Republicans: still without ideas
8 years of Republican rule and the last 30 years of the Reagan revolution have left behind a real mess that now needs to cleaned up by grownups. Obama is leading with a Stimulus Package that's critiziced by many as not being large enough to do the job. But at least, his proposal is finally something different and new. Investing in lasting infrastructure, directing money to benefit the working people. What a concept!
And what's the Republican response? They don't like it and they threaten to not go along with it. Why? Because they only policy decision they can stomach is... you guessed it... the same one of the last 30 years... TAX CUTS! Make them larger. Make them permanent. Make government smaller! Free the market! After being handed 2 horrible defeats in a row they counterattack with the same policies that got us here. They remain as clueless as they were in the past couple of years. Still without ideas.
Obama came in with high hopes of a new bi-partisan era of co-operation. After all, the economy is in such a mess that only the most irrational, irresponsible and despicable politicians will play hardball in a moment like this. Cynics would say that the best approach for the Republicans, strategically speaking, is to oppose the package, assume that the approach will fail and then reap the electoral benefits. But not Obama.
He displayed his optimism by visiting the Republicans in Congress looking for votes for his stimulus package, something that the previous administration never even considered. The result? The package passed the House without a single Republican vote. Now it moves to the Senate, where a valid question is whether we should now try to remove the concesions made while chasing the bipartisan dream...
And if you think the Republicans at the national level are bad, wait till you hear what the Republicans in California are doing. Here in California, we're cursed with the "super majority" requirement to pass the Budget. The 66.66% requirement sounds very democratic at first, but the evidence shows that it's nothing but the tyranny of the minority. The Republican minority in the Legislature is sufficient to block passage of any budget that raises any taxes.
The situation is insane. In the face of a huge deficit we need to ask ourselves a fundamental question: do we want to be more like Sweden or more like a Third World country? No politician will say their goal to is to turn California into your typical Latin American country, for example. And yet, the Republicans are categorically opposed to raising a cent of taxes in the State (it's the only idea they have, remember?). Ok then, if we don't raise revenue the only solution to the Budget problem is to make gargantuan cuts, effectively destroying the State infrastructure and putting us in the right path to become a Thirld World country within the United States.
You might think I'm exaggerating, but I don't think I am. I've been heavily involved with the public school system in Redwood City, a suburb of Silicon Valley, one of the most affluent areas in the nation. Our School District serves a diverse population where a large number of students gets free lunch in school. Over the past few years we've faced round after round of cuts. The result is that services we took for granted a few decades ago no longer exist in our public schools. PE for example... there's none. We're facing alarming levels of obesity in kids, but the District cannot afford PE for everyone, and that's just an example. At this point the cuts have come so often that most of the district income is used to pay teacher salaries; there's nothing left to cut. Public schools make heroic efforts, but are reduced to offering just the basics. The effect? All around me I'm seeing middle class people fleeing the public school system for the private schools. Exactly like in Latin American countries, where everyone that can afford to avoid public schools does. This is very, very sad.
Making matters worse, if a district decides locally that they want to pay more taxes to support their public schools, they need to pass a Parcel Tax. And there again the Super Majority requirement comes up, courtesy of Prop 13, which, by the way, did not pass with a 66.6% vote but now requires it for any tax increase, even when the local community is in favor. In Redwood City we tried to pass a Parcel Tax and got 62% of the vote. Yes, only 62% of the vote. A lanslide in a federal election, but not enough to let a community who's in favor of avoiding the continuing deterioration of its public school system take matters into its own hands.
We're in a real mess, both at the national and the state level, and the Republicans remain convinced that their one idea will help lead them out of their current morass.
I don't have any solutions. I'm just venting in the hope of achieving the partial satisfaction a small catharsis can provide. The posturing in Congress last week was just too much to take.