Who Owes an Apology?

During last year’s Super Bowl, Chrysler ran a dramatic ad that proclaimed that the carmaker, and Detroit, were back. This year Chrysler ran another blockbuster, this time with Clint Eastwood proclaiming, “It’s halftime in America.” He said the country was ready for a comeback in the second half. “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch,” he growled. “We get right back up again. And when we do, the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.”

The problem is that Republicans have spent the last three years undercutting President Obama’s efforts to revive the economy. Like most Republicans who opposed the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009, Karl Rove was twisted in knots by the idea that Chrysler was making a patriotic appeal that might indirectly reflect well on Obama, who was not mentioned in the ad. “I was, frankly, offended by it,” Rove complained on Fox News Feb. 6. “I’m a huge fan of Clint Eastwood, I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising.”

President Obama did the right thing in 2009 when he bucked popular opinion and the almost unanimous opposition of Republicans in Congress to approve the bailout of GM and Chrysler. Mitt Romney is one of the Republicans who said the carmakers should have been allowed to go out of business instead of getting the government involved. In a memorable New York Times op-ed piece Nov. 18, 2008, the vulture capitalist, who is practiced in the art of wringing profits from bankrupt corporations, wrote, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

“If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed,” Romney predicted.

In the past year bailed-out Chrysler sales surged 44%. GM’s sales dipped 6% — but that was after a year of sales inflated by big discounts and other incentives, so GM still expected to book $8 billion in profits for 2011. Ford sales rose 7%. Obama recently attended the Washington Auto Show to check out new models and noted, “It’s good to remember the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die.” Now that all three US carmakers are reporting profits and are hiring 160,000 new workers to expand their lines, many of those same Republicans refuse to admit that the car bailout succeeded.

Even after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Feb. 3 that the private sector gained 257,000 private-sector jobs in January, for the 23rd consecutive month of private job growth, which dropped the unemployment rate to 8.3% — Romney continued to insist, after he won the Nevada caucuses Feb. 4, that Obama’s mismanagement had made the recession worse. Romney said Obama should apologize for the slow pace of job growth.

It was only the latest instance of Republican economic ideology overcoming common sense. Republicans have been wrecking American industry ever since jackleg economists in 1980 convinced Ronald Reagan that “trickle down” economics and deregulation of business and banking was the key to prosperity. We got a full dose of Voodoo Economics during the Bush II years, and it proved to be economic alchemy. When Dubya dropped off the keys to the White House in January 2009, the economy was in free fall and hemorrhaging jobs. Obama and the Democrats managed to turn the economy around — again, with no cooperation from Republicans in Congress, who have engaged in unprecedented obstruction.

As it becomes more apparent that Republican presidential candidates — particularly Mitt Romney — have nothing to offer working-class Americans, while the recovery of the auto industry has helped raise hopes in the Midwest, Obama’s popularity has started rising among the blue-collar whites who abandoned the Democrats in 2010. An ABC/Washington Post poll found that Obama job approval among non-college whites, which was 61% when he took office in January 2009 but dropped to the 30s during much of the past two years, was back to 43% in the poll taken Feb. 1-4. That’s close to the 46% of white working-class voters Obama got in 2008.

Obama won the white working-class vote by double-digit margins in Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2008 — and the Dems went on to lose in four of those key states and tied in one (Oregon) two years later in the midterms. That’s one of the big reasons Republicans are trying to cripple unions in those states — because unions are a key in marshaling working class whites for Obama and the Democrats. And those union-busting moves are a big reason that white working-class voters are open to a progressive populist appeal this year.

GOP War on Women

The Komen foundation’s ham-fisted attempt to cut off funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics appears to be part of a right-wing effort to shut down abortion and contraceptive services with little regard to collateral damage to women’s health services.

In Texas, which is a model for GOP efforts nationwide, the Republican-dominated Legislature in 2011 cut $73.6 million from family planning and other basic health care services. The cuts were supposed to be targeted at Planned Parenthood, but they defunded 22 public health clinics in Texas and they have reduced health care options for 244,000 Texas women.

One contractor, Community Action Inc., lost $750,000 per year and was forced to shut down 11 of its 13 clinics that served medium- and small-sized communities in Central Texas, the Austin Chronicle reported. The People’s Clinic of Austin, one of four public health organizations that provided family planning services in the capital through the State Health Services Department, lost $536,177, or 73% of its budget for women’s health and family planning services.

State Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center, Texas), told the Austin American-Statesman (Feb. 6) that the cuts were intended to force Planned Parenthood to shut down abortion clinics. He said the effect on other clinics around the state that do not provide abortion services was unintentional. “The reason to do this was not to close good clinics across the state,” Christian said. “If these are clinics that were not providing abortions, I would have to question whether this cut hit them.”

Gov. Rick Perry (R) boasted on the presidential campaign trail that the state had targeted Planned Parenthood. “I was really proud to be able to sign legislation that we worked on with our Legislature to defund Planned Parenthood in the State of Texas,” he said. “There are 12 abortion clinics that aren’t open in the state of Texas today because our members of the Legislature had the courage, the wisdom to do that.”

Jordan Smith noted in the Austin Chronicle that Perry’s bragging may have pleased his hardcore base, but it was false. In fact, 11 Planned Parenthood clinics had folded operations in Texas because of the budget cuts, including six near the Mexican border where the need is great and there are few other options for care, but none of those clinics provided abortions. Instead, those clinics provided health exams to 20,565 clients, including 13,184 screenings for cervical cancer; 14,163 screenings for breast cancer; and 33,974 screenings and treatments for sexually transmitted infections. But not any more.

The state Legislative Budget Board estimated that $73.6 million in family planning service cuts would lead to an additional 20,511 births in Texas, at an average cost of $11,268 each, including a year of Medicaid for each child. That increase in births will cost taxpayers about $231 million, the board reported. Texas taxpayers are responsible for 43% of those costs — about $99 million, the American-Statesman reported.

So much for fiscal conservatism and respect for life. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2012


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