A courageous person displays mental or moral strength to withstand peril, fear, or difficulty in a precarious situation and it is normally attributed to one who opposes a more powerful adversary despite danger to themselves. Heroes exhibit courage in the face of danger and if their actions preserve lives they are rewarded with accolades and recognition as exceptional members of society. The opposite of courage is cowardice and, for most people, it is a label to avoid at all costs. This past week Republicans lauded Paul Ryan’s budget as courageous and they rewarded his effort with a nearly unanimous vote in the House that was split along party lines. Ten Republicans defected and no Democrats voted for the plan that portrays Republicans as rank cowards who targeted seniors, children, and the poor with Draconian cuts while rewarding the wealthy and their corporations with entitlements paid for with Medicare, food stamps, and demolition of safety nets.
Republicans consider themselves courageous for targeting the least fortunate among us, but they are closer to weaklings who depend on the rich and powerful to fight their battles from behind the scenes, and the media, lobbyists, and conservative pundits are complicit in inflicting pain and suffering on those least able to defend themselves. In fact, a brief perusal of Ryan’s budget further portrays Republicans as cowards who lack courage to withstand peril of opposing their corporate masters and it is not limited to Republicans in the House; nearly all Republicans are cowards and bullies.
There has been chapter and verse written on the vile nature of eliminating Medicare and replacing it with a privatization scam that leaves seniors who paid into the system their entire working lives with lower quality healthcare coverage and higher costs to enrich the insurance industry. Republicans have attempted to dismantle the program since its inception to shift the savings to the wealthy and the insurance industry, and they took one step closer by passing Ryan’s Heritage Foundation budget on Thursday. However, it is the assault on children that reveals the cowardice of Republicans.
America’s children are already in jeopardy of going hungry with over 20% living below the poverty line and half of the 46-million American’s relying of food stamps for survival are children. The courageous Ryan budget gets 62% of its cuts from safety nets for low-income families that struggle to feed, provide healthcare, and educate their children and as usual, the cowardly Republicans target programs that work. The food stamp program (SNAP) prevented 1.3 million children from falling into poverty, and proof that SNAP is successful is that as child poverty rates increased, child hunger declined. Ryan and his cowardly cohorts targeted children regardless that they don’t belong to advocacy groups, vote or donate to politicians and yet the oil industry, the wealthy, and corporations are rewarded with a 10% tax cut on top of their never-ending Bush-era cuts courageous Republicans fight to extend as a matter-of-course.
Ryan’s budget cuts intended to hurt the poor was not the end of Republican’s courageous action. In the GOP-controlled House on Monday, legislators on both sides of the aisle changed derivative rules in the Dodd-Frank financial reform act that places new limits on regulating derivatives. Americans for Financial Reform are suspicious that the two new bills would increase instability and risk in markets. They claim that exempting end users from margin requirements will encourage large corporations to make riskier trades using “derivative swaps” because they will no longer be required to have cash reserves if deals go bad. A former Goldman Sachs vice-president advocating for market reforms wrote that “This can cause a liquidity crisis at the very time that the company is most vulnerable, resulting in a death spiral,” and it is that lack of regulatory control that caused the market crash of 2007-2008; the world is still recovering. The critics also argue that banks will conduct larger, riskier swaps between their affiliates that, according to the two bills, “essentially removes them for all regulatory authority.” Previous attempts to roll back the landmark financial reform act failed to gain traction in the Senate, and Senate Democrats will surely closely examine the two new bills to protect the economy from facing another devastating setback.
The Republican cowards in the Senate blocked an attempt by Democrats to end tax breaks for the major oil companies on Thursday and it demonstrates their lack of courage in making cuts that save American taxpayer dollars. If Republicans were courageous, they would stand up to the oil industry and assure Americans who are increasingly concerned about rising gas prices they were looking out for the people. A CNN/ORC poll released Thursday found that 7 in 10 Americans blame oil companies for rising fuel prices and not the Obama Administration. The poll revealed that a majority of Americans say increasing gas prices have caused hardship for their families, and Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, portrayed eliminating the oil subsidies as a “tax hike that we all knew ahead of time didn’t have the votes to pass.” Majority Leader Harry Reid noticed Republican courage in protecting big oil and said, “If Republicans continue to stand up for oil companies making record profits, one thing will be obvious: Republicans care less about bringing down gas prices than about helping big oil companies that don’t need the help.”
It is not in Republicans’ makeup to help those who truly need it and they have reiterated that with every budget proposal and policy decision. Ryan in particular is of the Ayn Rand school of thought that the least fortunate deserve to be punished by Republicans and he said as much in a speech at the Heritage Foundation last October. Ryan said, “We’re coming close to a tipping point in America where we might have a net majority of takers versus makers in society and that could become very dangerous if it sets in as a permanent condition.” The makers versus takers remark is straight out of Ayn Rand ideology that Ryan subscribes to and defines Republican cowardice in hurting the poor who lack political clout and a voice to defend themselves.
Ryan is a courageous as long as he is causing harm to children, seniors, and the poor. His tax reform in the Path to Prosperity gives the rich and their corporations larger tax cuts while raising taxes on working Americans, and his cowardice in not increasing revenue will add to the deficit now and over the long haul. Republicans are brave as long as they are assaulting the weak where there is little risk, and weaklings in standing up to moneyed interests like the oil industry, the wealthy, and corporations who donate to their campaign chests. Republicans are twisted if courage means bullying hungry children into poverty and eliminating seniors’ healthcare, and they tremble at the notion of offending the rich and powerful. It is grievous that Republicans find courage and virtue in causing the least fortunate among us misery, but that is the price Americans pay for giving cowards and bullies a voice in government.