The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, ran into quite a firestorm recently when he opted to delay a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief funds that had already been acted on by the Senate. Democrats were predictably upset but so too were some Republicans, more so from Sandy-ravaged areas, including Rep. Peter King of Long Island and New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie. King seemed to walk back some of his criticism after Boehner, apparently under pressure, scheduled a vote for a partial aid package. Christie, however, gave no impression of being inclined to let up on the steam he initially emitted. But that’s probably at least in part another (political) story. Of greater significance, though, the Sandy relief situation evidenced more of the social/political schism in this country and with it, a meanness brazenly packaged as all in good faith by self-styled guardians of the public purse.
Boehner’s move to go with a vote on a $9 billion plus first-phase of the $60 billion in relief requested passed by a solid majority, 354 members giving it a thumbs up; but curiosity naturally centered on 67 “no” votes. Among the latter, there was invariably the patronizing claptrap about being sympathetic to Sandy’s victims and being of a mind to help them, but…One of the non-supporting congressmen from the South spelled it out for the conservative media screamers: aid for disaster victims is a non-starter so long as it’s adding to the national debt. What a crock! In the god-awful event of a President Romney requesting billions to further balloon the defense budget, per his promise on the campaign trail, we know full well there’d be not a peep out of these card-carrying hawks. The wonder is why some of them bother to continue the charade of dissembling concern for such as suffered Sandy’s rampage.
A representative of the conservative Club for Growth was on MSNBC the other day, parroting the same tired preface about caring for those whom Sandy had blindsided…which clearly amounted to not a whole lot, as his organization lobbied Congressional Republicans not to vote for the Sandy relief appropriation. Here was another shameless, indeed proud mouthpiece for heartless governmental rejection of the idea that there’s merit in showing compassion to people whose lives, in a few hours of nature’s fury, became chaotically unraveled. Undertaking such expenditure, said the Club for Growth guy, on which the government will not see any kind of return, is policy his outfit will not support. Which prompted fellow MSNBC guest Ron Reagan to sarcastically remark that the Club for Growth must have been beside itself with anger over the jumbo-size mess George W. Bush and his inner circle of neocon warmongers embarked on in Iraq.
This standing rule among conservatives where there’s virtually no Pentagon-related expenditure that shouldn’t automatically earn “sacred cow” protection, contrasted with a response to social spending that is precisely the opposite, truly casts them as civility’s ogres. Not that this creates any worry warts in the camp. There’s so frequently an accompanying disingenuousness, though, that makes this hard-line demeanor tough to abide.
The fixation on “entitlements,” for one thing, during the non-stop speechifying about cutting the deficit, always seems to conveniently ignore that two of the favorite whipping boys, Social Security and Medicare, are insurance programs that people pay into to hopefully derive benefits down the road. Yet the “entitlements” (translation: “handouts”) battle cry drones on ad infinitum, the coded reference hardly a mystery, especially emanating from some of the more abrasively intolerant right-flank players. Nor is there, conspicuously, acknowledgment ever made that those unpaid for George Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan account for a huge chunk of the national debt.
There are obviously no boundaries to the ridiculous extremes to which the conservative element is prepared to push for its version of the way forward. In their tactics to gain the upper hand by sheer brute force, if need be, the will of the people is a secondary or even non-existent consideration. Through those broken lenses, President Obama’s having handily won reelection in November, for example, is but a footnote, not the most significant political development of 2012. So thanks primarily to a bunch of netherworld characters in the House, whose business clearly is at odds with the people’s, the fiscal cliff nightmare scenario is made to run to the threshold of absolute governmental dysfunction. On the heels of which come some of the very loonies running off about shutting down the government being a good thing.
Maybe because the jokers making these preposterous noises aren’t yet of a league to be taken even half seriously, efforts toward sidelining their circus act are probably not yet a talking point at this stage. They’re playing with fire, though, one of these crackpots intimating a few days ago that he and his Newt Gingrich-led government shutdown band back in the 90s influenced the balanced budgets and surpluses of the Clinton administration. Some gall, that. It is not yet so, but it may well rise to where it becomes necessary for Bill Clinton to take these one-note truants to school.
In the face of all that these folks have been shown to proudly stand for, one question above all lingers: Are we sufficiently concerned that there are disparate slices of the electorate altogether comfortable with this representation?