Posted by: JanF | January 7, 2015

And so it begins …

The 114th Congress was sworn in yesterday with much fanfare. Finally, according to the beltway pundits, we have Republican lawmakers ready to do the serious business of the people. Speaker John Boehner, entering his 5th year at the helm of the ship of fools known as the Republican House, is now joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the very very serious doer-of-the-people’s-business who once declared that the top priority of the Republican Senate was to make Barack Obama a one term president.

The 112th and 113th Congresses were marked by what they were against rather than what they were for. Repealing the Affordable Care Act consumed much of the time, forced birth initiatives consumed some and of course the investigations into the Fox scandals (IRS targeting of conservatives, Benghaziiii, the president’s birth certificate) consumed more. But they pretty much knew that the show bills they passed were big sloppy kisses to their base rather than legislation that would be taken up by the Senate for consideration. Now, every bill they pass will be part of the resume of Republican Governance that they are building to, according to them, “show the American people how grand this ol’ party is so that they will elect a Republican president”. Remember the Bush years of glorious health and prosperity for the American people? Funny, neither do I. Maybe we can ask a beltway pundit to help us remember.

And really, do we need a Republican Congress to serve as an example of the outcome of Republican Governance? We have evidence in state after state after state where anti-women, anti-black, anti-environment, anti-poors laws have made ordinary people’s lives miserable.

The House of Reprehensibles did not take long to show us what they will consume their time with over the next two years.

Yesterday, the House issued a rule change that will lower benefits for disabled Americans receiving help from the Social Security fund:

The largely overlooked change puts a new restriction on the routine transfer of tax revenues between the traditional Social Security retirement trust fund and the Social Security disability program. The transfers, known as reallocation, had historically been routine; the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said Tuesday that they had been made 11 times. The CBPP added that the disability insurance program “isn’t broken,” but the program has been strained by demographic trends that the reallocations are intended to address.

The Republicans will be unwilling to raise taxes to shore up the OASDI fund leading many to predict a benefit cut:

In a memo circulated to their allies Tuesday, Democratic staffers said that that would mean “either new revenues or benefit cuts for current or future beneficiaries.” New revenues are highly unlikely to be approved by the deeply tax-averse Republican-led Congress, leaving benefit cuts as the obvious alternative.

The Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees estimated last year that the disability insurance program would run short of money to pay all benefits some time in late 2016. Without a new reallocation, disability insurance beneficiaries could face up to 20 percent cuts in their Social Security payments in late 2016

The average OASDI payment is $1,000 so a 20% cut would leave a disabled person with $800 a month to live on. Factor in Republican cuts to food stamps and cuts in housing allowances and you have created a humanitarian crisis.

Oh, by the way, who will suffer the most? The very people who created the 114th Congress out of their fear and apathy. From SSA, the people from these states which lost a Democratic Senator (or missed a good chance at an open seat or to depose an unpopular incumbent):

Alaska 12,689 people collecting disability
Arkansas 112,741
Colorado 72,154
Georgia 253,498
Iowa 50,849
Kansas 49,071
Kentucky 190,721
Louisiana 181,598
North Carolina 234,362
West Virginia 79,136

A total of 8,363,477 people which includes 666,258 from Texas, the “we don’t need no stinkin’ federal government” state … and the home of Republican leaders like Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert.

This is what happens when 36% of the American people choose our government. When legislators know that they will not be held accountable by the voters for anything they do — Republicans were rewarded for shutting down the government in 2013 with bigger majorities in the House and control of the Senate — they will simply do what their ideological masters and donors want.

Elections matter. And we will be pulling the shrapnel from the aftermath of the low-turnout 2014 election out of our buttocks long after January 3, 2017, the last day of the 114th Congress.



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