Terry H. Schwadron
April 7, 2021
As enrapt as they get in the tactics, the capacity of our political leaders to end up chasing their tails over the dumbest of details while missing the big picture continues to astound.
It seems as true in the swirl of current events whether we’re talking vaccines, pushback to corporate objection to anti-democratic voting measures or the emerging stasis presenting itself over infrastructure investments. It remains easiest to see all of the partisan blather as self-serving rather than concern about solving the country’s needs, and to remember that power and money are the best ways to explain political behavior.
— The stupidest argument may be the one reflected in The New York Times headline, “Biden Plan Spurs Fight Over
What ‘Infrastructure’ Means,” a stand-in argument over whether doing work, business and living now depends solely on repairing broken bridges and roads and doesn’t extend to communications and energy. What they really mean, of course, is that even as lobbyists are lining up at the trough to seek free government money, Republican Senators don’t want to support the dollar total involved or raise corporate taxes to pay for it.
— Republicans from Governors Brian Kemp in Georgia and Greg Abbott in Texas to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are very preachy about lecturing corporations about having opinions about political life when it comes to state voting suppression measures, even while continuing to collect political donations from those exact companies. State legislators across the country who have pushed for new voting restrictions, and also seized on the baseless claims of election fraud, have reaped more than $50 million in corporate donations since 2015, according to a new report by Public Citizen, a Washington-based government watchdog group.
— The good political news that Senate Majority Chuck Schumer is claiming in the ruling from the Senate parliamentarian that he can use “reconciliation” tactics to maneuver the infrastructure bills through without a Republican vote is useless, of course, unless he first can guarantee his own party’s votes. That is unlikely because once again, it is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WVa., who is dictating what can and cannot be in the bill, choosing this time to set his own version of a potential corporate tax hike cap.
We have government to solve problems, not to create new ones.
Sure, Debate the Issue
I don’t expect unanimity in Washington, but I do think we should be able to hear out an actual proposal for what it is. I like the Biden “redefinition” of infrastructure exactly because it is broad and bold, exactly because it recognizes that health care, mental health services, child-care and job training are as essential as bridge supports. I endorse the idea that without investment in electric grids and broadband, alternative energy sources and lead-free water, we’re simply sticking our heads in the worsening environmental sand.
And yes, doing so is expensive, though not as costly over eight or ten years as opponents would have you believe. We should be determining our needs, assessing costs, and then find the best ways to pay for them. If you start with the costs, you will never take on any project. Even Donald Trump would say that about his border Wall; he insisted on the need, and postponed debate about the cost.
“Republicans attack Biden’s plan with pie charts and scathing quotes, saying that it allocates only a small fraction of money on “real” infrastructure and that spending to address issues like home care, electric cars and even water pipes should not count, explains The Times. “When people think about infrastructure, they’re thinking about roads, bridges, ports and airports,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Maybe they just shouldn’t call it infrastructure and we could have a more intelligent conversation about the nation’s needs.
It’s just as nutty that after the White House has put teams of economic analysts on the questions of re-raising corporate tax rates from 21% to 28% of profits that Manchin would come up with his own version, at 25%, as the best counter-alternative. Just what that is based on, other than political windage, is a mystery, but it is the same tactic that Manchin used in helping to quash an increase in federal minimum wage rates. I can’t help think that this is some kind of pay-attention-to-me pitch from Manchin, who clearly wants to be seen as the drum-major for centrism for a Biden that he sees drifting slightly left. Like with Republicans, Manchin is starting at the wrong end of the problem here, by focusing on the how-to-pay aspect first.
Plus, with companies like The Trump Organization, Amazon and General Electric paying zero in taxes, what difference does the tax rate play?
Does Manchin really believe that his beloved West Virginia coal miners who are losing jobs left and right in a dwindling industry are magically going to find new jobs and adequate health care — and if he does, why hasn’t it happened naturally.
Call It What It Is
Biden is correct, even if short by many progressives’ measures, in insisting that we need a push as a country into the current, never mind the future.
What I do find objectionable in so many areas is the silliness of focus from our leaders.
It would be refreshing for McConnell to simply say that the corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta who, belatedly, have started objecting to the vote suppression efforts, are backing the wrong team, rather than rapping them on the knuckles for paying attention altogether. And stop taking money from corporations whose words you now reject because they come down on a different side.
It would be refreshing to hear as much effort as Governor Kemp has for criticizing Major League Baseball on actually listening to his constituents rather than to his own party’s insistence on winning. Kemp and allies are taking the line that the Georgia bill actually expands early voting by adding a Saturday, but an analysis by The Times showed at least 16 ways in which voting becomes more difficult and the results subject to override by Republican state legislators who may not like some statewide result. So, maybe Kemp and team should just own up honestly that this is not about voter integrity, or solving the problems of fraud that never appeared, and just admit that they want to stop voting in majority Black counties.
It would be refreshing to hear actual debate over the various needs raised by the “infrastructure” proposals rather than a blanket defense for ill-fitting corporate tax cuts that boosted stock buy-backs rather than growth, and has fueled more automation of jobs.
You get the idea that if these guys were on the Titanic, they’d be fighting over what music was being played as the ship went down — and blaming the musicians.