It is astounding that allegedly intelligent politicians can be so deficient in informed judgment, or deceived to the point of delusion, that their well-meaning statements inadvertently misinform their audience. It is unclear why many politicians are reticent to speak bluntly about why Republicans in Congress are wreaking havoc on the American people, but whatever their reason and motivation, they are doing more harm than good and Republicans are taking advantage to the detriment of the people. Over the weekend, well-respected former Senate Majority Leaders from each party co-authored an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, and although their message was prescient to a dangerous situation facing Americans, they completely missed a very important point.
Former Senate majority leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole (R-Kan.), and former Senate majority leader (D-S.D.) and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Tom Daschle appealed to House Republicans to “put aside partisan bickering and stop playing politics with hunger.” There is little doubt the distinguished representatives from each party had the best of intentions in citing the horrendous damage House Republicans are wreaking on Americans struggling to put food on the table. House Republicans are preparing to vote to slash $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP, food stamps), but to pretend Republicans are playing politics is the height of naiveté. What House Republicans are doing has nothing whatsoever to do with politics and everything to do with increasing hunger for working families, senior citizens, and children, and nothing else.
The men made very impassioned arguments about the danger of eliminating the ability of millions of Americans struggling in this economy to provide adequate and healthy meals for their families, and they decried House Republicans “unprecedented move to strip SNAP from the farm bill.” They also noted the reason Republicans eliminated SNAP from the farm bill was to pass a separate nutrition bill with more devastating cuts to programs that fight hunger. However, the Republicans’ intent is founded in ideology and not politics, and it is surprising Dole and Daschle failed to acknowledge that Republicans have nothing to gain by withholding food from the poor except the satisfaction of seeing millions of Americans go hungry.
The two former Senate leaders did their best to cite the economic benefits to the economy by keeping SNAP spending levels where they are, and noted a 2008 Moody’s Analytics study that showed every dollar spent reducing hunger returns $1.70 in economic activity. Have the men not noticed that Republicans have been on a tear to inflict as much damage to the economy as they have the American people? They were smart enough to cite that the food stamp program lifted 47 million Americans out of poverty and how slashing the program adversely affects farmers, families and the economy, but they were remiss to note Republicans two-and-a-half year crusade to take any and everything away from the people regardless how unpopular or damaging to the economy. In fact, Republicans have attempted to slash Social Security despite it does not affect the deficit, and regardless that Americans overwhelmingly support expanding the program. Their lust to cut Social Security informs that ideology and not politics drives the current iteration of the Republican Party.
Sociologists loosely define ideology as a system of thought and conscious ideas that constitute a person’s goals, and since Barack Obama has been President Republicans’ goals have been destroying social programs despite the political blowback, damage to the people, or the nation’s economy. Eliminating social programs are long-standing Republican goals that began after the New Deal, re-emerged during the Reagan administration, and became the Republican raison d’être over the past four-and-a-half years. Last month during his 5 week vacation, Speaker John Boehner said as much when he told a cheering crowd that his primary target in upcoming budget and debt ceiling negotiations is enacting harsh Social Security cuts he said Republicans have kicked down the road for the past 30 years. Boehner and Republicans know cutting Social Security will not reduce the nation’s debt or deficit, create jobs, or grow the economy, but it will force senior citizens into poverty and according to Republican ideology, the more Americans living with hunger the happier they are.
Dole and Daschle’s hearts were in the right place, but by citing the Republicans’ lust to take food away from hungry Americans as political and not inhumane, they legitimize what any decent human being considers barbaric and cruel. There has been too much emphasis on the politics of cruelty and not enough outrage at the ideology behind the Republican drive to deliberately cause suffering and misery for the people they were elected to serve. The current crop of Republicans are driven by ideology that celebrates causing pain and suffering, and it gives Republicans a feeling of joyous satisfaction. It is noteworthy that after Republicans killed a million jobs, cost the nation $18.9 billion, caused a credit downgrade, and created the sequester that slashed domestic and social programs, Speaker of the House John Boehner said “I got 98% of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.” Sadly, there were many Republicans who were not happy at all because the damage to the people was not nearly harsh enough.
Democrats and President Obama must start citing the sheer cruelty inherent in every policy and piece of legislation Republicans propose and stop citing politics as their motivation. There is nothing political in withholding food from 4 – 6 million American families any more than cutting Meals on Wheels, housing assistance, or healthcare for poor mothers and their children is. It is sheer cruelty, and long past time for decent politicians, Republicans and Democrats, to tell the American people they are losing everything they have because Republican ideology is founded on inhumanity; not politics.
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.