THE BLOG
07/15/2013 12:58 pm ET | Updated Sep 14, 2013

Step by Step

Republicans in the House of Representatives have stated that the word 'comprehensive' is now a nonstarter for any legislative approach to address major issues, even those issues that might require a thoughtful, comprehensive perspective. The GOP preference is to consider solutions to complex national problems, such as healthcare and immigration reform, 'step by step.'

Thus far, their strategic process for health care reform, including reducing health care insurance costs, medical costs and making coverage affordable for 31 million people who've been shut out is, Step 1: do nothing. Step 2: do nothing. Step 3: do nothing.

They're holding out for the same strategy in dealing with an amazingly-dysfunctional immigration system that allows 11 million or so undocumented workers to exist in the shadows of our economy, causes interminable delays in the naturalization process and breeds continuing concern, justified or not, about the security of our southern border.

The House Republican approach to addressing this multifaceted problem: Step 1: do nothing. Step 2: do nothing. Step 3: do nothing.

Actually, they have argued for ramping up the number of armed security personnel along the 2,000-mile U.S.- Mexico border to 40,0000, roughly the same number of armed U.S. personnel deployed along the border separating North and South Korea. But they've offered no specifics, like how the heck they plan to pay for 20,000 additional federal employees. And they've pretty much peed all over any other steps.

The Senate managed to approve a bipartisan immigration bill addressing the situation comprehensively. Damn! There's that word again. The Senate bill passed with a healthy majority, included provisions for increased security along our southern border and dealt with the H-1B visa program for "good immigrants" -- the kind with graduate degrees who invent things and work in tech companies -- and a process to allow the 11 million undocumented workers who are already here, including millions of Dreamers, who came to America as little kids and have grown up as Americans -- a long and torturous path to U.S. citizenship.

But House Republicans aren't having anything to do with such a comprehensive solution, even though it was devised by a group of their Senate brethren. Step-by-step is the watchword.

Even the House approach to the Farm Bill -- noncontroversial as far back as anyone can remember -- is step by step. Since 1973, the Farm Bill has included two broad, very popular programs: crop subsidies that satisfy rural interests and subsistence nutrition funding to satisfy urban interests, to wit, food stamps for children, the elderly and people living in abject poverty. Again, the Senate passed a comprehensive bill with support from both sides. House Republicans, however, refused to go along with the Senate bill and have passed their own legislation which axed the food stamp program completely.

So some are asking themselves, how did we arrive at a point in the history of the United States when the national legislature is totally unable to legislate? How did we wind up with a Democratic majority in the Senate that won't pass anything the House passes? How did we get a Republican majority in the House that won't even consider anything the Senate passes, and is completely under the sway of a minority bloc of the Republican Conference that really doesn't want Congress to pass anything at all anyway?

Here's what happened. Step 1: After the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1964 and the Civil Rights Act in 1965, spend five decades telling working class White voters they needed to be very afraid because there were a lot of trespassers who wanted to take away their jobs and take over their communities -- including a bunch of people who didn't look and talk like them.

Step 2: Spend decades telling them that these trespassers, who really weren't good, solid, God-fearing Americans, were taking over the federal government and socializing it so they could give away our tax dollars to people who didn't work.

Step 3: Scare these folks; talk about how the trespassers who were taking over the government were trying to change fundamental American values: planting the flag for the homosexual agenda, popularizing abortion as just another means of birth control and, worst of all, confiscating everyone's guns.

Step 4: Make these people madder than hell about healthcare reform, spend millions of special interest dollars organizing and training the Tea Party in all its forms and bring them to Washington to protest the government takeover of healthcare.

Step 5: Subsume the Tea Party into the Republican Party and use them as foot soldiers to win elections to state legislatures and Congress.

Step 6: Wait a minute! There wasn't supposed to be a Step 6. But Step 6 happened when Tea Party candidates won enough House and Senate seats to terrify longtime Republican incumbents into going along with whatever the Tea Party demanded lest they wind up with a primary election opponent and lose their re-election.

Now the American people have stepped in it. A relatively small but highly vocal group of ideologues has effectively take control of our national government. It's like an infestation of chiggers. They're driving us crazy. We know we have to get rid of them to get anything done. But they're really dug in.

We have to do something. But what is Step 1?