A couple of recent moves by Republican politicos reveals but a sampling of the leadership style that is short-sighted and self-serving for the economic conditions we find ourselves in today. It is a practice among them that has survived for decades but is more apparent when large numbers are unemployed and situations arise that threaten health and habitat for huge populations and vast land areas. The era of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 1930’s is the landmark period that exposed this seeming dispassionate side of many conservatives within the Republican Party. It has revived itself following the current economic and environmental crises we find ourselves facing.
We see it in the Republicans in the U.S. Congress who withhold necessary funds to help unemployed people meet basic daily needs to sustain their families for a few extra months. It’s alive and well with the Republican governors of Louisiana and Mississippi and their conservative supporters who have praised the federal court judge who has rejected the White House’s moratorium on new deep water drilling wells until we can figure out what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon; a tragedy that is contaminating the Gulf of Mexico with anywhere from 66,000 to as much as 100,000 barrels of oil a day.
There is no assurance that these rigs may not run into the same fate as the BP rig did but the judge who negated the moratorium feels it is a risk that others will have to take; a decision that is unsettling in light of the fact that the judge currently holds petroleum stocks in his portfolio that will be impacted by his decision. It was recently revealed that he owned Exxon/Mobil stock the day he handed down his decision but sold his shares that morning. One of the 33 new wells in the Gulf that was put on hold as a result of the moratorium was owned by the company that held the record for worst oil spill in America until BP’s recent failure took over that title – Exxon/Mobil.
As for the 1.2 million unemployed around this nation, mainly middle income families who are victims of the 2008 Recession, the money from unemployment insurance to brace them up during these hard times appears to be repugnant to those who have no problem at all subsidizing Big Oil to the tune of nearly $50 billion dollars a year. Republicans in Congress feel the “small people” would only be encouraged to continue their freeloading lifestyles if their unemployment benefits were extended. As Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona sees it, “continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”
Is this guy and others like him even aware of the criteria to receive the meager amounts of unemployment pay? In states like mine, Texas, you are required to prove that you have made active searches for full-time work, unless you meet state requirements that exempt you. You must also prove that you lost your job through no fault of your own. These are only two of the humbling experiences people must meet to collect unemployment. Who would put themselves through such rigorous exercises except those people who have families to support? The few exceptions that match Jon Kyl’s imaginary “deadbeat” are few and far apart
It seems the Republican leadership in this country has lost focus on values that incorporate any sense of human compassion. The Party of Lincoln that emancipated the slaves and Theodore Roosevelt who pushed for legislation making working conditions in this country tolerable and humane has abdicated all social responsibility to the private corporate sector.
They have embraced a weak ideal that they’ve cherry-picked from capitalism and the Libertarian writings of Ayn Rand that emasculates any social responsibility from government with the notion that the free enterprise system will faithfully provide a sustainable living free from economic insecurity. It’s a grand idea but is unrealistic and fits a period of time when we were basically a sparsely populated, agrarian people with only white males having any authority.
It incorporates the Adam Smith philosophy of an invisible hand to manage the “free market” without prejudice while utilizing Ayn Rand’s notion of a totally unregulated private sector to meet all of our essential needs. It excludes any concept of social responsibility by the wealthiest whose good fortunes have obtained exorbitant abundance on the back of the labor that helped accomplish this. It is blind to the necessity that, during extraordinary lean times when free market systems and laissez faire beliefs have failed to live up to their expectations, government should step in and provide safety nets that give people a temporary assist until that invisible hand of the market puts them back on their feet again.
When you peel back the thin veneer of the independent Americana bravado that falsely disguises this pro-corporate view, you find hard working people that sincerely want to make it on their own are being asked to tolerate the handouts and concerns for corporations over the essential needs to feed their family and pay the mortgage. The notion that profits should supersede human misfortunes is a belief that benefits only the owners of great wealth which consist of less than 2% of the total population. The seed that some plant that one day this could be you is an ideal that has been promised without any likelihood of occurring to conceal their own greed.
The ingenuity of a few that create an economic means for creating jobs is a good thing but it is not without its flaws. An economy that produces meaningful employment at fair wages and promotes opportunity for the population at large to prosper and grow is desirable. It is too often managed however by a handful of clever people whose greater self-interest deludes the public with the notion that job creation is everything, even when those very jobs pose great health risks at low wages with no health coverage benefits.
How many jobs are we postponing for 6 months to verify another group of people won’t needlessly die from working on an oil rig that doesn’t have the necessary safety features in place to avoid a catastrophe like BP’s Deepwater Horizon or a set of plans to quickly and fully address it if it does occur? Thirty three drilling rigs may employ two to three thousand people but that number pales in comparison to the people who suffer the consequences from black crude spilling into the nation’s water at a worst scene scenario rate of over 4 million gallons a day.
How deeply will the deficit suffer with another $3 billion for the jobless for a few more months in comparison to what we are subsidizing the wealthiest companies in the world to extract difficult-to-reach toxic energy sources that are only about 25% of our total energy need at current rates? Republicans turned a cold shoulder to the unemployed while recently backing a spending bill of $485 million for a new engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that the Pentagon says we don’t need and has emphatically said they don’t want.
The list of pork barrel spending by all members of Congress is indeed excessive but only Republicans find a need to justify their pet projects while simultaneously rejecting a small portion to help victims of the recession; an amount so small that its impact on the federal deficit was estimated to amount to .00043% of the current deficit. With 5 people available for every job opening today some relief is necessary for these people who will be unable to pay their rent or mortgage and feed nutritional meals to their kids until the private sector starts hiring again.
The Republican leadership is a dated mentality of old fossils who are largely funded by the fossil fuel industry. It takes its talking points from the corporate mind-set that falsely associates jobs of any nature and any number while over-looking the fact that the private sector has its own weaknesses. It is not a do-all for every crisis we face and unless we find the courage to face this reality many will continue to elect people who defend this notion despite the growing moral void their actions create.
We need realistic 21st century leadership that can find a reasonable balance between the benefits of free enterprise endeavors along with government regulation and backing that will expand and enable new technologies for an economy that will fulfill the need to create a rising tide that lifts all boats; not just the yachts.