Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, sat there with a straight face and talked about the need for transparency in government on Tuesday night in his rebuttal to President Obama's congresssional "get-together." Apparently we can't call it a State of the Union in five weeks, even though Obama has done more in five weeks than Bush did for the country in eight years.
The problem with transparency is that you have to talk about the stuff that's uncomfortable, that you don't want seen. This has not been a strong suit of the post-Reagan Republicans, who have taken a big page from the actor-turned-politico who used smoke-and-mirrors to exceptional effect. The last thirty years of largely Republican rule have been largely based on deception and misdirection, particularly of their own partisans.
Take the abortion issue. Republicans have been dangling the carrot of "solving" the abortion issue over single-issue Christian conservative voters for decades to keep them coming out to the polls to vote.
The truth is that the Republicans have been the party in power for most of the last 30 years, or have been in control of the Congress when not holding the White House for the majority of that time.
Appointing right-wing judges is a carrot. If they really wanted to take the lead on banning abortion, they would have followed through with the oft-floated Constitutional amendment that was proposed in those early days of co-opting Southern religious conservatives away from the blue dog Dems.
Even if they did not succeed, as there would surely be opposition, they would have been walking the walk. Republicans do not ever push social issues beyond lip service because it would rob them of a mass of voters and volunteers who are needed to keep the politics of affluence, the real Republican agenda, moving forward.
Jindal's call for transparency is just the latest hypocrisy from a Republican Party that has too long relied on the politics of fear and lies. You want transparency, Bobby? Let's start with your party's heel dragging on the Stimulus Plan.
Republicans have been clinging to their bedrock "principles" as a grounding for their extreme opposition to the Stimulus Plan. We cannot run up a bill for future generations say hand-wringing hypocrites like representative John Boehner will tell you.
Unfortunately standing on Plymouth Rock in the middle of a storm of the century is not an easy thing to do.
These same Republicans had no problem running up a bill for a war that, even as one of their own, Colin Powell, complained, had no clearly defined goals and no exit strategy. What has been spent on the war, and has been thrown into the pockets of military contractors and international corporations profiteering from Bush's Folly, makes the Stimulus Bill look like a drop in the bucket. Where has their indignation been? What funds did they shut down from the Department of Defense until Rummy made procurement and spending more transparent?
Even prior to the Iraq War, though, the Republican-dominated Congress passed generous tax cuts, slashed and burned checks and regulations, and turned loose the freewheeling free-enterprise system to spin an Emperor-has-no-clothes financial system built on mountains of "derivatives," ridiculous piles of worthless paper backed up by even more worthless guarantors, credit agencies and insurers.
In his rebuttal, Jindal said:
"Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.
Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina -- we have our doubts."
Aside from the unintentional indictment of his own party, as George Bush was at the helm of state when it hit the rocks in New Orleans, one has to ask:
When the state has established conditions that deregulate the marketplace and allow such conditions to occur that lead the major financial institutions of this country to ruin, does the same government not have the responsibility, really the obligation, to not only re-regulate free enterprise, but to help put it back on a responsible footing that does not crush the lives of the citizens it is charged to protect and serve?
Jindal stated that Republicans want to cut taxes for the average Joe:
That is why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families, cutting taxes for small businesses, strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers, and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for home-buyers. These plans would cost less and create more jobs.
I would have to agree with the governor that these plans would cost less and create more jobs. They are in the Stimulus Bill and Republicans actually tried to kill them. GOP congressmen in conference slashed the middle-class and working family tax cuts that Jindal was calliing for last night. The Associated Press reported on February 11th that:
"[Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max] Baucus had said earlier that $35.5 billion to provide a $15,000 homebuyer tax credit, approved in the Senate last week, would be cut back. There was also pressure to reduce a Senate-passed tax break for new car buyers, according to Democratic officials ..."
He derided a "'magnetic levitation' line from Las Vegas to Disneyland," but seems to have no problem with the billions that we have spent buying bomb, missiles, and vastly overpriced airplanes, tanks and the like in the thirty years of Reagan-era military spending.
On healthcare, Jindal said:
"Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not by government bureaucrats."
I don't know where Mr. Jindal gets his insurance, but here in Florida I deal with the bureaucrats of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida, who make the State of Florida look downright efficient. The code is simple: Protect the deep pockets of the insurance industry which has funded the GOP machine for decades.
The notion that the Republicans stand for independence of the average businessman working hard to make it is a pure and simple lie. The Republicans engaged in decades of corporate welfare that have enriched the defense establishment, the pharmaceutical business, and Wall Street.
The topper of Jindal's speech, though, was the immense hypocrisy of his call for transparency:
"To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana was said to be half under water, and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past. We need to bring transparency to Washington, D.C., so we can rid our Capitol of corruption and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven't even seen."
Had there been transparency in the Republican-run government over these last decades, we would not be in the position to have to have a stimulus bill in the first place. Had the Republicans believed in some modest regulation that kept the financial system on a sound footing, we would not be facing a Citibank and Bank of America teetering on the brink of insolvency.
Most bills in the congress are not read cover-to-cover by the politicos who vote for them. That is why they have those well-educated and well-paid staffers.
To use incendiary words like "corruption," makes for good speechifyin', but hardly smacks of the attitude of a party that is concentrating on the people's business, rather than their own political advantage.
Mr. Obama has been getting straight with the American people. He has held open the hand to the Republicans to rediscover statesmanship, and put away the brinksmanship.
Mr. Jindal's speech was an embarrassing relic, a paltry political peroration that has no place in a political dialogue in the midst of a national crisis.
When hacks like Bobby are being put on the pedestal by the GOP, and more sensible politicians like Ms. Snowe or governor Crist are being threatened with financial sanction, it just affirms that there has been a bankruptcy, but it is not GM or Citibank.
The GOP is politically Chapter 11.
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