Monday, August 15, 2011

Fire Capito and McKinley (before it's too late!)

I'm trying to figure out why, given that as a teacher I have summers off, I have not posted since May! Here's an essay of mine published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail Sunday, Aug 15.

The Republican Party held the U.S. economy hostage and threatened to kill it by refusing to raise the debt ceiling if they didn’t get their way. West Virginia’s two Republican representatives, Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley, voted for these tactics by voting against a “clean bill” to raise it, and they voted for bills that would have crippled the hostage had they passed. It remains to be seen whether the hostage has been returned to us with all its parts intact.
During the long, hot summer of 2011, history will record that ratings agencies threatened to downgrade the nation’s credit rating as, for the first time in history, a political party decided to threaten default on America’s debt. Instead of passing a clean bill as has been done for every other president, they tried to attach Cut, Cap, and Balance legislation to it that would, had it passed the Senate and been signed into law, so drastically have restricted government spending and its ability to raise revenues that it would have effectively achieved Tea Party favorite Grover Norquist’s goal to “starve government… and drown it in the bathtub.”  
Call it Kabuki theater if you want. Certainly the Republican leadership knew their bills would not  pass and be signed into law, and they knew that in the end they could not endanger the “full faith and credit of the United States of America” by allowing it to default on its debt. But it is time for all Americans to wake up and fully understand once and for all why Republicans cannot be trusted with the reins of power. That’s a given for their ultra-conservative Tea Party members, but it also goes for those who carry water for the leadership.
Both Capito and McKinley have signed Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes, which also precludes them from closing tax loopholes for big corporations unless they’re offset by spending cuts. Capito voted for the Republican’s 2012 budget plan, called the Ryan budget, which would have made Medicare into a voucher program for those 55 and under,  gradually cutting government support, and would have cut spending on Medicaid, health care for the poor, by turning it into a block grant program and capping spending. Where would the money saved in Ryan budget have gone? Straight into the pockets of corporations and wealthy Americans through lower tax rates. She and McKinley voted for Cut, Cap, and Balance and they voted for its little brother, the “Boehner Bill,” which squeaked by only after the Speaker made it palatable to more Tea Partiers.
How is it that Capito and McKinley can claim they want to protect Medicare and Medicaid, programs they acknowledge many West Virginians depend on, and also vote for bills such as Cut, Cap, and Balance? It would have capped spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and required a two-thirds vote of Congress to raise revenue. Under such law, the results would almost certainly be across the board cuts in everything, including Medicare.
McKinley doesn’t seem to be knowledgeable about economic matters.  According to the Times West Virginian, he said, “This (the stimulus) was his (Obama’s) ideologically-driven agenda to try and solve a problem that was based maybe on how they operate in Chicago or some of his economists — I don’t know. But no economists today are saying this was the best solution to our woes.” I don’t know what economists he polled, but you’d be hard pressed to find many that don’t agree that stimulus spending is the primary path out of recession. In fact, Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, has been arguing for continued stimulus spending and has warned that the current spending cuts are dragging us back into the ditch Obama pulled us out of.  The biggest weakness of the 2009 Recovery Act (aka, the Stimulus), Krugman reminds us, was that Republicans insisted that half of it be made up of tax cuts, which don’t create as many jobs as infrastructure spending. After having it their way, all but three refused to vote for it!
We in West Virginia have a duty to do our part to fix this problem. We need to devote the time and energy required to fire Capito and McKinley. This is not a liberal or conservative issue, it is an issue of preserving the American middle class, the primary engine of our economy. Surely we can all find a Democrat to support who will work for the recovery of our economy, job creation, the rebuilding of our roads, energy grid, and the strengthening of our health care system and programs for the elderly, including Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. We need representatives who hold the good of the people of WV above political loyalties. No more hostage situations!