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The Rotten Fruit of Pure Republicanism
August 13, 2002
By Jerry Tyler

Three circumstances have converged at the same time to give the majority party unprecedented freedom to advance their agenda;

1. Following the election of 2000, many people, lawmakers in particular, expressed a strong intention to avoid the bitter political witch-hunting and character assassination that had occurred over the past 8 years. Exhibiting a dramatic overreaction, many congressional Democrats have since failed to challenge the Republicans on basic Constitutional rights issues, war making, and even their mandatory oversight responsibilities.

2. After the election, Republicans controlled the Executive Branch, both houses of congress, and at least the Supreme Court, if not the majority of the Judicial Branch. Five months after the election Jim Jeffords quit the Republican party - giving the Senate to the Democrats - which provided the potential to at least restrain an unfettered Republican juggernaut. Alas, this has proved to be no obstacle to the Republican agenda in the aftermath of September 11. The terrorist attack provided the administration with another opportunity to govern with minimal resistance. The war that followed, and continues, has perpetuated that lack of resistance.

3. The success of the economy over most of the past decade has created a complacency among the electorate. Things in general have been so good for so long that mainstream citizens no longer know how to resist, or even believe they need to resist.

Given the circumstances, we are currently experiencing what must surely be a virtually "pure" Republican agenda. One cannot make the argument that the administration's policies are being watered down by a recalcitrant congress. One cannot make the argument that "liberal judges" are misinterpreting the Constitution. One cannot even make the argument that the administration is proposing compromised budgets and policies in order to ensure passage. Virtually everything is being accepted with minimal revision or even debate. So we can state with confidence that our current circumstances are what results from an unopposed Republican agenda. So what do we get in a "pure" Republican government?

1. A PERMANENT STATE OF WAR. An argument can be made that our nation's actions prior to Sept. 11 in some way prompted the attack. But even assuming that the attack could not be avoided, it is clear that there were, and are, a range of choices in our response. The historical and traditional Republican platform of supporting a strong military and national defense, as opposed to diplomacy, United Nations intervention, trade sanctions, and other less lethal responses, has landed us in a perpetual state of war. A less pure Republican agenda would most likely involve less killing.

2. EROSION OF CIVIL RIGHTS. Republican resistance to broad civil rights is also traditional and historical. Current circumstances have allowed the administration to actively pursue severe erosion of US citizens' civil rights, even to the point of detaining US citizens with no charges against them, and preventing access to a lawyer - perhaps the most basic of our constitutional rights. The administration is apparently claiming that anyone can be detained like this simply because some the president chooses to call them an "enemy combatant". You could be next.

3. FAILING ECONOMY. Claims that the current poor performance of the economy are left over from the previous administration become more ludicrous by the day. It has been nearly two years now since the election. The economy is not driven solely by the annual budget. There are daily maintenance interventions required that provide the small corrections necessary to prevent larger problems. The administration has various levels of control over such things as money supply, interest rates, foreign investment, taxes, research and development funding, securities trading, and many others.

The administration cannot escape responsibility for their stewardship of these mechanisms. The economy under the previous administration weathered many potential crises successfully, including a meltdown of the Asian economy, significant military interventions, and a severe crisis in the Mexican economy, by manipulating these ingredients.

Also, the so-called stock market "bubble" that burst this year, is a direct result of the Republican-controlled congress of the last decade promoting less oversight, less regulation, and less taxes. Even so, the last administration was able to keep the economy healthy despite all of these potential economic land mines. The current administration knows what they want to do in principle, but either lack the necessary skills to implement their ideas, or the ideas just don't work.

4. DETERIORATING ENVIRONMENT. Republicans see environmental issues as being closely tied to the economy. Businesses must not be hampered by environmental regulations in order to succeed. But if the businesses are not hampered, and the economy still sucks, what we are left with is just worse water, worse air, sicker people, less bio-diversity, and melting ice caps.

5. NO WELFARE. Welfare to Work succeeded because there were plenty of jobs in the few years after it was enacted. Nevertheless, there are people who have been kicked out of welfare, who now have no chance to succeed. This condition will worsen if the economy continues to falter. The homeless population will increase dramatically, as it did in the early eighties when Reagan cut more than two billion dollars from welfare and Labor Department programs.

6. FAILURE OF EDUCATION. Like welfare, Republicans would like to completely eliminate public education, and now they finally get to begin the process. It will take twenty years to find out that this doesn't work, because at first it will look good. At first, a small percentage of students will be able to use vouchers to attend private schools, and they very well might perform better. This will be used as evidence to support expanding the program. Eventually, hundreds of thousands of students will be attending different schools from the ones in their neighborhood.

New schools will have to be built to accommodate them, and new teachers found. The old schools will be demolished for lack of students. What will happen to the students who were left behind at those schools is unknown. Enough new teachers will not be found, so the same teachers will have to be transferred to the new schools. In twenty years, we will have the same students and the same teachers in new buildings, performing worse because it will be harder for the parents to be involved since their kids' school is across town.

During the time the new schools are being built, the classes will be overcrowded and there will be teacher shortages since parents will try to avoid placing their students with teachers previously from the public schools. Not only that, many of these schools will be religious or some other form of private school, the intention being to teach the kids a particular belief system. But who gets to decide what standards are required to participate in the voucher system? Are Buddhist schools to be allowed? Muslim?

Will there be standardized testing? If so, how is that different from what we are doing now? If not, how do we prevent huge disparities in the quality of education in various communities? Some states may choose to cut education funding drastically. Don't we at least agree that decent basic education is good for the community by giving kids the tools to succeed in the world? With thousands of different curriculum standards, how do we expect these kids to grow up and be able to interact with others? These are the very reasons public schooling was designed in the first place.

7. INCREASED CRIME. Crime statistics are directly related to the health of the economy. Higher unemployment equals more crime. But also, the mandatory sentencing and higher criminal penalties of the last decade, sponsored by the Republican-controlled congress, has created hundreds of thousands of hardened prisoners who are now starting to be released. After serving eight or ten years in prison, these people have little hope of starting or resuming a career, or even getting a job at all, let alone owning a house or starting a family. Crime dropped for several years, but mostly because virtually everyone could find a job and had the hope of succeeding. Crime did not drop because potential criminals thought ten years as opposed to five years in prison for getting caught was unacceptable. Criminals do not think they will get caught.



1. WAR

This could be the most severe crisis in the history of our country. Every major building block our society is based on is teetering on the brink of collapse; our economic system, our civil liberties, and our international relationships. Perhaps never before since the very early days of the Republic, have we faced crises in all three of these areas at the same time, with the possible exception of the Nixon era. This is what we get with pure Republicanism.

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