WANDERINGS, with Walter Brasch
by Walter Brasch
The party of NO, sometimes known as Republicans, has been consistent in its contempt for America.
President Obama wanted to continue the Bush tax cuts, but limit them only to those individuals earning less than $200,000 a year and families earning less than $250,000 a year. That would eliminate tax cuts for all but the richest 2 percent of Americans. The NO Party, which hypocritically emphasizes how much it wants to reduce government, demanded that all tax credits be approved. To extend the tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent would add about $854 billion to the national debt and do little to add jobs or stimulate the economy, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the richest people in the world, oppose extending tax cuts to the rich. A majority of Americans and Congress oppose extending tax cuts to the rich. But the minority in the Senate held Americans hostage.
They threatened to filibuster the bill and to block all legislation, no matter how critical, if the wealthy weren't included in the tax break. Pending legislation would extend unemployment benefits to almost two million Americans. That legislation also had a majority approval in both house of Congress. The NO people have consistently used the threat of filibuster, which requires 60 votes in the Senate to stop it.
At one time, Republican and Democratic leaders met, discussed, argued, and reached civil compromise that advanced the interest of the American people. This has not been the case the past decade. The Republican NO, when it controlled Congress and the executive branch during the Bush–Cheney era, had demanded that legislation be passed on an "up or down" simple majority vote. Now in the minority, they have become the obstructionists to progress and the will of the majority of Americans. In doing so, they have now fused two persona—the school yard bully and the boy who strikes out, blames the umpire, and grabs the team ball and runs away.
Falsely claiming it would protect Americans from runaway spending—while still asking for more than $1 billion in pork barrel funding—the NO Party then threatened a filibuster on the estate tax. The Democrats wanted the first $1 million to be tax exempt. The NO Party demanded a $5 million exemption for individuals and $10 million for couples, with the maximum tax above that 35 percent rather than the previous maximum, of 55 percent. If approved at the level the conservatives wanted, the new legislation would affect only 3,600 estates and add about $20 billion to the nation's debt.
While protecting the wealthy, the NO Party also blocked a one-time payment of $250 for senior citizens receiving Social Security. There was no annual cost-of-living increase this year because federal guidelines showed that inflation was not at a level that would trigger the increase, even though medical costs continued to rise. The House voted 254–153 to make the payment, but 290 votes were needed under the House's "special rules." In the Senate, the vote was 53–45 for the special payment, and failed because of the Republican filibuster threat.
The same miscreants then blocked legislation to provide financial compensation for the nation's first responders who were exposed to toxic ash at the 9/11 attacks and had to seek medical treatment. The Senate voted 57–42 to provide health care. But the No Compassion Party, which had already spewed millions of words about how they are more patriotic than anyone else, won by threatening a filibuster that ended any help to firefighters, police officers, and the thousands of volunteers who risked their lives to save others.
It isn't only financial interests that cause the NO Party to block progress. Still proclaiming its objective is to block any Obama legislation and prevent him from being a two-term president, the NO Party also tried to block a bill to give women equal pay. Only four senators voted for that bill.
The Republicans continue to block a vote for the continuation of START Treaty, begun under Richard Nixon and pushed by Ronald Reagan, which involves reduction of nuclear arms.
Apparently, the NO Party, now dominated by the extreme right wing, by its recent actions believes it's acceptable to harm the nation while protecting the rich and special interests.
[Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist, and the author of 17 books. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]