Government shutdown fills Congress’ coffers – not yours


War brings camaraderie. The men and women who fought World War Two, what Tom Brokaw called America’s “Greatest Generation,” came together to fight a war, and taking care of your buddy in a foxhole taught them that we all have to watch out for each other. It’s how we achieved victory, and when the war was over, it’s how we became a hard working and strong democracy, a leader in the world’s economy and, for a while, at least, the global standard for human and civil rights.

But a nation at war with itself finds its comrades-in-arms with blinders on, seeing only the side of the road those like them choose to toe. It doesn’t matter that politicians of all persuasions have tried to build bridges across the divide. The stubborn perspective of Republican hardliners ignores, disavows or buries any outreach as if it were an apple from Eden’s serpent. The foxholes where they have planted themselves for this battle are dimly lit gutters, and their comrades tend to be the rats in three-corner hats that scamper through the flotsam of rotten, old ideas.

World War Two veterans, politicians and journalists enter the memorial, on the Mall, in Washington, DC, Wednesday. (Photo by Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes)
World War Two veterans, politicians and journalists enter the memorial, on the Mall, in Washington, DC, Wednesday. (Photo by Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes)

That’s why it was particularly galling to see the Republican National Committee use a group of aged World War Two veterans as props when they “forced” the reopening of the memorial to that war, Wednesday, less than 48 hours after they refused to budget the National Park Service and allowed the government to shutdown. Those vets are the generation that gave us the Great Society, and a more enlightened approach to the nation’s foundational, “pursuit of happiness” principle. They taught us the meaning of working toward the common goals of leaving no one unfairly slighted, leaving no one without the ability to feed their children, and respecting immigrants (of which many were less than a generation removed).

What Speaker Boehner and his House caucus have chosen to do, by holding government spending hostage to extract changes to the Affordable Care Act, is punish the very people they rushed to the Mall to defend. They have no respect for workers – especially government workers, whose jobs they can’t wait to privatize to their well heeled sponsors. They have no respect for the working poor, calling them moochers and refusing to raise the minimum wage to a living wage; no respect for the reproductive rights of women; no respect for the people they supposedly represent.

The truth is, the Republicans in the House are the takers. They fight the poor at every step to the benefit of the rich. They preserve corporate welfare and cut benefits from their neediest constituents. And they do it all – the 40-plus votes to repeal Obamacare, the Ryan budgets, the government shutdown – to raise money from big donors and astroturf aggregators.

Even before Tea Party hero, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), gave a big, rambling speech that was neither filibuster nor debate, last month, his rhetoric that ginned up hopefulness in the House that he would take up the Obamacare fight in the Senate, got the Senate Conservatives Fund an off-year record $1.5 million in August, more than $1.3 million of it in small donations of less than $200. That money is sure to find its way back to the Texas Republican when he runs for reelection or more likely, the presidency, next time around.

As Dave Weigel wrote in Slate, last month, crippling the ACA is great tool for raising money for conservative stalwart groups like the Family Research Council, as well as many Tea Party groups. In August and September, Weigel says, “the path to defunding Obamacare ran through their donation apps” on their websites.

The lobbying groups for the medical device industry is also dumping a bunch of money on both sides of the aisle, to get the tax on their products, that helps fund the ACA, repealed. You may have heard the medical device tax repeal has been offered as a “compromise” to the CR impasse a “bipartisan group of lawmakers.”

The LA Times printed the “raw numbers,” Thursday:

“Supporters of the repeal have contributed $39.8 million to current members of Congress since the tax was enacted. In the house, the top collector is Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) ($485,428), with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a close second at $464,974. On the Senate side, the top money-grubber is Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) at $471,263, followed by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) at $333,984.”

The Nation reported, last week, that “[t]he medical device industry, led by AdvaMed, a trade association that spends $29 million a year, has pushed aggressively to ensure that medical device companies contribute nothing to the financing of the ACA.” They also revealed that a letter signed by 75 conservative lawmakers urging the inclusion of the tax repeal in the House’s eleventh hour CR bill “was authored by Ryan Strandlund, a member of AdvaMed’s government affairs team.”

The shutdown is nothing more than the political petulance of a Congress spoiled by lobbyists and indulged by corporate media, unworthy of an America that became strong by raising up those who struggle, giving our children a critical education, and showing appreciation for the value of a well paid working class. I wish that Michele Bachmann would have spent less time posing for photos with the WW2 veterans, Wednesday, and more time learning from them what it really means to be an American, responsible for your buddy in the foxhole, with explosions echoing overhead, and not the pundit next to you in the echo chamber on the set of FOX News.

-PBG

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