I crawled groggily out of bed this morning and ambled out to the kitchen. My Beloved turned to me and said “I don’t know how many more State of the Unions I can handle.” Last night we listened to President Obama’s hour long speech, then Republican Savior-in-Training Senator Marco Rubio’s, followed by Congressman Rand Paul’s, as the voice of the Tea Party, which is the other white meat of the Republican party. Afterward, we smoked.
The Designated Survivor One odd little factoid that was revealed during the pre-speech(es) buildup was that Energy Secretary Steven Chu was selected to skip this year’s address.
Because the president, vice president, lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices and members of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff are all sitting together in a confined space in the Capitol, one Cabinet member is chosen to skip the speech every year.
The concept of a designated survivor is an interesting one. Obama presented a blueprint of sorts about who the designated survivors of our great recession and current political obstructionism should be. He clearly designated all of the American people, not just the few, not just the people inside that chamber. He was talking to us right here in City Heights.
A City Heights Checklist… Here in City Heights we have a clear sense of what it takes to survive:
Jobs. Jobs that pay a living wage. Jobs that provide equal pay for equal work. Legal benefits that apply equally to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Jobs that include paid sick leave and family leave. More jobs. The restoration of lost jobs (and services) in the public sector. Investment in public infrastructure- transit, sidewalks, street lights, safe roads, public education, alternative energy and the jobs that go with those investments.
Quality affordable health care access for every man woman and child, and the quality jobs that level of access requires. Bring our troops home to a peacetime economy and jobs for every one of them. Keep our families united through legal residency opportunities and a path to citizenship for undocumented neighbors and kids. Jobs.
And ending gun violence on our streets, in our neighborhoods. And jobs.
President Obama was attuned to our City Heights checklist. That’s pretty much why we re-elected him this past November. What could possibly go wrong?
It is not a good sign when the president has to repeatedly exhort Congress to actually vote upon and pass legislation, which is precisely what he did during his speech. He wasn’t even asking Congress to vote in any particular way. He was simply asking them to do their job, which means debating and creating legislation to keep our democracy and economy intact.
This Congress and the Congress elected during Obama’s first term of office are legislative saboteurs– “Do Nothing Congress” is much too kind. When Mitch McConnell, Republican senate minority leader, announced within days of Obama’s election that his party’s number one job was to make Barack Obama a one term president, he wasn’t kidding.
Republicans served up a fetid stew of procedural obstructionism, venomous partisanship and wingnut crazy. My neighbors and I don’t know diddly and couldn’t care diddly about filibusters, secret holds, manufactured debt ceiling crises, sequesters and fiscal cliffs Beltway style. We are smart enough to know however that those are not the products of an honest day’s work and those responsible for them are not worthy of an honest day’s wages. Where are the jobs and why isn’t Congress doing theirs?
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, hoisted on his own petard?… When President Obama ended his speech, he affirmed that the American people accept that collectively we have certain obligations to each other. He affirmed that even if our elected representatives cannot solve every problem, they were elected to make a difference. Senator Marco Rubio was rarin’ to refute.
Rubio described the president’s speech as a pitch for big government. Rubio reminded us that big government means “tax, spend, control.” But his argument against government unwound early on when he said “This opportunity — to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life — it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington.”
There is an irony here about his use of the word opportunity. Marco Rubio’s family emigrated here from Cuba. He understands the opportunities provided by legal residency and a pathway to citizenship. He also knows that the Cuban community has benefited from a very special piece of legislation– i.e. from Washington– that granted legal status to Cubans who fled Communist Cuba. Special legal status benefits are still extended to Cubans who manage to make it to dry land. That is an “opportunity” not granted to Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, or any other nationality to my knowledge. This opportunity-or lack, derives exclusively from the government.
Rubio also alluded to his student loans and his parent’s Medicare and he presented them as necessary things. Now that’s odd; those are government programs. But while he assures viewers that his party would not mess with those who are currently receiving Medicare, he was not very forthcoming about his party’s plans (see Paul Ryan, zombie eyed granny starver) for subsequent generations.
Rubio does want to grow the economy through a combination of mystical opportunity, a balanced federal budget amendment, and doing something about Obamacare (baaaad!). He also mentioned that he has concerns over evidence of a moral breakdown in the country.
Yes, Senator Rubio, I am concerned about the moral breakdown too. Earlier in the day, Rubio was one of twenty- two male Republican Senators who voted against the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization.
Senator Rubio gave his response in Spanish too, so I’ll give mine. Sr Rubio: Mucho ruido, poco nueces.
Rand, Rand, Rand…. Yes, I watched Paul fils serve up a big heap o Reagan in his Tea Party response. “Government is the problem!” When Rand Paul repeated those words, they lacked the freshness of Saint Ronnie’s delivery, which I am old enough to remember well. And I also remember that the big government hating Reagan turned us into a debtor nation and that born again Reaganites like Rand Paul don’t want to remember that he raised taxes numerous times. But I digress.
“Capitalism!” “Free Markets!” “Growth, jobs, prosperity!” Paul delivered up bumper sticker quality mainstream Republican thought. But the Tea Party darling asserted his extreme right wing cred when he issued the warning that if Congress is unwilling to clean up its act, they will “sweep the place clean.” Sinners be warned- you are in the hands of an angry Aqua Buddha and the purging will begin.
Our evening civics lesson was over. It wasn’t too late to put on some Brazilian carnival music and dance during the last hours of Mardi Gras. The word carnival is rooted in the Latin words for “goodbye to the flesh.” It refers to the Catholic prohibition of eating meat during Lent. The Republican/Tea Party response to the State of the Union address last night referred to spending cuts and deficit reductions. Neither Rubio nor Rand used the terms “shared sacrifice” or “skin in the game.” They didn’t have to– the whiff of Lent was unmistakably in the air. Call it austerity.
And here in City Heights we understand what it means to say “goodbye to the flesh,” to be faced with the end of good times, and to turn to prayer as the perhaps the last resort– for jobs.