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The Party of Shamelessness

The Party of Shamelessness
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Photo courtesy of The Atlantic

BY DON PORTOLESE

As I watch how the first few months of Republican power play out, it truly boggles my mind how middle and low income conservatives can continue to believe that the Republican party is on their side. It was bad enough that many Republican politicians betrayed the values of this country and supported President Trump; however, continuing to indulge this president and his reckless agenda is a betrayal of the very people who voted him into office. In the last three and a half months, we have seen a fundamental shift in political priorities, and it has been the poor and middle class that have been on the losing end every time.

Since Trump’s inauguration, an emboldened Republican majority seems to take delight in creating legislation designed to take from the poor and give to the rich. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of one piece of legislation put forward by a Republican since Trump took office that wasn’t designed to do more harm to average Americans than good. Here are just a few examples of how Trump and the Republicans have been working to undermine anything that would improve the lives of those who misguidedly voted them into office.

In Iowa and other Republican controlled states, conservative politicians have voted to roll back or block higher minimum wage laws for people who are the most economically vulnerable. Some of these wages, which were on target to reach as high as $10.75 / hour, have been rolled back to the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 / hour. This is a slap in the face to Trumpublicans who thought they were voting for a man who would get the economy rolling for Main Street, not Wall Street. Most of these people work full time and would greatly benefit from a few extra dollars per hour. With these modest increases, some could even make enough money to raise their families out of the vicious cycle of working poverty. However, Republicans would rather protect their corporate friends than do anything that helps those in need.

Another recently-signed Republican bill will eliminate government sponsored retirement plans for people whose employers do not provide retirement options to their employees. We are heading toward a retirement crisis of devastating proportions. Yet, rather than consider ways to invest in our citizens to alleviate this problem, Republicans can only propose privatizing Social Security and cutting Medicare. Is that what poor and middle class Republicans voted for?

In yet another assault on the working class, Republicans voted to repeal the Obama Administration’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. This order was designed to protect workers by not awarding government contracts to companies that routinely violate workers’ rights, safety standards or discriminate in hiring or pay. If the federal government isn’t willing to protect people who do work for it, how can we expect the private sector to do so?

And how about the recent bill that will decimate net neutrality. Not only does it edge us toward a future where internet providers control what we watch and how much we pay to watch it, it also infringes upon our privacy, allowing providers to sell our consumer information to companies, so they can better target us with marketing. Hardline conservatives and liberals worked together to defeat this bill when it was up for a vote just a few years ago. Evidently Republicans didn’t take the hint. They put it back on the chopping back and are chipping away at it like they do with all other consumer protections.

Republicans are also on the offensive against our public education system. The appointment of Betsy DeVos was clearly a step in the wrong direction, but it doesn’t stop there. Republican Steve King sponsored House Bill 610, which significantly changes the funding structure of our educational system. Under this proposal, states will be given block grants that they must dole out to the different school districts. However, many in the poorest schools will suffer greatly. Any additional federal funding such as Title 1 will be eliminated. Instead, students will be given the option to leave underperforming schools and attend better schools. Greater mobility is not such a bad idea; however, what happens when all of the students decide to leave one school and attend another? What happens to students in rural areas that have limited school choices? Additionally, with its emphasis on charter and private schools over public schools, this bill could eliminate or significantly reduce any special programming for gifted and talented students as well as special education and ESL programs.

I’m not saying that our educational system doesn’t need a major overhaul. However, Republicans continually vote down additional funding to make sure that all children (rich and poor) have access to quality education. They then blame underfunded schools and overworked teachers for the sorry state of our public school system. Why are they so quick to privatize and corporatize schools instead of giving our public schools the money they truly need to function properly? This bait and blame tactic is classic republican strategy.

And while we’re on the subject of major overhauls, what about the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act? Trump promised that the Republican health care plan would insure more people, provide better coverage and a host of other empty promises. The plan does none of that. Plain and simple, the Republican health care plan is another attempt to provide tax relief to the wealthy at the expense of the poor and sick. It isn’t about giving choice back to the American people, as Paul Ryan boasted before the Republican attempt at repeal imploded. This is about putting the screws to hardworking Americans, and, as usual, it’s the Republicans who are doing the screwing.

While the ACA has its flaws, it was clearly a more well thought out and more even-handed piece of legislation than the Republican plan. In fact, this became so embarrassingly obvious that Republicans tried to ram their repeal and replace down our throats before anyone had a chance to look at it. Jeez, guys, you only whined about Obamacare for the last eight years, couldn’t you have come up with something better in all of that time? Why is it that every time this country is poised to spend money on middle and lower income people, Republicans vote to disembowel the piece of legislation?

Just as they did during the healthcare debacle, Republicans become downright scary when they claim they are looking out for the little guy. For all of their talk of helping poor coal miners, it is Republicans who have dragged their feet on legislation designed to improve safety conditions for this vulnerable population. In fact, they just recently voted to abate legislation that would have provided more funding for safer working conditions and to help coal miners afflicted with black lung. Why are they clamoring for the return of more unclean and unsafe coal jobs instead of trying to train people in new technologies? Democrats get a bad rap in coal country, but it is Donald Trump’s empty promises about the return of coal and his recent budget proposal that will really hurt coal miners.

Republican defense of unborn children is even more disgustingly disingenuous. For all of their pro-life talk, once the baby is born, Republicans turn their backs on the child. Statistics show that the main reason that women get abortions is because they either cannot afford the child or are unable to raise the child on their own. Yet, it is Republicans who continually vote down and cut funding for programs that help families living in these circumstances. It seems to me that if they really wanted to stop abortion, they would be willing to increase funding for programs to help these people rather than demonizing them. Republicans call themselves Christians, but rarely vote to do anything that would give these poor families (and their children) a fair chance in this world.

I could go on, but there simply isn’t time, and, quite frankly, it is disturbing to document this level of hypocrisy. Rather than look out for the poor and vulnerable of their party, Republicans continue to distract them with their bogus populist message as they skew the rules of the game further in favor of their rich constituents. They claim that small government is the answer, but they merely want less government regulation of their corporate cohorts and more interference in people’s private lives. They claim that tax breaks for the wealthy are what make our economy thrive. However, no matter how many times they’ve been tried, these trickle-down myths have not come true. Republicans preach individual choice, but have done nothing but limit our options and opportunities. How long can these liars persist without being called on the carpet for their lies?

The Republican party has time and again worked to disenfranchise working class Americans and pit them against their own best interests. Poor and middle class conservatives need to open their eyes to how brazenly shameless the Republican party has become. Until they do, there is no telling how low the GOP will sink to benefit their corporate sponsors. And there is no telling how much their poor supporters will suffer in the process.

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Don Portolese
Don Portolese is a freelance writer, filmmaker, translator and Chief Editor for this website. If you wish to respond to his articles, feel free to do so in the space provided below this article.