Imagine this scenario: A loved one is taken to the hospital. You must deal with some paperwork and stand in line at a clerk’s desk. You are in distress. While you wait your turn, you notice the clerk has decorated his space with a calendar … poking fun at a president you admire. You think: Great. And this, too?
That incident really happened to me, when we lived in progressive, Bush-hating Vermont. My husband was in the hospital for surgery, and I had to go take care of some financial matters.
The clerk who helped me had a Bush-hating calendar mocking the president displayed on his space, pointed out toward customers for all of us … to enjoy … I suppose. Except, of course, I didn’t enjoy it at all. It had the opposite effect on me. At a moment of great stress, I was confronted with someone who mocked ideas I held dear. And I wasn’t in the position to debate him, as my thoughts were focused elsewhere.
Yesterday, my thoughts and prayers went to the victims of the horrible Navy Yard shooting in DC. Then I heard of the president’s remarks after the tragedy. He did offer some words of shock and consolation, which was appropriate. Then, he went on with a prepared speech about his policies, with a harsh characterization of Republican opposition to some of those policies:
The problem is at the moment, Republicans in Congress don’t seem to be focused on how to grow the economy and build the middle class. I say “at the moment” because I’m still hoping that a light bulb goes off here. (Laughter.)
So far, their budget ideas revolve primarily around even deeper cuts to education, even deeper cuts that would gut America’s scientific research and development, even deeper cuts to America’s infrastructure investment — our roads, our bridges, our schools, our energy grid. These aren’t the policies that would grow the economy faster. They’re not the policies that would help grow the middle class. In fact, they’d do the opposite.
Up until now, Republicans have argued that these cuts are necessary in the name of fiscal responsibility. But our deficits are now falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II. I want to repeat that. Our deficits are going down faster than any time since before I was born. (Applause.) By the end of this year, we will have cut our deficits by more than half since I took office.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t still have some long-term fiscal challenges — primarily because the population is getting older and they’re using more health care services. And so we’ve still got some changes that we’ve got to make and there’s not a government agency or program out there that still can’t be streamlined, become more customer-friendly, more efficient. So I do believe we should cut out programs that we don’t need. We need to fix ones that aren’t working the way they’re supposed to or have outlived their initial mission. We’ve got to make government faster and more efficient.
But that’s not what is being proposed by the Republican budgets. Instead of making necessary changes with a scalpel, so far at least, Republicans have chosen to leave in place the so-called sequester cuts that have cost jobs, harmed growth, are hurting our military readiness. And top independent economists say this has been a big drag on our recovery this year. Our economy is not growing as fast as it should and we’re not creating as many jobs as we should, because the sequester is in place. That’s not my opinion. That’s the opinion of independent economists.
The sequester makes it harder to do what’s required to boost wages for American workers, because the economy is still slack. So if Republicans want the economy to grow faster, create more jobs faster, they should want to get rid of it. It’s irresponsible to keep it in place.
If you skimmed it, let me summarize: Republicans are stupid misers. They aren’t laser-focused on the economy the way he is, and their policies don’t solve problems but do cut services.
I hope, if there were Republican sympathizers among the victims or their families, that they did not hear the president’s speech. Imagine their reaction if they had. Imagine how they’ll feel once they do hear of it. While they anguished, the president was criticizing their beliefs.
Apparently, not one person in the president’s inner circle considered canceling the speech. According to a Politico story:
White House press secretary Jay Carney later said that the president’s aides never considered canceling the speech because the economy remains an “important” issue. It was, Carney said, “entirely appropriate today for the president.”
No, Mr. Carney, it was not “entirely appropriate” for the president to rail against Republicans on a day when people were dying, injured and waiting for word on loved ones under fire. No one knows what the political sympathies of those in distress were, but if only one was a Republican, don’t you think you could have a little compassion and lay down your rhetorical arms while they faced very real ones? Was that really too much to ask?
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.