It is beneficial, and often distressing, to look back over the past year and attempt to rationalize the conduct of politicians elected to serve the American people to predict where the country is headed. The biggest news of 2011 is not the various Republican assaults on job creation, or holding the debt ceiling hostage nearly sending America into a credit default, or their extremist presidential candidates, but their sustained assault on the poor, women, children, and senior citizens. There is a famous quote that says; “The measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members” and although there is questionable attribution related to those few words, it certainly is relevant to the lack of humanity inherent in a major segment of the population and especially the Republican Party.
If an independent entity measured Republicans’ treatment of America’s weakest members, they would assign labels like disgraceful, hateful, and reprehensible for the vile attacks on the population in general, but the poor and minorities in particular. When referring to the poor, minorities, women, and seniors as weakest members, it is important to remember that in America, weakness is relative to income and influence in government. The Occupy Movement understands this simple fact and it is why the best summation of their entire purpose was nicely articulated by a protestor who said, “we want government to work for the people; not just the wealthy and corporations.” Republicans have not only rigged the government to work for the wealthy, they actively sought legislative means to punish those least able to fend for themselves or have a voice in the government tasked with serving them.
There are volumes written about Republicans’ assault on women in 2011, and with over 1,000 bills in states and Congress meant to deprive them of their constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment, there is ample evidence Republicans distinguished themselves as having low-moral character. The sad fact that many conservative Christian voters support the GOP’s assault of Planned Parenthood that serves primarily low-income women with family planning, contraception, and cancer screening means that as a country, America is better measured against extremists in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan than a modern industrialized society.
Republicans have also assailed senior citizens who built this country into the (once) great nation it would become only to fall into disrepair because the GOP rejected job creation plans to rebuild roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals. Retired Americans who paid into their retirement (Social Security) and healthcare accounts (Medicare) for their entire working lives have been charged with taking welfare from the government that Republicans claim is better spent on enriching the wealthy and Wall Street.
There is no better measure of America than how we treat children, single mothers, and those stuck in dire poverty. Within the ranks of the poor lie the real victims of Republicans’ malfeasance and contempt; minorities. It is true, that in late 2011, there were one-in-two Americans at or very close to the federal poverty level, and at nearly 50%, it is more than just minorities who are affected by Republican Draconian spending cuts. However, before they slashed spending to eliminate countless public jobs, Republicans slashed spending on programs that assisted low-income minorities, including seniors, women, and children.
Republicans have assaulted the middle class since the beginning of 2011, but their primary emphasis was on inner-city, low-income minorities. The GOP cannot stand before the American people and claim ignorance for the spending cuts that target minorities, because House Speaker John Boehner said, “No one here in this Congress, Democrat or Republican, wants to do anything about putting holes in the safety net for Americans. There are Americans who are poor, and I think it’s the responsibility of the rest of us to ensure that they have food in their stomachs and they have a roof over their head.” Lofty words that should have evoked tears of humanity from the House Speaker, but Republicans spent nearly all of 2011 pushing spending cuts that would slash low-income benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, heating assistance and housing subsidies and John Boehner supported all of those cuts. The groups most impacted are the poorest Americans including senior citizens, children, the infirm, single-mothers, and the poorest of the poor; rural and inner-city minorities.
The Republicans are a humiliation for Americans who have even the slightest hint of humanity and if cutting programs that help the weakest among us was not enough, there is the issue of disenfranchising voters from the ranks of the poor. In nearly every state legislature that Republicans control, there are efforts to restrict voting among the demographics that are most impacted by GOP spending cuts. Students, minorities, senior citizens, and the poor have been targeted with laws to suppress votes and it is no coincidence Republicans target the groups most likely to vote for Democratic candidates who have fought for the weakest members of our society. In those Republican-controlled legislatures, unrealistic limitations on voter registration, early voting, and out-of-state students is meant to keep Democrats from winning and eventually staunching safety net spending cuts Republicans are so fond of passing.
The worst aspect of Republican assaults on the poor is their claim that spending cuts and deficit reduction measures create jobs. Republicans have not only killed jobs and job creation plans with their spending cuts keeping the weakest members of society poor, but they have the audacity to tell them to go find work. The assault on African-Americans is most egregious and it is a measure of insult and inhumanity to tell Black Americans they were better off living in slavery than under the Obama presidency, and then guarantee they stay poor, starving, and homeless by eliminating jobs with their cuts.
If America was judged by the way Republicans treat the weakest members of society, this country would be labeled the most hate-filled, morally bankrupt country in the history of the world. The only saving grace is that Republicans are not in control of all 50 states or both houses of Congress and the White House. However, with Republicans controlling just the House of Representatives, they have caused more damage to women, seniors, children, minorities, and students than in recent memory and it is a blemish on this nation’s image at home and abroad. Republicans are so morally deficient, that all of the candidates for the GOP nomination for president promise more inhumane legislation and executive orders that eliminate departments of housing and urban development, privatizing or ending Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, abolishing child labor laws, and eliminating the minimum wage. The goal behind ending those programs is to take the savings and hand them to the wealthy and corporations.
This country is better than the Republicans who have decimated the poor and now that they have begun assailing the middle class, the public is finally expressing outrage. Of course, with nearly half of the country at or near poverty, the middle class is disappearing and giving more entertainment value to Republicans who take great pleasure at besetting doom and gloom poverty on more of America. 2011 will go down in history as the year America became a society of cold-hearted and callous people who were measured and came up lacking in basic humanity for treating our weakest, poorest, oldest, and sickest citizens as little more than dirt. Decent Americans weep at the plight of the poor, child hunger, homelessness, and destitution of the elderly, but Republicans see the disadvantaged and devise novels ways to increase their numbers. Because of the GOP’s policies and agendas in 2011, the measure of our society is a vile, shameful nation.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.