The protests in Wisconsin represent the apex of the fight for American labor, public-sector jobs and unions: the latter constituting a significant length of the Democratic Party backbone. And if circumstances on ground turn in the favor of Scott Walker and the tea party Republicans, middle class workers are in jeopardy of being rolled up like an outflanked and outgunned army -- rendered ineffectual, defenseless and subsequently crushed with prejudice. Much is at stake there and if the right to collectively bargain ultimately wins the day, it will have been achieved as the consequence of liberal persistence and toughness.
We need that persistence and toughness elsewhere.
But I'm afraid the progressive movement is too singularly focused on Wisconsin. Now, I hasten to note that I'm definitely not diminishing the gravity of Wisconsin. I am, however, suggesting that we're not giving equal attention to a series of political events that are as imperatively serious as what's happening with the Republican union busting, if not more so.
While our attention is drawn to that fight, the House Republicans tried, as Grover Norquist famously said, to shrink government "down to the size where [they] can drown it in the bathtub." And, as part of that process, they've risked another recession, while also having reduced government small enough to fit into the uteruses of almost every woman in America.
As of today, the Republicans are winning. Without any real opposition and activism aimed at the slash-and-burn insanity on Capitol Hill, it might already be too late and the budgets for some of the most critical government services are nearly beyond resuscitation.
Progressive activists are certainly adept at multitasking, and if they're unable to do so for some reason, they should probably learn quickly, and then gather en masse outside the chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in the same way they're currently gathered in Madison. Because shit, as they say, is about to get real in Congress.
What exactly have the Republicans cut? Here's a selection of items from a rather lengthy syllabus.
Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies - $30 million. Yes, because there's no significant threat here, considering the effects of the climate crisis. Nah. The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria, British Columbia published a study indicating that all of the extreme rain and snow recently has occurred as the result of the climate crisis. But somehow we can afford to cut the budget for flood control. Great idea for the party responsible for the dismal Katrina response. Incidentally, the Republicans are also cutting NOAA, which monitors hurricanes, by $336 million; the EPA's budget by $1.6 billion; the EPA Energy Star program by $7.4 million; the EPA's GHG Reporting Registry by $9 million; the US Global Survey by $27 million; the EPA's Cap and Trade Technical Assistance by $5 million; the EPA's State and Local Air Quality Management by $25 million; and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund by a massive $700 million.
Basically, the far-right believes the climate crisis is a myth and so they're killing any agency that might disprove their myopic bumper sticker agitprop.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy - $899 million. The United States was once the leader in clean energy investments. But as of last year, China has surpassed us with nearly twice as much spending in this area, according to Pew. If we keep cutting, the other major G-20 nations will easily overtake us -- with significantly more intensive investment projections.
Office of Science - $1.1 billion. Exactly. The Republicans have literally cut science. I can only assume they intend to replace it with Kirk Cameron and a banana. In addition, the National Science Foundation was cut by $139 million.
Minority Business Development Agency - $2 million. Again, as with science, the Republicans are compelled to cut anything with "minority" in the title, simply out of Southern Strategy principle. Related, they also cut the HUD Community Development Fund by $530 million.
State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance - $256 million. While the Republicans are attacking public employees, including state troopers and other public safety offices at the state level, Congress cut their federal budgets, too. Your safety and national security party, right? While they're at it, they also slashed the budgets for Law Enforcement Wireless Communications by $52 million; US Marshals Service by $10 million; the FBI by $74 million; and COPS by $600 million. Included in this list is $648 million in cuts from the nuclear nonproliferation budget -- programs that keep nuclear materials from being sold to terrorists.
National Archives and Record Service - $20 million. The budget for the agency that takes care of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, along with millions of other critical American documents isn't sacred enough for the Republicans. In a way, the Republicans cut the budget for the Constitution -- a document in which tea party people are showing some serious interest (after ignoring it for eight years). These self-proclaimed "patriots" also cut the Smithsonian budget by $7.3 million and the National Park Service, "America's Best Idea," by $51 million. The National Park Service is already brutally underfunded, by the way. Perhaps the Republicans would prefer to privatize it, like everything else, and then, perhaps, when Newt Gingrich writes his next book in which he fantasizes about the Confederacy winning the Civil War, he can hold the book signing at the Dave & Busters Gettysburg Battlefield Park.
Job Training Programs - $2 billion. With unemployment hovering at nine percent, the Republicans want to almost entirely gut job training. Again, smart! Tangentially related, the Republicans cut the budgets for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- basically everyone in charge of regulating Wall Street.
There are dozens more cuts from the budgets of agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the FAA, but for the sake of brevity, let's cover a series of budget cuts that call into question the Republican "pro-life" identity.
The House Republicans cut Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children by $758 million, Community Health Centers by $1.3 billion, Maternal and Child Health Block Grants by $210 million, Family Planning (including Planned Parenthood) by $327 million, and the FDA by $220 million. So just about every government service that might help a pregnant woman carry a fetus to term was decimated by the Republicans. They also de-funded the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which would allow uninsured pregnant women to receive health insurance thanks to the preexisting condition language. (Repealing ACA, according to the CBO would increase the deficit by $230 billion.)
It's also worth noting that their Republican cohorts at the state level are attempting to criminalize miscarriages -- forcing families suffering from one of the most tragic and stressful life events to prove to law enforcement that the spontaneous abortion was, in fact, spontaneous. That's right the Republican Uterus Police. And if they can't prove it, then the parent or parents can be arrested and convicted on murder charges. Your "pro-life" party. Your "right to life" party.
Where are the Democrats in all of this? Take a wild guess. The Senate Democrats, and even the White House, have been suckered into the right-wing austerity meme, even though basic math and economics mandates that government spending remain steady while growth is slow. Nevertheless, The Huffington Post's Sam Stein and Ryan Grim reported Thursday that the Democrats are looking at preserving many of the House Republican budget cuts.
Democratic leadership and Appropriations Committee staffers are meeting Thursday afternoon to find ways to cut social spending from the remainder of the fiscal year 2011 budget [...] The object of the gathering is to identify cuts that will satisfy House Republicans' demands for drastic spending reductions despite the flagging economy.
Outstanding. Because reductions in spending have worked out brilliantly in Europe where austerity measures -- drastic spending cuts -- have significantly slowed economic growth in both Germany and the UK.
Right now, progressive activists should be gathering with sizable numbers and loud voices on the Hill, with coverage online (and off) mirroring the coverage being offered to protests in Egypt, Libya and Wisconsin (odd trilogy of place names, to be sure). I'm not exactly sure why it's not happening, but there ought to be throngs of middle class Americans and liberals clogging the streets around the Capitol and the adjacent office buildings today. And if "Wisconsin on the Potomac" doesn't happen soon, we're going to wake up in a very different and very dangerous America.
Let's get going.
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