If we look to the federal government to solve our problems, we may have a long wait ahead of us. That's because the Republicans in both the House and Senate have stalled and subverted all Democratic attempts at change that would help working families. In a time when we are surrounded by economic, environmental and social crises that demand change, the federal government is gridlocked.
It truly is remarkable that, on the night of President Obama's 2009 inauguration, the most powerful Republicans in Washington gathered to plot a strategy to ensure that the president and the Democratic Party accomplish nothing, or at least very little.
In his book "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives," Robert Draper describes the night that began Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's record of nearly 300 filibusters since then. Roughly 200 occurred during the two years when Democrats controlling Congress sent over lots of good legislation to the Senate for approval. The Senate GOP also held up 79 of the president's picks for the U.S. Circuit Court and Courts of Appeal for no good reason.
Senate Democrats, and even a few Republicans, did pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It stalled in the Republican-controlled House when, in a closed-door meeting, House Republicans basically refused to bring the Senate's immigration reform bill up for a vote.
With so much time on their hands not passing good legislation, what are the Republicans doing? They have been working to repeal what little the Democrats accomplished in 2009 and 2010. Obamacare was passed so that more Americans could have access to lifesaving healthcare at affordable costs, but Republicans have tried 40 times to repeal it. Republicans voted to cut billions in spending from the SNAP food stamps program that, over 10 years, would result in nearly 3 million Americans losing food assistance and the ability to adequately feed themselves. Statistically, this is "screw the kids." (Children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the United States; they are 24 percent of the total population, but 36 percent of the poor population.)
Since 2007, the foreclosure crisis has displaced at least 10 million people from more than 4 million homes across the country. In response, Republicans have repeatedly screwed the homeless by cutting funding to homeless shelters and blocking legislation to help homeless veterans. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the Republican-driven sequester has pushed as many as 140,000 more American households into homelessness.ÊÊ
And Republicans are getting better at their obstruction! In 2013, during the first six months, Congress has only passed 15 bills that were signed into law. This is eight fewer than in the first six months of 2012 and 19 fewer than 2011.
At one level, you could say "man, those guys play some serious hardball." At another level, say the level of patriotic support for one's country, or a longing for the common good, another response is evoked. Mine is to speak out against a Republican strategy that kills job growth, stops aid to small businesses, hurts women's ability to gain equal pay for equal work, and cuts benefits for seniors and veterans.
If most of this information is new to you, perhaps your news comes from one of the six corporations Time Warner, Disney, News Corp., Viacom, Comcast, and CBS that control roughly 90 percent of the media in the United States and have a self-interest in ignoring real news and dishing out infotainment instead. (To be better informed, watch Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now," Thom Hartmann's "The Big Picture" or Bill Moyers' "Moyers & Company.")
Washington has served the rich these past 30 years while turning its back on the middle class. The U.S. political economy has been trending toward greater inequality and poverty and a diminished capacity to respond democratically to meet the social, economic and environmental challenges we face.Ê
So, what do we do to restore our democracy and rebuild the American dream? Do like the City of Milpitas. Do what you can with the resources you have. For example, to help residents transition away from carbon fuels, make it easier for homeowners to install solar panels. Grease the skids of the permit process. And do such a good job of it that the State of California recognizes and honors your city.
Thank you city leaders and staff who made this happen. Bless you. And keep up the good work.
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Rob Means is active in Milpitas politics and is a frequent
contributor to this paper.