The sequester has finally done some real damage and some real people are feeling the pain. With the cuts came the decision by the Obama Administration to close 149 air traffic control towers at small-sized airports and it is starting to affect rich people who like to tool around the country in their private jets. Oh the humanity! Don’t these closings mean there will be potential safety hazards? Certainly. On the other hand, all pilots are trained to communicate with one another to ensure safe take-offs and landings. Having an air traffic controller is just a safety net. In case these wealthy travelers hadn’t heard, safety nets are being eliminated for millions of people across the country. First responders, our police and fire fighters, are being laid off as a result of the sequester cuts. Cancer patients are being turned away from chemotherapy since the cuts, which substantially reduced Medicare reimbursement rates. Domestic violence services are being slashed, risking the lives of those in abusive relationships. Public health spending has been cut so that vaccines are not being given. The children, elderly, and others who become sick, and perhaps even die, from the diseases that those vaccines were supposed to prevent have no expectation of safety right now. Schools are even beginning to close for the Fall.
However, since air traffic controllers have taken away from 149 airports (and a substantial number more will have hours cut), the people affected have been more likely to be wealthy, so whiny Republican legislators representing people with deep pockets have been scurrying around trying to find ways to reinstate the funding for their pet concern, airports. Just as the empty heads at Fox News were beside themselves that the sequester was going to curtail White House tours, but couldn’t manage to give a damn that food is being taken away from infants and children as the WIC program is cut, these sniveling conservatives have no qualms about harming poor people as long as their airport control tower stays open. Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas even tried to get an amendment passed that restored $50 million to the budget for allocation to private plane travel. Loathsome Congresswoman Michele Bachmann looked approvingly at the cuts to food safety, public health, education for disabled children, aid to the poor, first responders, and then said that air traffic control towers closing in her district showed, “a troubling lack of priorities,” by the FAA and the Obama Administration.
While there is advice available on how to deal with childish adults, it is disturbing that our government has been usurped by conservatives who are obviously delayed psychologically, as if stunted anywhere from their toddler through teen years. Childish adults display a number of behaviors that they should have outgrown, including throwing tantrums, an inability to share resources, whining, creating competitive rivalries, and forming cliques. We see all of these on display among today’s conservatives, and illustrated perfectly in this story about the air traffic control towers. The entire morass was started by their inability to share resources resulting in the damaging implementation of the sequester. The whole ridiculous showdown occurred because Republicans couldn’t help themselves and they just had to nurse a juvenile competitive rivalry with the President. And of course, the only clique you can belong to that Republicans will politically represent are the wealthy elite.
Egocentrism is most often associated with early childhood, and it is characterized by an inability to appreciate the viewpoint of others. Those who haven’t moved beyond the childhood developmental period of intense egocentrism have difficulty with sharing, relating to the needs of others, or understanding that there could be a reality other than the one they recognize. Having legislators who can only understand the pain of cuts to government services when it directly affects them is pathetic. These are grown adults who should be capable of empathy, selflessness, and altruism. Nonetheless, the only time our current crop of Republican politicians can even mimic these qualities is when they are protecting the interests of the wealthy.
On Friday, Bill Maher pointed out that libertarianism has become a popular movement “intellectually stuck in its teen years.” Libertarianism in its present prevalent form is a selfish, egocentric political philosophy. The current formulation of libertarianism has infected the Republican party, particularly through its Tea Party wing. These individuals are virulently anti-government unless receiving a benefit or service themselves.
Paired with their emotional immaturity, their delayed intellectual development makes Republican leaders like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul tout the sequester regardless of the harm it causes to millions of Americans. To see Republicans, including the alleged deficit hawks of the Tea Party, reverse their economic dogma the moment their elite constituency is inconvenienced should be embarrassing to everyone in their party. Instead, it’s just another day at the office.
Deborah is a former social work professor who taught social policy, mental health policy, and human diversity. Proud to be called liberal, she happily pays her taxes after being raised in a home that needed long-term welfare. Contrary to the opinion of many, she is living proof that government investment in children leads them out of poverty having received services from Head Start to Pell Grants. Deborah works with low-income, first generation, and disabled college students who are at high-risk for dropping out of college in a program designed to help them graduate. She lives with her husband, stepson, and an aging cat.