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Gary Horton: Be careful what you wish for

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: November 9, 2010 5:08 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2010 4:55 a.m.

“Just because you want it, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”
— My Republican mom, circa 1970

I remember vividly during the health care vote when various Republicans egged on the tea party folks, heckling Democrats as they entered the House to cast their votes.

Republicans were pleased as punch with the boiling tea party movement, not because, I believe, it had so much in common with their native platform, but that its reactionary roots played well with their insurgent tactics against President Barack Obama.

“The enemy of your enemy is your friend,” I suppose, went the logic.

Republicans were excited about the reactionary hysteria, and their political instincts proved correct. Tea party fever helped push some 60-plus Congressional seats into the Republican side of the aisle, and with that, control of the House and all its important committees.

After two years of Republicans “just saying no” to just about everything, their tactics worked — at least as far as their return to power. But those tactics didn’t necessarily work for you or me personally.

During one of the most harrowing financial crises in American history, Obama had to all but drag a giant bag of kicking, screaming and bickering Republicans across the finish line get anything productive done.

Let’s look at what Obama and the Democratic House did achieve for ordinary folks like you and me despite Republican bomb-throwing and foot-dragging, as quoted from the Springfield News-Leader:
* 95 percent of Americans received a $720 a year tax cut. (Maybe you didn’t notice because it came at $30 per two-week pay period.)

* Hundreds of thousands received an $8,000 housing tax credit, allowing them to purchase their first home, and in the process, helping to rescue a housing industry with hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.

* The Cash for Clunkers program got 1 million Americans into new cars and provided needed life support to a near-dead American auto industry, saving General Motors and Chrysler, along with perhaps three million related jobs. GM is again making profits — and making great cars here in America.

* The American Recovery Act saved millions of jobs and helped keep the economy from a death spiral. Hundreds of needed infrastructure projects have been completed or are under construction. Look around on Interstates 5 and 405 — Santa Clarita Valley commuters are getting serious upgrades.

* Student-loan programs were overhauled to keep student-loan lending out of the hands of predatory lenders, making sure your student gets a fair deal come tuition time.

* New health care laws allow you to keep your kids on your policies until they’re 26. Insurance companies can no longer cut you off when you’re sick. Ask a cancer patient how they feel about Obamacare.

* How about rescuing an economy that was cratering with job losses peaking at 800,000 a month before Obama took over? By comparison, 21 months into the Obama presidency, America created 150,000 jobs in September, with many more coming.

Not so bad for a two-year Democratic turn at the wheel. Meanwhile, can you remember anything the Bush Republican era did for you — beside allowing 9/11, starting two wars and bankrupting the nation with tax cuts for the super rich? Attempt a list. It will be a short one, at best.

So this new House is what you’ve wished for. Do you think things be any different this time around?

So far, no mainstream Republican has repudiated earmarks. No mainstream Republican has said how they would balance the budget, what programs they would cut or what taxes raised to balance finances.

Instead, they’ve dithered on details, and that signals that all this election was about was restoring power to the powerful.

Restored old-school Republicans may find their wishful alliance with tea partiers ending badly. Fervent tea partiers expect real change. They want real revolution. Fervent tea partiers want fewer taxes, less government and an end to earmarks.

Yet so far as I can tell, no mainstream Republicans are showing any meaningful change from past practices.

There will be fire in the House as inflamed tea partiers wrestle with the Old Republican Guard.

There will be conflict and deadlock. Tea partiers are fundamentalists who will show no loyalty to any party.

Here’s an insightful snippet from a top-ranked tea party site on the Web: “Any politician who thinks this was a Republican victory needs to be earmarked for being ousted in their next election. 2012 is the year Republicans get to participate in the cleansing of Washington.”

Having fueled the tea party fire, Republicans may find the House they share burning up in a firestorm right before their eyes. After all, “The enemy of thy enemy” may well turn out to be their enemy.

So, John Q. Public, appreciate the achievements Obama and company accomplished on your behalf over the past two years.

What’s likely coming from this combative new Republican House will form a far shorter list of benefits.
But you wished for it.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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