3/21/2005

Brain-dead ploys and heartless Republicans

From Fran Shor on CommonDreams:
At the end of a week when Congressional Republicans passed the Bush Budget that slashed social programs for the poor, children, and the elderly, they mounted a last-minute desperate campaign to intervene in the tragic case of Terry Schiavo. For over a decade Terry Schiavo has remained in a vegetative state, kept alive with a feeding tube and in the midst of legal battles between her husband and her parents. Republican politicians in Florida tried previously to prevent removing the feeding tube but lost out to court orders. Now, another judge has dismissed those ploys by Congressional Republicans to insert themselves into this family's personal tragedy. While there are troubling moral issues surrounding matters of when to end a life, some of these Republicans, such as Tom DeLay, and their right-wing evangelical supporters appear to be obsessed with the rights of either unborn fetuses and near-dead individuals. Apparently, they are not concerned with the rights of the actually living if they are poor, children, elderly, women, and/or gay citizens. In fact, they favor the use of an interventionist state only in ways that reflect their narrow political agenda and limited sense of compassion. They would rather punish poor women in need of an abortion than provide medical care and pharmaceutical prevention. From their constricted and exclusionary perspectives, the state can determine who can marry and cannot marry irrespective of the values of love and commitment. So, what does one make of this past week's Congressional activities and the Republican agenda? Passing the Bush Budget in the House, Tom DeLay and his wretched crew just terminated aid for food stamps for 300,000 working families with children. Low income families lost out on child care assistance involving close to 300,000 children. Cuts in health insurance for children were passed with nary a tear being shed by a single Republican. Capping off this mean-spirited attitude towards children and the working poor was a profligate package of tax benefits for the very wealthy. One can only assume that Republicans want the poor to die off even in the face of their dramatic efforts to rescue the brain-dead Terry Schiavo. Yet, another quiet drama unfolded this week demonstrating Republican antagonism to the health and safety on the most vulnerable. The first study definitively linking mercury pollution to autism was released this past week. Almost at the exact moment, the Bush Administration announced their misguided proposals for reducing mercury pollution from coal-fed power plants. Instead of the immediate severe cutbacks in mercury pollution that are needed, the White House and the EPA promoted proposals intended to placate the coal and utility industries at the expense of children's physical and mental health. While Bush and his Republican cohorts prattle on about their concern for children, one wonders what kind of concern it is in the face of reactionary cutbacks and unsound and dangerous policies? In effect, as cognitive scientist George Lakoff has reminded us, such politics and policies are framed by a strict father model of government. While convinced of their own sense of right and wrong, these punitive patriarchs promulgate policies that demand obedience. Casting aspersions on those who advocate nurturing social programs, they believe that the discipline they promote (but do not often apply to their own behavior) will benefit those individuals who follow their leadership. On the other hand, as we know from Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas?, right-wing Republicans have successfully mobilized the class resentments of working class and middle class suburbanites against Hollywood liberals and their ilk as the main targets in a culture war. Ironically, the real victims of that war are often the very working and middle class supporters of those Republicans who overlook the vicious tax cuts that favor the corporations and the rich at the expense of the public good. To prove they have compassion, albeit constricted and exclusionary, Republicans mount high-profile campaigns such as their intervention in the Terry Schiavo case. Congressional Republicans obviously believe that they are can play on the sentiments of a media-manipulated public, too busy or numbed to realize the details of their awful budgetary cuts. Furthermore, and most tragic of all, hewing to a strict father model of government, Congressional Republicans have arrogated to themselves the desire to play god, dispensing life and death according to their own narrow- minded whims and truly heartless politics. We will have to work on our own for authentic compassion instead of the limited variety that showboating Republicans now produce with dreadful regularity.

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