So, I have a question, and it is purely rhetorical. Which political party is looking out for the poor?
The answer, quite obviously, is neither one. And now that our society is moving into the “new normal” of governmental austerity and stagnating wealth/income for the majority of Americans, this lack of a progressive party is becoming an increasingly tragic problem.
For those of you who answered “the Democrats” to the question above, you might want to re-consider based on the events this week on Capitol Hill. Here’s the background -- our representatives have been presented with the challenge of dealing with the budget crisis commonly known as “sequestration.” Unless they can figure out a solution, one government program after another will be significantly weakened. And this can go on for a while. Given how much the poor depend on the government, you can only imagine the kind of devastating impact that sequestration might have on those communities.
Prior to this week, though, it appeared that the poor and their advocates had a trump card. They could count on the fact that the federal government does not only benefit them. All of us depend on the government, even the affluent. The feds employ the airport personnel that rich people need to make their business travel efficient. And the feds employ the meat inspectors on which the wealthy depend to evaluate their filet mignon. So, if there were a progressive political party around, it could “go on strike” by saying that the rich people can’t have their business flights or filet mignon unless we take care of after-school centers and Head Start programs.
That sounds like a plan, right? The Democrats control the Senate, the Democrats are the party of progressives, and all good progressives know that historically, strikes have proven crucial in protecting the rights of the masses. Besides, in this case, you don’t even need to call what I’m talking about a “strike.” All the Democrats had to do is tell the folks on the other side of the aisle that if you scratch the back of our special interests (the needy), we’ll scratch the back of business travelers and meat packers.
But who am I kidding? Once the fat-cat lobbyists got into their act, Congress was primed to differentiate between government programs in terms of which ones we need and which ones we don’t. Ironically, the programs for the so-called “needy” were the ones we decided we didn’t need after all. Convenient flights for business travelers? Check. Steak for business lunches? Check. Teachers for low-income preschoolers? Well … maybe we can live without them, don’t you think? Those teachers are bearing the brunt of the budget cuts.
So what are we left with? Questions, questions, questions.
Where were the Democratic Senators in all this? Where was the outrage? Where was the threat of a filibuster? Or is that threat only available for Republicans?
And what about the “liberal media”? Are they shocked by all this? Or are they just shell-shocked (by the apparent death of liberalism in a nation with a two-term Democratic President)?
Who is speaking up for the folks who can’t afford to fly, but can afford even less for their preschool children to go without a public education?
And finally, in the immortal words of Pink Floyd, “Is there anybody out there?”