Wednesday, April 13, 2005

April 12, 2005

Good Morning Comrades

Something very Soviet is going on here. What’s most surprising is that the very party that brags it’s guy, Ronald Reagan, crushed Soviet communism, is driving this trend. Of course you don’t need to be a Commie to be a Soviet at heart. And the Neocon wing of the GOP are Soviets right down to their toenails. They want one-party rule and all power shifted to the federal government. And they are well on their way to getting what the want.

Confused? I’m not surprised because this came right out of far right field. But let me explain what dawned on me this morning.

Look at what the Bushites have been up to here at home while everyone has been obsessing over their goofy foreign policy. Step by step powers the Constitution explicitly reserved for the states have been systemically weakened or revoked and those powers shifted to appointed Washington bureaucrats. The party that once filibustered for state’s rights has spent the last five years stripping states of those very powers. (Oh, and now that they are in control, they want to outlaw the filibuster too.)

Whether it was Florida’s right to keep Terri Schiavo alive or let her die, or Oregon’s assisted suicide law for the terminally ill, or reining in trial lawyers or pushing for a federal ban on gay marriages -- no matter what the states want the Neocons have chipped away at state independence from central government rule.

But for the GOP Neocons, reducing the independence of individual states is nothing personal, just business – literally. Many states now have voter initiatives where the power of big money has considerably less heft. Such elections were producing way too many laws reigning in big business and big money interests. State laws, for example, that allowed consumers easy access to the courts and liberal class action rules had resulted in huge judgments against the very interests that put George W. in the White House. But under the rules as outlined in the US Constitution the White House could little to help their friends. That is unless of course state’s right could be defined more narrowly and key rights slowly shifted to Washington.

But there was an obstacle … the US Constitution, which specially barred the federal government from any powers not explicitly given it. Every other right belonged to the states.

What to do? Damn Founding Fathers! Well, the Neocons could just do what they want anyway and deny that’s what the framers meant. But that would not work because the damn federal courts would throw a fit and rule against them.

So the Neocons launched a full frontal assault on the federal judiciary. To assure future cooperation from the courts they would nominate judges they could count on. But that would still leave thousands of sitting judges unlikely to side with them. So they decided to publicly pound on those judges until they either get with the program or retire in fear or frustration.

And so began well financed smear campaigns, quickly launched whenever a federal court rules against a hot-button conservative issue… gay marriage, right to die, family planning services, rulings that hobble business interests. Even before the ink dry on the verdict they don’t like the names and faces of judge(s) that made the ruling are plastered all over the Internet and in ads questioning their integrity, intelligence and motives.

"If they don't get what they want, they attack whoever's around,"
(Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.)

You can get a handle on just how important de-fanging the federal judiciary is to the far right by how they have put their top leaders right out there on the firing line. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Sen. John Cornyn, both of Texas, openly threatened violence against federal judges in the wake of Terri Schiavo’s death. Cornyn said, right on the Senate floor and in front of Cspan cameras, that he suspected the increase in violence against federal judges was being driven by frustrated voters who believe federal judges were “making political decisions.”

Okay, so far, so good. Congress is now loaded with right-wingers and, now that they also control the Executive Branch, they are more than happy to transfer state powers to Washington. Their smear campaign has stirred up just enough knuckle-dragging citizens out there to have many sitting federal judges low crawling to their cars every morning and afraid to open then incoming mail. And finally they have big crop of sympathetic judges already confirmed more in the pipeline.

Now they can begin to transform the states into Soviet-style vassal states -- the Ukrainization of California. The Romanianization of Oregon. The Lithuaniaization of Wisconsin.

Oh sure some states will try to put up a fight, but they have plan for that too -- break the states financially. Create so much budgetary chaos at the state and local levels that they will not have the time, energy, money or political support to fight Washington.

And, in case you were wondering, that explains the changes the Bushites are trying to push through on Medicaid funding, If passed the accounting changes will strip states of over $15 billion in federal Medicaid matching funds. And, since Medicaid is the fastest growing budget item in nearly every state, this will be crippling.

“Federal and state spending on Medicaid, the nation's largest health insurance program, has grown an average of 10 percent a year over the last five years and now totals more than $300 billion a year. Federal Medicaid officials said the questionable arrangements would cost the federal government $5.8 billion in the next five years and more than $15 billion over 10 years.” (Washington Post)

But wait, they’re not done. As Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy create larger and larger federal budget deficits the states are being told to expect less and less financial help from Washington. If they want better roads, schools, hospitals, prisons, healthcare for the working poor etc, they will just have to raise state income and property taxes and issue more state backed bonds to raise the money.

And, left with no alternative, that’s exactly what states are doing.

“...a review of five years of local budgets shows that those tax-rate cuts have been far too small to offset the climb in home values, and, as a result, average tax bills in much of the region have gone up as much as 70 percent in just five years. Other government expenditures are soaring as well. Budgets for public safety and parks have risen rapidly, a survey of area budgets shows. In five years, public safety budgets have risen by one-third or more across the region. The increases in recent years, however, are more than making up for lost time. Even taking into account the last 10 years of taxes and taking out the effects of inflation, average home tax bills in Fairfax County have risen about 70 percent.” (USA Today)

Are these guys good at what they do, or what? I mean think about it folks, that was a classic two-fer for the Neocons. They not only were able to bag huge tax cuts for their wealthy supporters, but have also gotten away with shifting the burden of those cuts to state and local taxpayers.

Hot diggity! Can the life of a pack of modern-day Robber Barons get any better?

Well, they certainly hope so.

And they have three and half more years to try -- comrades.

By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large

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