Just Circuses, No Bread

Circus elephantThere's an old political cliche about "bread and circuses." When things were rough for Rome, the emperor would throw a big party with bread and circuses, to pump up what we'd now call his "approval ratings" and distract everyone from just how much everything sucked. It's become a shorthand for political distraction to refer to "bread and circuses" whenever a politician or party makes a lot of noise, but offers no substance. "We need X," you might say, "and he gives us bread and circuses."

It's tempting to apply that old term to the Republican party, but these days it's become inapt. Not that they aren't all about distracting you from how much trouble you're in, it's just that they're ideologically opposed to giving away bread. That's a government handout and that's bad -- so all you're going to get from them are circuses. Mostly clowns, actually.

The big issue in Washington these days is health care reform. The US health care system is failing so badly that 1 in 6 American adults are uninsured. So no high wire or trapeze acts in the GOP's circuses. Someone might be injured and no one can afford that.

First up from the GOP Clown College is South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, whose concern about the plight of uninsured Americans is as deep as his love for gays and atheists -- i.e., about as deep as a coat of paint. The breadth of DeMint's act runs the gamut from A to B -- when it gets that far -- with the primary purpose of government being to ensure that there's some reference to God written on every square inch of blank wall in America. Other than that, he really doesn't seem to be about anything. He's just a clown in the GOP circus and his act is to keep pounding away at religious wedge issues with a comically oversized wooden mallet.

It's when he wanders off his script and tries to ad-lib that DeMint runs into trouble, as he did recently by wading into the issue of health care reform in a conference call with "tea party" organizers.


"I can almost guarantee you this thing won't pass before August, and if we can hold it back until we go home for a month's break in August," members of Congress will hear from "outraged" constituents, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said on the call, which was organized by the group Conservatives for Patients Rights.

"Senators and Congressmen will come back in September afraid to vote against the American people," DeMint predicted, adding that "this health care issue Is D-Day for freedom in America."

"If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him," he said.

So, basically, opposing health care reform is pretty much all about hurting Barack Obama politically. DeMint's mastery of history is on display here, since Bill Clinton lost this same battle at the same point in his presidency and he served two terms -- as well as surviving a BS impeachment attempt. But I guess there's a reason you never see the word "smart" applied to Sen. Jim DeMint. When he drops his "Christians are being oppressed!" act, he's completely lost.

But that's just one Senator, not the entire Republican party. Surely someone out there has some plan to deal with the health insurance problem facing Americans. Not only are 1 in 6 adult Americans uninsured, but the cost of health care is rising at twice the rate of inflation. At that rate, that 1 in 6 will become 2 in 6, then 3 in 6, in a big hurry. Why buy insurance when it'll break you? Isn't not going broke the purpose of the whole thing? Republicans must have some sort of alternative plan, right?

You already know the answer to that. When it comes to health care reform, Republicans have traditionally had one idea -- health savings accounts. But Americans aren't having much luck putting money away now, so it's not very likely that they'll be up to the idea of having to squirrel away even more. They're going to have to wait until the economy improves to push that bad idea.

So their alternative plan is the status quo -- i.e., nothing. What we've got now, what's failing so spectacularly, is the Republican plan. It's not what they're proposing, but it's what they're advocating by default. Without offering any alternatives, Republicans are basically the defenders of the current system.

And they aren't offering any alternatives.

[The Hill:]

While they may lack significant power in the nation’s capital, there is less onus on Republicans to offer specific proposals to fix the ailing economy. Instead, their focus is on message.

Republicans who had promised last month to offer a healthcare reform alternative are now suggesting no such bill will be introduced.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, “Our bill is never going to get to the floor, so why confuse the focus? We clearly have principles; we could have language, but why start diverting attention from this really bad piece of work they’ve got to whatever we’re offering right now?”

Bonus fun, Blunt the Clown is chairman of something called the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group -- which, apparently, isn't offering any health care solutions. And Greg Sargent points us to extra-bonus fun:

That's a pretty stark admission that Republicans won't introduce their own bill solely because they think it's better politics to keep the focus on the Democrats.

It gets better. Head over to the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group’s Web site, and you'll find prominent video of Blunt vowing the GOP is "drafting our own legislation."

Oh well, why bother? Drafting legislation's a lot of work and, as Republicans are proving now, it's just so easy for the other party to tear apart your proposal if you actually have one. Much safer just to do all the tearing and none of the having. As Homer Simpson once said, "Trying is just the first step in failing." If you never even try, you can't possibly fail.

So I guess the Republican plan for health care reform is all around you. If you want to take a look at it, open that big booklet they gave you when you signed up for the health insurance you've got now -- assuming you have insurance. With a big black magic marker, write "Brought to you by the Republican party" somewhere inside there and there you go, the Republican's alternative health care reform proposal.


You know, the circuses are fun, but can we get some bread over here?


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