The Real America: BP, Wall Street and the Upper 5%

The Republican Party likes to tout itself as representing "The Real America". Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Tea Party crowd have raised hoards of money playing on the grievances of low-income, mostly white Americans that fit their definition of this group. Yet, a closer analysis of the GOP's policies and priorities definitively show that helping out The Real America is not the party's main concern.

The last month has been an illustration of where the GOP's true sympathies lie - with big business and the affluent.
The BP "Shakedown"

When the Obama administration negotiated with BP to set up a $20 billion escrow fund to the help the very real Americans living on the Gulf Coast one would assume that Republicans would have supported that decision. After all, BP is a foreign corporation enjoying tax breaks (A.K.A. subsidies) compliments of our government whose negligence contributed to the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

That assumption would have been proven wrong quickly as the GOP threw its hat in with BP and railed against the Obama administration. I'm not just talking about Joe Barton's infamous "apology" to BP or Sharon Angle's slush fund quote. As Eugene Robinson reported in the Washington Post, the Republican Study Committee, a group that represents 115 House Republicans came out with a statement saying that there is no legal authority for the president to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account. The group went on to accuse the president of "Chicago-style shakedown politics". 

How does absolving a British-based corporation raking in $17 billion per fiscal quarter of their responsibility to the people of the Gulf Coast qualify as helping The Real America?
Greed is Good

The Obama administration's latest achievement was the financial regulatory bill passed earlier this month. Among other things, the bill seeks to reign in the behaviors that helped to cause the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The bill contains a provision called The Volcker Rule, officially separating transactions that can be performed by commercial banks and investment banks. The Volcker Rule makes it more difficult for companies like Goldman Sachs to be a bank by day and casino by night.

Wall Street did more to cause the economic crisis than any other actor and its reckless bets wiped out the savings of millions of real Americans. Surely, the Republicans would stand up to the bankers on behalf of The Real America... right? Wrong. Three Republicans voted for the bill in the Senate; all of them belonging to the GOP's endangered species - moderates from the northeast. The rest of the party sided with the banks.

Apparently The Real America can be found in New York's financial district.
Deficit Hawks? Bush Tax Cuts Redux?
For weeks, the Republicans maintained a filibuster to block unemployment benefits to the 2 million Americans who are out of work. They claimed that the $30 billion cost will add too much to the deficit. On a side note, I wonder where these newly-found deficit hawks were when the Bush administration turned Bill Clinton's $128 budget surplus into a nearly trillion dollar deficit, but that's another story for another post.

The party's recent obsession with the deficit is not based on principal but rather priorities - as Senator John Kyl of Arizona made clear when he outlined the Republican fiscal platform for 2012 and 2014. The Arizona Republican stumped for an extension of the Bush tax cuts for Americans making over $250,000 a year - even though they would add approximately $678 billion to the deficit.

In other words, we can't spend $30 billion on the newly-poor but we can spend $678 billion on the already-rich.

I don't have an issue with the GOP being the party of big business and the wealthy. There's a reason we have two parties in America and I don't begrudge the GOP for its priorities. I take exception to the party's insistence that they are looking out for The Real America - Joe the Plumber, if you will - while actually supporting Tony the CEO.

 

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