How the Republicans roll redux

On that bitterly cold winter's day in January of 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated, a group of 15 Republicans, to include Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.), plus senators Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.), met at an exclusive Washington, D.C., steak house. Newt Gingrich and Republican pollster Frank Lunz were also present.

According to Robert Draper's recent book, "Do Not Ask What Good We Do," the purpose of the gathering was to "show united and unyielding opposition to the President's economic policies"… Win the spear point of the house in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012." As they were leaving, Gingrich paused, saying, "You'll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown."

Sown indeed. Everything that has followed must be viewed through the prism of that meeting, for the Republicans have followed their obstructionist, Machiavellian strategy to the letter, putting power, party and ideology before country. No matter the previous eight years of Republican policies, two blindingly costly wars, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for, tax cuts for the top 1 percent and a laissez-faire environment that allowed investment bankers to turn Wall Street into a casino where they placed huge bets using financial instruments so esoteric that even the gamblers didn't fully understand all the possible unintended consequences.

This was the legacy the Republicans left President Obama. They dug the ditch and have systematically blocked every effort by the Obama administration to extract us from what has become a prolonged national tragedy: the Great Recession. Millions of Americans have been leveled by chronic unemployment, like wheat in a summer storm, and it's still not over.

What the conservatives have done with astonishing cynicism and chutzpah is to ask Americans to forget who is accountable for the economic debacle while simultaneously obstructing every proffered solution and then blaming President Obama for an absence of policies that would put the country back to work.

Case in point would be Obama's American Jobs Act, proposed in the fall of 2011, its intent being to put Americans back to work. It is a remarkable and forward-leaning act, calling for $35 billion to put teachers, police officers and firefighters back to work as well as hiring thousands more. It recommends comprehensive infrastructure investment: bridges and rail, water treatment plants and water mains, roads and airports, which have, in the aggregate, received a "D" grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The act also includes rebuilding and modernizing some 35,000 schools, plus a significant investment in community colleges.

As well, it would establish a National Infrastructure Bank, capitalized with $10 billion in private and public funds.

Clearly, those on the right have priorities that supersede putting millions of Americans back to work. As Mitch McConnell stated, in a rare moment of candor on the Senate floor, "Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term." And that is exactly what they have focused on, turning obstructionism into an art form, while ignoring the suffering of millions of Americans who rise each morning and wonder whether, on this day, they might find work or lose their home or be forced to move into a discount motel. Many will wake in the dead of night, gripped by an abiding uncertainty, fearful that their unemployment insurance may not be extended. Others will struggle with the reality that the job they had, they will never have again.

With detached calculation, the Republicans call the top 1 percent in America "job creators," insisting that they must be well taken care of — no tax increases — arguing that their largesse will trickle down as jobs. It's sheer fiction. In a startling non sequitur, having just insisted that he will put people back to work, Mitt Romney said, "He (Obama) says we need firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people." It's a remarkable statement, one that mirrors the Republican plan articulated on that winter's day in January, 2009: Do nothing to improve the unemployment number.

The conservative strategy has been from the outset to sabotage Obama on as many economic fronts as possible until November. In other words, prolong the recession while fully expecting the electorate to turn to them in the fall for the solutions to the problems they have refused to solve.

With regard to the word sabotage, and all that it implies, it may seem a bit hyperbolic. But then again, maybe not.

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.

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