Thursday, June 01, 2006


At present, the Republicans hold as massive fundraising advantage over the Democrats. In the seven biggest Senate races this cycle, Republicans have a combined advantage of more than $20 million. The Dems will use that as either a rallying cry, or an excuse, but one way or the other, the figure does sound surmountable.

If the Democrats can't bridge the gap, there'll be at least a couple more years of such Republican frivolity as trying to impose further limits on abortion, and passing constitutional amendments against gay marriage and flag burning; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has said as much himself. Meanwhile the Republicans haven't been able to find the time to work on Universal Healthcare -- the lack of which is making U.S. businesses highly uncompetitive -- or stem cell research, which has the potential to save lives. Instead, they'll continue using inflammatory wedge issues to divide the nation, because that's what's worked in the past.

There is so much important work to be done on behalf of the citizens of this country, yet the Republican leadership has wasted their time and energy pandering to the extreme interests of evangelical Christians and Big Business.

Instead of working on issues such as the growing trade debt, renewable energy, the environment and global warming, education, and paying down the federal debt, the Republican leadership spent their precious time interfering in the private matters of the Shiavo family. What they thought was the moral high ground turned out to be just one more low point among many.

Social Security reform went nowhere, which is exactly where immigration reform and lobbying reform seem to be headed.

The Republicans control the Congress, and thus have budgetary control -- or at least what passes for it. One look at the recent history of Republican spending tells us plenty about the Republican priorities.

According to the Wall Street Journal, when the Republicans took control of the purse strings in Congress in 1995 the federal budget was $1.5 trillion. It is now $2.55 trillion per year - or $ 5 million per minute - and the latest Treasury data reveal that in fiscal 2005 federal outlays grew by another $ 179 billion, an eight percent increase and more than twice the rate of inflation.

In 1995 there were 1439 earmarked federal projects, otherwise known as pork barrel spending, costing $10.1 billion. By 2005 the number had grown to 13,998 earmarked projects, for a total cost of $27.3 billion in taxpayer money.

Republicans controlled both houses of Congress during that decade.

In 2001, unemployment was 4.2% and is now 4.9% -- a 17% increase.

In 2001 the federal budget had a $281 billion surplus, today there is a $400 billion deficit -- a $681 billion loss.

In 2001 the federal debt was $5.7 trillion, it is now $8.2 trillion -- up 44%.

Whatever happened to the party of smaller government and fiscal responsibility?

As an Independent, I don't really have a dog in this fight, ideologically. However, I have nothing in common with the Christian Right or Big Business, so that's where the Republicans and I part company. As someone with a strong Libertarian streak, I fail to see how gay people marrying affects my life one iota. Nor, for that matter, does someone burning the flag. I may not like it, or respect it, but a Constitutional Amendment against it? Please! I'm more concerned about the fact that my health insurance went up 50% in less than 2 1/2 years -- with no claims!

I'm also more concerned about the effect the price of oil will have on our economy. Millions of Americans are already feeling the pinch every time they fill up their gas tanks. Meanwhile, every single day, cars and municipal busses across the U.S. are being run on biodiesel -- which is essentially vegetable oil -- as well as ethanol, and yet we're still paying $3 plus for petroleum. What a racket! How can Brazil, long known as a Third World country, declare itself energy independent, while we're still reliant on foreign countries for 50% of the oil we consume? How can that be? Perhaps the powers that be (i.e. the oil and automotive industries) have shut out these competing and revolutionary technologies in their own interests. As we know, those two industries are good friends of the Republican leadership, and as such any attempts at raising the fuel efficiency standards of autos has gone nowhere.

President Bush and the Republicans spent too much time, and too much political capital, trying to "save Social Security" when in actuality its trust fund is expected to remain funded until at least 2041 -- 35 years down the road. Meanwhile the real fiscal crisis looms in the form of Medicare. The medical trust fund that benefits the elderly will run out of money in 2018 - just 12 years from now. Have you heard any public warnings about that? No, well the Republicans have been shamefully silent about it.

The point is that the Republicans have been the party in control and were expected to lead. But they haven't. Instead they've done virtually nothing except let Big Energy write the energy bill, and the pharmaceutical industry write the massively expensive new entitlement known as the Medicaid Prescription Drug Bill. What a legacy.

The midterm elections are just five months away, and scandals aside, the Republicans have plenty of reason to worry, not the least of which is that they've failed the American people miserably.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.