More important to Republicans: family poverty or the fencing around the Capitol?

These people live in an entirely altered universe

Not a single Republican wanted to vote for what might be one of the most prominent bills in U.S. history, but they are quick to hold condescension for the border fencing around the U.S. Capitol — despite their constituents partaking in the insurrection on January 6th. As usual, McConnell attempted to play the habitual game this week:

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday there haven’t been threats since the riot. He said the fence and the continuing National Guard deployment have been overdone.

“I’m extremely uncomfortable with the fact that my constituents can’t come to the Capitol with all this razor wire around the complex. It reminds me of my last visit to Cabo,” McConnell said. “It looks terrible to have beacon of our democracy surrounded by razor wire and National Guard troops.” (Jansen, USA Today, 3/12).

Let me get this straight: it was McConnell’s constituents who stormed the Capitol on Jan 6th — even though he and the populists R’s refuse to fully acknowledge the enormousness of what happened that auspicious day. I also find it fitting that the focus from the R’s is on this issue, instead of the impressive bill signed into law last night — a bill that some hope will help curb poverty for millions of Americans. But poverty and R’s don’t go together these days, despite the fact millions of their supporters are living in poverty. This was another signal of why the bill had almost 75 percent favorability amongst all voters.

In a piece today by Paul Krugman, in the New York Times, I couldn’t help but notice something important about the bill’s ability to make progress on ending poverty. The bill also conveys how superfluous Republican influence is in our country at this time.

The relief bill President Biden just signed is breathtaking in its scope. Yet conservative opposition was remarkably limp. While not a single Republican voted for the legislation, the rhetorical onslaught from right-wing politicians and media was notably low energy, perhaps because the Biden plan is incredibly popular. Even as Democrats moved to disburse $1.9 trillion in government aid, their opponents mainly seemed to be talking about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

What makes this lack of energy especially striking is that the American Rescue Plan doesn’t just spend a lot of money. It also embodies some big changes in the philosophy of public policy, a turn away from the conservative ideology that has dominated U.S. politics for four decades.

In particular, there is a sense — a strictly limited sense, as I’ll explain, but real nonetheless — in which the legislation, in addition to reviving the notion of government as the solution, not the problem, also ends the “end of welfare as we know it.”

This is why I found it very distressing this morning to see headlines of McConnell and the cronies worried more about getting rid of fencing, rather than how to applaud the continued efforts to help millions of Americans. I suppose this continues a theme of inimical heartlessness for the R’s. Let’s not forget about Cruz’s trip to Cancun during the Texas disaster. All this might make you wonder: will they retain any supporters?

Krugman references the importance of the bill further down in the piece:

On the other hand, the new program will be far less intrusive than A.F.D.C., which constantly required that parents prove their need; there were even cases where aid was cut off because a caseworker discovered an able-bodied man in the house, claiming that he could and should be supporting the children. The new aid will be unconditional for families earning less than $75,000 a year.

So no, this isn’t a return to welfare as we knew it; nobody will be able to live on child support. But it will sharply reduce child poverty. And it also, as I said, represents a philosophical break with the past few decades, and in particular with the obsessive fear that poor people might take advantage of government aid by choosing not to work.

True, some on the right are still flogging that horse. The ever-shrinking Marco Rubio denounced plans for a child tax credit as “welfare assistance.” Wonks at the American Enterprise Institute warned that some unmarried mothers might somewhat reduce working hours, although their estimate looks pretty small — and since when is working a bit less to spend time with your kids an unadulterated evil?

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

This is something Republicans simply do not want to accept; millions of Americans can’t go back to work; as either, 1. Their job no longer exists, or 2. It’s not that easy to find another one, safely. Also, when did it become such a crime to try and raise a family without living in abject poverty or having to work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day? Americans understand they must place their stock into a party that cares about the advancement of their future, not a party that repeats the mantra of “freeloaders” or “welfare reliant.” The R’s are stuck in some alternate universe where everybody is wealthy; immigration is not allowed, and families are welcome to wait in food bank lines miles long.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., posted a video Monday on Twitter featuring her walking around the fencing, which she called “Fort Pelosi,” and urging its removal.

“It’s time to cut the crap and remember this is the people’s House,” Boebert said. “Madam Speaker, tear down this wall.”

Republicans picked up the theme of criticizing Democrats for supporting a fence around the Capitol while opposing construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said Boebert’s video exposed Democratic hypocrisy. (Jansen, USA Today, 3/9).

I think what I find peculiar about the R’s request to take down fencing is their continued denial as to why it’s even up in the first place. Insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6th, people died, hundreds were charged felonies, and they seem to regard the whole ordeal as “calamitous,” but not illegal? And again, these are the same politicians who could care less about the financial well-being of the country, but they want these same people to be able to walk around and tour the Capitol?

Perhaps, it’s official: R’s are obsessed with walls, which I guess they learned from Trump.

Works Cited:

1. Jansen, Bart. “Capitol fence remains contentious 2 months after riot. What we know about the barrier.” USA Today. March 12, 2021. Accessed March 12, 2021.

2. Jansen, Bart. “Republicans, Democrats united in distaste for Capitol fence, despite extremist threats.” March 9, 2021. USA Today. Accessed March 12, 2021.

3. Krugman, Paul. “Ending the End of Welfare as We Knew It.” The New York Times. March 12, 2021. Accessed March 12, 2021.

CA-based, perpetually hopeful for the progress of society… Follow me on Twitter @andrewnintzel22

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