It's the last week before a crucial election, and I'm still hearing two things that disturb me. First, there's the "both parties are the same" garbage. Then, there are the attempts to entice me to vote for a third party candidate, who'll be lucky to get one percent of the vote. I'm not that stupid, and it makes me think many "Political junkies" are just plain blind.
Whether you like it or not, there are two choices available. Because of the way our system is designed, there's no smorgasbord of candidates available on Election Day. In nearly every single choice this election, you have a choice between Column D and Column R. And given the mathematics and dynamics of the system, a vote for anything other than Column D is effectively a vote for Column R. We all want a "third choice," but our system doesn't prvide for that, so your only shot is to develop another choice -- Column G? -- to eventually replace Column R. But that can't happen until we get rid of Column R. There are no shortcuts.
In Column D, we have a Democratic Party that's probably a bit more conservative than we'd all like much of the time, but which usually has the country's best interests at heart and isn't being run by a bunch of power hungry loons.
On the other hand, in Column R we have a Republican Party that in no way resembles the GOP we knew years ago. They began a transformation in late 1960s which they mistakenly believed they could stop, but they couldn't, and now the inmates have taken over the asylum. Forty years ago, we thought Barry Goldwater was a right wing loon, and Richard Nixon was the epitome of evil. Now, their rants seem almost quaint in todays party. They nominated a candidate for president who still thinks supply-side economics works, even after 32 years of abject failure. What was Einstein's definition of insanity again?
If you really can't see the difference between the two major parties right now, you're not paying attention. Worse, if you quote Harry Truman's famous line:
“Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time.”
you are hopelessly tone deaf. Truman said that back in 1946. If you've repeated that quote anytime in the last decade or so, let's just say you're not paying attention. The Republican Party has been hopelessly radicalized, and there are currently zero Democrats who act like Republicans. No, not even Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman, at least most of the time. ALL Blue Dogs vote with Democrats almost all of the time, but you'd be hard pressed to find even one moderate Republicans who does that.
Look at the issue of jobs, for example. Bill Clinton's Administration created 23 million jobs in eight years, mostly working against the Republicans in Congress to do so, while George W. Bush and his Republican Congress could only manage to create about 4 million jobs in seven years, despite the largest economic bubble in US history. That was before the bottom dropped out. If you consider his entire administration, he created a net minus-1.5 million jobs.
But I could go on and on about history. Bloomberg studied this, and concluded that, over the last half century, Democrats have created far more private sector jobs than Republicans.
But let's keep this current, and talk about this election. The current incarnations of both parties are not even close on this one. Republicans just love to complain about unemployment, and they love to blame President Obama for all of it. But whose fault is it really?
It's the Republican Party's fault, silly.
The Republicans have been in charge of the House since January 2011, and they have produced hundreds of bills they knew would never pass, including bills to kill Medicare, bills to weaken the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, bills to protect oil company profits, bills to limit women's reproductive right, and at least 33 bills to kill Obamacare. But there has been no plan to create jobs.
Just in the first eight months, House Democrats proposed a number of bills aimed at creating jobs, only to have the Republicans kill them all without even allowing debate. Here's a partial list:
- The Build America Bonds to Create Jobs Now Act
- The American Jobs Matter Act
- The National Manufacturing Strategy Act
- The Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Technology Act
- The Currency Reform and Fair Trade Act (which would address currency manipulation that causes jobs to be sent to China)
- And a patent reform bill that would have prioritized patent applications based on the inventor's willingness to manufacture in the United States.
Faced with so much inaction in the face of continuing high unemployment, on September 8, 2011 President Obama and the Democratic Party presented to Congress the American Jobs Act. It was a $447 billion bill that contained a large number of initiatives designed to create jobs immediately, as well as incentives for businesses to create jobs. Basically, the breakdown was 53% tax breaks and 47% expenditures. So, it should have been at least half appealing, right?
Well, no. By September 16, 2011, the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives had already decided to scrap most of the AJA, stripping all but $11 billion from the bill. They kept a few of the tax cuts, but by mid-October, Republicans officially killed the bill, as ZERO Republicans voted for it in the Senate.
That's right. While the Republicans in Congress and the Republican presidential candidates (yes, the campaign had already been going for some time) were handing President Obama all of the blame for high unemployment, he handed them a comprehensive plan, and they dismissed it out of hand, without offering an alternative, or even a compromise. At least, not yet.
Not content to simply allow the Republicans to blow off the entire AJA, Congressional Democrats began to break the bill into pieces, to see if perhaps a few Republicans could be persuaded to jump ship and accept smaller expenditures.
In October, Democrats carved out a $35 billion provision from the AJA that would have provided local jurisdictions with support, to allow them to keep more government employees, especially police, firefighters and teachers, on the payroll, which would have provided a boost in economic activity, besides the obvious societal benefits. Unfortunately, all 47 Republicans in the Senate voted against the bill, which means it "lost," 53-47 (it needed 60 votes to pass).
Since that time, nearly 700,000 public employees have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is now 7.8%; that measure alone would have lowered the unemployment rate to about 7.2%. Although, those extra people working would probably have led to 200,000 others getting jobs, which would have sent it even lower. And, perhaps ironically, keeping those people out of work is helping to keep the deficit highet.
On another level, Congressional Republicans not only deny our children the best possible educational opportunities, and deny you police and fire protection, but they deny jobs to millions. In April of this year, the Economic Policy Institute said,
"If public-sector employment had grown since June 2009 by the average amount it grew in the three previous recoveries (2.8 percent) instead of shrinking by 2.5 percent, there would be 1.2 million more public-sector jobs in the U.S. economy today."
Look at the charts. Reagan is supposedly their idol, but he had no problem helping keep public workers on the job, because they pay taxes. Not only has the "austerity" craze engaged in by the current Republican Party cost the economy more than one million jobs, but when they were offered a chance to fix the problem -- twice -- they refused. And in the process, ironically, they're actually increasing the deficit.
After they killed that bill, Congressional Republicans decided they were starting to look bad, mostly because President Obama was making them look bad, so they decided they'd better push forth a bill with the word "jobs" in it.
Congressional Republicans John McCain, Rand Paul and Rob Portman pushed forward their own plan, which they called "The Jobs Through Growth Act." The bill would have created huge tax breaks for the rich and corporations, with the top tax bracket being dropped to 25%, which was exactly half the rate under St. Reagan.
The bill also featured a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," a removal of barriers to drilling oil in dangerous places, such as in deep sea beds, and -- I wish I was kidding -- a balanced budget requirement.
The one thing the bill did not contain was anything that would create jobs.
Needless to say, the bill died, for reasons that should seem obvious.
A few weeks later, Democrats put forth another slice of the AJA, which would have provided $60 billion to repair highways, bridges and other infrastructure items like airports, transit and rail systems. The proposal would have provided a major boost to construction workers, who were particularly hard hit in the Bush Recession.
Of course, Senate Republicans blocked the bill, thus refusing to spend a relatively modest amount of money to put people to work repairing our crumbling infrastructure. Next time you hit a pothole and the city can't fix the problem, now you know who to blame. And if you know a construction worker who would love a chance to help rebuild this country, they should know, the Republican Party prevented that.
That wouldn't be the last time Republicans would refuse to put construction workers back to work fixing things.
Democrats, with the support of 22 Senate Republicans for once, passed a $109 billion highway bill in March that would have spurred job growth in numerous areas of the country. Democrats estimated that the economic activity created could have resulted in 3 million jobs, and that may be overstated slightly, but if it had "only" created one million jobs, it would have more than paid for itself. One thing today's Republicans don't understand is, millions of construction workers pay taxes and spend money in the economy. Spending does not evaporate into the ether.
House Republicans, led by Eric Cantor and John Boehner, came out against the entire highway bill, claiming it was "too expensive." With federal highway funding due to expire at the end of March, the House Republican leadership decided to punt, passing a three-month extension, so that current projects wouldn't be left dormant. And getting the final bill through - a process that used to be fairly routine in the past - was like pulling teeth with a pair of pliers.
Around the same time they punted the AJA, Republicans once again decided they needed to look like they cared about jobs, so they came up with a bill they cleverly called the "JOBS Act," or "Jumpstart Our Business Startups." Though it had a bad name, this wasn't a bad bill. But it was in no way a major job creation bill. The law makes it easier for business startups to receive investment funding, by removing many of the barriers that exist. It was based on the old adage that "most new jobs are created by small business." While this is true, it leaves out another truism; that most small businesses don't hire new employees for years after they start up. While it will probably lead to millions of jobs over the next couple of decades, for those people who are looking at losing their homes now, there isn't much to look forward to here. The first jobs probably won't appear until at least 2015 or 2016.
As you can see, there is a huge difference between Democrats and Republicans regarding job creation. It's not even close. And that's because of one major difference having to do with election strategy.
Democrats want to create jobs, because they want to encourage voters to show up at the polls and reward them.
Republicans' main strategy is to drive down turnout. They are a minority party with a rabid core. They think the only way they can win is to make good people not want to vote. High unemployment discourages people and keeps them away from the polls better than anything. If jobs were created, people would feel good, plus they would give credit to President Obama, which is a double whammy they don't want.
In short, the reason unemployment has stayed high is because Republicans care about winning, and nothing else.