A pundit once described Velveeta cheese spread as, "the triumph of technology over taste." The same wit might depict America's ruling Republican elite as, "the triumph of greed over morality." Early in the morning of November 18th, the Republican majority in the House passed a budget reconciliation bill that graphically illustrates the extent of their depravity.
The legislation contains budget cuts of $50 billion. Reductions that drastically impact programs for America's neediest citizens, particularly Medicaid and food stamps. A companion act features $70 billion in tax cuts for America's wealthy. Before the strictly party-line vote on the reconciliation bill, the National Council of Churches pled with every member of Congress. "The role of the government is to protect its people and work for the common good. This is not the time for a budget reconciliation process. To do so is not only unjust, it's a sin. It violates all the fundamental Christian principles of loving thy neighbor, caring for the poor and showing mercy How is it that we show mercy for oil millionaires and not hurricane survivors?"(http://www.ncccusa.org/news/051020BudgetCutPlans.html)
The last few days brought a new series of revelations about misdeeds on Capitol Hill. Monday, Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican, resigned after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes for helping secure Defense Department contracts. The previous week, lobbyist Michael Scanlon, a pal of Congressman Tom Delay and a colleague of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pled guilty to federal conspiracy and promised to work with the Feds. Many feel that Scanlon will be the key witness in the biggest Congressional scandal in over 100 years. These events confirm what many of us have suspected all along. The Republican Party is all about money.
Simply stated, the reason why rich folks continue to get tax cuts is that they are able to make huge political contributions to powerful Republicans. They can afford to retain influential GOP lobbyists. America's wealthy can grease the palms of Washington insiders in order to take a bigger share of the "pie." The gap between the rich and poor grew again last year, as it has for every year of the Bush Administration. Republicans made this happen.
Poor folks get the shaft because they can't play the game. They aren't able to make political contributions to powerful Republicans. They don't grease the palms of Washington insiders for one simple reason: They are poor. They are struggling to make ends meet while they watch the American dream sail away.
There used to be a lot of talk in American politics about a level playing field. Not any more. Republicans have abandoned this concept. They replaced it with a boatload of neo-Christian blarney about the rich and powerful being where they are because God has recognized their initiative. Now, when regular folks complain that the power elite is getting preferential treatment, Republicans snap that this is "success envy." They claim that talk about justice and equality is liberal camouflage for their desire to get ahead without working. (And without making payoffs to Republicans.)
Fundamentalist have taken over the Republican Party and, in the process, consummated the Devil's bargain. They get to implement a conservative Christian theocracy. And Republican politicians get to keep the money.
Meanwhile, the rest of us ask what happened to the American dream of "liberty and justice for all." We scratch our heads and wonder how Republicans have the nerve to claim they are defending democracy. How their spokesman-in-chief can maintain a straight face when he observes, "there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty." We muse on the contradictions between Republicans' words and deeds.
The Republican morality is simple: It's okay to say and do anything so long as you get the money. (The same Republicans who voted for the budget reconciliation bill also helped themselves to a $3100 pay raise.)
The latest polls say that Americans no longer trust President Bush. It's too soon to tell if this antipathy has spread to Republicans in general. It should. But we know that our fellow citizens are remarkably tolerant of the behavior of their local representative. They are often forgiving of the turpitude of congressmen such as DeLay and Hastert because they bring home the pork.
Every once in a long while, the electorate gets outraged. In November, that happened in California when voters rejected all of Governator Schwarzenegger's propositions. They were angry because he called an expensive special election for purely political purposes. In 2006 voters will have a lot to be angry about: an Administration that bamboozled us into a disastrous war. A Republican Congress more interested in lining its own pockets, and those of its rich clients, than it is in protecting America.
In the next twelve months we can cultivate our outrage. For inspiration, let's all rent the movie "Network." Let's memorize Peter Finch's inspired rant, "I'm a human being My life has value! I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at email@example.com.