The Congress is ending the year much as it began — playing politics with our nation’s future and putting American families at risk to score partisan points.
In the closing act to a shameful year of paralysis and indecision on the issues that matter most, House Republicans held common-sense tax relief for American families hostage to a holiday gift to Big Oil.
After the GOP-led House welded the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline rider onto the tax-relief bill, the Democratic-led Senate went along for the ride, passing a bad piece of legislation rather than being accused of blocking a needed tax cut.
When the United State Congress intentionally ties these two things together, though, it’s not a joke: it’s a national disgrace.
Let’s be clear about the purpose of this move. It’s a naked political stunt designed to hurt the president in an election year. Excuse the sarcasm, but you can see the connection here: tax relief worth about $1,000 a year for the typical working family, and a misguided plan to goose the fortunes of an industry that has already hauled in profits topping $100 billion this year.
With needed tax relief for working families set to expire at year’s end, Congress should be sending President Obama a clean bill that asks a simple question: should we extend middle class tax relief and unemployment benefits at a time when our workers are struggling with hard times? For anyone who cares about fairness and families, that’s an easy one.
Instead, House Republicans tacked onto that bill a contentious and unrelated question: should we allow Big Oil to build the Keystone XL pipeline, to take the dirtiest oil on the planet from the tar sands of Canada, through the heartland of America, to refineries and ports on the Gulf of Mexico?
Tar sands crude is not only the dirtiest oil on the planet, but it is produced through some of the most destructive industrial processes ever devised.
In requiring the administration to make up its mind within 60 days, this bill ensures that the State Department will not have been able to establish that the pipeline is in the national interest. It would require a decision that pre-approves the safety of an unknown, mystery route, through Nebraska meant to avoid the precious Ogallala Acquifer. There will be no choice but to deny the pipeline permit.
Further, Keystone XL would cross more than 1,500 waterways, threatening them with the kind of accident that dumped 42,000 gallons of oil in the Yellowstone River last summer and put 20 times that much tar sands in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, in a spill that hasn’t been cleaned up yet.
For Congressional Republicans, though, that doesn’t really matter.
What they care about is trying to somehow embarrass the president, to force his hand with an arbitrary deadline and cause a rush to judgment on a matter of serious national concern.
The misinformation spouting from GOP Congressional leadership on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is stunning. Just this morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, Speaker Boehner lied repeatedly about every aspect of this project. And it sat there, as truth.
Never mind that the majority of the contracts for the processed oil are already cut and most of it will likely be exported to foreign countries. Speaker Boehner sat there and said it’s a matter of national security. It’s not. It’s a matter of a big payday for his friends in the oil and gas industry.
Never mind that every independent study on how many American jobs will actually be created says, at most, 6,500 temporary construction jobs, very few of which would be local hires, according to the State Department. And never mind that Cornell University concludes it would kill more than it would create, by reducing investment in the clean energy economy. Speaker Boehner can pop off with more misinformation saying hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created. And it sits there, as truth.
Here’s the simple truth, they’re all willing to put our people and resources at growing risk to help boost oil company profits.
Occupy Wall Street is getting a shot in the arm, as some of America’s largest unions have announced that they’re now supporting the movement. The gain in momentum comes as off-shoots of the original Manhattan group plan marches and protests around the nation.
The group has attracted some mockery, largely for its members’ proclivity for dressing up like zombies. But a new Rasmussen poll finds that the group enjoys a higher approval rating (33 percent) than does Congress (14 percent).
Perhaps sensing a groundswell of opinion, several key Democrats have endorsed the group, including former Sen. Russ Feingold and Rep. John Larson, who called it a sign of a coming “American autumn” — a reference to the Arab Spring protests that have reshaped parts of the Middle East.
I’ve seen this quote from Gandhi used in reference to Occupy Wall Street:
“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”
However, I think this summary of social change from César Chávez, founder of the United Farm Workers of America, is also apropos to the movement:
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”