Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Eye of Newt
There was time when Democrats and Republicans actually talked to each other. There was no Citizens United threat:hey candidates needing money in an era of high-cost campaigns, if you want massive SuperPac support (without which you cannot rise above the clutter), you are constantly going to repeat our contributors’ “essential message,” will not veer from that message when you are elected and will always vote accordingly no matter what. In short, once we buy your vote with campaign money, you will gridlock your way to hold the line accordingly.
There was a time for picking people as the representatives to vote for what was best for America. But that was then. In additional to the SuperPac addicts, today, for those trading their conscience to vote as is best for the country to social conservative groups with massive power among their limited but adamant constituency to vote to revert to the traditional past, they share this one reality with their SuperPac-compromising compatriots: they outsource their votes, immutably, to those campaign-enablers regardless of what they know is best for the country… and actually have to learn to sound as if they mean it.
We used to compromise. In the 1990s, uber-conservative and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich (pictured above) used to sit down with then-President, Democrat Bill Clinton, and hash out differences, find middle ground and do what they felt was best for the country, and generally not what was terrible for the country but only good for what attributable to a very, very few. It ain’t like that no more!
As the economy polarized, the money at the top controlled more and more – as judicial decisions involving campaign contributions, gerrymandering and voter rights tilted step-by-massive-step towards those at the top of the economic ladder – as the middle class contracted and the bottom rungs of economy swelled, today’s Congress is simply as battle of special interests that simply marginalizes the balance of the country… even though it is the vast “middle” or “centrist” part of America that casts the deciding vote. This centrist middle is often deprived of candidates that reflect that centrism by reason of how folks get through the nomination process.
So I was reading the Editorial pages of the April 22nd New York Times, when I spotted a piece by Mr. Gingrich, an old line conservative who was elected when Congressional candidates campaigned on what was, in their opinion, best for the country. He drilled down on how the last few Congresses have undone some of the most effective bipartisan legislation of that Clinton/Gingrich era. The focus of his editorial was on how the National Institutes of Health have cut down so far on research so as to jeopardize finding solutions to major health issues facing all of us. Short term savings with massive long-term cost implications.
“Amid the policy fights that followed the Republican victories of 1994, President Bill Clinton and the new majorities in Congress reached one particularly good deal: doubling the budget for the National Institutes of Health… The decision was bipartisan, because health is both a moral and financial issue. Government spends more on health care than any other area. Taxpayers spend more than $1 trillion a year for Medicare and Medicaid alone, and even more when you add in programs like Veterans Affairs, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Indian Health Service.
“Unfortunately, since the end of the five-year effort that roughly doubled the N.I.H. budget by 2003, funding for the institutes has been flat. The N.I.H. budget (about $30 billion last year) has effectively been reduced by more than 20 percent since then. As 92 percent of the N.I.H. budget goes directly to research, one result is that the institutes awarded 12.5 percent fewer grants last year than in 2003. Grant applications, over the same period, increased by almost 50 percent.
“Even as we’ve let financing for basic scientific and medical research stagnate, government spending on health care has grown significantly. That should trouble every fiscal conservative. As a conservative myself, I’m often skeptical of government ‘investments.’ But when it comes to breakthroughs that could cure — not just treat — the most expensive diseases, government is unique. It alone can bring the necessary resources to bear. (The federal government funds roughly a third of all medical research in the United States.) And it is ultimately on the hook for the costs of illness. It’s irresponsible and shortsighted, not prudent, to let financing for basic research dwindle.” Gingrich in the NY Times.
But the orders from the outsourced/controlling campaign-directors from most GOP SuperPacs and social conservative groups are to get government out of as much as possible as soon as possible, and if there are issues in the future, who cares? We might not fund those solutions either, since we really do not care about anyone but ourselves, and we have purchased your vote. Low taxes for the rich have to be good; anything else is bad. The sad reality is that so many of those elected to Congress do not remotely represent the best interests of the country, or often even of their constituency. They speak with passion and commitment, but they are merely parroting-like actors.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if you want to take a shortcut to unwinding what was once an effective democracy called the United States of America, take a good careful look at how the Supreme Court and a whole pile of state and federal elected officials have moved us into a completely new form of government: a selfish plutocracy where only the votes (dollars?) of the most powerful minorities matter.