Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Republican Pro-Family Myth

As we get into the meat of this election cycle, we will once again be subjected to the biggest Republican lie. No, not that they are the leaders in efficient, balanced government (the past seven years have pointedly contradicted that lie). And no, not the one about how they support the troops (unless you count multiple deployments, inadequate training and equipment and selling out to private contractors as support). No, this year we will once again suffer through this nauseating sound bite: The Republicans are the party of family values. Ha! Personal conduct of Republicans aside, at least for now, the fact remains that the Republican platform is decidedly anti-family.

Let’s look at this from the beginning. The Republicans have the gall to use the phrase “pro-life,” thus framing the debate in their favor. But, the issue isn’t the act of abortion because that will happen regardless of legality. The issue is choice, which is why the flip side is “pro-choice.” For a party that claims the federal government is too involved in our personal lives, this argument is non-sequitur (also, for a party that supports the death penalty to be somehow labeled as “pro-life” is a ridiculous, hypocritical joke).

There is no legal reason to ban abortion. Until we can agree on the definition of life and science (which Republicans hate) can determine when life begins, abortion is not murder. If your religion discourages abortion, fine. Don’t do it. However, that is not reason enough to prevent others from making that choice. Republicans will try to paint Democrats as giddy about abortion and excited at the prospect, but in reality, Democrats are simply trying to protect the right of Americans to choose what is best for their lives. After all, most reasonable people would agree that bringing a child into a situation where it cannot be properly cared for is an action with much more far-reaching consequences.

But, if you still believe that Republicans are pro-life and pro-family, then they must have other pro-family ideas, right? So, I guess the first thing about being pro-family would be ensuring that all people have access to proper health care. If they’re pro-life, they must support healthy life and access to health services. Wrong. Republicans are adamantly against Universal Health Care. In fact, they are against any legislation that would increase the standard of Health Care in America. Even though numerous studies have shown that the US lags behind the industrialized world (37th as judged by WHO) and has the highest rates of preventable death among 19 industrialized nations (as judged by US Journal Health Affairs), the Republicans would not want to do anything that would jeopardize the profit margin of health insurers and pharmaceutical companies. I don’t know about you, but the fact that more than 47 million Americans go without basic health coverage doesn’t sound pro-family to me. The fact remains that dozens of countries have managed to provide basic services for their people without going bankrupt. The US spends more than any other nation on health care and for what? These abysmal rankings? The Republicans have privatized the health care industry for the benefit of their corporate masters, not once thinking of the American people.

Perhaps a pro-family party would consider universally available day care as a part of its platform? After all, Republicans love that Americans work more than almost every other nation on earth, so they would probably support policies that allow parents to work more. Nope. Except for programs like Head Start, which the Republicans have cut-down each year, there is no plan to support working parents. Annual costs for daycare in America run up to $10,000, an outrageous sum and one that working Americans cannot manage to pay. If America had universally available daycare, rates could be based on income and ability to pay. I’m not even talking about free (or as Republicans will have you believe: Socialist), I’m talking about affordable. And, universally available daycare would pay for itself in the end. Children would be better prepared for school, which would improve drop-out rates and ease the burden on teachers by ensuring all children have basic skills by the time they are school aged. Not to mention the fact that access to proper nutrition cut down on many future health issues. And parents aren’t mandated to send their children, but the option is always available. Now, that is pro-family policy, and surprise, it’s not supported by Republicans.

Perhaps another family friendly policy supported by Republicans is equal pay for women and minimum wage that is a living wage? As we all know, there is an increase in the number of single mothers and, 30+ years after the women’s equality movement, women are still facing pay discrimination. Additionally, women are more likely to be working hourly-wage jobs, so Republicans must support initiatives to ensure that women are paid equally and that minimum wage is a living wage? Unfortunately, no, Republicans don’t support these ideas. They believe in the free market setting wages. Yes, I can see where this would be misleading, since markets fluctuate. But the reality is that in the past seven years, real wages for American have decreased by $1,000, and this during a supposed economic growth period. Well, at least CEOs are doing well. In 2007, the average CEO earned more than 367 times the average worker, not including the approximate $438,342 in unpaid “perks.” This is up from 1989 when CEOs earned 71 times the average salary. And, just in case you’re wondering, the average hedge fund manager earned $657.5 million in 2006, 16,000 times the average salary of $40,000. So, Republican policy towards wages basically amounts to pay the rich, burden the poor, since Americans are shelling out thousands for heath care, daycare, schools, etc. Unfortunately, we’ve seen what this free market policy does for real American wages. Nothing. Corporations won’t pay their people more or equally unless it’s mandated by the government.

Oh, schools! We haven’t even mentioned those yet. I would say that the bedrock of a pro-family policy must be education for the children, right? How can someone be more pro-family than by supporting quality education? One of the greatest American ideas was that public education would be available to all. Lately, and by “lately” I mean “under W’s reign of terror,” quality education has fallen by the wayside. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has done nothing to address the quality of education, nothing to ensure that American children are prepared for the future, nothing to ensure that children are getting the attention they need. It’s a one size fits no one failure. Special needs children are placed in classes with regular students and no aide because NCLB mandates 100% passing. Teachers are forced to “teach the test” instead of teaching the subject. This standardized test mess is not helping anyone, and it’s hurting our schools and our teachers. American students continue to fall in world rankings, thus making them less prepared for college, less able in the work force and more prone to losing their jobs overseas (because corporations want to hire the most skilled workers).

Additionally, college costs are on the rise, in both public and private universities. The year-to-year increase is about 6%, which is shocking considering that the average wage increase is less than half of that. More and more students are finding college out of reach, and parents cannot save enough to keep up with the runaway costs. I’m not saying that the government needs to foot the bill for every person’s higher education, but it needs to get creative. One great suggestion is a School for Service program that would operate like the military’s ROTC. People could receive scholarships in exchange for years of government service (currently ROTC students owe the military at least four years and service academy graduates owe at least five, depending on the service selected). This would also help bolster the dwindling ranks of public servants. There are ways to make college affordable and accessible, but under the current Republican policies, college is just another way for the rich to make more money from the poor.

My final note about pro-family policies is probably the most controversial, but the most necessary. Family planning services and sexual education are the keystone to a healthy, successful family, but Republicans keep shunning this topic as too taboo. Let’s end the prudeness and get realistic. We need to give our children the best information on the subject possible. Abstinence-only education cannot trump biology. Making family planning and sexual education resources available does not encourage people to have sex. We’re hardwired to have sex, so no safer-sex tools are going to make the inevitable more likely. But, right now we are facing the first increase in teen pregnancy and STDs in almost two decades, and lack of information is the culprit. Being pro-family means having the fortitude to address family planning and sexual education. Purposely keeping people ignorant is not pro-family.

Republicans think that being pro-family means supporting a radical Christian agenda which flies in the face of the Constitution, giving hundred-dollar tax credits to solve thousand-dollar problems, and letting the free market and tax loopholes set working wages, without regard to the actual consequences. Being pro-family means addressing the needs of real American families: health care, child care, education and wages. These are the issues that Republicans will attempt to distort and spin in their favor, but the reality is that their policies are decidedly anti-family. Bottom line: Republicans only care about you until you’re born. After that, they hope you make it long enough to become a cog in their war machine.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Going The Distance

I'm not a distance runner, but I know a few things about endurance. And, I'm pretty sure everyone knows the first rule of competing in a long race: Pace Yourself! You might have a lot of energy in the beginning, you might think that adrenaline can carry you, but when you get halfway there and the novelty has worn off, what is going to make you push on? Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I did not pace myself for this race. And I know I'm not the only one.

Now, I like to consider myself a die hard politico, but I'm starting to rethink that assessment. In my defense, I had a lot going on in my personal life and with my job, but don't we all? Maybe it was the six week break in which we only heard about Reverend Wright, "guns and bitter", and learned new and different ways Hillary can fudge the math to make it work for her. Those six weeks were the longest of my political life. Nothing changed, but you would have thought that people were battling it out in the polls every night. The talking heads said the same things over and over and over. Luckily, I haven't had a TV for the past seven weeks or so and I've been spared the worst of it (on the flip side, I miss KO like crazy).

And then the races started again. Pennsylvania and Clinton's on the upswing, North Carolina and Indiana put Obama back on top, but can he win the racists and rednecks? (Note: not a particular state, but maybe a particular demographic). And still, nothing's changed. I'm starting to envy the campaign limits of Britain and France.

I think the biggest problem in this campaign is the information itself. Well, not the facts, but the 24-hour news cycle. Or more precisely, the 30 minute news cycle. I had MSNBC on today for about five hours, and except for the Obama speech, the other four hours were the same 20-30 minutes of news rehashed over and over. Enough already! If there's no news, don't pretend that there is. It just makes the TV stations look like morons (or they already are and it's showing) and it frustrates the crap out of Americans. Or, even better, report on the rest of the world. Americans are, for the most part, largely ignorant of the geography of anything past North America. Let's branch out and see what's going on with the other 5.7 billion people on this planet. Oh, that's depressing? Poverty, genocide, and famine? Better turn back to Clinton and Obama.

But, if I could thank one person for making me come back day after day, I'd have to thank John McCain. Almost more than I want a Democrat to win, I want John McCain to lose. I want him to lose embarrassingly. I want him and the rest of his Republican neo-con liars to go down in flames at the hands of 'We the People." I want Americans to stand up and say "Hell no I'm not voting for a lying, hypocritical, old fool who doesn't know crap about the economy and tries to pass off a corporate health care plan under which even he wouldn't be covered! Hell no I'm not voting for a man that didn't vote for Bush but now kisses his ass daily! Hell no I'm not voting for more of the same failed policies! But, mostly, I'm not voting for you because I do actually love America, and not just those with money. Hell no John McCain!"

So, thank you John McCain for reminding me every day of what we're fighting for in this election. I may not have paced myself, but you are the wind on my back, pushing me to victory. We are running away from your failed policies and towards One America!