Posts Tagged ‘house republicans’

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Why Cutting Public Funding for PBS Harms Poor Americans More than Rich

02.12.11

In an effort to cut our national deficit, House Republicans are introducing legislation to cut even more spending, this time focusing on totally ending funding for NPR and PBS.

Just for those keeping track at home, our national deficit this year is roughly $1.17 trillion. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget is $420 million, making it roughly .036 percent of this year’s shortfall.

Here’s the thing: we need to fix our budget. But it’s beyond insulting to give the top two percent of earners a massive tax cut that costs taxpayers $68 billion for the estate tax cut alone. Throw in another $81.5 billion for the tax cuts to families making over $250,000 and we’re looking at $149.5 billion in spending (which is one percent of the debt — or 356 times as much as what we spend on the CPB) that only benefits a tiny fraction of the population while wanting to slash funding for the programs that go to the middle- and lower-classes who make up an overwhelming majority of the population.

There are a number of reasons why the GOP is embarking on a witch hunt for NPR and PBS, one of which is that they’re making it all about ideology to rile their base, not because they’re being fiscally austere. Only someone who had no clue about budgets and numbers in general – or blinded by rhetoric – would miss the absurdity of adding $149.5 billion to the deficit at the same time as fighting to cut $420 million all while claiming to be budget hawks. It’s like taking out a massive loan on a brand-new home in Malibu and then putting your foot down on selling your 10-year-old Dodge Caravan to cut down on spending.

Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Jim DeMint both argued for cutting CPB because since our government is broke, we cannot afford to be spending money on left-wing programs that Americans don’t agree with. Surely some feel that way. But what’s so left-wing about Sesame Street? Or NOVA? Remember Wild America and Reading Rainbow? Unless learning about science, nature, and reading is left-wing all of a sudden, it’s just more of the same ideological fantasy world where Glenn Beck is a moderate and anyone else to the left of Beck is considered a radical leftist — a stance that has even extended to other popular conservative pundits. It feels like just political battle against Democrats but the only losers will be us Americans who actually value public broadcasting – regardless of our politics.

For those who defend the Republican Party vehemently against those who think that the GOP is the party for the rich, it’s hard to feel otherwise when conservative congresspeople stand firm on tax cuts for the rich while also arguing that we can do without funding for PBS. Perhaps they’ve forgotten since they’re making well over $100,000 a year as civil servants that for poorer families who have to cut costs to stay solvent in this economy don’t always have access to the plethora of channels available via cable television.

Not to say that people with cable don’t watch PBS or listen to NPR even if they have Sirius, but I remember growing up as a kid, we didn’t have enough money to splurge on cable when we already had standard TV via an antenna on the top of our house. And since my parents didn’t want us only watching crap, we watched a lot of PBS: Reading Rainbow and Square One TV were after-school mainstays for years.

We can’t just keep cutting everything that keeps a support net for underprivileged Americans while avoiding the big issues that were the true culprits in this financial fiasco. You might disagree with me on the worth of taxpayer money funding NPR and PBS, but no one can argue that their budget is a key component to our ballooning deficit. It’s barely a drop in the bucket. A fraction of a percentage of our overall debt.

Cutting this spending will not right our ship, will not come close to balancing our budget. If the rich can get massive tax breaks, the rest of us should at the very least get to keep our free TV that offers more substance than Charlie Sheen making light of alcoholism, promiscuity, and a total lack of commitment nightly in half-hour chunks.

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House Votes to Repeal Affordable Care Act: Just Symbolic or Signal of Something More?

01.20.11

The GOP-led House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act yesterday, 245-189.

Most likely this is just to placate the base who the rank-and-file riled up heavily in the campaigns last fall with their anti-Obamacare talking points, since a similar measure looks to die in the Senate, which is still led by Democrats. And even were that not the case, President Obama would still have veto power.

While it’s no surprise really that the votes went this way, it still seems like a waste of time, energy, and money. Yet another case of politics over governance – something which can be defended when running for office, or even as the minority group in all branches of government, perhaps. But not for those in power.

Because what good is passing a bill through one branch of government when you know that it has virtually no chance of making it through the other?

At some point, it just comes down to doing something. If the cost-constraining measures don’t work well, instead of just repealing it and going back to the status quo which everyone agreed wasn’t sustainable either, propose a new method. Offer an alternative instead of just going backward. Do something rather than just ensuring that we’ve all done nothing.

Hell, why not grab Rep. Paul Ryan’s health care reform proposal off the shelf and vote on that? That’d be creating an alternative rather than just voting to not do anything.

The notion of sweeping legislation seems to be off the table for Republicans. A big issue that came out of last year’s health care reform was just how huge it was and how even some Congresspeople hadn’t read the whole thing. It makes sense then that the GOP would go after specific reforms one at a time, even if that brings its own issues along, too.

Republicans say there’s no timeline for their “replace” legislation, but if they’re serious, they’ll have to start advancing specific proposals by the summer.

The likeliest prospect Republicans have for success in the short term lies in taking on the 1099 tax reporting requirement for businesses. It’s been widely criticized as a paperwork nightmare. Even the White House wants to scrap the provision, and the Treasury Department has already taken action to limit its scope. But the two political parties disagree on how to go about undoing the requirement, so an early resolution seems unlikely. Lawmakers have time; it doesn’t take effect until next year.

My emphasis. Both parties agree that this specific item in the law should be changed. This is a great place to start: a point of reference on which both can say, “Yeah, that bit doesn’t work.” At least they don’t have to argue that something is broken while the other side says it’s fine. Which means they can just get right to problem solving: “Let’s figure out a way to fix it.” That’s working together. That’s compromise. That’s using different ideas of how things should work to make the law better. Granted that’s no easy task either, whatsoever; but, it’s far more productive than just taking a symbolic vote on total repeal of everything – even the stuff that arguably works.

But Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas still sees value and importance in the general repeal.

“Unless we repeal the law in the House, we don’t have any credibility to do anything. This establishes Republicans’ credibility to negotiate and deal with the Senate and the president.”

I disagree. The GOP could establish credibility just as well – if not even better to a large swath of Americans – by using their majority to provide solutions to those issues they have with the law rather than just scrapping it altogether and starting over again. That merely showcases their voting majority at the expense of their credibility to negotiate – especially when the repeal seems to be falling mainly down party lines.

Given the polls that show that the overall law tends to show up as unfavorable to the majority of Americans while the individual aspects of the law tend to be favorable, the real work needs to be done on improving the parts to make the whole better. Hopefully the House will still seek to achieve these goals even if the repeal dies in the Senate as expected. Then we all win: the GOP saves face by doing what they could to satisfy those campaign promises; and we all get an improved health care system.

Photo courtesy of wallyg’s Flickr Photostream.