Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Lump Of Coal For Christmas

This past week, 45 Democrats and only five Republicans voted against a bill in the Senate known as the "Budget Reconciliation". Proponents of this bill such as Bill Frist, who is the subject of ethics questions because of his "blind trust" stockholdings that may be a conflict of interest for him, who claimed that the "Budget Reconciliation" bill was needed to control "social spending", were very misleading in the real intent of the bill. The bill claimed to be a "deficit reduction" bill that trims social spending by $9 billion a year over a five year period, although it actually increases the federal budget deficit by offering a new round of tax cuts to the wealthy. The bill cuts social spending by $40 billion, but adds a $70 billion tax cut to benefit the wealthy, actually increasing the federal budget defit by $30 billion. Yet it was misleadingly represented as a "deficit reduction" bill.

A memo from the White House to Republican leadership in Congress claimed that the bill was needed to cut social spending make room for another tax cut. It was a "christmas gift" to the wealthy and powerful interests who puppeteer this administration. But the bill was a "lump of coal" to the poor who rely on food stamps, government health care or other programs due to poverty.

Some religious Republicans such as Oregon's Gordon Smith could not ethicly vote for the bill, and voted against it on moral grounds of injuring the poor. But others unfortunately supported the bill. The vote was expected to be so close that Dick Cheney flew back from Afghanistan to break the 50-50 tie vote.

Among other things, the bill forces the poor and elderly to pay fees for basic health services as part of Medicaid. It further reduces services, and takes away needed crutches, hearing aids and other vital items from poor or elderly who depend on government health care programs. It would cut student loans. It would remove child care services from 255,000 children. And it would cut enforcement of child support payments, where as much as $8.4 billion in child support payments may go uncollected. Poor people who can barely afford food have no Washington lobby. The rich and powerful, wine and dine at the White House, contribute millions to political campaigns and seem to receive huge benefits in return. Big oil interests have been invited to the White House and other huge interests.

After one meeting with big oil interests, gasoline prices did back down somewhat recently, but are back on the way up. Yet the power relationship between big business and this administration is not to be ignored.

Oregon's Gordon Smith, a Mormon Elder, who voted against the bill did so because the morality of the bill offended his religious standards. Another senator asked the other senators to vote no, because he argued that no religious values would find the bill moral.

One purpose of religion should be to stop people from doing bad or immoral things that harm others. Unfortunately in the millionaires club of the U.S. Senate, not enough senators are guided by these principles. For every religious Republican like Gordon Smith, or the Democrats who voted against the bill, just as many voted for the bill. More ethical men who value decency towards the poor are needed in the U.S. Senate. Taking what little that the poor receive in health benefits or other vital services to award a huge new tax cut to the wealthy makes no ethical sense.

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