Our State of Disunion Imperils Safety and Life

President Obama’s State of the Union laid out the awful state of disunion in our country. “America’s destiny is imperiled by a political system festering in malice, gridlock and in the grip of the rich and the powerful,” Obama said. In actuality, not since the Civil War era has our disunion been so strong.  That disunion was only slowly dissolved after a grisly war, leaving desolation of life, limb, and land.

Today, even the hardship of a Great Recession failed to dissipate the deliberate division fostered by the forces of extreme conservatism, promoting polarization initialized with the Reagan presidential campaign in 1980. Since the time of the Reagan administration, manipulation and control by the rich has transferred wealth and livelihood from average Americans to the rich, and continues to do so. With this decade, it is bitterly ironic that wages have been rising in Communist China, helping to produce a massive middle class there, while America’s wages are flat and the middle class declines.

It is a polarized state that too few of us, including our mainstream media, lay at the feet of the responsible party. The media especially does a disservice to democracy by giving a free pass to the principle perpetrators, the Republican Party and conservatives, an allied duality that legislate lower taxes and dispense favors principally for the rich. Such a media pass helps voters to generalize their anger, allowing demagogues to pick targets for their anger and fashion radical groups like the Tea Party. Meanwhile false saviors like Donald Trump can seduce such followers.

Even Barack Obama, frantically trying to put together an economy in shambles by the time he took office in January of 2009, helped excuse the colossal fraud perpetrated by Wall Street bankers, many real estate brokers, and credit rating companies like S & P, Moody’s, and Fitch Group, the latter giving AAA ratings to worthless securities. With no culpability identified, Obama helped leave the door open for the GOP to shift the blame to basically innocent parties, groups like unions, borrowers, and teachers.

As America’s distrust of the media grew over the last several decades, the news media has increasingly muddied the waters of truth until Americans are more and more misinformed and misdirected. Republican legislators gridlock Congress. Their candidates lie about the opposition and provide inane, even childish, solutions. The corporate media’s reaction is prevarication, and, through omission or implication, diffuses the blame. Many stricken Americans, as economic oppression tightens, follow the bait of GOP propagandists, whose media outlets continue dispensing misinformation.

For example, the media has mostly equivocated about the source of gridlock in Congress, assessing blame to both parties, resulting in approval ratings for Congress being at 9 percent, no distinction between Democrats and Republicans.  During the 2014 election, animosity toward Obama and Congress precipitated a blind vote for change in non-gerrymandered districts while cowardly Democrats disavowed the accomplishments of Obama. Seventy percent of voters were estranged (not voting), leaving the most angry and impassioned to vote for Republicans, who most successfully demagogued voters.

Working in tandem with Republicans is Fox New, but the mainstream media tends to relay Fox’s GOP-supporting misinformation, something manufactured daily like sausage. One of the basic tenets of Republican scripture – other than handing out tax breaks to the rich — is that big government gives handouts to lazy people who will not work. Serving as an annex for right wing research and messages, Fox pushed that message with a misleading 2013 special called “The Great Food Stamp Binge.”

Two years later the Republican-controlled House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing to discuss the food stamp Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps the poor. The Fox special was mentioned several times as a true source of information, supposedly providing evidence of abuses within the SNAP program. Of course, cuts to the SNAP program followed. And such prejudices repeated daily over Fox News become embedded in mainstream reporting, not to speak of the drones following Fox News daily.

Most likely Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” in the 2012 election, who “believe that they are victims” and mooch off the federal government, came from sources like Fox with constant patter about “makers vs. takers.”

And at the second presidential debate Romney was cock-sure his information about Benghazi was correct when he openly challenged President Obama. Romney was echoing bogus Fox News claims, saying that Obama had refused to immediately call the deadly raid an act of “terror.” The conservative media echo chamber convinced conservative pundits like Karl Rove that Romney won the election.

A mainstream Sixty Minutes report with Laura Logan even got into the spurious Benghazi act. A once hallowed program, CBS’s Sixty Minutes gave false information about Benghazi, not vetting Logan’s source, Dylan Davies (or not caring). Davies lied about being there after the attack and gave false testimony, something the FBI already knew and had previously reported. Even then, CBS did not admit fault and was slow to suspend Logan and her producer.

Even the news media gets into the game of division by seeking to build ratings and thus entertain. Dispensing information is really an afterthought, though most debate media proclaims a purpose of helping to illuminate voters to assess the fitness of candidates for public office.

The CNBC-sponsored Republican debate a few months back is a good example.  CNBC moderators only helped to augment an anti-media bias already there by provoking candidates with questions akin to “Why do you beat your wife?”

John Harwood asked Donald Trump about his wall building, tax slashing, and immigrant deporting policies, insulting him by asking if it is a comic book version of a presidential campaign.  Then misinformation emanating from both moderators and candidates helped to establish a “truth-free” zone at the debate, more substantially common for GOP debates.

For example, Carly Fiorina exclaimed, “There is no Constitutional role for the Federal Government to be setting minimum wages.” Perhaps candidates and moderators hadn’t heard about the Commerce Clause. Carl Quintanilla prefaced a question to Trump saying the Oregon community college, the sight of mass murder, “was a gun-free zone.” Not true either, though Trump agreed.

Conservatism demonizes big government while they use it to promote the interests of the rich. It dismantles unions. It almost totally controls the media, making news a profit or entertainment enterprise. Meanwhile, conservatism’s goal is to privatize most government services: schools, prisons, roads, bridges, Medicare, and social security.

Let us not kid ourselves into thinking that Republicans have not done damage to our country – and other countries — due to their focus on divisive politics, while neglecting their legislative duties.

A day after the San Bernardino attacks, GOP senators deep-sixed an amendment that would have allowed the attorney general to ban guns for people on the federal terror watch list. For strictly partisan reasons, Republicans have blocked the appointment of Adam Szubin for over 250 days to be Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes at the Treasury.  Each day they delay helps terrorists to continue financing their operations.

Terrorists can send texts using an encryption the government officials can’t break, and it is unlikely obstructionist Republicans will put aside politics to discuss this problem. Encryption helped terrorists to plan the deadly Paris attack without being discovered by French officials. The Paris attacks also revealed a GOP penchant for rejecting Syrian refugees rather than restricting a more dangerous visa system.

The unwillingness of Republicans – at every turn — to regulate, in this case natural gas wells, enabled conditions leading to the Aliso Canyon storage facility natural gas leak in Southern California, spewing the equivalent greenhouse gases of 4.5 million cars per day. Periodic inspections are counter to conservative ideology as the Republican Congress has cut such funds rather than expand them.

Obama’s proposal for infrared technology for detecting leaks and more inspections in more than 400 natural-gas storage facilities throughout the US, many vulnerable to leaks and together storing 3.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, has little chance of being approved by an obstructionist Republican Congress. The Aliso Canyon leak, projected to last another 2 months or more, alone risks a methane explosion (prompting a no-fly zone) and has chased over 2,000 residents from their homes.

But perhaps the worst assaults against lives and welfare have had more of a global impact in lives and in our global standing. The George W. Bush administration, through a bogus war in Iraq, brought a toll of untold suffering, including the loss of hundreds of thousands of life and a continuing chaos in the Middle East not seen for generations. His feckless administration also left thousands suffering and dying from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, a desolation that could have been lessened by a FEMA response that came weeks too late.

More recently, the GOP partisan interference with the Iran nuclear agreement was indicative of a near-traitorous resistance to overtures of peace and a lessening of nuclear peril, a partisanship of Republicans that has consistently overridden concern for our nation’s long-term benefit.

During nearly forty years of unrelenting efforts to wrest control of our democracy, the oligarchic juggernaut of money and power, implemented mostly through the GOP, has done untold damage. We have only mentioned a few examples.

But Americans must realize that there are real consequences to Republican gridlock and obstructionism. GOP unwillingness to abandon partisanship and seek to solve daily problems actually contributes to lost lives and a continuing failure to keep Americans safe, but also global citizens.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.