I Never Thought I'd Live to See the Day...

tags: Republican Party, Iran, pope



Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan.

The United States has all along been a society dominated by the wealthy, and more especially by the business classes. But businesspeople are not all cut from the same cloth. You had high-minded responsible businessmen like Benjamin Franklin and you had mean-spirited businessmen, including the plantation slave-owners.

In recent months we have been bombarded by news items emanating from the really, really do-absolutely-nothing GOP-dominated House of Representatives, which when it does do something usually does something downright mean. Also rigid and unthinking and narrow-minded and wrong-headed. There, I’ve repeated myself. It might have been enough to say “GOP.” And some of the Republicans in the Senate haven’t been much better.

At a time when Pope Francis I has called for the Church to be less rigid in its attitudes toward e.g. gays as persons, and when President Hassan Rowhani of Iran has sought a more reasonable tone toward the U.S. and Israel, our hard line Republicans have become more and more blinkered.

The House of Representatives has just passed a budget that would keep the government operating until later this fall, as the fiscal year ends, but only if the Senate and President Obama agree to defund the Affordable Health Care Act, which is the law of the land and cannot be defunded.

Note that the GOP House did not actually pass a proper budget. It doesn’t believe enough in government to do that. It just permitted the government not to close down altogether, but only if it can impose its minority views on the rest of the country. President Obama ran twice on health care reform and if the country had wanted to get rid of the AHCA, it could have voted for Mitt Romney but it didn’t. The GOP House has wasted a lot of time attempting to repeal Obamacare, which it cannot do at the moment because the Democrats have the Senate and the presidency. They know this. Governing for them has become like a strange ritual.

The reason the GOP wants to do away with the Affordable Health Care Act is that big business does not want it, and the Republicans in the House of Representatives no longer represent the American people. They represent big business and it alone. Big business deserves to have some representation in the U.S. government. The 2000 biggest corporations are half the U.S. economy. But they don’t deserve to be the only voice that is heard there, and they shouldn’t be able to undo the will of the majority of voters with a whispering campaign on the Hill.

The GOP is willing to try to destroy the AHCA, even though this act benefits some 30 million Americans who otherwise lack health insurance. Apparently they are supposed to do without medical care until they get deathly ill, at which case they should take a chance on Emergency Room Treatment. This proposition is a non-starter. The heroic health care professionals in ERs cannot possibly serve all those 30 million. And, it is much more expensive for taxpayers to pay for emergency room care than to simply fund the AHCA. It is only business interests that would benefit from the latter’s demise. Not the middle classes who pay the taxes and don’t have Caribbean tax havens. Not the poor, whose health suffers from lack of medical care and physician access. Children are much less healthy later in life if their mothers had no regular physician visits, and lack of such visits raises the risk of miscarriage and infant mortality.

The GOP House, in trying to get rid of Obamacare, is literally acting as baby-killers. They are set on this course the way the Inquisition used to be determined to burn heretics at the stake. They are loyal servants of the corporations, the way the Aztecs were loyal servants of the gods to whom they sacrificed innocent victims.

The Grand old Party of Scrooge likewise cut $4 billion a year in food stamps. Having deregulated the banks and encouraged the demon instrument of derivatives and driven the country into the ground with their economic policies, the Republicans now want to heap further punishment on the very people they have made homeless. Before the apogee of GOP policy in 2008, 11 percent of Americans were poverty-stricken and food insecure. Every year since the Great GOP Depression of the 21st Century, the percentage of food insecure people in America has been over 14. The GOP, having advocated baby-killing through the abolition of Obamacare, now wants to engage in baby-starving.

Not since British landlords actually exported food from Ireland for profit during the Great Famine of the 1840s have we seen this kind of hard-heartedness in an elite.

Have we had a rash of mass killings? Should we have gun control? No, because a handful of huge corporations such as Colt and others make billions off semi-automatic pistols and rifles. The GOP doesn’t represent the children who are shot down by the mentally unbalanced with those weapons. It represents the manufacturers and the retailers who make money off the sale of military-style weapons to civilians.

Has Egypt had a military coup and engaged in a bloody crackdown? A congressional delegation including Michele Bachmann promptly went off to Cairo to assure the generals that they fully supported the human rights violations. Ironically, Bachmann’s policies in the U.S. differ little except by denomination from the Muslim Brotherhood she hates, and the secular officers would arrest her as a fundamentalist and cultist if they knew what she advocates.

Is Iran’s new president positioning himself for serious negotiations with the U.S.? Sen Lindsey Graham calls for war on Tehran, and Congress passes stringent new sanctions that amount to financial warfare on that country.

This Congress, and especially the House of GOP Scrooges, represents narrow and mean-spirited interests, not the broad mass of Americans. Indeed, it seems obvious that if only they could find a way to legalize slavery again, the GOP would be perfectly happy to sell us down the river for the sake of our plantation masters.

It is the policy of a cult, not of a national party that has a hope of gaining the presidency. They should take a lesson from other cults that have attempted to rule in a narrow and injurious manner, producing public anger and backlash against them. Indeed, that was exactly the charge against deposed Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi. There won’t be a coup against the GOP Scrooges, but it seems very likely that there will be a wave of public revulsion that reduces them to further isolation and irrelevance.


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