Friday, September 20, 2013

What the hell, GOP?

After they lost the White House (again) in last year's presidential election, the Republican Party appeared to go through some serious soul-searching, with some in the party coming to the public conclusion that they needed to make their party more welcoming to more Americans. Because, you know, the Tea Party turned out not to be enough of a base to get Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan elected as President and Vice-president.

If you ask me, the GOP has some pretty funny ways of trying to grow their base. Just in the last two days they've told the American public, through votes in the House of Representatives, that they don't care if people can't get health care and can't get enough to eat to be able to go out and support themselves.

Today, the Republicans in the House voted (again - how many times is this? 40? 45?) to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and threatened (again) to shut down the federal government if they don't get their way. This comes on the heels of a vote yesterday, also led by Republicans, to cut billions of dollars from federal food assistance to the poor. In that vote, they claimed their purpose in the close (217 - 210) vote was to cut fraud and waste from the program and to make sure that able-bodied adults on the program were working. This is a big disingenuous, considering the fact that most food assistance recipients are employed, and that most who are not working are either children, elderly, disabled, or looking for work that they cannot find.

In the case of food assistance, the Republicans are also ignoring the fact that in some states, the system is actually underutilized. Here in California, for example, recent statistics show that only about 55 percent of those who are eligible for food assistance actually get it. Another report from Texas shows that a third of eligible Texans do not receive food assistance. In California, the shortfall is so pronounced that the state is actually running ads attempting to get more eligible households to apply for benefits.

Regarding health insurance, those opposed to what has come to be called Obamacare are ignoring, conveniently, that there are more reasons than just being poor (and, in GOP eyes, apparently, lazy) that people do not have health insurance. For example, many people who are uninsured are unable to get insurance because they have "pre-existing conditions". Either they are denied outright by insurance companies, or they are offered coverage but at such an expensive rate that they cannot hope to afford it. But, I guess, the Republican position is that if you've already been sick, you just deserve to die if you get sick again. And then there is also the part where, even if you are insured, if you or someone in your family is struck by a catastrophic illness, the insurance carrier can just drop you from coverage. And even if they don't drop you, there is a cap on how much care they will cover and if you exceed that, too bad, so sad, but you're on your own.

Which would be laughable if it weren't so serious, with the accusations that along with Obamacare would come "death panels" that would do things like ration care. Care under the current system is rationed, just using different criteria for the rationing. But, with their bias in favor of the rich, some in the leadership of the Republican party think that rationing based on ability to pay is quite all right.

Coupled with the ongoing fight of the GOP against affordable health care and against food assistance, though, the GOP has some other issues when it comes to attracting more people to the party. With their continuing war against women, the Republicans don't seem too concerned with attracting more women to their party. Then there are the efforts in a number of states to game the electoral system so that fewer people from groups that traditionally vote for Democrats are able to exercise their right to vote. But, I've written about those things here before, so I won't belabor those points now.

And then there is Phil Gingrey. Gingrey is a member of the House of Representatives from Georgia, representing the 11th District there.

There are reports that Gingrey, who is said to be worth between $3 million and $7 million, complained in a closed-door Republican meeting on Wednesday that the $172,000 per year he gets paid for being a Congressman is just not enough. For perspective, that is around $14,333 per month that he makes. Or, about $3,583 per week. Which comes out to around $512 per day or $64 per hour. Of course, these figures are based on a 52-week, 40-hour-per week, work schedule, with no vacation time. We all know that the House is not in session anywhere close to 40 hours per week, every week of the year.

For example, last year the House was in session for 153 days. There are, of course weekends, and I don't begrudge the representatives their weekends off. However, they also had nearly the whole month of August off, working only four days. They also had two full weeks off in April. Figuring 8 hours per day of work for each of those 153 days, for their actual time at work, the representatives each made $1,124 per day or around $141 per hour.

The thing is, though, some representatives don't show up for work every day. Gingrey has missed, according to one source, 3.6 percent of the roll call votes during his tenure in office up to this month. So, even accounting for the fact that most representatives do some work when they are not officially on the clock on the floor of the House, they make very good money.

The other thing that bothers me about Gingrey's complaints is that although he thinks he doesn't make enough money, he voted against the bill in January 2007 that raised the federal minimum wage to its current $7.25 per hour. Excuse me? He doesn't think he is paid enough, but he is not willing to allow the poorest workers in this country to make even $7.25 per hour which, when required deductions are made, puts that worker below the official poverty level? Now who is feeling entitled?

Gingrey, by the way, who is an M.D. in real life, also voted to defund the Affordable Care Act. Then again, Gingrey also defended Todd Akin's statements about "legitimate rape" and how if a woman was "really" raped, she would not become pregnant because her body would "shut that whole thing down." Akin clearly did not know what he was talking about, but he had an excuse; he's an engineer. But Gingrey has no excuse for concurring with that statement. He's not just a physician, he is an obstetrician and gynecologist, for Pete's sake. As the Republicans so often seem to do these days, Gingrey later backpedaled and said that his remarks about Akin's statement were "misconstrued". As a medical professional, he should have known better than to make the remarks in the first place. Instead, he let his ideology overtake common sense.

Okay. I've ranted more than enough for one day. But I've been busy for the past few days and was saving all this up for when I had time to write about it. It just bugs the hell out of me when politicians go out and blatantly insult people who are doing the best they can and then try to take away all the help that some of those people need to get on their feet again, either physically or economically.

It's really difficult to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps when you can't afford a pair of boots in the first place, or enough food to maintain their strength to go out to work every day or to pound the pavement looking for a job so that you can earn some money. And when the GOP keeps telling people that they want to bring more people into their "big tent" but treats anyone who is not up to their standards of wealth and health (and, sometimes, gender and ethnicity) like crap, and insults them besides, it's proof that the leadership of the Republican Party just doesn't get it.

NOTE: This post was edited to remove remarks that were spurred by what turned out to be satire. The point remains that we live in a tine when it is sometimes nearly impossible to tell satire from reality because the things people really do and say are sometimes so over the top that they appear to be satire.

No comments: