As election day nears and republicans stand poised to take back the House and possibly the Senate, it might be helpful to remember the kind of values they will bring with them as they seek to lead the country. One of the first things on their agenda is repealing the health care plan that passed earlier this year. This is the same health care plan that will provide millions more American with affordable health insurance, insurance that they can't lose because of a pre-existing condition. Our former system, which Ohio representative John Boehner often referred to as the "greatest in the world," left tens of millions of Americans uninsured, engendered skyrocketing drug and medical costs, and threatened to bankrupt our nation within a few years had it not been reformed. Whatsmore, counter to Mr. Boehner's claim, according toseveral recent studies, Americans did not receive the best health care in the world under the former system, but paid more and got worse coverage than citizens in most other industrialized nations. Nations like England and Japan provide nearly universal health coverage at about 10 percent of their nation's GDP. But for some reason, the United States, the richest country in the world, can't afford to do it. This according to the republicans.
Another item on the republican's agenda is to bring back the Bush era tax cuts, tax cuts that mainly went to the richest 2 percent of Americans. At a time of unprecedented debt, and when many republicans themselves are calling for fiscal responsibility, it simply doesn't make sense to give tax breaks to people who can most afford to pay, to people who have benefited most from our economic system, to people who could most help us to climb out of the situation we are in. While republicans argue that raising taxes will hurt the economy, the fact is that when we had eight years of an economic policy that eased taxes on the rich we went from a 230 billion dollar budget surplus and unemployment around 4 or 5 percent (under the Clinton administration), to an over 400 billion dollar deficit and an unemployment rate around 8 or 9 percent (under the Bush administration). When President Obama took office our economy was hemorrhaging jobs at a rate of 750,000 per month. It took the nearly 800 billion dollar stimulus package just to stabilize unemployment. A return to policies of the previous administration would seem to be a deliberate act of insanity.
Finally, the republicans want to do away with excessive government regulation that they feel is strangling economic growth. Presumably, this would include regulations that protect Americans from environmental threats. Again we can look back at the policies of the previous administration and see the consequences of such actions. The Bush administration attempted to weaken restrictions on such toxins as mercury (which causes birth defects) and arsenic (which causes cancer). They attempted to open federal lands to oil and gas drilling. They permitted logging in our national parks. Mountains in West Virginia were decapitated for mining. Coal burning power plants that didn't meet today's environmental standards were grandfather in. And carbon dioxide (the leading cause of global warming) was labeled as a non-pollutant. With a vote on a new energy bill looming for the next session, it is doubtful that much progress toward clean energy will be made with more members of the GOP in congress.
Republican candidates may claim they are looking out for the average American, but their policies tend say different. By cutting government programs that benefit the poor, letting credit card companies and banks lay waste to hardworking people's savings, giving tax breaks to businesses that set up manufacturing centers overseas, and dismantling environmental regulation that prevents poisons from seeping into our water and air supplies; they are clearly not. When the nation goes to the ballot box next Tuesday, we will hopefully keep these things in mind, and vote for candidates that have a little better understanding of what Americans truly value.