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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The GOP’s Crackpot Agenda

The top Republican candidates share a single, radical vision: to trash the environment, shred the safety net and aid the rich.

By Tim Dickinson


Nowhere is the GOP’s lock-step approach to governance more in evidence than on the question of employment. At a moment when 25 million Americans lack full-time jobs, this is obviously going to be the central issue of the 2012 election. Yet the Republican candidates all have the same jobs plan: to put the unemployed to work on behalf of big polluters.


To clear the way for the orgy of drilling, mining and fracking the GOP candidates have proposed, it’s first necessary to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been authorized by the Supreme Court to curb climate pollution. Many of the top Republican contenders, in fact, once sounded the alarm on climate change; today, they scoff at its very existence.


The GOP candidates are not just seeking to roll back regulations on Big Carbon – they also want to gut a wide range of safeguards designed to protect consumers and workers. Perry has called for a “moratorium” on all pending regulations. Bachmann wants an end to “this red-tape rampage.” Romney, in a fit of technocratic nonsense, is calling for a cap on regulatory costs, whereby the economic impact of any new regulation must be offset by repealing an established rule. Under his bizarre plan, a Romney administration might pay for new rules against contaminated meat by eliminating the current ban on lead paint in children’s toys.


The Republican candidates are uniformly committed to repealing the president’s health care reform – what Perry, with characteristic subtlety, calls a “man-made disaster of epic proportions.” Under the GOP plans, nearly 1 million young adults would once again be denied coverage, seniors would be forced to shell out billions more for prescription medicines, and insurers could return to hiking premiums while denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions. For these and other reasons, Romney insists, “Obamacare is bad for America’s families.”


While threatening to slash the safety net for millions of Americans, the GOP candidates are also committed to a brutal austerity program that would tip the nation back into recession – if not a full-scale depression. The proposal in question is a constitutional amendment that would require the federal government to pass a balanced budget each year. According to Macroeconomic Advisers, a top economic forecaster, balancing the budget in 2012 alone would throw 15 million Americans out of work, double unemployment to 18 percent and contract the U.S. economy by 17 percent. Going forward, the government would be barred from borrowing money during hard times to provide unemployment benefits, food stamps and other essential aid to those in need. As a result, the analysts report, “recessions would be deeper and longer.” Even in times of plenty, a balanced-budget amendment would “retard economic growth” by increasing economic uncertainty – which Republicans have repeatedly blamed as the root of the current lackluster recovery.


One portion of the budget that the GOP’s austerity agenda doesn’t touch is the Pentagon, where the Republican candidates call for the kind of costly investments they refuse to back for America’s poor and middle class. While demanding that federal spending be capped at 20 percent of GDP, Romney would mandate that at least one in five federal dollars be spent on defense. “I will not look to the military as a place to balance the budget,” he says. Neither will Gingrich, who calls on taxpayers to “recapitalize our military infrastructure,” or Perry, who wants to sink billions into missile defense and “modernized fleets of ships and aircraft.”


The leading Republican candidates all back a host of sweetheart tax cuts for major corporations, whose income is currently taxed at 35 percent. Romney would reduce the corporate rate to 25 percent, while Perry would drop it to 20 percent and Gingrich would slash it to 12.5 percent. Worse, the GOP candidates also favor a “territorial” tax system that would prohibit Uncle Sam from collecting any revenues on profits stashed overseas. The move, according to tax experts, would spur U.S. corporations to shift millions of jobs and billions in profits offshore.


It’s no surprise that the GOP candidates oppose a woman’s right to choose. Every candidate but Romney has signed a pledge vowing to permanently defund Planned Parenthood and to appoint only pro-lifers to key federal health positions. But now, rather than simply pushing to repeal Roe v. Wade, they also want to change the Constitution to award full citizenship to a woman’s egg the moment it is fertilized. “Personhood begins at conception,” insists Gingrich, who wants Congress to pass a law defining embryos as “persons” under the 14th Amendment – a move designed to make abortion unconstitutional. Even Romney, who was elected in Massachusetts as a staunchly pro-choice politician, said on Fox News recently that he “absolutely” would have signed a “personhood” amendment giving constitutional rights to the unborn. An identical measure on the ballot last November – which would have outlawed abortion for victims of rape and incest – was so radical that even Mississippi voters rejected it.


The candidates’ positions on immigration are so extreme that they seem to have been dreamed up by the Minutemen militia. Perry vows to militarize the border with “boots on the ground” and Predator drones hunting down illegal border crossers from the skies. Offering few details, Romney says “we gotta have a fence” along the Mexican border, while Bachmann envisions a barrier that’s 2,000 miles long and “double-walled.” Cain has vowed to erect a “Great Wall… 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you – WARNING!'” Gingrich, who touts his “humane” approach to deportation, has nonetheless trashed even legal immigrants, once denouncing Spanish itself as “the language of living in a ghetto.”

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