Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Here are the number of times that America's record-setting wildfires and crumbling infrastructure were mentioned in the recent Republican debates: 0

(The Civilian Conservation Corps fights a wildfire. New Deal policymakers hired millions of young men to plant trees, fight fires, remove dead trees & vegetation (wildfire fuel), and much more. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

California Governor Jerry Brown recently discussed global warming, wildfires, and his state's drought, and asked Republicans: "What the hell are you going to do about it?"

Well, judging by the first round of Republican presidential debates--the pre-school debate that aired first, and the kindergarten debate that aired second--the answer is: "Not much."

Instead of addressing America's record-setting wildfires and crumbling infrastructure, the Republican carnival barkers presidential candidates focused on fear and anger. For example, with respect to border and national defense issues:

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham: "If I have to monitor a mosque, I'll monitor a mosque."

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: "immigration without assimilation is an invasion." (Isn't that a line from Star Trek? The episode with the Borg?)

Wealthy Businessman Donald Trump: "...we need...to build a wall, we need to keep illegals out."

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio: "we need a fence...need an e-verify system and you need an entry-exit tracking system and all sorts of other things..." (What other sorts of things, Mr. Rubio? Maybe GPS collars for every person to wear??)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: "The first thing we need to do to make America stronger is to strengthen our military, and I put out a really specific plan: no less than 500,000 active duty soldiers in the Army. No less than 185,000 active duty marines in the Marine Corps. Bring us to a 350 ship Navy again, and modernize the Ohio class of submarines, and bring our Air Force back to 2,600 aircraft that are ready to go." (Hell yeah, let's do even more! Let's build 5,000 aircraft carriers!... and 50,000 jets!!... and FIVE MILLION tanks!!!... Go team! Oh...wait a minute, America already spends nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on national defense, and operates about "662 overseas bases in 38 foreign countries." But, apparently, that's not enough for Governor Christie and his fellow hawks. They want more. And they'll get it by blowing up the national debt, just like Reagan and Bush Jr. did.)

 (New Deal workers built strong and architecturally beautiful bridges all across the country, like the WPA-built bridge above. Today? Neh, not so much. We'd rather scold workers and insult the unemployed than pay them to build strong and beautiful things. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

The Republican Party Fox News moderators weren't any better, asking questions like, "Senator Cruz...Any word from God?" And moderator Martha MacCallum tried desperately to get one of the candidates to agree with her that poor Americans are lazy s.o.b.'s who don't want to work. She asked Lindsey Graham: "There is an increasing willingness in this country to accept assistance. How do you get Americans who are able to take the job instead of a handout?" Graham didn't take the bait in his response, so MacCallum next turned to Rick Santorum: "Do you believe that we need to change the culture in this country in terms of whether or not we should be encouraging people to get off of [public assistance] and take the job when it's available? Some are able and not doing that." Santorum took the bait a little, but not too much, which probably left MacCallum very frustrated, "Dammit! Won't someone agree with me that low-income Americans are lazy good-for-nothings??" (Of course, the Republicans on stage certainly did agree with her but, in the national spotlight, they were toning things down a bit.

In both Republican debates, not a word was mentioned about our nation's record-setting wildfires (see, e.g., here) or our crumbling infrastructure. Not a word about the quarter-of-a-million water main breaks that occur in America, every single year, not a word about the $11 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks, and not a word about the fact that "32% of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing U.S. motorists who are traveling on deficient pavement $67 billion a year."

(This is frequently how we do infrastructure today - patches... then patches on top of the patches. A new bridge deck? A new bridge?? What, are you kidding? We've got way too many tax breaks to give to the wealthy, and way too many military adventures to pay for. Don't be silly! Photo by Brent McKee.)

Do you know why the right-wing moderators and candidates didn't mention wildfires and infrastructure problems? Because, when your entire world revolves around fear, anger, and hatred of the "the other," as it does for Fox News, Republican politicians, and their right-wing sugar daddies, there's no time, money, or energy left for the protection of our environment or the improvement of our infrastructure. It's a shame that these people can't understand President Roosevelt's warning about fear, so long ago:

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

If a Republican becomes president, or if Republicans remain a majority in Congress, or if Republicans retain just enough numbers in Congress to block legislation, then, mark my words, our natural areas will continue to burn at a higher-than-average rate and our infrastructure will continue to crumble. There is no other possible outcome under modern Republican "leadership."

(Also see, "Top GOP Senator Blames His Party For Lack Of Highway Funding," Huffington Post, May 19, 2015)

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