Republican Split on Libya Highlights Major Divide


Republicans generally are unified as a party by shared views on a few broad issues- states’ rights, national security, pro-business/wealthy, social conservatism and fiscal conservatism. The situation in Libya has highlighted conflicts between different factions of the Republican Party- specifically interventionists and pro-national security Republicans versus isolationists and fiscal conservatives.

Republicans have typically not drawn away from an opportunity to involve American troops overseas- the most recent actions being Afghanistan and Iraq. A very large group still stand behind this interventionist mindset- According to a Washington Post- ABC News poll, 50% of Republicans believed that the war in Afghanistan is worth what it costs in March 2011, at a time when only 31% of the American population did (this was before the death of Osama bin Laden). Republicans also have the least support for withdrawing from Afghanistan. The same poll showed 59% believing that the U.S. should withdraw, compared to 73% of the total population. However, there is a significant growth in support for isolationism among Republicans. A Pew Research Center poll showed in May that 45% of Republicans support the “U.S. minding its own business internationally”, compared to only 20% in August 2004. This major flip-flop is causing some tensions among Republicans.

Besides, although still related to, the split between the growth in isolationism in a typically interventionist party, is the rapid revival of fiscal conservatism, popularly manifested in the Tea Party. Among these fiscal conservatives, who are also isolationists, are Jason Chaffetz, Ron Paul and Justin Amash- all Republican Congressmen who recently called for an end to operations in Libya. Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, expressed opposition to the Libyan intervention right away, claiming that it would be too costly. Senators John McCain (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC) have countered, calling against any cuts in funding for the mission in Libya.

This minor issue can be indicated a rather large divide in the Republican Party. What will its foreign policy focus be? Will it be focused on fiscal conservatism and isolationism, or will it continue its long-lasting policies of interventionist actions in the interests of national security? Such splits have the potential to hurt the unity of the Republican Party, which could be costly in future elections.

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Green- the Color of the Future


Recently, the Obama Administration has been increasingly vocal in claiming support for alternative energy programs. Republicans, however, have generally marked such programs for serious cutbacks (by about 70%), highlighting yet another important difference between the two parties in this budget debate. There are countless reasons for why we as a nation must move away from the obsolete fossil fuel energy sources and move toward the energy of the future, but I’ll try to name a few.

The first has been a cause of great concern in recent years- the environment. Many governments and scientists now recognize greenhouse gas emissions as a major contributer to global warming, and can also lead to negative health effects. In 2005, the United States accounted for 16% of total annual emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide, just under China (and let’s not call China an environmental beacon). The use of fossil fuels in energy production contributed to a large portion of these emissions. Switching to clean sources of energy is one of the largest things we can do to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Secondly, there is the issue of national security and trade deficits. We import a fair amount of the energy that we use- over 30%- and over 60% of our oil from other countries. This can lead to situations where the United States is vulnerable both to fluctuations in world oil prices and to hostility from oil-producing nations, as we saw in the 1973 oil crisis. By becoming energy independent through renenewable energy, the United States will be safer and will have a smaller trade deficit, as it won’t have to rely on foreign energy.

Thirdly, renewable and alternative energy can provide the economic boost that the country needs. These energy sources will create technical jobs that can spur education and science in this country, which has been falling behind since the end of the Cold War. New research possibilities and opportunities for energy sources could advance American innovation that has been crucial to building this nation. The opportunities for economic growth with renewable energy are endless, and it would be foolish to ignore them. America must turn to renewable energy for economic reasons, if not environmental and security ones.

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Budget to Win the Future- Deficit Reduction and Jobs


Today, I was shocked to see a budget proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. When I looked at it, I expected to see large tax and spending increases, but still even more deficit spending. However, what I saw was the opposite: I saw a budget that would balance the budget even sooner than the other proposals, and I saw a budget that would preserve American government programs and create a path to things that our country needs: jobs, education and better health care, among others.

The budget will create an actual budget surplus by 2021, and eliminate the deficit in just ten years. Paul Ryan’s proposal would only balance the budget twenty years after that, and his had to resort to draconian cuts to Medicare and other necessary programs. You can probably expect that the Progressive Budget, or the “People’s Budget”, as it is called, gets most of its deficit reducation funds from taxes. It does. It calls for an end to the Bush-era tax cuts, higher taxes on millionaries, a progressive estate tax, and higher taxes on capital gains and dividends. These taxes mean that those who managed to benefit most from government investment put more money back in for investment. However, there are no draconian tax increases on the 98% of the American population that is not rich. Those hard-working Americans will continue to pay reasonable tax rates, but will also have the security of a balanced budget and government investment and social programs.

The budget’s spending cuts are almost entirely related to the military, spending for which has grown too high. America must reconsider its role as the “international policeman” and must instead share responsibility for global conflict resolution and peacekeeping with other nations and organizations. The budget also calls for a public option to be added to health care, which will reduce future medical spending by hundreds of billions of dollars by keeping costs under control. One need only look at college tuition costs to see what happens when prices are left to rise unchecked.

Finally, the budget calls for greater investment by the government. It includes significant increases in funding for education and training programs such as Head Start and ESEA. It provides greater funds for research, both in health through the NIH and for green energy. The budget provides more money and services for the less fortunate in society, and it provides more funding for programs such as food stamps, TANF, LIHEAP and public housing programs. These investments are critical to ensuring that nobody slips through the cracks in society, and that all Americans are able to get ahead in the competitive future before us.

This budget proposal is not perfect. However, it is much better than the ones proposed by Paul Ryan and President Obama. It fixes the budget sooner, provides greater investment in our future, and it would work wonders on reducing the ever-rising gap between rich and poor in this country. Although this budget will almost certainly not be passed by the Republican-controlled House, it should serve as a rallying call for all progressives, and for all true Americans, across the country.

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Republicans Aim at Health Care Programs


The Republicans in Congress, specifically Paul Ryan, are preparing to reveal a new budget proposal for 2012 this upcoming week. Although a budget proposal is applaudable, what will be included in the proposal is not. Instead of going after defense spending or raising taxes on the rich, or making some more sensible reforms to entitlement programs, they are planning on effectively destroying Medicare and Medicaid as we know them.

Medicaid in itself was quite obviously going to be a Republican target. Republicans are generally opposed to anything that helps underprivileged Americans, and as Medicaid provides health benefits to low-income people, it’s on the firing line. The Republicans know that they don’t have to hide their hatred for hard-working Americans, and they are proud of their identity as a party of the rich.

Medicare, however, is another story. Medicare is a government program that provides health insurance to elderly Americans, and it is paid for by a tax that working Americans pay throughout their careers. Then, just like Social Security, those Americans will be able to get the benefits that they have been paying for while working, and will be able to have some peace and security in their old age. However, the Republicans want to turn Medicare into a voucher system for private insurance. Never mind that Medicare Part C gives Americans an option to take private insurance- Republicans want EVERYONE to be forced to take this option. However, it has been made clear that the Medicare Advantage (Part C) program costs more per person than traditional Medicare plans- a voucher system would simply expand a more expensive system. A Medicare Advantage beneficiary currently costs the government 14% more than an ordinary Medicare beneficiary. If everyone, instead of just 24% of people enrolled in Medicare, use the more-expensive Medicare Advantage system, how will this help the budget? The answer: it won’t, this is just an attack on a Democratic program that the Republicans don’t like, just like NPR, only this one is far more vital to the lives of ordinary senior citizens.

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Playing with Fire (Or in this case, radiation)


It is completely shocking that in a time when Japan is facing a nuclear crisis, Republican lawmakers are calling for cuts to spending for nuclear security. These cuts include $1.4 billion for training to respond to chemical and radioactive disasters, $131 million for the Office of Nuclear Energy and over 50,000 jobs that work in nuclear safety and emergency response. These cuts weaken the ability of the United States to prevent and respond to potential nuclear disasters. However, if the disaster in Japan has shown us anything, it is that additional safety measures need to be added to nuclear reactors to make them even safer! It should be obvious to everyone that one of the main duties of the government is to ensure the safety of the country’s citizens, but the actions of Republicans in Congress don’t seem to reflect that.

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Federal Budget Cuts You Don’t Want To See


There are many spending cuts that are included in the Republican budget proposal. These cuts, as part of non-discretionary non-military spending, are often inconsequential to the overall budget yet provide valuable serves that can have large effects on you, the economy, and the nation. Some of these cuts include:

$755 million from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (about 10% of the center’s budget). Quite obviously, cuts made here affect public health and safety in communities throughout the United States. Similarly, the EPA ($1.6 billion) and NIH ($1 billion) will also experience significant cuts, posing a further risk to health.

Alternative energy and development. This includes $899 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy, $169 million for nuclear energy, $31 million for fossil energy research and $18 million for coal. At a time when the world is turning to greener energy and our county needs to turn toward energy independence, these cuts could not be more hazardous to those goals.

Food safety regulation, including $53 million from the Food Safety and Inspection Services and $220 million from the FDA. With less money available for enforcing safety and quality standards, the health of our country’s citizens is put on the line.

$27 million for Poison Control Centers. This has been attempted in the state of Lousiana before, and the result was the skyrocketing of medical costs. Poison Control Centers manage to treat 70% of cases at home, saving people trips to the hospital and wasting money on unnecessary medical fees. Statistics show that we save $7 on medical fees for every dollar we spent on Poison Control Centers.

$2 billion for Job Training Programs. This, combined with other cuts which will cause layoffs throughout the country, will make it more difficult for Americans to find and obtain jobs, which will slow down economic recovery.

$593 million for the Internal Revenue Service. This will cause cuts in the enforcement of taxes, and is estimated to cost the United States $4 billion annually. A very smart move when trying to balance the budget.

These are only some of the budget cuts that I have decided to mention here, although there are countless others. To those of you who will say that these cuts are necessary to fight our deficit issue, I’d like to point out that this only adds up to a few billion dollars- about the cost of a single unnecessary military weapons design. The harm that these cuts will do is worth far more than what will be saved financially.

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GOP Ignores Budget Reality


Washington is busy arguing about how to cut the budget, with Republicans (and especially Tea Party members) pushing for draconian cuts in everything ranging from Poison Control centers to environmental regulation. Meanwhile, Democrats are preventing those cuts from going through, which, while preventing major problems that would result from those cuts, does not help the deficit. Although it is important to stop many of these cuts, as they would cause serious economic problems as well as environmental and safety problems (and some, such as reducing Poison Control Center funding, would hurt the deficit), it is also very important to actually solve this deficit problem, or at least make some progress in solving it. However, it’s difficult to focus on deficit reduction when the focus rests on non-military discretionary spending- a total of about $600 billion. Even getting rid of all of that spending completely wouldn’t solve our trillion dollar deficit issue.

However, there happen to be three other options which, if also added to the budget debate and used collectively, can serve as the key to budget reform. The first, entitlement programs, are probably not going to be accepted either by politicians or by the general public. Although this is not good, as they make up a very large portion of the budget, it is best to focus on what can be handled now. This leads to the Department of Defense, whose $700 billion budget is inflated with unnecessary wars and weapons programs that we can’t afford. Cuts here are traditionally opposed by Republicans, so it’s not a surprise to see that they’re not going along with them.

However, the third and currently most overlooked option is raising taxes. The Clinton Administration had significanty higher taxes than we do now- income, capital gains, and estate- and yet the economy was doing fine. Strangely enough, when Bush tried to repeat the “trickle-down” economics policies that Republicans often praise, it didn’t do much good for the economy. A NBC News/Wall Steet Journal Poll found earlier this month that Americans are hostile towards cuts in Medicare, Social Security, education and other domestic spending. However, the poll also found that 81% support a millionare surtax, and 68% support ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich. At the beginning of the year, a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll showed that 61% would rather have taxing the rich be the first deficit fixing step, and 20% support cutting defense spending. Clearly this shows that Republicans aren’t listening to the people in this debate, and are lying through their teeth when they claim that Americans are opposed to increasing taxes.

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