Exit polling after the 2010 midterm elections revealed a very consistent story: Voters felt that Democrats had not done enough to repair the devastation caused by the financial meltdown in the closing days of George W. Bush's presidency, and their number one concern - by far - was job creation and the economic health of the country. The ballot box confirmed that sentiment, returning the House of Representatives to Republican control, diminishing the Democratic majority in the Senate, and leading President Obama to admit his party had endured a "shellacking," for which he took responsibility.
Instead of taking their direction from this clear tide of voter frustration, however, the GOP has concentrated on - literally - pretty much anything but job creation and the economy, and so far, the 112th Congress has been the same old pandering, hypocrisy and legislated morality that has been the hallmark of modern movement conservatism for the past three decades. Republican priorities since reclaiming the House have not been aimed at putting people back to work, but at rewarding their hardcore base and wallowing in social wedge issues.
Here is what Speaker of the House John Boehner and his team have been working on with their mandate to kick-start the economy and foster job creation:
- Reading the Constitution aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives (An edited version of the Consitution, no less, at a cost of over $1 million by one estimate)
- Passing a symbolic repeal of President Obama's health care reform plan
- Backing telecommunications industry opposition to Net Neutrality
- Conducting a congressional hearing into "Islamic radicalization" (And chairing that hearing with Representative Peter King, an admitted supporter of the Irsih Republican Army (IRA), which has been designated a terrorist organization by both the United States and Britain.)
- De-funding the president's teleprompter (Seriously)
- Continuing to descriminate against gay couples by supporting the Defense of Marriage Act
- Providing birth control for wild horses
- Stripping federal funding from Planned Parenthood
- Redefining rape in order to make it harder for women to get abortions
- Empowering IRS agents to investigate abortions during tax audits
- Cutting Head Start aid to low-income families and children, but continuing billions of dollars in federal subsidies to oil companies
- Eliminating funding for National Public Radio (NPR) in an emergency - that's right, emergency - session of Congress
- Denying the reality of climate change
- Turning back the transition from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs
- Pushing for funding to manufacture a jet engine the military did not need or want
- Assembling a plan to cut federal spending that analysts say will not only reduce economic growth, but destroy 700,000 jobs in the process
- Refusing to consider any spending proposal that doesn't prioritize full military funding over all other budget considerations
A recent Ipsos/Reuters poll found that 51% of Americans would prefer to cut spending for defense before taking the ax to either Medicare/Medicaid or Social Security, compared to 28% who would exclusively target Medicare/Medicaid and just 18% who would focus on Social Security. Likewise, a new ABC News/Washington Post survey determined that 64% of Americans prefer a combination of tax increases and expenditure reductions to reduce the deficit to spending cuts alone.
At this rate, it's no wonder the approval rating for Congress took only two months to plunge back below 20%, where it was when the Republicans took back the House of Representatives. While there was a certain inevitability that people like John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Michele Bachmann would work dilligently to display the trademark incompetence they've exhibited for some time now, any pleasure that might be derived from watching their foolishness at full boil is vastly outweighed by the stark human costs of their legislative masturbation and ridiculous posturing.
There are twenty months between now and the 2012 elections. It looks like they're going to be very long ones.
Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York provides some much-needed perspective on the priority attached to defunding NPR:
UPDATE: The "New Rules" segment from last night's Real Time with Bill Maher lampooned the propensity of the GOP to focus on fantasy problems rather than real issues (language not safe for work):