Published on February 12th, 2013 | by James Schlarmann2
Our Broken Congress
Why sugar coat it? Our Congress is broken.
Make no mistake, I put the lion share of the blame for the current ineptitude of our Congress squarely on the shoulders of the Republicans in that body who insist on putting their party above their country. I rest blame for the obstruction on the Republicans. I assign blame for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on more than thirty purely symbolic repeal votes of Obamacare on the Republicans. I blame the Republicans in Congress for insisting that President Obama hasn’t agreed to any cuts in spending while knowing the Congressional Budget Office just released word that the budget deficit in this country will be under a trillion dollars for the first time since he took office; further spreading the lies that didn’t work in last year’s election.
But let’s face it, you don’t get a sub-20% approval rating without also having a group of Democrats in Congress that couldn’t piss themselves out of a cocoon of toilet paper. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), handed the GOP even more ammunition by not pushing for the very filibuster reforms he’s been talking about for at least two years. He ultimately backed off because Democrats may just find themselves in a position to want to use the same tactics of obstruction by filibuster one day, and he’d had to be the guy who denied his party that chance. So forget what’s best for the country, fair play, and go instead for the continuing the fucked-up status quo that’s gotten our country into the mess it’s in now. Great work, Harry.
The bottom line on Congress is simple. You can place all the blame you want on George W. Bush or Barack H. Obama. But the simple fact is that it was Congress who voted twice to start wars without raising taxes to pay for them. It’s Congress that has wasted taxpayer dollars fighting to repeal a law that’s already withstood Constitutional scrutiny at the hands of the Supreme Court. And it’s Congress who has failed to take the lead on climate change, immigration or ending our stupid War on Drugs. It’s Congress that is most to blame for what’s truly broken in our country, regardless of which person sits in the big chair in the Oval Office.
The Sequestration Situation -
The current self-inflicted and self-made faux crisis facing our country is the sequestration cuts that are looming. The sequestration spending cuts were part of the stick and carrot deal that Congress and President Obama made with each other while haggling over the budget and the debt ceiling back in 2011. Basically both sides cut their wrists wide open and spread their blood all over a contract, ensuring that all sacred cows would be on the table. Massive Defense cuts are just the start; we could see a full-scale government shut down. We’ve managed to go about fifteen years without that embarrassment, but it would appear the Republicans are once again willing to look like jackasses — the world’s most powerful government shutting its doors instead of working together — rather than admit to the fact that the country may have a debt problem, but it’s not our most pressing problem, not be a long shot.
Maybe we do have a spending in this country; but in my view it seems to be more about what we’re spending the money on than it is about the amounts we spend our tax dollars on. Or at the very least, the things we’re choosing to spend the most money on speak the loudest about what we truly value in our country. Defense spending in this country is at a level that we dwarf the next ten countries combined in spending. The defense industry is indeed an old creaky leg that we rest a solid amount of our GDP on. Cutting Defense spending in the hackneyed way that sequestration does though is simply not the answer. While I’d be the first person to tell you that cutting the purse strings to our war machine is a good thing, we still have to ensure we don’t topple our economy in the process of cutting those strings. This is a time for consideration, not for wanton budget torching.
A Congress that functioned wouldn’t have to resort to endless can kicking in the form of continued resolutions. Those on the left must be just as willing to root out the fraud and waste in the social welfare programs as we are to cut corporate welfare fraud and abuse. Both sides surely know that they are going to have to make sacrifices, which is why none are offering any and we’re stuck in the proverbial mud. A functional Congress would find a way to put party politics aside and put a deal together both sides equally. Which is how our country works best, in the end.
Who the Fuck is Ben Gozzi? -
Look, I don’t want to be flippant about the loss of life in Libya back in September. Of course it’s a tragedy for the whole country when we lose innocent lives, especially those that belong to diplomats. These are people we send into harm’s way to try to engender a better feeling about the United States. They serve a vital function and what I’m about to get into is in no way meant as a sleight to their honor, or anything of the sort.
But where was the right-wing’s indignation when we found out the Iraq War was sold to us on lies? Where was the right-wing indignation when it became clear that the Bush Administration indeed had the intel they’d need to potentially stop 9/11 from happening? FDR didn’t stop Pearl Harbor because of human error, and the same can be said about 9/11 and the Benghazi attack eleven years later. For Senator Lindsey Graham to potentially block both Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense and John Brennan over lingering questions he has about what the President did or didn’t do the day of the attacks on our consular building is just preposterous.
It seems like there’s a cadre of right-wing boobs who can’t quite grasp what the rest of America — the parts that don’t believe Obama’s a secret Muslim Socialist Communist Marxist from Kenya — do get. Shit happens. And it’s much more likely to happen in an area that recently dealt with massive civil unrest and governmental uncertainty. No one is thrilled about the four Americans who lost their lives, much to the contrary. But there is simply nothing in the details of the story that points to any errors made by Obama, certainly not the day of the attack.
This is very clearly a political theater moment for Graham and any other Republican still bitterly clinging to Benghazi. Graham must see Benghazi as Obama’s blue dress. That is to say that he thinks there’s something to attack the president on here, and he’s not going to let go no matter how many times he’s given evidence to the contrary. If Graham were really concerned about preventing another Benghazi from happening he wouldn’t be furiously trying to sew together a cloak of impeachment to wrap Obama in; he’d be voting to confirm Hagel and Brennan as soon as possible so the task of making our defense and intelligence policies and budgets make sense for the future challenges ahead. There will certainly be more Arab Springs, more formerly despotically controlled countries will give way to Democracy, and how we as the shepherds of democracy handle those countries’ renaissance of freedom is far more important than castigating a sitting president for mistakes made several rungs lower on the ladder of responsibility.
Someone should tell Senator Graham.
Drones, Drugs and Vaginae -
If I asked you what the most important and pressing issue facing our country today was, how many of you would raise your hand and say “Abortion?” Even if you find the practice of terminating a pregnancy repulsive, do you really think that’s the central issue to re-litigate in this country? For several Republicans, that is their focus. Rep. Paul Ryan once again helped sponsor a new federal “personhood” bill that would define life as starting at conception.
Why do that? Why fight again for an official decree from the United States government as to where life officially begins? Because they can’t officially call abortion murder until they establish precedent that human life begins when the sperm meets the egg. Not to get too deep into the issue, but of course human life begins at conception. That’s not really what the argument has ever been about. From a purely biological standpoint, a human life is created when a human sperm meets a human egg and fertilizes it. But the argument isn’t about that, not really.
The argument is over at one point we wield our knowledge of biology and science to help us pick an appropriate line of demarcation for the genesis of human life worth protecting on its own. Sure, it’s a hard argument to hear for abortion abolitionists, but the fact of the matter remains that for at least the first twenty weeks of gestation, the life developing within a mother’s womb is completely dependent on its host, and that many of pregnancies terminate themselves within that time frame. So are we really going to listen to arguments from a group of people who would equate a simple miscarriage to murder? Ironically these are the same people who by and large fight for the continuance of our failed policies towards drugs in this country. They’d rather the feds tell you what to do you with your genitalia than tell a rich man to stop hiding his money by the yacht-load from the tax collectors.
Why are we still fighting our war on drugs in this country? Prohibition of alcohol lasted almost fifteen years and was repealed once it was discovered that all it did was drive booze sales and distribution into the black market where it could only be regulated by force of badge and gun and not laws and taxes. You can guess which is the more expensive of those two methods. One costs you millions upon millions in labor-related costs and legal battles. The other costs you millions in those labor-related and legal costs, but also gets you untold billions in taxation of a commodity. So who can we blame for continuing to go after drugs, and marijuana specifically when so many of us know it’s not working? Congress.
None of us should be surprised of course. If Congress can’t see fit to protect its constituents’ rights to due process, how can they be expected to protect their right to use a substance with fewer side-effects and health risks than the other two major vice products that our government has no problem with its citizens inhaling? There’s one group that should have been demanding answers and transparency from the Obama administration in terms of drone strikes, and that’s Congress.
Where is Lindsey Graham’s indignation over our president saying he has a secret memo that 99.99999999% of the country will never see that gives him legal justification to kill Americans anywhere, perhaps even on our own soil? Where are the same Congressional Democrats who were screaming about rendition and torture under Dubya? I’ll answer those questions for you: in the same ethical vacuum they’ve been in for at least since President Clinton took office.
Congress is broken. B-R-O-K-E-N. Broken. How, if and when we fix it will be the determining factor in whether we limp into the new era or sprint into it.