(Also published at The Agonist)
The heat wave now battering much of the nation is centered on Oklahoma, where record heat and drought have crippled the state for the entire summer. With August on the way, there is no end in sight. The prolonged heat — Oklahoma City has been above 100°F for 30 days this summer — has probably killed over a dozen Oklahoma residents…. The oil-rich state is also the epicenter of global warming denial, led by its senior U.S. Senator, Jim Inhofe (R-OK). The oil-funded senator has a long history of finding humor in the misery caused by extreme weather disturbed by greenhouse pollution, including the record snowstorms of this winter. This deadly heat wave is no exception. In a tweet, Inhofe’s press office mocked the killer heat, arguing that Al Gore could cool it off…. The tweet links to the Wikipedia page on “The Gore Effect,” which is the climate-denier claim that weather and appearances by Al Gore are linked. The claim, of course, lacks any basis in reality, but an absence of facts and truth have never proved a burden for Inhofe.
It’s become fashionable on the Right these days to pontificate about how America’s broke. We just don’t have the money, so the talking point goes, to do the things that America has historically done…and so we must make some sacrifices and some hard choices. This means that some folks will have to do without and some will have to be satisfied with less. America just doesn’t have the money.
This line of thinking is complete and total unadulterated B.S., of course, but it fits the GOP narrative of trying to create a smaller, less obtrusive government, one that acts less like a nanny state and more like the Founders intended…at least insofar as Republicans define it. The problem is that while Republicans are all about smaller government, that only holds true as long as we’re talking about programs favored by the Left. Those programs are, by the standard Republican definition, prima facie examples of wasteful, bloated government in action. When it comes to the culture war issues that Republicans and Social Conservatives are fired up about, “smaller government” becomes a secondary consideration, if it’s even part of the thought process at all. The battle to gradually erase a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a perfect example. Republicans have no problems with using the power of government to block a women’s access to abortion services by any means necessary, even though Roe v. Wade is, at least until the anti-choice crowd wins the day in the Supreme Court, remains settled law.
Stare decisis? Not as long as the GOP and their Social Conservative allies continue to game the system to their advantage.
For now, officials are worried about an escalated number of preventable deaths due to the cutbacks. States in the South and Midwest use a portion of the federal assistance to provide AC during the summer “especially for elderly people and those with medical conditions that could be fatal in high heat.”
Requests for heating and cooling assistance have skyrocketed since the recession began, with 8.9 million households receiving federal help this year compared to 5.8 million in 2008-09. Yet Michigan saw its federal funding plummet from $238 million to $38 million, and Texas’ funding fell by $28.6 million. President Obama wants to cut the program back to $2.5 billion for the entire country, which many experts families say will have a devastating effect.
Equally disturbing is the trend toward abdicating our historical responsibility for the “lesser” among us- the old, sick, disabled, and/or those otherwise unable to do for themselves what most of us do. If Republicans have their way, government will operate under the philosophy of survival of the fittest- I got mine, you can damned well get your own. We saw the results of this philosophy during this past summer’s searing heat, when widespread cuts in funds to assist those in need with utility bills left many vulnerable Americans without air conditioning. Americans died because of the New Austerity. Though we seem to have plenty of money to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest among us and to conduct two seemingly never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we lack the resources and the wherewithal to assist Americans in desperate need.
Caring for one another is NOT Socialism. Accepting our responsibility to care for one another is a basic tenet of the Social Contract. None of us, no matter how successful, got to where we are completely on our own. Somewhere along the way we benefited- from taxpayer-financed education, infrastructure, health care, and/or tax breaks. To claim otherwise, that success is completely attributable to an individual is as absurd as it is dishonest This recognition of reality is neither evil nor socialistic; it’s understanding and accepting that we’re all in this together, and that if we don’t pull together collectively, there’s a very good chance we’ll fall apart individually.
When did we become primarily and only concerned with culture war issues and subsidizing the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the middle class? Evidently, when the super-rich and the GOP discovered their shared interests- the lust for power.
WE DESERVE BETTER.