Where, oh where, are the “budget is a moral document” types when we really need them?
I don’t know about you, but I hear nary a peep about the debt ceiling standoff from DC’s Religion Industrial Complex: the Jim Wallis folks, progressive Catholics and Jews, Religion in Public Life, etc.
Yet what Chuck Schumer calls the “three-ring circus” in the House of Representatives is more fraught with danger to America’s most vulnerable than any other Congressional irruption in recent history. If the complacent DC crowd think this will be resolved in favor of the Democrats and basic morality, they should think again. Because it’s not just the so-called “Freedom Caucus” in the lower chamber that is determined to slash domestic lifeline programs, it’s the chamber’s entire GOP majority. Boehner, McCarthy, and Scalise all made this pretty clear at this morning’s press conference. The way the “moderate” leadership intends to manage the chamber’s 36 Freedom Caucusoids appears to consist mainly of accommodating them on core policy, if not on rules.
The corporate media chatter on about the consequences of a national default on middle-class people’s pensions. They chatter on about “will he or won’t he” Paul Ryan. Almost nobody with a soapbox, and (sadly) none of our religious leaders, talks about broader GOP campaign to strangle what remains of the welfare state.
The corporate media let well-fed white guys like Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan talk about the need not to saddle his children and grandchildren with government debt, but they never ask about the debt and disadvantage that is already saddled on the backs of poor children and youth of color.
And this gets me to the question we all should be asking at this moment in regard to the Caucasian Caucusoids. It’s the same question that Samuel Johnson asked about the American revolutionaries back in 1775: “How is it we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”
Lest anyone think that race has nothing to do with the House GOP’s budget-balancing agenda, we should take a look at what is actually at stake. The most visible targets of the austerity crusaders—Obamacare and Planned Parenthood—are programs that serve and help low-income people of color to a disproportionate degree. Ditto for Medicaid, already badly cut in successful budget rounds and now on tap for yet more cuts and possible block-granting.
And the “universal” entitlement programs that remain the big prize in the budget cutters’ long war on domestic spending–Social Security and Medicare? Well, the fact is that low-income people and people of color also benefit disproportionately from these cornerstone programs providing help for persons experiencing old age, disability, and illness.
Pew’s analysis of the Freedom Caucus membership indicates, not surprisingly, that the group is relatively young and overwhelmingly white and male, with just one woman and one person of color. Twenty members are from Southern and Border states (I’m counting Texas and Oklahoma in this group). Most of the others are from Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Idaho, with a remaining smattering of members from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and New Jersey.
They of course would deny that there is any racial agenda, but it is the state legislative counterparts of these very same folks who have worked overtime to restrict voting rights, opt out of Medicaid participation under Obamacare, and wreck their states’ workers compensation programs. They are the same people who never stop trying to cut public education while subsidizing private and parochial school tuition. They are the same people who restrict college access for low-income students by making it unaffordable. Most of them are, of course, professing Christians—but then so were the original slaveholders whom Johnson so memorably called out.
I must also note that the White Right’s budget-cutting campaign is firmly rooted in the same ideology originally articulated by the undeniably brilliant John C. Calhoun in the 1830s when, in the Senate, he first articulated the legal view that eventually became known as “substantive due process.” As historian Edward Baptist points out in The Half Has Never Been Told, Calhoun’s doctrine of radically unfettered property ownership (and of course the “property” Calhoun had in mind at the time consisted of enslaved human beings) became the basis of the pro-business ideology that later caused the Supreme Court to strike down all efforts to regulate industry, protect workers’ rights, or break up monopolies. “Substantive due process,” Baptist writes, “shaped and continues to shape the political economy of the United States in enduring ways.”
Indeed, it does. Leave it to a white Southerner, William Faulkner, to say it best: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
And while I’m on the topic of the “Freedom” agenda as an anti-black agenda, there’s new information available that utterly refutes the standard white conservative contention that welfare programs sap poor people’s morale and promote bad behavior.
Not that this will stop them from spouting their big racist lie. Or stop the corporate media from repeating it endlessly. Or, apparently, rouse religious leaders to name what is really going on beneath the froth of Washington reporting.
And by the way, the New York Times editorial board sees it this way, too.