Who knew? Who knew that when the Tea Party Republicans were screaming about “death panels for the elderly”, it was because they liked the idea?
Their new Cut Cut Cut Budget eliminates Medicare, replacing it with a voucher program for which seniors will have to find new sources of revenue to be able to afford. If they can’t find that income — well,sure, no heath care for them, but it’s saving the government money.
The sense that “cut, cut, cut” is the answer to every crisis pervades the nation and is especially true in Nebraska, where Gov. Heineman has never encountered a poor person or sick child he hasn’t sought to take something from. (We can now add cities to the list of his victims; and Heineman is now against self-determined ways to raise revenue.)
President Obama addressed this (not Heineman – his attitude) in his budget speech. The Republican Cut Cut Cut budget proposal, he said “would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known throughout most of our history.” He characterized the GOP plan thus: “These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.”
“But,” he went on, “there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.”
What he needs to do, what Democrats need to do, is re-focus the country, skew the perspectives established by Fox and by the Republican Congressional leadership. We are all connected, and thier budgets pretend that we’re not.
Right now, problems are being defined in the abstract: the debt is our biggest problem; government should not interfere in our lives or commerce. We have been educated to believe these are set-in-stone, unwavering rules of governance. “That government is best which governs least” – yeah, baby!
Yet in the execution of these principles, people suffer – the very antithesis of what government should be about. Which is why, in his budget speech, Obama made the point about “the Americawe believe in”. The conversation has, for too long, been on Republican terms — which means it has been about abstract principles, not the daily lives of the people of the United States. It is in the effects of government programs in peoples’ lives that Democrats can — and must — make their case.
Parts of health care reform have been in effect for over a year, and we have yet to hear on anyone, any one person, who has suffered in some way because of it. We have heard of many who have benefited from it. And yet it is still not popular, there is still no groundswell of support that would preclude the GOP from even thinking of repealing it. Why? Because the conversation has been about “government coming between you and your doctor” and “it’s an unfunded mandate that will break the states”. Principles — principles which are proving to be false — yet are still being repeated as if their promotion is better for the country than getting health insurance for sick kids.
And so it is with policy in general.
Tea Party Republicans claim to believ in government of the people. What they propose is government at the people.
Democrats — indepepndents, Americans — have to isolate these issues, focus on their effects.
Nebraskans ask “Why don’t aliens go through the legal process – we have no problem with that.” So, would Nebraskans think it’s good for the state to deny public aid to aliens here legally? Heineman does. He wants to deny them Food Stamps and Medicaid.
Speaking of which, do you think it’s good for children living in poverty to not be able to get health care? Heineman does.
On and on. Is it beneficial for all of us for children who might have been exposed to it to not be screened for lead poisoning? Good that single moms can’t get jobs because they can’t afford child care? We accept these things because they are discussed only on Heineman’s terms: no taxes, cut cut cut expenses. The effects on peoples’ lives are mentioned only as the bills are passing through the legislature, forgotten when they become the status quo.
But if they are constantly hammered — as often as Heineman mentions “Nebraska’s in good financial shape” and “I didn’t raise taxes” –and framed as “are hungry children and jobless mothers good for Nebraska?”, I don’t believe for a second that Nebraskans would stand for it. I don’t believe we’re the kind of people who think that some kid subsisting on maybe one meal a day is a good price to pay for corporate tax loopholes and a few dimes off our tax bills.
But we have to be reminded that that’s the case, over and over again, until the focus of the conversation shifts from “how this affects the budget” to “how this affects the people”.