Apparently, former Vice President Dick Cheney has no pulse, a quirk of his new mechanical heart pump. If only that were also true of the man's policies and world view. But alas, with the resurgent Republicans retaking the House, the people who brought you the Great Recession, massive deficits, the deregulation of Wall Street and torture-lite are back in control of one of the key levers of Washington power. Like the man himself, the Cheney-esque conservative ideas that nearly wrecked the economy and our nation's moral authority have been given a new lease on life.
One of the first orders of business for House Speaker John Boehner and his legion of Republican colleagues is to do battle with the thing they think most evil: health care reform. Republicans are apoplectic over legislation that guarantees tens of millions uninsured Americans access to health coverage, and gives those of us with insurance the peace of mind that a job loss won't leave us exposed.
Never mind that repealing the Affordable Care Act would add more than $100 billion to the deficit over 10 years. Just like with the deficit-busting tax cuts for the rich, Republicans conveniently ignore soaring deficits for their priorities.
House Republicans are trying to sidle past this blatant hypocrisy by claiming that the analysis of health care reform's savings by the Congressional Budget Office is faulty, since it compares six years of benefits with 10 years of tax hikes. But as Ezra Klein points out in the Washington Post, in the second 10 years of heath reform — with 10 years of taxes and 10 years of benefits — the CBO says that vastly more money is saved. "In the neighborhood of a trillion dollars," Klein reports.
After trying to unravel our new health care safety net, House Republicans have a heavy agenda of helping big business get the government it bought. Boehner, who likes to portray himself as an everyman who swept floors and waited tables at his father's bar, had his real warm-up act for the job of speaker passing out checks from a tobacco lobbyist on the House floor. He retains a well-documented alliance with top corporate lobbyists, including people who represent Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, R.J. Reynolds and other biggies, and has already met with several large industry trade groups to see how he can serve their interests.
Boehner's business-friendly agenda will get plenty of help from Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who recently sent letters to 150 businesses, trade associations and think tanks, asking which current and proposed regulations should be targeted. As Politico reports, Issa solicited input from the American Petroleum Institute, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as drugmakers and others.
One would think that even Republicans would flinch at the optics of soliciting the oil industry for suggestions on slashing regulations. Remember, it was the abject failure of offshore drilling regulation and oversight by the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (which has since changed its name) that made an oil spill like the BP disaster something of an inevitability. But the tea party right doesn't mind its politicians bending over backward for big business — even those that spoil American shores — as long as it's not a bailout of the auto industry and its labor unions.
New Republican staffing choices also reveal a lot about their intentions. For instance, Boehner's policy director is the former chief lobbyist of the medical device industry. However, the most offensive pick by far is one by Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the new Agriculture Committee chairman, who chose a U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyist as a senior staffer to oversee the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Ryan McKee lobbied for a division of the Chamber fighting against regulation of complex derivatives. "We're fundamentally trying to kill this," she said about the entire Dodd-Frank financial reform measure. She failed there, of course. But now McKee will have power over the very regulators charged with implementing derivatives rules.
Welcome to an America back under corporate, er, Republican control. Dick Cheney's artificial heart would be beating wildly — if only it could.