B y J i m N i n t z e l
DESPITE A STRING of setbacks--plummeting approval ratings, disturbing ethics charges and the occasional crashing marriage--the balance-the-budget-and-restore-the-family Republican revolution continues to rumble through Washington.
Here, for the record, are some recent votes cast by Arizona's congressional delegation, provided by Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan gang which can give you all sorts of info about your elected officials if you just call (800) 622-SMART.
As you can see from the chart, Arizona's House delegation thinks along party lines--all the Republicans voted one way, and the lone Democrat, Ed Pastor, voted the other. And, as you can also see, the GOP was always on the prevailing side, and Pastor was always among the losers.
The GOP's great crusade is aimed at balancing the federal budget within seven years while providing a tax cut skewed to provide the greatest benefit to wealthy Americans. While the notion of bringing the deficit under control is laudable--the United States simply cannot afford to continue to pile up staggering debt year after year--the GOP's plan shows where the real priorities are.
As the New Republic has often reported over the last year, Republicans are more than willing to give big financial breaks to the mega-profitable corporations that financed so many campaigns in 1994. Petroleum industry Lobbyists are writing bills that let polluters off the hook for environmental clean-ups; insurance lobbyists are helping draft health care reforms that ensure increasing profits; bankers pushed legislation landing them a big piece of student loan action; McDonald's can still get a half-million bucks to advertise Chicken McNuggets overseas. Make no mistake: Corporate welfare is alive and well on Capitol Hill.
These aren't targets for GOP cuts. Instead, while using financial projections which will undoubtably prove bogus by 2002, Republicans turn the ax toward welfare, health and science programs.
Arizona Republicans in the U.S. House, for example, voted to trim projected Medicare spending by $270 billion over the next seven years and flat-out slashed $2 billion from federal science agencies and programs. But the crowning piece of GOP legislation, which passed both the House and the Senate, was a monster bill cutting a total of $900 billion, including Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs. Not only did this balance the budget, it also delivered $245 billion in tax cuts, including another capital gains tax cut.
Too much, said President Bill Clinton, who vetoed the bill, setting off the latest round of budget talks.
Both Arizona senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, voted in favor of a plan overhauling welfare by giving the states more authority over social programs, placing a time limit on benefits and requiring recipients to work. The Arizona Legislature has been asking for this for a long time--now we'll see what those warm-hearted policy wonks will do with block grants of shrinking federal funds. Hey, maybe we can use the money for a tax break!
Both Kyl and McCain voted against funding $425 million for the Clinton Administration's national service program, which was just another of those wasteful liberal Democrat programs--it put people to work building public housing and teaching people to read, then helped pay for their college education.
The fiscal austerity of Senate Republicans, however, doesn't extend to the defense budget, which the GOP set at $265.3 billion, a full $7 billion more than the Clinton administration requested. Although McCain voted against the bill, Kyl voted aye, reminding us once again that when it's time to trim spending in Washington, it's not the defense contractors who are going to tighten their belts.
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