GOP Wants a Country by Corporations for Corporations
Tea Party darling and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul spoke last week like the political novice he is – revealing unfiltered GOP “truths.” First he informed MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow that government should not be able to force businesses to serve black people. Corporate desire to discriminate should trump the civil rights of black people, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, and pants-wearing women, according to this Republican candidate, who has since rushed to assure everyone that he personally is not a bigot. Rand Paul followed up the assertion of corporate-privilege-over-human-rights with two more Republican tenet revelations. First he called the Obama administration “un-American” for holding the corporation BP accountable for the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers and devastated the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. Then Rand Paul added that society should refrain from the “blame game” in the case of another corporation, Massey Energy, the owner of the West Virginia mine that blew up killing 29 workers. “We had a mining accident that was very tragic,” he said, “Then we come in, and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.” The Republican candidate who openly espoused these views was embraced last Saturday by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at a rally in Frankfort, Ky. And during the primary, former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Republican senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Jim Bunning of Kentucky actively supported Rand Paul. He simply said what Republicans believe – that this country should focus on promoting corporations and those corporations should have privileges, but not responsibilities. To the GOP, the U.S.A. should be a country of corporations, by corporations, for corporations. People, by contrast, are trifling to the GOP. In the past couple of weeks, the GOP has made its position on humans clear by trying to end an emergency fund that will create 186,000 subsidized jobs this year for poor people and by blocking an extension of unemployment insurance for those thrown out of work during the worst recession since the Great Depression, a downturn caused by reckless Wall Street corporations. Following the lead of Bunning, who delayed an extension in February, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire said the unemployed shouldn’t receive the insurance because it “encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.” While attempting to deny relief to the desperate, Republicans have also blocked efforts to force oil corporations to assume full liability for catastrophic spills – like the BP disaster in the Gulf. If the oil corporations – which vehemently oppose an increase in their liability -- don’t pay for environmental clean up, then taxpayers – including the unemployed – will get the bill. Still, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio opposed raising the laughably-low liability cap of $75 million, and Republicans James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have blocked efforts to lift the cap in the Senate. Like Rand Paul, Boehner didn’t want to assign culpability to BP. Boehner said, “I think it’s important that we get to the bottom, get to the facts, before we begin to point fingers.” Murkowski and Inhofe have a financial interest in kissing up to Big Oil. Those corporations have handed them buckets of bucks. According to the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.org, the oil and gas lobby has given Inhofe $433,950 over the past five years. That lobby gave Markowski $240,326 in just the past year. That is 15 times what she got from oil and gas just two years ago, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A Murkowski spokesman said the senator’s connection to oil and gas corporations is “the same relationship she has to all constituents.” So, to Republican Murkowski, oil and gas corporations are constituents, exactly like the actual humans who live in her district. That characterization of corporations is consistent with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, written by its Republican-selected, right-wing majority, giving corporations the same rights as humans under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a ruling that will enable corporations to spend virtually unlimited money to influence elections. Usually such rights come with responsibilities. But Republicans, by impeding an increase in the liability cap, have made clear their opposition to oil and gas corporations bearing the responsibility of paying all costs when their errors kill workers and destroy the environment. Not only that, under the guise of government downsizing, they have thwarted enforcement of regulations intended to prevent deaths and catastrophes. The Bush administration, for example, cut funds for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Also during the Bush administration, according to a Department of Interior inspector general report released this week, federal regulators responsible for oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico allowed corporate officials to fill out inspection reports in pencil, then traced over those marks in pen and submitted them. That “self-regulation” is consistent with the Republican contention that the “invisible hand” of the market will adequately smack down bad corporate behavior. Rand Paul reiterated the Republican policy on government during his rally with McConnell last Saturday. He said, “What unifies Republicans is a belief that the Constitution restrains the size and scope of government.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who Republicans chose to respond in February, 2009 to President Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress, told that national TV audience he opposed “big government,” like all good Republicans do. Also in that speech, Jindal joined the Republican chorus of “Drill Baby Drill,” calling for increased domestic oil and gas drilling. Now he’s got the ugly results of drilling-gone-wrong coating his coast. Since the spill, Jindal has petitioned the federal government – yes, the very government Republicans want to shrivel – to solve his state’s problems. He asked Obama to pay for 6,000 National Guardsmen for 90 days to help clean up. He wants the U.S. Department of Commerce to provide financial help to fishermen, the Environmental Protection Agency to test air quality, and the U.S. Business Administration to suspend loan repayments for small businesses affected by the gushing oil. The Republican policy, apparently, is “Drill Baby Drill;” taxpayers can always clean the “accidental” spill. In the Republican world, corporations have the right to do anything they want, but no responsibility to do it right or restore what they wreck. Republicans hold the unemployed accountable – but not corporations.