Friday, January 21, 2011

It's the economy, stupid (again).

For much of 2009 I think much of the country was perplexed by Washington, DC's focus on health care reform. The economy was in shambles, businesses were hemorrhaging jobs, home foreclosures hit record highs. And the politicians were busy in their big marble buildings negotiating (or filibustering) on issues related only to health care.

A case could be made that health care reform was addressing the longterm health of the economy, but I won't make that argument, because too much of the cost control needs were kicked down the road to worry about later. That said, health care reform represented an enormous victory for progressive ideals. For egalitarianism. For the believe that nobody should go bankrupt because they get sick.

Granted early in 2009 a first stimulus was passed and immediately excoriated  by the Republican party as not working - even as they took credit for its job creation in their home districts. Politicians are nothing if not opportunistic.

Finally, in 2010 the powers that be got down to business by passing the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act- a reform measure intended to reign in the excesses of the financial industry and protect average investors from predatory behaviors. This again didn't directly address jobs and the economy, but will hopefully help avoid future Wall Street initiated weapons of mass destruction. 

Despite these gains, the public punished Democrats for a lackluster economic recovery, putting the GOP in charge of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections. 

What's their first order of business?

A symbolic repeal of the health care reform law. Mission accomplished. The entirely meaningless repeal was passed with no hope of escaping the Senate. Well done.

Their second?

An attempt to limit the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to protect the environment. No surprise from a party that has demonstrated time and time and time again that they're more interested in protecting businesses than the people of this country.

I'm guessing I know what's third.

Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) has proposed a repeal of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. I mean, why protect consumers when bank profits are threatened?

Of course, even if the House passes all of this legislation, it won't pass the Senate. These are all symbolic votes. Which means what? It means they are a waste of time.

At least one Republican gets it. Something Democrats tend to forget is that even though Joe Miller lost the election for an Alaska Senate seat, he lost to a write-in Republican. Fortunately, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) represents one of the few voices of reason left on the right. She's come out with this gem:

I don't believe that there are votes sufficient in the Senate to repeal health care reform....We're in this situation where there is some messaging going on ... The real question is how much time do we as a Congress spend on this messaging? We've got a situation where our economy continues to be in the tank, the longest extended period of high unemployment since World War II. ... As important as making sure that we're reining in our health care costs -- spending a lot of time on the messaging vote? I don't think that's what the American public wants us to do. ... I don't think what people want is kind of the messaging that's going on.
 I guess this is why the tea party wanted her out of office. She's too pragmatic. Why get down to resolving the economic calamity when time could be spent symbolically voting against things that don't have a chance in hell of being changed?

Of course the cynic in me realizes that the longer the economy is in the toilet, the better the GOP's chances of taking the White House in 2012. Since Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already said that Job #1 is making Obama a one term president, I guess getting to things like economic recovery would not be a priority. The well-being of the American people isn't nearly as important as controlling the executive branch of government.

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