Monday, October 22, 2018

Caravan




It's not a word that normally conjures up fear and loathing, but Trump and his political apprentices have been doing their best to agitate their conservative base into believing this migrant caravan slowly making its way up the Central American isthmus from Honduras and Guatemala to the United States has all the worst criminal elements and we shouldn't be fooled by the many images of children we see in the news.  CNN and other international media networks have been tracking it like they would a swarm of killer bees.

Polls show the Republicans doing very poorly in the midterms.  As many as 70 GOP seats in the House are considered vulnerable, and 5 of 9 GOP seats in the Senate.  This should have been a midterm where the Republicans solidified their hold of Congress.  Democrats had far more contested seats in the Senate (25) and had to fight against many GOP gerrymandered districts around the country for House seats, but the Dems are expected to retake the House and at the very least hold their own in the Senate.

No wonder the Republicans are scared.  This was going to be their chance to put in place their final solution on health care and social security, gutting the programs to help cover the costs for the enormous tax cuts they are proposing.  In addition to the $1.5 trillion they passed last December, the House recently approved a $3.8 trillion plan, pretty much giving the Trump White House all it asked for.  The Senate wants to cut a whopping $1.5 trillion in Social Security and Medicare to cover the enormous debt the initial tax cut bill has accrued, while the House wants to do away with the $3 trillion Social Security surplus all together.

Future generations of Americans would be left with virtually nothing in the tank.  As it is, the federal government has used an estimated $6 trillion of Social Security to cover roughly 30% of the national debt.  All because Congress refused to significantly raise the $128,400 annual income cap on the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).  This means an uber-rich CEO like Jeff Bezos pays no more in FICA than a family earning $128,400 per year.  Of course Jeff is a smart man and declares a base annual salary of $81,400, even though he is worth an estimated $100 billion.

For decades we have allowed the wealthy to game the system, while the middle class carries the bulk of FICA.  It wouldn't be so bad if the rich paid their fair share of income tax, but no, they continue to get substantial tax cuts both in personal and corporate income to the point the federal government couldn't balance the budget if it wanted to.  So, it raids FICA to help cover the massive shortfall.  Yet, the Senate Republican leader is so cynical as to blame Social Security and Medicare for the ballooning national debt.

The GOP has for decades tried to make it sound like Social Security is insolvent and that Medicare is on its last legs, all the while denying how much of the national debt is carried by this program.  While you may find some Americans who were born before Social Security was enacted in 1935, you will find none who haven't benefited from this program over this long period, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who got through university thanks in part to his father's social security covering part of the cost.

Social Security is more than just a pension program.  It provides assistance on a broad level.  It maybe that it is stretched too far, but no farther than the incredible debt burden it has to carry thanks to largely Republican Congresses failing to balance the federal budget.  Since Trump has arrived in Washington, over $2 trillion has been added to the national debt thanks largely to the tax cuts and inability on the part of the White House and Congress to manage the debt.  If I didn't know any better I would say Republicans are intentionally trying to bankrupt our government.

Of course, the GOP doesn't want us to think about these things, so it stirs up all these unsubstantiated fears over a caravan of migrants slowly moving toward the US border to seek asylum.   Republicans continue to try to push emotional buttons to disguise their horrible fiscal management.  Trump and his apprentices have also tried to turn the #MeToo movement into an angry "mob of women" determined to overturn the ballot box in November.

It seems the GOP figures the midterms are all about mobilizing its base to counter what it sees as a highly charged Democratic base, much in the same way it did in 2016.  However, the Republicans no longer have Hillary to kick around so they have gone after a wide range of Democratic women, notably Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  The GOP also continues to use immigrants (of any kind) as a force undercutting white security in this country.  This is why you see an unprecedented number of political attack ads against Democratic minority candidates, presenting them as proxies for this war on immigration.

One would like to think at this point that Americans are sick and tired of this overblown rhetoric, or "truthful hyperbole" as Donald likes to call it, and will elect reasonable leaders to government.  After all, our economy is soaring, unemployment is at an all-time low and crime has gone down across most of the country.  What's to be afraid of?

Certainly not these migrants who are lodging a protest against American policies in Central America more than anything else.  Very few of them have any expectation of ever getting to the US border, and if they do, being granted asylum.  The Justice Dept. has made it very clear none is being offered.

For decades we have allowed thuggish governments to rule these countries so we could exploit them for banana plantations and other agricultural purposes so that we can have fresh fruits and vegetables year round.  Many of these people live in abject poverty as a result, subject to the worst kinds of abuse imaginable, and understandably hold the United States responsible.

AMLO, the incoming Mexican president, has offered a fig leaf, suggesting work visas to the caravan of Guatemalan and Honduran refugees that would stop the flow before it ever reaches the US border.  Trump is having none of it.  Instead, he is threatening to cut off aid to the Central American countries and deploy the military if necessary to beat back this "invasion," as it is now being called in the conservative blogosphere.

It's not like the current border security can manage the manufactured crisis as it deals with approximately 1 million persons crossing the border each day.  So, what is 5000?

One would think the Republicans would be focusing less on this "onslaught of illegal aliens," and more on the economy and the relatively low crime rate in America.  Yet, for some very strange reason the Republicans still see the elections as a culture war when they in fact hold the upper hand.  All they have to do is point to the current soaring economy and take credit for it.  Yet, the Republicans won't do that because they know it will come crashing down soon and then who will they have to blame for it, certainly not themselves.  No, much easier to go after immigrants.  It's the defining issue that won them back the House in 2010 and they will keep using it until it no longer works.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting that these people suddenly decided to get up and go without any luggage, no bottles of water, no food, and no supplies, just before the election. Nice timing when you think about it. Many are Native American, not Hispanic, and do not speak Spanish. Despite the language differences, somehow they got together and were able to communicate and know where to go to get necessary supplies to maintain their long 2,000 mile trek.

    You have to wonder, who coordinated all this - the Koch brothers?

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  2. Interesting theory but my guess is that they didn't have much to begin with.

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