The political stage is heating up again, with Republicans and Democrats battling it out in congress over the budget, healthcare reform, and organized labor. While the prospects of positive legislation coming out in this climate are minute, at least Dems (for the least part) are sticking by their guns, and trying to show a little bit of muscle in the debate.
The budget. This ridiculous monstrosity is completely antithetical to what Republicans presented as their main focus over the course of the last two years (or at least their proxy focus, as it's been the focus of the American people for about the past decade), which was jobs. Their budget does absolutely nothing to create jobs, and is actually projected to kill 700,000 over the next fiscal year. Does that seem like a jobs-producing bill? No, because it's not. Republicans couldn't leave well enough alone, and instead had to use this budget as a tool for pandering (once again) to their "moral majority" base, and essentially cutting every social safety net they can, starting with their favorite pariah, Planned Parenthood. It's not really even worth mentioning, but I'll do it anyway for posterity, that the overwhelming majority of what planned parenthood does has nothing to do with abortions. They are a family planning organization, and therefore they provide options for which choices women [and hopefully significant others with them] can make in the face of a planned or unplanned pregnanacy. But I digress... The point is that Republicans just couldn't play nice, and try to work with Democrats on creating a budget that both cuts some discretionary spending, but also raises some much needed tax revenue (or at least not exacerbate the problem with more tax cuts). The bottom line on the budget is that Republicans will spend willy-nilly for several years, and then leave it to Democrats to fix the problem (they look like the tax cuts princes, and we're the tax-raising, budget-balancing knaves); it happened from Reagan to Clinton (I'll give credit G.H.W. Bush credit for starting the budget-balancing process), and now it's happening from G.W. Bush to Obama.
This healthcare reform issue in congress is absurd. The Republican governors are not happy with the healthcare bill, because they see it as both encroaching upon people's constitutional right not to be forced by the government to opt-in to the system, and also because the spending it requires does not fit into their budgets. Therefore, the president came out and said flatly, (I'm paraphrasing here) "Fine, if you want to come up with something better that provides the same services to the same number of people, and does not affect the overall cost of the bill, do it." So what is their response, 'Nope, that's not what we're looking for'. Which only proves the point that their idea (along with Republicans in congress) of "fixing" the healthcare bill is nothing more than a thinly veiled effort to completely destroy it. Democrats and the president went it alone to get the bill passed (I guess I have to give the then newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts a little bit of credit for at least voting for cloture), with the only Republican ideas being tort reform and the ability to purchase healthcare across state lines, both of which would typically only be line items in the more than trillion dollar bill; and now that the bill has passed, Republicans still have yet to offer any comprehensive or sensible alternatives to the bill. The healthcare system is broken, we all understand that. If the president could do more, he would. But constantly complaining about the bill, instead of providing any viable alternatives is simply an act in futility. Unless Republicans come around, and start legitimately working with Democrats on this, I think the healthcare bill (in its current form) is here to stay.
Finally, this issue with the attack on organized labor. I think the everybody will concede that the hayday of unions is over. While there are reasons for this, other than a simply pro-corporate/anti-union sentiment throughout the country, but especially in Washington, DC, that does not mean unions don't still have their place in American business. The purpose of the union is to give power to the individual worker by creating a collective of workers who then can go to management and tell them that everyone in the plant has elected so-and-so the union leader, and they will stand together on whatever the union determines the correct coure of action, i.e. collective bargaining. The reason this is a good thing, is that it does not allow management to simply pick individual workers off one at a time for this reason or another, until they have the most depressed and apathetic workforce they can find, who will deal with whatever management throws their way, because they have no alternatives. Essentially, unions give workers power against management, despite the fact that laws and policies have been eroding that power of the past several decades. Sorry for that long introduction to unions, but I'm just trying to emphasize that I think they're important (albeit rather anachronistic in some sectors, but better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them). Fast forward to 2011, and what we're seeing it not only an attempt to slap the unions with major concessions, but to get rid of their collective bargaining rights altogether. The Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin told the public employees union that cuts had to be made, and there was simply no way around it (let's forget for the moment that he passed tax cuts worth almost $200 billion shortly after arriving in office). So, while the union members certainly didn't want to paying higher portions of their medical benefits and pension savings plans, union leadership was open to the idea as sort of an olive branch to "collective belt-tightening" and "we're all in this together". But, once it was clear that the public employees union was ready to play ball, the Governor came back with a play out of left field, 'We need to get rid of collective bargaining'. WHAT??!! Where did that come from? We said that we were ready to work with you on making cuts, why then would it be necessary to get rid of our collective bargaining? The reason is that the Wisconsin governor does not actually care as much about cutting the budget, as he does about breaking unions in general. This is occurring throughout the country, and it's unfortunate that Republicans are able to sway public opion on this by presenting it as a budget issue, which is completely absurd.