“Congress” Isn’t ‘Doing Nothing’

Grim Reaper Mitch McConnell – Happy to watch millions suffer

I read the Washington Post every day on my Kindle, and every time I come across an article like the one in Monday’s edition by Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim with the headline “Congress is doing what it does best: Nothing. Meanwhile, coronavirus ravages the country and the economy stalls” it makes me so mad. The entire article is based on the premise that the cause for the delay in another relief bill is that ‘bipartisan urgency’ has faded, which is disingenuous if not a baldfaced lie.

Nowhere in this article do the writers mention that the HEROES Act was passed by the Democratically-led House in mid-May and sent to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell sat on it while continuing to focus on approving judges. Not until July 28 did the Republicans in the Senate even attempt to come up with their own plan, which somehow found billions of dollars for construction of a new FBI building a block from Trump’s Hotel as well as funds to replace the money Trump stole from the military to build his ’emergency wall’ but not to continue the $600 per week of enhanced unemployment benefits. Somehow, these old wealthy white men in the Republican Party see this as a problem, claiming that people who are making more money on unemployment won’t return to work, when the whole point is to avoid a repeat of the Great Depression. That $600 per week payment is mostly being put back into the economy by people who would be homeless, starving, and completely unable to live without it.

This article doesn’t mention that Mitch McConnell shut the Senate down for a long weekend, or that the House has had it’s August recess put on hold until the relief legislation is signed by the idiot in chief, President Stupid.

It would be so much less while also avoiding misleading the less informed in the public at large to be honest when writing articles like this. It isn’t Congress that’s doing nothing. It’s the Republicans and the administration that are doing nothing. The White House offering to extend the unemployment benefit for a week while they continue to dither and complain just puts things off another week. Nancy Pelosi isn’t stupid – she and the rest of the Democrats know that they cannot let the Senate Republicans have their way in this legislation, because their goal is to withhold as much help from the rest of us as possible. This, from (mostly) old white men who are being paid $174,000 a year of our tax dollars are more worried about making sure that businesses can deduct 100% of their meal and entertainment costs from their taxes than they have ever been in making sure that the other 90% of us can remain fed and housed, with utilities on and healthcare coverage.

So please, when you see the next headline claiming that the entire legislative branch is not functioning in our best interest, take a minute and do a little research. It’s likely inaccurate, like so many ‘both sides’ arguments are, tossing the Democrats in the House who have been passing legislation for the past two years to benefit us in with the non-governing, non-legislating Republicans. They have decided that their only purpose is to approve right-wing, incompetent judges, cut taxes for themselves, their donors and corporations, and keep their minority hands gripped firmly on every lever of power then can. Every dollar cut from the social safety net has been tucked into their pockets.

Mitch McConnell and his cronies in the Senate have abrogated their responsibility to do their jobs – for which they continue to be paid $174,000 a year. Do you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth from them?

Trump is the Tyrant the Republicans Always Wanted

It’s hard to believe that it’s been under four years since Donald Trump, the least-qualified of all the candidates who ran for President in 2016, took over the office from Barack Obama; it feels more like forty because of the amount of constant, unrelenting stress his presidency has caused us all. Trump continues to use his reality show platform, trying to always leave us hanging with a “we’ll have to see” or “I can’t say yet”, as though he isn’t holding the highest office in the country, making his words matter exponentially more than they ever would have had he not been elected.

Trump and Barr appear to have decided that they can do anything they want until the election, aware that even the Democrats in the House cannot take the time to impeach Trump again; between now and November 3rd it’s more appropriate for the House to perform investigations that can provide further information about the criminality of this lawless administration. The entire electorate needs to be spurred to vote them all out by outrage, and that’s only going to happen by forcing this out into the media every day until then.

Why would anyone be surprised to find out that there was an appropriation inserted into the Senate Republicans HEALS Act to provide $1.75 billion to rebuild The J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in downtown Washington. In a bill purported to be providing desperately needed financial help to Americans being pummeled by the dysfunctional Trump administration, Trump’s own financial future of course had to rear it’s ugly head. Trump scuttled a plan ten years in the making to relocate the FBI headquarters to the suburbs outside the city a year into his tenure, because he knew that the current location, a block from his own hotel, would likely provide a competitor with a location that would negatively affect his own bottom line. Since everything Trump does from the Oval Office is intentionally designed to benefit him and his wallet, his attempt to push this project forward is just another of his schemes to see how much money he can make from the Presidency.

This is banana republic, tin pot dictatorship shit. Everything is paid for by the taxpayers, while the benefits go into the dear leader’s bank account. The family members of the dear leader get to run stuff they have no experience or knowledge to run, making a salary paid by taxpayers, for a job they are unable to perform under the best of circumstances. The only thing Jared Kushner is qualified to do is being Mr. Ivanka Trump.

The closer we get to the election, the more desperate and despotic Trump becomes. It seems that even his ‘positive thinking’ isn’t doing enough to convince him that all the polls showing Biden ahead by double digits in a majority of states and actually competitive in formerly reliable red states. Now, it seems Trump has decided that his next best option is to use the office of the president and its bully pulpit to trash talk mail-in ballots as significantly flawed and likely to be fraudulent. He continues to use diversion to deflect the media from bad news, and there’s so much bad news and diversions flying through the diaspora that it’s impossible to remember what we were outraged over just a few weeks ago.

Remember the leaked report from the intelligence agencies that Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban in Afghanistan for dead coalition fighters? What about the children still being detained in Covid-19 infested privately-run detention facilities? Or the ‘very fine people on both sides’ in Charlottesville? It’s impossible to maintain the level of outrage that each individual outrageous act by the Republican Party and this administration without it negatively affecting ourselves and those around us, but that doesn’t mean we can just brush it aside and move on. We have only one chance to try to get this thing under control before this entire experiment in our democratic republic comes crashing down around us.

The Republican Party has for decades been looking for someone to use for their own nefarious purposes, and Trump, who lacks the insight, intelligence, comprehension, compassion and a decency to see what a tool he’s been for the Republicans. They, on the other hand, so craven in their greed for money and power, didn’t mind at all that they were pushing this malignant narcissist into the most powerful position in the world (at least in was in 2016) because they somehow thought they could control him and tamp down his worst tendencies. They thought that Trump would become ‘presidential’ once in office; magical thinking of the highest order. They still think that their own political narrative is the ‘true way’ for the country to be run, and continue to do everything in their power to force their religious beliefs down the throats of the rest of us, despite the “freedom of religion” (or freedom FROM religion) written into the Constitution.

Now that the Republicans have the tyrant they always wanted, they’ve discovered to their chagrin that this puppy has been shitting in their closets the entire time he’s been in office. Trump has been so ‘positive in the negative direction’ that he is now dragging down the reelection chances of Senators who thought their future political careers were assured. Susan Collins, so ‘concerned’ and certain that Trump ‘learned his lesson’ after being impeached and is now the least liked person in the Senate, Lindsay Graham, Corey Gardner, David Perdue, Joni Ernst, Steve Daines and Thom Tillis, all of them Trump sycophants and bootlickers, now finds their seats jeopardized by their attachment to Trump. It’s sad that those are the only ones, but the 34% of those polled who still live in the right-wing media bubble and believe Trump is doing a good job with Covid-19 live somewhere, and I guess they live where the other Senate Republican seats are safe.

Change can only happen if we vote them all out, up and down the ballot. The Republican Party must be crushed out of existence, never to get their greedy hands on the reins of power again. We have to reform elections (requiring presidential candidates to release ten years of taxes in order to be on the ballot), election financing (to level the playing field remove the influence of the wealthy and corporations), norms previously honored by those in power that have been shown by Trump to be easily ignored by the unscrupulous and so many other things I can’t even think anymore. The only way any of those things will get done is to remove Republicans from the picture.

We have no time left to waste.

Political Apathy is Unacceptable

I sent a few of my Facebook contacts an invitation to my page and didn’t think about it again until one of those invitees sent me a message to tell me that he wasn’t going to my page because he has “zero interest in politics”. Before the 2016 elections, I too thought of politics as something that other people cared about, despite voting the Democratic ticket starting with Jimmy Carter in 1976. I got most of my information from watching local and national news on the ABC affiliate WPVI out of Philadelphia along with listening to KYW 1060, the AM all-news-and-traffic radio station. All things considered, I got enough accurate information to know which party had my best interests at heart.

Today, I have no concept of how anyone with skin in the game (like my 61 year old diabetic smoking friend) can be indifferent about politics. This election is for all the chips, because if Trump and the Republicans are not soundly defeated and removed from power, we will be living in an authoritarian dictatorship during all future Trump terms. I want my friend will read this one post in the hopes of inspiring him to participate in the democracy that has been so good to both him and his family by voting for Joe Biden and the Democrats down ticket. I’m going to refer to my friend as “Billie” (not his real name).

Billie, I read your message declining my invitation to my Facebook page and was disappointed that you have no interest in politics. I don’t believe that’s true; I think that there are a multitude of places where your life, health, financial well-being and future comfort are directly and inextricably intertwined with the outcomes of elections, such as right now, in the middle of the worst pandemic in over a century. If the federal government was being led by a capable, competent, empathetic and caring leader who placed the good of the country over all else, the awesome power of the office of the President would have done everything to contain and control this virus, issuing national orders for staying home, social distancing and mask wearing while also putting a robust, nationwide testing and contact tracing system in place to find everyone spreading the virus and limit the spread. Instead, we have a person so incapable of ever admitting he’s made a mistake that he prefers to watch more than 150,000 of our fellow Americans die while he exhibits magical thinking by insisting that the virus will “just disappear”.

The Republicans have been laser-focused since the Affordable Care Act was passed on overturning it and stripping health insurance from millions of Americans while making those of us with preexisting conditions like diabetes, emphysema/COPD and osteoarthritis pay exorbitant premiums if we can even obtain health insurance coverage at all. Trump and his cadre of former fossil fuel executives, Wall Street bankers and right-wing media pundits have used his presidency to roll back rules and regulations to benefit corporate interests at the expense of all the rest of us and the planet. Trump’s delusional belief that he is the holder of all knowledge has made him incapable of accepting input from those in his own government with specialized knowledge of all manner of subjects versus taking the word of assorted hosts on Fox News and OANN. There are millions of Americans out of work because Trump is unable to do his job to put people in positions throughout the federal government with actual experience and skills to handle a crisis like the one we’re living through now. Instead, Trump appoints sycophants who agree that their first priority is to praise the dear leader no matter the reality on the ground, while their second priority is to allow Trump’s corporate donors to run rampant over everyone and everything in their paths.

Billie, you mentioned that your roommate has Covid-19 and that he’s still sharing the house with you. Your diabetes and smoking history make your chances of having a negative outcome if you contract the virus much higher than a healthier individual. The reason you’re in this position right now is because enough people in the right states decided that voting for the most prepared individual in history to run for the presidency wasn’t an option if that person also had a vagina, so they instead voted for the most incapable, incompetent, incurious, inept, undiplomatic and self-serving individual to ever seek the office. A lack of ‘interest’ in the actual issues combined with centuries-old, systemic misogyny led millions of voters to either stay home, vote third party, or actually cast votes for Trump because they thought Hillary was going to win and their individual vote didn’t really matter. Sadly, some 70,000 of those individual votes mattered way more than they should have.

I know you don’t have kids of your own Billie, and I’m sure that affects your attitude about ‘politics’, but your brother does have kids that I’m sure you love like they were your own. Think for a while about the world that will be left to them and their kids, and ask yourself if maybe the things that we’ve been doing to the planet for the last 100 years or so have helped or hurt the environment. I don’t know what the weather has been like in Vegas recently, but I can tell you without qualification that the heat and humidity here in New Jersey has been oppressive and unrelenting. We have always had our hottest days of the year in July and August, but I can’t remember in my lifetime having so many consecutive days of high humidity and high temperatures like the one we’re in the midst of now. Your brother’s offspring will have to deal with the climate disaster that our generation has been particularly loathe to address, given the propensity for the Republicans to claim that some climate ‘scientists’ don’t agree with the 97% of actual scientists that climate change is caused by humans releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. They don’t mention that their ‘scientists’ are actually employed by the fossil fuel industry to spread their bullshit, or that those same fossil fuel companies are full of their political donors.

Billie, I know that Whitey was your grandfather by blood, but you only saw him occasionally. During the ten years that my Mom and I lived with Whitey and my grandmother, I spent every day with him, and I think I can say with some degree of certainty that he was NOT just interested in the Phillies and the Eagles. Whitey knew that politics wasn’t just about the people in Washington; it’s about all of us, and what we want for ourselves and our families as part of a functioning democracy to which we pay taxes for services that said government is supposed to provide to us all when things happen that affect a large swath of us here in the United States. There is no way that Whitey would have remained completely uninformed and uninterested in the damage being done throughout our government and around the world by a lawless, incompetent president and the complicit Republicans. I know that he watched the evening news on a daily basis, because we all watched the evening news together back then, and I used to watch him reading the entire paper – not just the sports section – so I know he had a pretty good idea of what was going on in the government and the world before he exercised his right to vote.

The Republicans’ goal for decades has been to prevent as many people of color as possible from entering the US from anywhere else; had they been successful back in the fifties, it’s quite possible that you and your brother wouldn’t even exist. Your Mom marrying a man from the Philippines back in the fifties was a big deal back then, and I’m sure that your parents were on the receiving end of a lot of racist crap during their marriage. The point is that the people who win elections get to make the rules about who to let in and who to keep out. It is abundantly clear that leaving Republicans in charge of anything related to immigration or equality for all is very much like the fox watching the hen house. Electing a person uniquely unqualified for any of the tasks a US president must address along with keeping Republicans who have not interest in governing or legislating in office leaves all the rest of us subject to Trump’s whims and his inability to ever let any real or perceived insult or negative opinion go without a fight. Trump has never cared at all about the country; he entered the 2016 election in order to get free publicity so that he could start his own cable network; then, the unimaginable happened.

This is NOT the face of a happy person!

Trump didn’t want to win; he’s spent his whole life not working at a job he couldn’t get fired from that he didn’t have to apply for – just like his three older children have done – and the last thing he wanted was an actual job that required him to focus for more time than he ever had to in his entire life on someone other than himself. The look on his face in the photo above says all that and more.

Billie, right now the Republicans in the Senate, after refusing to consider the HEROES Act that the House sent to them May 12th to provide additional stimulus during the pandemic have taken two whole days to ‘legislate’ the Heals Act behind closed doors that gives businesses, hospitals and schools five years of liability protection retroactive to 2019 while cutting the weekly emergency unemployment payments from $600 to $200, because of course Republicans have to insist that it’s the $600 weekly benefit check preventing people from going to work, not the pandemic raging through a country without any plan to stop it or even slow it down. Apparently, these professional politicians don’t understand that the only reason that the “economy” has done as well as it has through the pandemic so far relative to the number of people out of work has been that $600 bonus, which has permitted millions to remain in their homes, buy groceries and other necessities, and keep their heads almost above water. Republicans also fail to see the irony when they indignantly point out that some people are making more money now than when they were working – because of course the answer to that wouldn’t be increasing the pay for those workers, right? The moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and other legal actions due to a lack of payment are going to expire, and who knows how many families will be forced our of their homes in the midst of a pandemic; state and local governments are going to have to significantly reduce services to help their citizens because the HEALS Act includes only funds for schools, although just a tenth of what the House proposed. Student loan deferments are also ignored in the HEALS Act.

The HEROES Act addresses state, local, tribal and territorial governments and provides stimulus funds for them all; along with the HEALS Act, it recommends a second $1,200 stimulus payment to every adult, but that is the only major similarity in the two. The House bill expands paid sick days, family and medical leave, nutrition and food assistance programs, housing assistance, unemployment, and payments to farmers. It also eliminates cost-sharing for Covid-19 testing and treatment in addition to a range of other policies. The bill passed because of the Democrats – only one Republican supported the bill.

Elections have consequences, Billie. An uninformed electorate distracted by social media posts that often have no basis in fact while they avoid any of the actual journalism still available in multiple formats is a large part of how we ended up here. Once upon a time, when it was unthinkable that someone so completely lacking in ability, restraint or a willingness to follow norms and laws could be elected to the highest office in the country, it may have been acceptable to proudly proclaim yourself to have “Zero interest in politics…” The last forty years or so have demonstrated that those among us who have chosen to abdicate their civic responsibility by simply ignoring everything political including refusing to vote is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million. It is unacceptable in the time of viral social media posts and massive disinformation from the president’s Twitter account for anyone eligible to vote to remain on the sidelines, or to stay ignorant of the facts before they cast their votes.

Billie, you owe it to your country, your fellow citizens, and the next generation to take some time out of your life (maybe every time you go outside to smoke) to learn why you should care about these things.

I hope you understand that I’m only telling you this because I have been paying attention to ‘politics’, not because I like them, but because what those people do matters. No one should sit back and let others make the big decisions, because everything that the government does and does not do has an effect on every one of us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the cars we drive, how our homes are built, how efficient our appliances are…. All that and more than I can write in this post are affected by the government, and how much or little you are personally touched by those things is also a function of some part of government. You have no legitimate excuse for remaining uninformed and disinterested in the political landscape while your country literally burns around you.

The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men.

Plato