Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) recently stated that if Hillary Clinton is elected and if the Republicans held on to the majority in the Senate, the GOP “will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” He later tried to back track and clarify that statement but, judging by the obstructionism of Congress over the last eight years, one can only conclude that his initial statement is the reflection of the truth and of the GOP’s plan.
Some people may not understand the importance of this issue. One way of explaining why the appointment of the next justice to SCOTUS is so important is to look at the case of Citizens United. The Citizens United decision, in a nutshell, removed any restrictions on corporate political spending in relation to elections.
A ruling in favor of Citizens United was handed down by the court with 5 justices in favor of no limitations on corporations and four against. The justices who voted in favor were Chief Justice John G. Roberts and associate justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Dissenting were Justices John P. Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
The four dissenting justices stated that the majority opinion was a “rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.”
In my opinion, and in the opinion of many Americans, the dissenting justices were absolutely correct. Corporations and the mega-wealthy should never be allowed to use their monetary power to sway the vote of the American people in order to advance their own agenda which is often not beneficial to the average American.
Justice Stevens retired in 2010 and was replaced by Justice Elena Kagan. That appointment didn’t matter to the Republicans very much because it still left them with “their” five justices. However, in February of 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died and the Republicans have since refused to approve President Obama’s choice of Judge Merrick Garland as Justice Scalia’s replacement because they fear that if a justice is appointed whose beliefs are aligned with the four dissenting justices in Citizens United, there is a strong possibility that Citizens United could be overturned. That would put a stop to large corporations being able to pump enormous funds into influencing elections.
I repeat, the Republicans who have repeatedly accused Hillary Clinton of having close ties to Wall Street are the ones who want to keep the ruling in Citizens United intact. Clinton has already stated that she wants to have Citizens United overturned.
This is not an isolated incident and if you consider yourself to be a true Republican, you should pay attention. The stated goals and beliefs of conservative Republicans have not been represented by the Republicans in Congress. The following is a very short list of what Republicans say they believe in and what has been happening in Congress. For me to go into detail would require a book.
Republicans say they believe that federal and state taxes should be as low as possible because money in the hands of people creates more jobs and prosperity. The Republicans in Congress, however, have been able to convince their supporters that “trickle-down economics” which puts more money in the hands of corporations and the wealthy is a good thing and have advocated tax cuts for the rich. The Republicans say that by giving more money to the rich, the rich will be able to generate jobs. In other words, make the rich wealthier and benefits will trickle down to the people. Reputable economists have found this to be completely untrue and we saw this approach fail disastrously under George W. Bush.
Under the Bush tax cuts, corporations and the rich received huge tax breaks and regulations on banks and hedge funds were relaxed in the name of free enterprise, another Republican buzz word. These actions, along with the $3 trillion war in Iraq, the subprime mortgage fiasco which was a result of poor regulation, and the bailout of large corporations to the tune of $700 Million (or $12.8 Trillion according to Bloomberg researchers if you take into account all funds spent), played a big part in nearly destroying the American economy and threw the nation into the Great Recession.
When President Obama took office, he adopted the reverse view of economics to rescue the economy. His stimulus plan put money directly into the pockets of citizens. Individuals may not have thought that the amount of money they received was significant but, collectively, Americans took that money, spent it on goods and services, and began rescuing the economy. The GOP in Congress objected to that plan, calling it reckless spending because obviously the President had to obtain the stimulus money from somewhere. But the last eight years have shown that President Obama’s economic approach was correct. The nation was slowly taken out of the Great Recession and, despite the misinformation spread by the GOP and especially, most recently, Donald Trump, statistics show that unemployment is down, crime is down nationally (despite upticks in violence in certain cities), the average American worker has experienced a rise in income, and more Americans have health insurance, including those who could never get coverage previously because of pre-existing health conditions. President Obama wanted to spend more money towards stimulus and many economists stated that he should have done so but, once again, the GOP prevented it.
Republicans also rail against “big government” and have called for, among other things, abolishing the IRS. However, the IRS is not responsible for the ridiculously complicated tax code. Those are laws that were passed by Congress. The IRS is an enforcement agency, responsible for making sure that people are paying their fair share of taxes according to current tax laws. If there was no enforcement agency, how would anyone be assured that taxes are being collected, that large corporations and the rich aren’t wrongfully hiding their money in offshore accounts or “cooking” their books and records so that they can avoid declaring income and avoid paying taxes?
Less taxation is such an appealing idea. However, giving the largest tax breaks to corporations and the mega-rich (once again being proposed by Donald Trump under a Republican platform) will seriously decrease the amount of tax collected. And without taxes, where would the money needed for federal emergency aid, infrastructure, education, social programs, and the military come from?
Ironically, or hypocritically, the same Republicans who claim that the federal government should stay out of their states’ business and spends too much money have had no qualms about asking the federal government for money when a disaster hits their State. For example, between January of 2009 and September of 2011, the state that received the most FEMA funds was Kentucky ($293 million) due to the severe ice storm in February 2009. Yet, Kentucky’s Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, voted against increasing FEMA’s funding. Republicans said they opposed legislation to increase FEMA’s funding without spending cuts, including cuts to clean energy programs for the automobile industry. This argument might sound reasonable to those who aren’t paying attention, but McConnell and Paul were among the Republicans who, during 2010, threatened to block all of President Obama’s stimulus proposals if he didn’t agree to extend those Bush tax cuts. They, along with Paul Ryan, are also in favor of repealing the Dodd-Frank Act which placed regulations on the financial industry – banks, hedge funds, etc. – in an effort to prevent the kind of financial crisis that occurred under former President Bush.
In short, while the Republicans make their supporters believe that federal oversight is a bad thing, it was lack of oversight that caused the financial crisis that put the nation into the Great Depression. While they say they are in favor of cutting taxes, most of the taxes that they have sought to cut benefit the wealthy and corporations. While they say they want to protect your farms and your small businesses, they are working to benefit Wall Street and the financial industry. While they say they are against government spending, they have asked for federal funds for their own states. In fact, according to a March 2016 study done by WalletHub, Blue States are less dependent on the federal government than Red States. https://wallethub.com/edu/states-most-least-dependent-on-the-federal-government/2700/
If you are a one-issue voter – i.e., you only care about where your representatives stand on an issue such as abortion – you probably won’t care about anything that I’ve written. However, you should also not complain about the economy or your Social Security or not being able to get governmental assistance when you need it since those things were not part of your consideration in voting for a candidate.
If, however, you do care about your economic well being, your future and the future of your children, then you should pledge to stop voting only on the basis of what you’re being told and start understanding what is really going on in Congress and in your local government where many of the laws that directly affect your everyday lives are passed. I propose this not only to Republicans but to supporters of all political parties.
“Ignorance is a lot like alcohol: the more you have of it,
the less you are able to see its effect on you.”
– Jay M. Bylsma