08 01 2014
  4:51 am  
     •     

Considering what is coming out of Washington these days, you can't help but look forward to the new year, since the last one couldn't end soon enough. Last year started with the president announcing that privatizing Social Security and cutting future benefits was his No. 1 priority. Luckily, once Americans cut through the cant, they overwhelmingly rejected his plan. The year ended with the Senate voting to cut $40 billion from programs for working and poor people — including the largest cut in college student loan program in the history of the country. This was such an administration priority that Vice President Dick Cheney flew back from Pakistan to cast the tie-breaking vote. Republicans in Congress call this a matter of "fiscal responsibility, but that is simply a lie. They will return this month intent on passing over $100 billion in tax cuts benefiting almost completely only the already wealthy. The deficit will get larger. The cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, home heating assistance and student loans won't cover all the tax cuts for the wealthy. And the big story at the year's end was — and is — the president's claim that he has the power to authorize spying and surveillance of Americans without law or warrant. This president now claims the power to spy on you, to arrest you without charges, to lock you up without a lawyer, to detain you without judicial review. These claims shame the Founders who drew up a Constitution designed to create a president under law, not a king above it. Last year we learned the true costs of corruption. House Republican leader Tom DeLay, now under indictment for money laundering, lived the high life of golf at posh resorts, junkets on corporate jets to exotic foreign islands, while raising money for Republicans, ensuring a lockstep loyalty to him. We're the ones who got the bill. He raised millions from the drug companies and HMOs, and they got billions in subsidies in the drug bill that actually prohibited Medicare from negotiating a better price on drugs. Who pays? We do — with drug plans so confusing that they will cause more high blood pressure than they treat, while forcing us to pay the highest price for prescription drugs of any people in the world. The oil companies got billions in subsidies, even while enjoying record profits; we got higher gas prices and greater reliance on foreign oil. Last year we learned the true costs of callous cronyism, as the president named as head of the federal emergency agency a campaign aide who had previously failed as a horse show organizer. And when Hurricane Katrina struck in New Orleans, thousands paid the price in suffering, some with their lives. And since then the administration has failed abjectly in the project of helping the survivors get back on their feet, much less back in their homes. Despite the dramatic TV pledge made by the president in the wake of the disaster, New Orleans is now bankrupt and depopulated. Last year we witnessed how a lethal mix of callous CEOs and feckless politicians could bring down America's manufacturing sector. General Motors verges on bankruptcy. Detroit is closing factories and laying off workers. The good jobs — with unions, decent wages, health care and pensions — are disappearing. Wal-Mart jobs — non-union, no security, poorly paid, with unaffordable health plans and no pensions — are replacing them. Last year the costs of imperial arrogance continued to rise. Now over 2100 American lives have been lost — and thousands more maimed and scarred — and over $250 billion spent on a war of choice in Iraq, launched on false pretenses and false promises. The bravery, skill, loyalty and sacrifice of the men and women whose lives are on the line are a somber indictment of the leaders who led them so badly. Yes, there is promise too among this pain. And we know that morning comes after the long night. But we won't see either that promise or that morning come from Washington. The new hope will come from outside the Washington beltway, away from the corruption, the cronyism and the callousness that has become the signature of crowd that now governs us. The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

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