Recent actions by Republicans are giving me a serious case of outrage. When the House voted to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, that was just plain idiotic. As Ruth Marcus says:
House Republicans voted to increase the number of abortions, raise federal health-care costs and swell the welfare rolls.
That wasn't their intent, of course, and certainly not their stated policy. But it is the predictable and inevitable impact of their twin moves to eliminate funding for the federal family planning program and strip Planned Parenthood of all federal money.
If anything, this assessment is understated. The sharper, and still accurate version, would be that Republicans voted to let more women die from breast cancer, cervical cancer and AIDS. How's that? The family planning programs also provide cancer screening and HIV counseling to millions of low-income and uninsured people.
Let's be clear about one thing. Almost none of this money went for abortions. The only federal funding for abortion involves the thankfully low number of situations in which poor women seek abortions for pregnancy due to rape or incest, or when their own lives are in jeopardy. In 2006, the last year for which figures are available, the federal government paid for 191 such abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
So even though defunding Planned Parenthood supposedly is about deficit reduction, actually the motivation of Republicans is purely political. They're playing to their far-right base, which views abortion as against God's will -- even though it is constitutional and legal according to the laws of our secular land.
Aside from the few lawful exceptions noted above, Planned Parenthood doesn't use any federal money to pay for abortions. Yet Republicans want to punish women by denying the organization any financial support at all, even for family planning (which reduces abortions) and cancer screening (which saves lives).
Logically, next House Republicans will vote to deny all Medicare and Medicaid funding for any hospital or other medical care provider which performs abortions, even though paid for privately. This is just what they're trying to do to Planned Parenthood: punish the supposed "sin" of abortion by stripping the sinner of all federal support.
Then there's the equally irritating actions of Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
Like most people, I rarely pay much attention to unions, since their influence and membership has dropped a lot over the past few decades. But Walker has woken me up to the danger of further pushing American workers into semi-slave labor status.
Just as with his House Republican brethren, Walker talks as if his sole concern is saving money. We're supposed to believe that this is why he wants to decimate unions' collective bargaining rights and ability to organize. Clearly, though, he's really out to destroy unions.
Today David Sarasohn, a columnist for the Portland Oregonian, had a great column on this subject.
Despite the repeated claims of Gov. Scott Walker, this isn't a fight over saving money to deal with the state's financial crisis, a change likely to happen in every state. The public employee unions have largely accepted the governor's financial terms, and the total comes to just $165 million in a two-year Wisconsin shortfall of $3.6 billion.
The crucial elements here are the demands that unions lose collective bargaining power on all issues except wages, and that the state stop withholding union dues and require repeated elections to keep public employee unions certified. The goal is, in the near future, to remove the unions as a political force.
(The exceptions here are police, firefighters and the state troopers, all of whom supported Walker in the last election. They can remain political players.)
The goal here isn't to try to protect services by reducing costs; it's to keep public employees out of the way of cutting services.
Hmmmm. Methinks I see a pattern here.Republicans saying one thing and doing another. Claiming they're into preserving the public's pocketbook while working to destroy organizations that people support.
That's a risky strategy.
I'm confident it's going to backfire on the "R's" come election day in November 2012. Voters wanted jobs, jobs, jobs when they cast ballots in 2010. But so far, Republicans are solely focused on making their political wet dreams into reality.
Ooh, no more Planned Parenthood. Ah, unions crippled as a source of Democratic Party support.
Only problem is, a Gallup poll found that 61% of Americans oppose weakening the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. And 66% of women support Planned Parenthood as a provider of birth control pills and other forms of contraception.
So by overreaching, Republicans are going to find that they've overstepped the bounds of what voters called for in the midterm elections -- which was much more about getting politicians to work together on solving our country's problems than eliminating federal funding for important health programs and destroying unions.
I also want to say, thank you, Republicans, for firing up the Democratic base.
Progressives were demoralized after the mid-terms. Now they're marching by the tens of thousands in Wisconsin and working like crazy to make sure that the Senate doesn't go along with the House budget package.
If Republicans had played their cards right, they could have cemented the support of moderates and independents. However, by pandering to the wacko wing of their party, they've vastly increased the chance of seeing their electoral gains vastly diminished or even reversed completely in 2012.