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Promises, Doublespeak, and Dangerous Politics

January 3, 2011

ASHEHAM OP-ED ON 2011 POLITICS: There are new representatives in Washington D.C. and they want to make their mark, to advance their agenda to reform congressional politics. Understandable, logical, but not in keeping with their actual job, for the role of Federal elected officials is to serve the best interests of ALL the American people, not swaths or patches, or special groups or special interests – meaning political parties and lobbyists. But this is where we are today in American politics. Idealogues have invaded our inner halls of government desiring to imprint their idea of government rather than serving as protectors of our established Constitution and upholding its tenets. To be a publicly elected representative is to serve the public, not oneself. To be sure, we have seen politics turned on its head with candidates who run for office saying, believe in me and what I say, and I will do your bidding. Hmm, slick talk, rather than, what do you want, what are your issues, and how can I best serve you within the laws of our Constitution? Big difference.

The Tea Party is no different than the two major parties in that they choose to be the former type elected representative rather than the latter. They are asking their ‘constituents’ to believe they have the answers for reforming government. I am sure many who supported Tea Party candidates want reform, but how is it they are backing a party who wishes to not only reform government politics, but the inner workings of government which in effect, changes the nature of how government works and even Constitutional law itself…for that is precisely what they want to accomplish.

For example. The Tea Party wants to eliminate the Department of Education. Why? Because it is part of the Christian Right agenda to empower parents with educating their children, as in, homeschooling. They do not take into account the tens of millions of American parents who are in favor of public education and improving public education institutions. They also do not see in their argument an inherent conflict between church and state. They simply want to eliminate the Department of Education to satisfy their own personal religious agenda. In fact, Ran Paul specifically states their argument in philosophical & religious terms.

The Daily Beast reported: No Child Left Behind was a huge mistake,” Paul said back in October. “Republicans passed it… but it really went against our real philosophy.”

The competing parental-rights movement has three key legislative priorities for 2011: preventing any Obama-led reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act from regulating or even mentioning homeschooling; allowing homeschool families to claim tax credits for educational expenses, and—most ambitiously—passing the Parental Rights Amendment, an attempt to prevent the U.S. from ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. (The international treaty was originally developed in close collaboration with the Reagan administration, and has been ratified by all United Nations member states except for the U.S. and Somalia.)

Across all these issues, “We can’t have government officials coming in and supervising the decisions that fit parents make,” said William Estrada, director of federal relations at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

Really? How is it that “fit parents” right to homeschool their children is being impaired? Why must the argument pit one way over the other, or to the elimination of the other? This is much like Sarah Palin’s recent statement about parents rights to feed their children what they choose to feed them. That seems logical, but again not rational, for the fact is nearly one in three children and adolescents in the United States either overweight or obese, more than 23 million young people nationwide, childhood obesity has become a national threat. Simply put, across the board, parents need to do a better job providing nutritional meals to their children. But what we find is a very convenient political manipulation of the message. Suddenly, we hear how parents are being denied their rights to feed their children what they want and that sets the stage for people feeling their government is too overbearing, too intrusive, too whatever the Tea Partyists say is happening to deny them their rights. That is outright bull. They are false arguments. Parents have not lost their rights to feed their children what they choose, nor are they in danger of losing this right. BUT, what is happening is our participation in our communities is counteractive to good overall health of our children and there is an abundance of evidence to bear this out including this excerpt from a recent Huffington Post article by Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, a social change strategy firm based in Washington, DC, and Director of Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Other studies have shown that communities can contribute to the epidemic by failing to embrace policies that increase access to affordable and fresh fruits and vegetables and to amenities that promote physical activity, such as parks, open spaces, connected sidewalks, bicycle lanes and trails.

I would like to see a return to the JFKs President’s Physical Fitness program from the 60s. I grew up exercising and enthusiastically participating in that program. I excelled in many sports, track and field, gymnastics, tennis, etc; I was a pushup master, something rare for women who lack upper body strength. Exercise boosts heart activity, produces endorphins, burns calories, and makes us strong and healthy. Heart disease runs in my family and I am grateful now that I was part of such a beneficial program.

Rather than making this a contentious issue, leaders should be working together on solutions to help improve our children’s health. There are solutions. We need to be role models showing how adults work peacefully and productively together. Here are the dangers our children are facing now:

Research shows that obese children are at increased risk for becoming overweight and obese adults and that they are more likely to develop serious chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular and renal disease. As a result, many experts predict that our nation’s children will pay a steep price by living sicker and shorter lives than their parents.

The Palin and Tea Party rancor is creating divisiveness instead of providing leadership and bringing people together to produce constructive solutions. Manipulating the message is pure theater and it has its own cost in terms of further eroding trust in our system of government. Arguing in this vein for political gain is selfish and wrong headed.

What More Is on the Right Wing Agenda?

The NY Times reports today: Congressional Republicans vowed Sunday to use their new majority in the House and their stronger position in the Senate to roll back the Obama administration’s health care overhaul and press for sharp, rapid cuts in spending.

“As part of our pledge, we said that we would bring up a vote to repeal health care early,” Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added, “That will happen before the president’s State of the Union address,” expected in late January.

Why on Earth would the G.O.P. want to cut healthcare? Maybe because somewhere down the line taxes will need to be increased on the wealthy to help support federal programs, meaning they will have to start paying their fair share.

The rancor will accelerate to an all time high this year as Tea Partyists beat the drum for reducing spending, deconstructing various departments of the Federal government, and frustrate the Obama agenda and Republican agenda as well.

Going into the spring, Congress will face two major spending-related fights: a vote to extend a continuing resolution to finance the operations of the government, and a vote to raise the ceiling on the public debt. Tea Party activists have vowed to use the votes to make a point about the need for fiscal discipline.

“The only way that I would ever support raising the debt limit if we also talk about budgetary controls on the federal government, capping its spending, how do we deal with the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid problems, because they cannot continue to run on auto-pilot,” said Allen West, who will take office this week as the first black Republican congressman from Florida since Reconstruction.

Austan D. Goolsbee, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, warned Republicans against “playing chicken” with the debt ceiling.

Hitting the $14.3 trillion ceiling without extending it would mean “essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history,” he said on “This Week With Christiane Amanpour” on ABC. He added: “The impact on the economy would be catastrophic. I mean, that would be a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008.”

On the other hand is the doubletalk on defense spending. We are hearing anything from $100 billion to $1 trillion in cuts at a time when military families are struggling. It amazes me how Republicans are gun ho for defense spending for waging war, for invading countries, for shock & awe, and war profiteering, etc., but there is never enough money for the troops and their families, many of whom are on food stamps. I know. I live in a military city where the San Diego Food Bank stated in November 2010 they cannot keep up with demand for military families. (see previous post).

Key Republicans say what is politically expedient to make themselves seem like they are in touch with everyday Americans, or that they support civil rights, healthcare, education, etc. But they turn on a dime when the G.O.P. calls for them to hang together when it comes time to vote on legislation, and too often it votes against the same issues they use to get into voters good graces. That my friends, is hypocrisy. Where Republicans have been caught with their pants down is on the issue of immigration. We know exactly where they stand, so negative is their vitriol. They ride their prejudice on the back of patriotism. It is the ugliest form of propaganda.

Let’ see some examples of this doublespeak in action:

December 10, 2010
During Homecoming Week in 2006, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., visited Iowa State as a part of MSNBC’s Hardball college tour, during which he said he supported gay marriage and allowing gays to serve openly in the military, so long as military leadership approved.

This fall, McCain blocked attempts to bring the Defense Authorization Bill to a vote in the Senate, because it included the full repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bars homosexual men and women from serving in the military openly. At that time, McCain said he wanted to wait for the study being conducted by the Department of Defense about the consequences of full repeal of DADT.

As Bob Dylan said, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…. and when the wind blows from Washington DC, all bets are off that you will hear a politician who speaks honestly and openly. The rhetoric is couched, coached, rehearsed, and buried in talking points. It is an insult to our national discourse; a dumbing down of our political process. Take a few moments to watch this video on McCain on Tax Cuts, the Economy, and more in 2008.

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