Monday, June 12, 2006

The fruits of the Republican agenda

Recommended at Booman Tribune

Gay singer beaten in NYC, 4 arrested for hate crime.

Well, maybe not a DIRECT result on the obscene amount of time spent demonizing gays, same sex marriages and all of the other biggest threats to marriage and our civil rights. But it isn't too far of a leap to make, especially since we know how much some would love to criminalize sodomy or other things that they have no business regulating.

But it is an example of the fruits of the Republican agenda. We've already heard many "conservatives" say how it isn't conservatism, it is just those who implemented it incorrectly. But the undeniable fact is that the Republican agenda (and yes, the conservative agenda by extension) has not only failed this country's best interests, but has led to a callous sense of lawlessness and unrational hatred that is nothing short of appalling.

We all discuss the "low hanging fruit" of the Republican agenda (including the condoning and participation in illegal acts, corruption, infringement of constitutional rights and other related things), so I don't need to revisit that now. But after meeting and talking to Michael Schiavo on Saturday, it hit home even more how far the general discourse and many elements of our society has fallen recently.

Here at home. Resulting from, in large part, the agenda that has been pushed by the Republicans and their supporters. And not just on a large scale broad basis. On an everyday basis. To everyday people. All the time.

And it will only get worse over the next few months. Already we are seeing ultra wingnut groups screaming about their latest ideas for turning back civilization with the gay marriage amendment, the newest biggest threat to America, flag burning or whatever other things I haven't realized are really threatening me while our "leaders" send our own to kill and die overseas for lies.

There has been a big push over the last couple of weeks to stack the federal benches before November. But not stack them with "activistjudgesTM", of course, just judges that would strictly interpret the Constitution. Like these people:

And these groups don't want moderates, or minimalists, or mere callers of "balls and strikes." If, as they say, they represent the "values voters," they want only fire-breathing Roy Moore types who will reflexively strike down gay-rights legislation, ban abortion outright, and reinstate public prayer. And those folks may not be the Bush administration's dream judges on the issues it cares about most: the war on terror and the interests of big business.

Because, according to the Republican agenda, all of these things are really already outlawed in the supreme word of America, the Bible the Constitution.

Which brings me back to the headline at the beginning of this diary. The desire for judges to strike down gay rights, among other personal-privacy issues is a direct result of the Republican agenda. Pretty (un)ironic that all of this is being done during Gay Pride Month as well.

But let's look at the "other" side of the Republican agenda when it comes to the federal judges:

They are more interested in confirming Judge Terrence Boyle to the Fourth Circuit--despite pesky recent allegations that Boyle saw fit to buy stock in General Electric while presiding over a case in which GE was a party. (GE won.)

How about that whole "ownership society" thing that Dear Leader was talking about back in 2004? Um, it doesn't really look like people are doing too well with it:

Nationally, foreclosures are up 38 percent, higher than in any quarter of last year, property tracker RealtyTrac said.

The numbers are even grimmer in the Midwest. Michigan and Ohio, battered by automotive-related job losses, together recorded 45,000 mortgages entering some stage of foreclosure in the first quarter. Those are increases of 91 percent and 39 percent, respectively, compared with last year's fourth quarter.


"The increases we've been seeing in foreclosures don't even reflect the worst-case scenario that could happen when the $2.7 trillion in adjustable rate mortgages are reset over the next 18 months," said Rick Sharga, vice president of marketing at RealtyTrac.

Lest we forget last month's "group that is ruining our country to the point that they need to be demonized" - immigrants. Of course, a smart approach to illegal immigration would include severe penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants. And of course, it would also recognize that immigrants who are here illegally are generally extremely hard workers and less likely to commit crimes since being caught would result in being deported (or rendered...). Yet, we have Bush himself proudly display his xenophobia by declaring:

Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal. Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals, it strains state and local budgets, and brings crime to our communities.

Right on cue, we find out that, yes, there has been an increase in hate crimes as a result of this. A 33% increase since 2000, according to Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based non-profit organization that tracks racist, anti-immigrant and other extremist groups.

What about education? Well.....there are significant increases in college grads owing $100,000 or more in student loans. Why is that, you may ask? Well, the Republican agenda, of course:

Shrinking federal aid. College costs have risen by more than 50% since 1990, but federal aid hasn't kept up. Congress hasn't increased the Pell Grant, the most common form of direct aid for low-income students, since 2003. (The maximum Pell Grant is $4,050 a year.)

Both low- and middle-income families have been squeezed, Shireman says. "Grant aid has not kept pace with the increase in tuition and fees and other costs."

An increase in private loans. Federal Stafford loans let students borrow using federally backed loans with favorable interest rates and repayment terms. Unsubsidized Stafford loans are available to all students, even if they don't qualify for financial aid.

But there are limits to how much undergraduates can borrow. This year, the total in Stafford loans that a freshman can borrow is $2,625; for sophomores, the cutoff is $3,500. There are also limits on the amount of Stafford loans that graduate students can borrow. In 2004-05, private-loan borrowing rose by about 30%, according to the Project on Student Debt.

As a result, many students who attend private or out-of-state schools or pursue a graduate degree often must supplement their Stafford loans with more costly private loans. These loans lack some of the advantages of federally backed loans -- such as provisions that let borrowers defer payments -- and are costlier, Shireman says.

Starting July 1, new Stafford loans will carry a fixed rate of 6.8%, up from the current rate of 5.3% for loans in repayment. That's a big jump, but borrowers who consolidate their federal loans before July 1 can lock in the lower rate for the life of the loan.

That's not an option for most private-loan borrowers. Interest on those loans is variable and linked to market rates. The rates on Weinberg's private loans range from 7.5% to 8.2%. "I'm really scared of even another half-a-percent increase," she says.

Demonization of privacy and personal freedoms. Hate crimes. Foreclosures on homes at high rates. Consumer debt at all time highs. The freezing of the minimum wage, the tightening of unemployment insurance and workmen's compensation programs, the shifting of the tax burden from the rich to the rest. Callous, disgusting comments being made (and defended) towards the families of those who lost loved ones on 9/11.

Pretty much complete chaos. Welcome to Lord of the Flies, brought to you by the Republican agenda.


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