Thursday, October 06, 2005

THE PARTY'S OVER

There are a number of things about the Republican platform that I've traditionally favored; personal responsibility, individual enterprise, fiscal responsibility, a tough anti-crime stance, and a strong national defense.

But lately I've been wondering what happened to the Grand Old Party. The party that came to power behind the Contract With America, during the Republican Revolution of 1994, has become as entrenched, as bloated, and as corrupt as the system it vowed to change.

With former House Leader Tom Delay under two criminal indictments - one for money laundering and one for conspiracy relating to illegal campaign donations - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist under investigation by Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading, and the President's chief advisor Karl Rove being investigated by federal prosecutors for his role in the leak of a of a CIA operative's name, the Republican leadership is in crisis. The party has major problems, not the least of which is ethics, the very thing they claimed made them different from Democrats, and which they swore to uphold.

But thats not all. The Republican Party has quietly paid nearly three quarters of a million dollars to provide private defense lawyers from a high-powered Washington law firm to James Tobin, President Bush's 2004 campaign chairman for the northeastern U.S. Tobin is charged with four felonies accusing him of conspiring to keep Democrats from voting in the 2002 New Hampshire Senate race. Republican John Sununu won a close race to become New Hampshire's newest senator. A top Republican Party official in New Hampshire and a Republican consultant have already pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors. Their testimony directly implicates Tobin, who has pleaded innocent.

The Republican party has gotten far too close, uncomfortably close, to Big Business. The Republicans allowed Big Energy to help draft energy legislation, and they let the pharmaceutical industry have their way with the Medicaid Prescription Drug Bill. It's just more of the same that we've come to expect from Washington politicians. They're bought and paid for by business interests, while the needs and concerns of ordinary Americans are ignored. That's not a revolution.

But Big Energy and the pharmaceutical industry aren't the only big businesses to get special treatment. Farm interests, mining interests, timber interests and other well-heeled, well-connected industries get enormous tax subsidies that amount to corporate welfare. Even the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, calls agriculture subsidies the nation's biggest corporate welfare program. However, that's debatable now that Big Energy has been granted $14.5 billion in tax breaks in the new energy bill. The Republicans railed against welfare mothers sucking off the system, but that money was a pittance compared to what these multi-billion dollar industries receive in tax breaks. Where is the justice? Where is the outrage?

The Republican Party also panders to the religious right, which hopes to use government to enforce their moral viewpoints on the country. However, they don't speak for millions of Americans. While the U.S. is facing is largest federal debt in history, continuing budget deficits, an ill-advised war in Iraq which has become an unmitigated disaster, spiraling health care and energy costs, the siphoning of jobs overseas, and a global warming threat, the religious right is concerned with gay marriage, stem cell research, abortion, and the private family matters of Terri Schiavo.

What happened to Republican priorities? What happened to smaller government and fiscal responsibility? Under President Bush, the federal government has grown larger, and at a faster rate, than any President in history. More than President Johnson, the classic big-spending liberal! He was the guy Republicans loved to hate, and he represented everything that Republicans have fought against for over 30 years. According to the Office of Management and Budget, spending growth under Bush has been more than twice that of Clinton. Imagine that - a Republican outspending his Democratic predecessor. And don't be fooled. It's not all because of Sept. 11, as Bush supporters love to claim. That event was responsible for less than half of new budget growth. The fact is that over half of all new spending in the past two years is from areas unrelated to defense and homeland security.

Based on budget data, the number of full-time federal employees in fiscal 2006 will be 8% higher than when the president took office. In fiscal 2006, which begins Oct. 1, the executive branch, excluding the Postal Service, will have nearly 1.9 million employees. In fiscal 2006, executive branch payrolls will require $129.4 billion, an 8.9% increase from 2004. Annuity payments for federal retirees are projected to reach $60 billion in fiscal 2006, a 12% increase from 2004. Retiree health benefits will cost $8.4 billion in 2006, a jump of 14.7% from two years earlier.

Democrats frequently complain that too many Americans have no health care. The number of people without health insurance grew from 45 million to 45.8 million last year. At the same time, the number of people with health insurance coverage grew by 2 million. You know why? It's because 1 in 3 Americans now have their health care covered by the U.S. government via Medicaid, Medicare, federal employee plans, or the military. And Republicans claim to despise the notion of a national health care system. Well, a third of Americans are already covered by one.

Health care costs have spiraled out of control and beyond the reach of millions of Americans. It's not a new problem. It's an old one that's been ignored for far too long. But Republicans don't want to disrupt the free market. In 2003, health care spending was 15.4% of the US economy and it's predicted to reach 19%, or $3.6 trillion, in 2014. That's an untenable situation. By that time, Medicare and Medicaid will represent 49% of health care costs, up from 45.6% in 2003.

Many Republicans contend that tort reform is necessary to curb the soaring costs of healthcare. Yet, the 15 leading insurance companies had a 5.7% increase in malpractice payouts from 2000 to 2004, while increasing premiums by 120% during that same period. It's just thievery and lies.

This is not a shrinking government, and it's certainly not fiscally responsible government. Republican priorities are out of line and need to be reconsidered. Ronald Reagan, if he were alive and well, would be quite disappointed by what has become of his beloved party. Republicans have come to represent many of the things they claimed loath, and vowed to fight. Right now, with the way things look, it seems the party's over.

Copyright © 2005 The Independent Report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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