“Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
One of the challenges that Jesus had to overcome was the expectation that Messiah was going to be a political leader who would restore Israel to its previous stature as an independent power in the region. Jesus mission was to reconcile man to God, not Israel to its neighbors. So he told his disciples that they were still required to pay taxes and abide by the local laws even as they preached a gospel which promised a new way to live.
The new crop of fiscal conservatives finds themselves in a similar situation. They got themselves elected with a promise to reduce the deficit. Their philosophy is that the best way to reduce the deficit is to dramatically reduce government spending AND taxes. As we’ve seen that is tall order.
Paul Ryan, however, proved he was up to the challenge. He proposed a budget that did reduce government spending and taxes, and revoked the recently passed Healthcare Reform legislation to boot. Though some analysts point out that it doesn’t really reduce the deficit, it was a bold statement because it included provisions to privatize both Medicare and Social Security.
In the first election where the public got an opportunity vote on that budget, a long shot Democrat defeated a popular Republican in a strong Republican congressional district.
Their resolve has been tested again this week.
From April 25-28, we had the worst outbreak of tornadoes in US history. 328 tornadoes touched down in 28 different states. 344 people died. Alabama officials say they are facing the biggest rebuilding effort since the Civil war.
The Mississippi River is in the midst of its worst flood since 1927. An area larger than the state of Delaware is under water. 30,000 structures have been severely damaged or destroyed and 25,000 people have been displaced.
Finally, we have Joplin, MO. The single deadliest tornado on record literally flattened a town of 50,000 people killing 100. The damage is so complete, that observers have been using the word Armageddon to describe the aftermath.
This week it was Eric Cantor’s turn to stand up and he did.
He said that he would block any additional funding to help these areas recover from the disasters that they have experienced unless that funding was balanced by additional spending cuts from the most recently negotiated budget. Raising taxes or closing tax loopholes to generate the needed revenue are not an option.
This post is not about ideology or morality, though those are both rich areas that we could also explore.
This post is about politics.
Joplin is represented by Billy Long. Billy is a Republican who ran on the motto that he was a member of the “Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool”. So now Billy, who proclaimed his support for individual responsibility, financial conservatism, and much smaller federal government; has to tell Joplin that Eric Cantor is going to play politics with the money they desperately need to rebuild their town and that Billy supports that position.
As a result, Billy will almost certainly be looking for another job in 2012.
The same thing is going to happen with virtually every Republican representing an area that suffers a natural disaster between now and the next election. Right now that is more than half the states in the country and it’s only just June.
Every senior concerned about their retirement is going to re-evaluate their vote for the party that proposed to reduce their benefits, just as they did in New York.
Here in Michigan the Republican governor just passed a budget which included a tax on pensions and dramatic reductions in school funding so that he could reduce business taxes by $2B. How many of Michigan retirees, families with school-age kids, and folks who work in the public school system are going to vote Republican in the next election?
How many union members and their families are going to vote Republican next year in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio where benefits and collective bargaining rights are under attack?
What we are seeing is that the radical Tea Party ideology doesn’t work in the real world.
People don’t want a smaller government. They just want a government that works. They don’t want to leave people in need to fend for themselves. We are a better nation than that. We help our fellow citizens when they need it, whether it is disaster, sickness, disability, or old age. We want a strong social safety net and most of us are willing to pay for it.
As voters recognize that conservative Republicans are choosing ideology over local needs, they will punish Republicans for forgetting the first commandment.
All politics are local.