Wichita, Kans.—Given recent actions of Congress, Americans are bemoaning the gridlock that has gripped our political process. Media reports often focus on such gridlock, as reporters interview men and women who complain about the inability of our elected officials to pass laws. The most recent example of political gridlock is the failure of Pres. Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill, a bill that contained provisions for public works spending and a tax hike on the wealthy. The bill failed in the Senate and would have most likely died in the House if it had made it that far.
Gridlock is defined, according to The Washington Post, as “The inability of two opposing groups to accomplish any sort of remedy or compromise on a political issue because one side manages to prevent matters from moving forward.”
Tea Party-backed Republicans took the House of Representatives in the 2010 election and left only a narrow majority of Democrats in the Senate. Because Senate rules require a sixty-vote majority to end a filibuster, any bill introduced by Pres. Obama in the Senate is likely to die. The same bill will be unlikely to see the light of day in the House.
While it is true that little constructive is happening in Congress, at least not much destructive is going on there either. If the Tea Party Republicans had their way, we would likely see an end to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, women’s abortion rights, the National Endowment for the Arts, Public Broadcasting, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the national park system, unions, and welfare programs, among other important government programs. So far, though, moderate Republicans and Democrats have forestalled any action on bills that would end these programs.
All anyone has to do is take a look at what has happened in Kansas since Sam Brownback won the gubernatorial election and right-wing Republicans took over the legislature to see the benefits of political gridlock. The extremist legislators set to work immediately cutting programs for the disabled and the mentally ill, as well as for early childhood programs. Social services have become marked by faith-based initiatives, with the newly appointed Secretary of the Social and Rehabilitation Services, Ron Seidleki, applying for a grant to fund programs that would motivate couples to marry. The divorced Seidleki thinks it’s a good idea for people to get married and stay married. While his marriage initiative met with no resistance in the Kansas legislature, he was not awarded the grant. In the meantime, he has closed SRS offices around the state, a cost-cutting measure, he claims.
This occurred right after Gov. Brownback returned a $31. 5 million grant to the federal government that would have paid for the Commissioner of Insurance, Sandy Praeger, to set up a health care exchange for Kansans.
Gov. Brownback pushed for elimination of funding for the Kansas Arts Commission, and even though the legislature passed a budget containing funding for the Commission, Brownback vetoed the funding. The veto stood against an override attempt.
The Kansas legislature also passed and Gov. Brownback signed into law several onerous anti-choice bills. Right now, the laws governing clinics at which abortions are performed have been suspended pending the outcome of court cases filed by or on behalf of clinic owners and pro-choice groups. Kansas taxpayers are now footing the bill for the state to defend itself, despite the fact that many taxpayers think the current laws governing clinics are adequate and that few problems have arisen at those clinics.
Another issue now being debated in the Kansas legislature is the issue of the pension fund for state employees, a fund that the state legislature has failed to pay into for many years, despite its legal responsibility to do so. Brownback and the right-wing Republicans are pushing to turn the fund into a 401k type retirement account, which would leave the current fund underfunded and put future state employees at the mercy of the stock market.
Right-wing Kansas Republicans are now doing their best to get moderate Republicans out of office so that the extremist wing of the party will have no brakes on their takeover of the state legislature. If such a takeover happens in Congress, Americans can say good-bye to any pretense that our lawmakers are interested in seeing to the public welfare. The wealthy will be even more in control and the rest of us will be gasping for air.
So I say gridlock is good, at least right now with the Tea Party mentality that seems to have infected so many of our politicians. I have no doubt that one of these days people will wake up, smell the coffee, and get a clue about how much they’ve been undone by right-wing extremists. In the meantime, here’s hoping the gridlock holds.