In one week, the voters of our democracy will not be casting ballots on the issues. At least, they won’t be voting on the issues that are reported in the conservative mainstream media. Over the last weeks and days, I have seen report after report writing and speaking about the “voter anger” focused on the deficit and debt. Yet poll after poll has found that voters are angry about one thing above all others; jobs. Next Tuesday, we will not be voting on the primary tool used to address the real source of voter anger, the American Recovery Act. The artist formerly known as the Stimulus is one of the least understood and most maligned pieces of legislation in world history…and we aren’t voting on its substance.
The Recovery Act was the single largest working class tax cut in American history…at $287 billion it dwarfs any other package passed in terms of tax relief for regular working Americans. The rest of the bill, famously, was that horrible orphan known as government spending. Military barracks renovation, military hospital renovation, road work, rural water projects, rural broadband projects, wind farms, brown-water renovation (most of our nation’s commercial river traffic is supported by infrastructure that is 3/4 of a century old)…you name it, money was spent on it.
Literally hundreds of Republicans in Congress, the Senate, state assemblies, and those up for election have crisscrossed this nation trumpeting money for projects that “they” brought home: dollars that came from the Stimulus bill that “they” all voted against. Roy Blunt, the probable Senator from Missouri, hired a bus to tour the hinterland promoting the cash. We certainly aren’t talking about that anymore. The Stimulus reduced peek unemployment by between 0.8% and 1.5%…it WOULD have been far worse without that package of “wasteful” spending. So says the CBO…a non-partisan group of professional bean-counters who Republicans thought were dandy when they were slapping big price tags on early versions of Democratic health reform. So says Moodys, a private firm not known for anything resembling liberal leanings.
We aren’t voting on cancer patients who will be able to purchase health insurance (think about all of those benefit dollars raised, and how much farther they will go covering 20% plus premiums instead of 100% for chemo and surgery). We aren’t voting on kids staying on their parents insurance, or subsides for small businesses who buy their workers coverage. Millions of seniors, deluded by Rush Limbaugh, certainly aren’t voting on those checks they got this year to start closing the Medicare donut-hole. Few of us are voting on the health care bill that was passed, with the balance voting against the specter that was sold to a gullible public.
We aren’t voting on financial reform; the third of four pieces of major legislation passed despite ruthless, deceitful, and unanimous Republican opposition. The last two years have not been the Grand Old Party’s finest hour, and siding with the imbeciles in the big banks and Wall Street when Democrats proposed to recover some of the oversight given away in the 90’s was an especially onerous position. Cleaning up the mess that landed us in the biggest downturn in 80 years was, apparently, a Socialist move by the Democrats. Not that many folks on either side have any real idea what Socialism means.
We Americans are taking our profound confusion about cause and effect to the highest level of incompetence this election. Cause…then effect. Politicians pass a budget in year one, it takes effect in year two, the effects of which are fully felt in year three. Two years ago, the country felt the first devastating pangs of this recession and showed the conservatives the door. Now, the very act of reminding folks that this recession was caused by supply-side economics is being (successfully) labeled an “excuse” for President Obama and the Democrats. Some ten years ago a sizable percentage of Americans were content to blame the 9/11 attacks (an event that occurred 8 months after Bush’s inauguration) on President Clinton. How many of those same voters are likely to blame this recession on President Obama? How many understand the gross inconsistency in their position?
Elections aren’t supposed to be about polishing the resume and making the other guy look bad, but in our democracy that is precisely the situation. Whether you the voter likes or dislikes politicians because of their party, or appreciates the assignment of accountability for bad results, it is important to understand what policies will cause which effects. Such analysis is the cornerstone of a functioning republic. If you consistently vote for people who promise you lower taxes, then don’t expect the schools to stay open or the roads to be fixed. The trick for the next seven days is too ignore the campaign ads and zero in on the likely policy choices.
My own deep reservations about the courage and reliability of Democratic politicians is more than counter-balanced by the complete lack of a factually supportable plan by the Republicans. Despite the warts present in the Stimulus, Health Reform, and Financial Reform packages, they aren’t what I will be voting on either. I will be voting to stay away from a Senate run by Mitch McConnell, and will be hoping that we don’t spend the next Congress watching a bright orange Speaker of the House named Boehner.
The Rational Middle is listening and reminding all (conservative, liberal or indifferent) to VOTE!