In looking back over the events of 2013, it is difficult but challenging to place some of them in categories of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. There are many other topics and incidents which are worthy of note, but these sang out to me as I pondered the events of this past year.
The good: The deficit has been cut in half since 2009. The Republican screed on this issue seems to have died down to a whimper even as they conveniently forget the exponential growth of the deficit under George W. Bush. Unemployment is down, housing starts and prices are up, and the economy continues to grow.
The bad: Last year, Congress could not agree on a budget, so they settled for sequestration, which caused automatic spending cuts with no thought given to consequences — such as furloughs of 800,000 federal workers and costly domestic cuts affecting working Americans.
The ugly: In their zeal to end the Affordable Care Act, Republicans staged a government shutdown, costing American taxpayers $24 billion dollars. A Republican congressman later complained that there was no chance of success of shutting down the government, eliciting a furious Republican majority leader to shout, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
The good: Pope Francis has inspired Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his forgiving spirit and care for the poor, following the actual teachings of Jesus. His views on economic inequality are perhaps exemplified by his statement that “trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world ... have never been confirmed by the facts (and) express a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”
The bad: Some companies complain that their religious freedom is being infringed upon by including birth control in insurance policies for their employees. However, the Constitution actually provides that there should be no law imposing religious beliefs on others, which is exactly what these companies are trying to do to their employees through government action.
The ugly: Saudi women have staged protests to the Saudi government because they want to be able to drive automobiles. Need I say more?
The good: Congress passed the Ryan-Murray budget in a 64-36 Senate vote. Nine Republicans joined Democrats to pass the budget. Is this the beginning of Republicans and Democrats coming together to work on the issues facing this country? Hope springs eternal.
The bad: Republicans have used the filibuster to deny President Obama the ability to appoint nominees and to fulfill his duty to govern. A filibuster is a strategy by a minority party to use dilatory or obstructive tactics to prevent a vote on a measure. In appointing presidential nominees, of the 128 filibusters of presidential nominees in the history of the Senate, half have occurred under Obama. Thirty nominees to executive positions have been filibustered during his presidency compared to 20 in previous history. This example typifies the blatant political ruthlessness of this behavior.
Judge Robert Bacharach was nominated by President Obama to the appellate court after being suggested by Sen. Coburn, R-Okla. After the nomination was to be put to a vote, Coburn put a hold on the nomination. Republicans then filibustered. One year later Bacharach was confirmed by a 93-0 vote, without any question as to his qualifications.
The ugly: A recent poll shows that two-thirds of Americans believe that this Congress is the worst in history. Their legislative output has been dismal. Background checks for guns were foiled by the NRA and a spineless Congress. Food stamps were slashed while subsidies to millionaire farmers were extended. Climate change was ignored even though an overwhelming majority of scientists are warning that we should address the issue. The Jobs Act, which would have given tax breaks to companies bringing jobs back to the U.S. and closed corporate tax loopholes for those sending jobs overseas was filibustered. Instead they voted 44 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act
The good: Starting Jan. 1, insurance companies cannot deny coverage or charge more due to pre-existing conditions. They cannot drop you from coverage just because you get sick or have an accident. Nor can they place a yearly cap on medical benefits. More than 48 million uninsured Americans will have the opportunity to obtain health care, and some will be entitled to subsidies.
The bad: The ACA expands Medicaid to individuals making below the federal poverty level. However, some Republican governors are denying 5.3 million people the opportunity to visit a doctor by turning down the funds provided by the ACA.
The ugly: The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was dismal and inexcusable. Even though there were problems even in the Romney-Massachusetts rollout, they were nothing as wide-ranging as the problems with the ACA. These problems are being resolved, and currently there are over 1 million people who have signed up; this is progress. However, the rollout has proved to be useful fodder for Republicans to cast doubt on the ACA just because of computer glitches, which have nothing to do with the provisions of the act itself.
Cynthia Neely is a Lodi resident.