Saturday, March 16, 2013

Of Guns and Budgets

Last week was a momentous flop for the Republican Party. Are they in complete denial of the 2012 elections? Are they so entrenched in their ideology of the far right that they have forsaken the will of the people? Has the Tea Party put a stranglehold on the Republican leadership? On one hand, the party is trying to reach out to minorities and the middle class, but beyond the rhetoric, its the same old policies that have driven those groups away in droves.

Take, for example the recent negotiations surrounding gun safety legislation. If there is one issue that Congress could agree on, you would expect it to be on Universal Background Checks for gun purchases. On this single issue, there is no suggestion of banning weapons or ammunition, no confiscating guns from law abiding citizens. Just keeping new gun sales out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Isn't that what everyone says they are striving for? Yet, not one Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted for universal background checks, despite polls showing 91% of the people support them. Republicans have put the interests of the gun industry and the NRA above the will of the people. The GOP clearly has shown themselves to be a party of special interests ($$) and obstructionism. No wonder nothing can get accomplished in our Congress.

And now the Republican House has put forth their budget as authored by defeated VP candidate Paul Ryan. A recent Bloomberg editorial summed it up best. 

... it’s hard to view this latest budget as anything more than a holding pattern for a political party caught between its past and its future. Like the fiscal outlook, the nation’s politics have shifted. Ryan’s budget pockets the savings from Obama’s health-care plan while calling again for its repeal. As Jim Nussle, a former Republican congressman and budget director under George W. Bush, said to CNBC: “I think we fought that battle.” Pretending otherwise is silly.
Similarly, the last Ryan budget was fully vetted in the 2012 presidential campaign. Afterward, Democrats won the White House and picked up seats in the Senate and House. Republicans can keep offering the same platform of spending cuts, but they seem unlikely to achieve different results.
...It is crucial that policy makers find ways to bring down medical costs, but there are ways to do this without leaving the elderly and poor with inadequate health care. Medicare could, for example, raise premiums for high earners, reduce payments to drug companies or drive competition by making public the prices it pays for drugs, devices and medical services... The latest Ryan budget, like its predecessors, is an artifact of the era.
Republicans may try to put a kinder and gentler facade on immigration, healthcare and cuts to valued safety nets (entitlements), but their actions on guns and budgets this week show where they really stand. As the saying goes, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig". 

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