figures are so convinced that their words do not have any effect on another person’s actions, then why do they willingly spend so much money on advertising?

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This week, the House of Representatives is taking up the case to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010.  House Republicans campaigned on the call to repeal and replace what they derisively call “Obamacare.”  However, their efforts are little more than political theater.  The Senate is unlikely to go along, and President Obama has promised to veto any repeal legislation that reaches his desk.

Unfortunately, the debate promises to shed precious little light on the topic, despite the GOP promises.  The first hint come in the title of the bill to repeal.  House Republicans claim that the health care law is a job killer, or as they’ve changed the name of the bill a job-destroyer.  They cite a figure of 1.6 million jobs, claiming the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as the source of their information.  And in a time of high unemployment (over 9% for the past 20 months), the idea of the economy shedding another 1.6 million jobs is sure to provide some political hay.  But let’s look more closely at that claim.  The 1.6 million figure is what the CBO estimates will be the number of Americans who can now afford to retire since the health care law was signed — people who have been working primarily to obtain health insurance.   That doesn’t sound like job-killing so much as a job creation effort — those 1.6 million new retirees will free up jobs for people who need and want them.  But it wouldn’t make much sense to try to repeal health care law by calling it a “Job Creating Health Care Law Act”, would it?  Further adding to the numbers is a Harvard study that demonstrates that repeal itself would cost somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 jobs.  That means a total swing of nearly 2 million jobs should repeal pass.

Polls are showing that even among Republicans, as Americans learn more about how the Affordable Health Care Act will actually affect them, the anger and opposition to it are diminishing.  And with that, support for full repeal is also decreasing.  In fact, when you look more closely at the numbers, those touted by the GOP as favoring repeal include a sizeable percentage who want the current law strengthened!

Ah, but what about the other half of the “repeal and replace” equation?  What does the GOP plan to replace it with, should repeal succeed?  Well, it appears that the GOP leadership is well aware of the silliness of their efforts because even after debating the current law and promising to come up with their own plan, it turns out that they still don’t really have a plan.  Sure, they have a rudimentary philosophical framework, but nothing concrete.  There isn’t much point in having a real plan when you know that your repeal efforts are strictly symbolic, that they have no chance of making it through the entire legislative process.  Yet, they proceed.

What the GOP fails to understand is that when you’re a majority in one of the legislative bodies, some responsibility for actually governing comes with the territory.  It will be interesting to see what they have on their agenda besides more doomed attempts to undo President Obama’s legislative accomplishments and threatening to vote against raising the debt ceiling.  Like some conservatives I know, it seems that the House GOP members are content to stand on ideology, even in the face of facts that warn against taking the extreme measures they support.

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Like most people, I was horrified to learn of the attempt on the life of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ8).  While she is not my representative, I have friends in her district, so it hit closer to home.  Not surprisingly, Sarah Palin’s aide is denying any connection between the shooting and Palin’s target list, the one that showed a number of Democratic districts in the cross-hairs.  And Sen. Alexander (R-TN) chooses to accuse the media of irresponsibility for even bringing up a possible connection.

So, was it a predictable result of an over-heated political atmosphere or simply the random act of a deranged individual?  Or, was it a combination of the two?  It seems entirely possible that the images of cross-hairs, the comments about “Second Amendment remedies”, about wanting constituents “armed and dangerous”, about “don’t retreat, reload,” and the like are enough to push unbalanced people over the edge.  Free speech is a right, but like all rights, it comes with responsibility attached.  And before any of us engages in violent rhetoric, we should consider that there are people out there who are sufficiently detached from reality to take our words literally.

Democracy needs dissent, but we can disagree without becoming disagreeable.  My kids will nod knowingly when they read that.  It was something I said to them many times as they were growing up.  I don’t mind if you disagree with me, but don’t be disagreeable in the way you go about it.  That means a measure of respect for the other person and their ideas, and even the willingness to consider that he or she might be onto something you haven’t yet considered.   I love a good debate, but I will and do walk away when the conversation gets ugly, when the other person chooses to attack a person rather than an idea.

And isn’t it also possible that those who use violent political rhetoric will be the recipients of violence, should they take a position that someone opposes?  So far, that possibility seems totally lost on those who use violent rhetoric.

 

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