Over the past 12 months, Americans were subjected to, and learned about, the extremists in the Republican Party who have lurched so far to the right that Ronald Reagan would be considered a Liberal. After assessing the economic damage Republicans caused nearly every American throughout 2011, 99% of the population can be grateful that Democrats control the Senate and that President Obama is in the White House.
Although Democrats are not perfect, they served as a barrier to unbridled tax cuts for the rich and more importantly; more drastic cuts to programs that 99% of Americans depend on. The difference between Democratic ideology and Republican’s hard-right, unregulated free market capitalism and government privatization is stark and without Democrats, Americans’ economic situation would be far worse. The events in Wisconsin and Florida, with Republican assaults on public employees, unions, and voters are but a glimpse of what happens when the GOP controls the executive and both houses of a legislature.
There are perpetual complaints that Democrats, like Republicans, accept campaign contributions from Wall Street, corporations, lobbyists, and special interest groups and are therefore no different than Republicans, but one only need look at which party is fighting for the people to understand that those complaints are misguided. Democrats, as a rule, do not advocate undoing regulations, giving more breaks to big business, obstructing job creation, privatizing Medicare, Social Security, or Medicaid, or enacting harsh spending cuts to safety nets. The payroll tax cut and unemployment benefit extension controversy is just one example of the blatant difference between Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats, throughout 2011, opposed Republicans’ Draconian spending cuts to programs that primarily benefit the poor, and especially GOP attempts at defunding Planned Parenthood. In fact, without Democratic opposition, the Republican’s war on women’s right to choose their own reproductive health would have proceeded with biblical consequences. The women’s movement alone owes much to Democrats who opposed H.R. 3 that redefined rape and allowed women to die instead of receiving life-saving abortions. The Democratically controlled Senate kept House Republicans’ anti-women legislation from ever advancing to President Obama’s desk.
When Representative Paul Ryan presented the Heritage Foundation’s budget that proposed privatizing Medicare, the bill never made it past the Senate because Democrats understood it meant seniors would end up with less coverage and higher costs than current Medicare. Now, Democrats do understand that to maintain Medicare and Social Security’s solvency and effectiveness to last over the long haul, there must be changes made to both programs, but the notion of privatizing either program was never part of Democratic plans. President Obama has proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security, but his approach is aimed at streamlining the systems and not giving Wall Street and the insurance industry the programs to gamble with.
President Obama has taken a world of criticism from the professional left and so-called Emo Progs for not advancing their special interests, but they fail to acknowledge Obama is presiding over a conservative-leaning country. His left-leaning Centrist policies have earned him scorn and derision he does not deserve. The president has fought for the American people with a jobs plan that, although not ambitious enough for many economists, faced automatic obstruction from Republicans who hate him more than they love America. Obama’s critics fail to appreciate that with quiet resolve, he proposes plans that appeal to a majority of Americans that have more chance of reaching fruition than a more robust, Progressive approach that would never receive support from conservative Democrats. Perhaps the professional left forgets the battle to pass the historic Affordable Health Act that would have never left committee if it demanded a public option. The President could not get a clean debt ceiling increase passed this summer because Republicans demanded a package of cuts as a hostage payment, and yet Obama skillfully played Republicans because they did not get the severe cuts they demanded.
Americans owe Democrats, and especially President Obama, a debt of gratitude for holding the line against policies that would give all of Americans’ tax dollars to the wealthy and corporations. More importantly, they should be grateful the spending cuts Republicans proposed did not become law because the effects on the poor would be catastrophic. It is important to remember that America is the richest country in the history of the world and without Democratic efforts to stop Draconian cuts to safety nets, America would, without doubt, rival any plutocratic nation regardless of the time period. The amount of wealth in America should mean there are no citizens living in poverty and that the country’s infrastructure should be a model of excellence and innovation. Instead, because of Bush-Republican deregulation, the country is just now making strides, however slowly, at economic recovery because President Obama and Democrats resisted Republican attempts at more deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy that put America, and the world on the brink of a depression.
There is no way to accurately predict what horrors Republicans would impose if they controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, but suffice it to say that safety nets would disappear, education, Medicare, Social Security, and nearly all government programs would be privately run and Americans would suffer. Democrats are not perfect, but they protected Americans from all walks of life from Republicans who would mount an all-out assault on the remaining vestiges of the New Deal, and kept 98% of Americans from living in poverty. These are not exaggerations or rhetoric. As it stands now, because of Republican policies from the past thirty years, nearly half of America is at or near poverty and millions are homeless. President Obama’s stimulus, payroll tax cut, and unemployment benefit extension have created millions of jobs and saved millions more.
The past year, Americans witnessed the worst assault on women, the poor, seniors, children, and minorities that never became law because Democrats held the line and fought for the people. Did Democrats take corporate, oil industry, Wall Street and special interest money? Of course they did, but they did so while defending women, small businesses, gays, the poor, and veterans from Republicans who took money from the same groups and sought to advance their un-American agendas. In a sense, 2011 was a demonstration of the worst and best of America. If Republicans had joined Democrats and worked for all Americans, the economy would improve drastically and the horrid poverty numbers would be on the decline. However, expecting Republicans to work for all the people is as ridiculous as expecting them to respect the Constitution, but one can be hopeful though, and perhaps 2012 will be the year America wakes up and rejects Republicans and their anti-people agenda. In lieu of that, we have President Obama and Democrats to protect 98% of the population like they have for all of 2011.