Friday, October 04, 2013
Is Bowing to Shutdown Boehner's way of being Biblical?
Negos Fiddle while DC is frozen: no health care for Jesus
I came across the following political cartoon shortly after a colleague recently solicited my views regarding the current government shutdown. It succinctly expresses my assessment of who is responsible for the present impasse.
A fuller answer would address the question how and why this shutdown came to be. Here goes.
Tea Partiers comprise about a tenth of the House of Representatives and roughly 20% of the Republican House majority. The political cowardice of the GOP leadership to confront its most reactionary wing time and again leads Speaker Boehner’s team to abdicate control of the People’s House to this tiny minority of Congressmen. Rather than marginalize these bullies through an act of leadership and statesmanship, the Speaker chooses capitulation time and again so as to avoid provoking primary challenges. He apparently does not apprehend that virtually all of the Tea Party representatives come from heavily gerrymandered districts that have been largely scrubbed of nonwhite voters. It would be hard for most states to create more of such districts in the next redistricting go-around, and increasingly impossible to maintain such districts in view of the country’s present demographic trends. But short-term expediency is breeding big-time, long-term adverse consequences for both the nation [certainly] and the GOP [probably].
While I have mentioned the racial composition of the districts of which the Tea Party has secured present political control, I have not spoken of the racial animus of its members and its policies. To do so usually provokes irrational and cynical nonsense about “playing the race card”. But let us consider these few facts drawn from the historical record.
1. Affirmative action has always been a part of America’s history. Until the Civil Rights Movement the primary benefits of affirmative action were white men. This is incontrovertible before the New Deal of the 1930s. But even New Deal legislation reinforced favoritism based on race. One example of many: Social Security legislation was drawn to exclude those occupations to which most black people, especially black women, were relegated. This was a political compromise by the Franklin Roosevelt administration to achieve the greater good. Black people paid the lion’s share of the cost at the time and still do. [Not unlike that 3/5 of a person compromise that made possible the birth of a nation. Who benefited from that? Who paid the price of that ticket?].
2. The primary beneficiaries of modern civil rights legislation have been white women. Not begrudging them. I’m just saying. Tens of millions of black people have benefited from the legislation. Over a hundred million white women have benefited from it. Of course, the real beneficiary has been the entire nation.
3. A higher percentage of black people has been uninsured than white people. The black community needs the Affordable Care Act. But, just as in the preceding paragraph, more white Americans will benefit from the ACA than black folk. No problem. The whole nation benefits.
And while we’re on this point, I would venture that Tea Partiers are among the most vociferous defenders of the claim that the USA is the greatest nation on earth, [with the best health care system, the purest foreign policy, the most valorous military, etc.] But how do they explain that the US lags virtually the industrial world in enacting universal health care? Or that our pre-ACA system has led to the world’s most expensive system while simultaneously being one of the world’s most inequitable? [Check out this eight-minute video on health care costs in America.]
So why this excursion into talk of race? I personally lost interest long ago in calling people racist for their actions or beliefs. I think we need a new way of talking about issues of race that permits us to address causes and conditions and remedies without making accusations or assigning individual blame. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to point out that certain people consistently adopt positions that have disproportionately negative consequences for people of color. And when the Speaker of the House, a la Pontius Pilate, throws up his hands and lets the mad crowd have its blood, he can’t claim clean hands.