“You saw the House act,” Rep. Eric Cantor snapped to a reporter last Friday. Yeah, act like a petulant 4-year-old!
The majority leader of the GOP-controlled House has long been a whiney ideological brat who stamps his tiny feet in peevish anger whenever he can’t get his way on legislation. In this particular incident, Cantor tried to pretend that the House had approved more federal aid for thousands of Americans who’ve been devastated by natural disasters this summer. However, he had sabotaged his own “act” by slipping a poison pill into it.
You see, “federal aid” is a four-letter word to right-wing ideologues like Eric, so for weeks he had stalled the emergency funding that hard-hit families desperately need. Cantor and his fellow anti-government dogmatists in the House turned a straightforward humanitarian bill into their political football, insisting that any increase in funds must first be wholly paid for by cutting spending on other public needs. His ploy has become known as the “Cantor Doctrine” — budget purity first, people’s needs last.
Actually, his this-for-that demand could’ve easily been met if Cantor had agreed to cut things America definitely does not need, such as the $4-billion-a year subsidy doled out to Big Oil. But — whoa! — in Cantorworld, oil giants are gods that shower manna from heaven on Republican campaigns, so it’s blasphemy even to think of cutting that money.
Instead, Cantor went after Big Oil’s most dreaded nemesis: companies that are making fuel-efficient and clean energy vehicles. Thus, the Cantorites decreed that there’d be no more disaster relief until the federal loan program to foster development of this green industry was slashed by $1.5 billion.
This would have been a political hat trick for the GOP extremists — striking a blow for their anti-government absolutism, doing a favor for a major campaign funder and defunding an Obama-backed program that helps him with voters.
Luckily, Cantor’s nuttiness was so extreme that a bipartisan vote by 79 senators killed his political scheme — this time. You’d think that aid for storm victims would be beyond politics. But nothing is too far out for right-wing cultists like Cantor.
Well, you might think, at least the leaders of the tea party-infused Republican Congress are consistent in their opposition to big infusions of federal dollars into the economy, right?
Absolutely! Unless you count infusions of taxpayer funds into projects favored by corporations in their districts.
For example, a favorite target of howling Republican ridicule has been President Obama’s effort to stimulate our moribund economy by making government-backed loans to job-creating, green-energy projects. In particular, they’re presently assailing a 2009 loan guarantee of $535 million that the Obamacans awarded to the failed solar-panel maker Solyndra. This loan to a financially shaky company, they wail, is proof that green energy programs are a waste and are just about politics. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell recently sputtered in a rage that “the White House fast-tracked a half-billion dollar loan to a politically connected energy firm.”
Fair enough — the Solyndra deal does stink. However, Mitch’s tirade would’ve had a lot more moral punch if it were not for Zap Motors. In 2009, even as the Kentucky senator was loudly deriding Obama’s original stimulus program, he was quietly making not one, but two personal appeals to Obama’s energy secretary, urging that a quarter-billion-dollar loan guarantee be awarded to Zap for a clean energy plant it wanted to build in McConnell’s state.
Never mind that Zap Motors had its own shaky financial record, it was (as McConnell now says of Solyndra) “a politically-connected energy firm.” Connected directly to him, that is. The senator’s robust support of Zap came after the corporation hired a lobbyist with close ties to Mitch, having been a frequent financial backer of the senator’s campaigns.
The moral of this Republican morality tale is that they hate government spending, except when they love it. For them, political morality is relative — decry federal largesse loudly, but when it serves your own political needs, hug it quietly … and tightly.