BY JIM HIGHTOWER
“No” can be a very good word. Whether dealing with children or Congress, a firm “uh-uh” can set useful borders for acceptable behavior.
And, for such a short word, “no” can also carry a world of principle – America would be a lot better off today, for example, if only a few indignant “do nots” had been uttered in the executive suites of the Merrill Lynchers, Citgroupers and other banksters.
Where “no” turns bad, however, is when it becomes the only word in one’s vocabulary, spat out again and again as more of an expression of petulance than principle. Anyone who’s been around a pouty 2-year-old knows how grating the repetitive “no” can be.
Yet, this is what America is getting these days from most of the Republican Party’s top elected officials. Let’s hope they’re just going through a phase.
The party’s leaders first elevated snappish negativity to a level of political dogma when Barack Obama produced his $900 billion economic recovery bill. Yes, that is a serious chunk of change, even by Washington standards, and any proposal so big should be combed through piece by piece to find principled objections. But, instead, the GOP instantly jerked its right knee, locked its mind shut and just said no, rejecting the whole package out of hand.
“We don’t think it’s going to work,” sniffed House Republican leader John Boehner, who made sure that not even one GOPer voted to give the plan a chance. It is “larded with wasteful spending,” screeched Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, doing his best Chicken Little imitation. And party warhorse John McCain trudged out to bray that Obama was engaging in “generational theft” by increasing the federal debt.
Wow, such gloom and doom. The bill certainly does carry a big tab, but America has big problems right now, and it’s going to take some big ideas and risks to fix our problems. Instead of offering ideas and hope, however, Republican leaders threw up a “wall of no,” asserting that they would protect future generations against deficit spending.
Jindal, for example, struck this pose in his response to Obama’s recent address to Congress: “Who among us,” implored the governor, “would ask our children for a loan so we could spend money we do not have on things we do not need?”
Well, actually, guv, your own party would. And did. Again and again. Start with the $3 trillion cost of George W.’s misadventure in Iraq that the White House and Congress merrily slapped on our children’s credit cards. Or, remember just months back when Bush’s treasury secretary and federal reserve chief madly borrowed several trillion dollars from our children to stuff into the pockets of Wall Street hucksters, with no requirements that the banks do anything productive with the money?
These Republican-driven deficits dwarf Obama’s spending, and they are truly profligate. They saddle future generations with enormous costs for, as Jindal put it, “things we don’t need,” without returning any benefits to our country. In contrast, spending in the recovery package will buy roads, schoolhouses, water systems, parks, health care, mass transit, renewable energy and other real products that we really do need – things that will be there for future generations.
Having frothed at the mouth and voted “no,” many GOP congress-critters turned right around to grab credit for bringing piles of that awful deficit spending to their home districts. Only hours after voting against the bill, for example, Rep. John Mica was telling the home folks back in central Florida that – hallelujah! – passage of the program meant there’d be federal money for a local commuter train project.
Even Jindal played this ideological shell game. In his national TV denunciation of Obama’s plan, the Louisiana governor singled out a “volcano monitoring” project as a gross example of waste, declaring that, “Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington.”
Good line! Except that, as he spoke, the governor’s office was pushing hard to get $6 billion in recovery funds for Louisiana.
– Jim Hightower’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer