Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Scrooge-iest season ever

   If this doesn't toast your heart's cockles: The congressman said we couldn't afford to extend unemployment benefits through what in economic terms is one of America's harshest winters.

   At the same time we could afford, he said, to extend tax breaks worth billions of dollars to America's wealthiest. For them, "harsh winter" means Vail, Squaw Valley, Key West.

   And his expressed concern in so doing? The children.

   "If we don't act soon to get spending under control, we will be leaving our children a country in far worse shape than the one we inherited," wrote Florida Congressman Tom Rooney. He was responding to a Scripps Treasure Coast newspapers editorial blasting him for backing tax breaks for the wealthy while opposing further unemployment aid.

     He said the $12 billion cost of the unemployment extension was not offset with spending cuts. He also said he has, ahem, $4 trillion in spending cuts in mind to offset lost revenue from the tax breaks — they'll cost only $700 billion over two years — now ready to survive in a deal with the White House that extends help for the jobless.

     When you hear people like Rooney say things like concern "for the children," you think of the Dickens tale of the wicked miser who found Christmas in the specter of ghosts. Except in the case of the scared-right Ebenezer Scrooge, it wasn't an act.

      How many budget cycles did Republicans vote — yeah, plead — to raise the debt ceiling under George W. Bush? That would be eight. How many wars did the Republican Party finance off-budget? That would be two.

      Over how many years did the Republican Party vigorously dispute the damage of deficit-by-design policies dating back to Ronald Reagan? Reagan, by review, fired his first budget director for the offense of using a calculator and explaining the red numbers showing up for generations to come.

     Whose deficit is this, anyway? Not Bill Clinton's. Not Barack Obama's, except in the case of billions of stimulus dollars that an independent panel of economists credited for averting a second Great Depression, with 16 percent unemployment. And many economists don't think it was vigorous enough.

     Forget about that, though. We are tuned into a high-frequency squeal performed by tea party fantasists. To hear them, Obama promoted the stimulus for one reason: to transform America into post-Bolshevik Russia. Their ear-piercing bleatings are background music to one of the Scrooge-iest political seasons ever.

    Republicans have blocked the DREAM Act, under which children who have been in this country since age 16, and who finish two years of college or serve in the military, can become citizens if their parents came to America illegally. Republicans call it a "nightmare." Yeah, boy. College-educated, service-oriented people who not only buy into the American dream but who add to America's potential. What a terrifying prospect.

     Republicans blocked a bill to provide medical care to rescue workers sickened in the remains of the Twin Towers post-9/11. The GOP says the $7.4 billion measure isn't paid for. This would make sense if the very same party had suggested ways to pay for the military response to 9/11 in Afghanistan and for contriving a military response in Iraq around the same events.

      As such, what these deathbed converts to fiscal discipline have conjured during hurtful economic times is hypocrisy beyond imagining. It is a hypocrisy mushroom cloud. This is the fiscal hypocrite's Manhattan Project, the double-standard to end all double-standards.

      But mostly it is mean. It is miserly. And it is just what a lot of voters in November asked for. It's the Scrooge-iest.

       Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.       


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