The Universal Notebook: Our outlaw government

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Our government is horribly corrupt, and I don’t just mean those sorry individuals elected to do the peoples’ business. I mean the whole rotten system.

It’s bad enough that we have dishonest people like Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in positions of power, but it is now clear that the machinery of government itself is broken and in drastic need of reform and repair, perhaps even repeal and replacement.

In recent days we have been forced to watch as Republicans in Congress, who no longer stand for anything other than mean-spiritedness and small-mindedness, conspire on a tax plan in the form of a budget resolution larded with cynical riders that have nothing whatsoever to do with either taxes or budgets.

Want to let your corporate masters drill for filthy oil in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Easy-peasy. Stick a rider on an appropriations bill like Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, did. Sick, but SOP. And Murkowski is one of the so-called “good” Republicans.

The interests of good government and transparency would be better served if elected representatives presented clean bills to bipartisan public hearings and proposals were voted up or down based on their merits. These days it’s hard to know what your elected rep voted for or against or why, because bills are so encumbered by extraneous partisan riders.

Six years ago, Congress voted to ban earmarks – pork-barrel spending appropriations attached to unrelated bills – because senators and representatives were sticking billions in favorite local projects into appropriation bills. The ban on earmarks still stands, but for how long is anyone’s guess. But the point is, Congress can and should do the same thing with appropriation riders.

There is simply no reason, for example, why a repeal of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans could not accomplish honestly, should be allowed as a rider on a tax/budget bill. They tried public execution by firing squad, electric chair and beheading. Now they are trying to kill Obamacare by stabbing the American people in the back. It’s totally underhanded and dishonest.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins knew this, but last week she sold us out, voting to support party rather than the people of Maine. And Collins is one of the so-called “good” Republicans.

Talk about dishonesty: Trump and his troglodyte followers have the audacity to call the GOP tax bill the biggest tax cut in U.S. history. Check your facts, Donnie; both Reagan and Obama passed larger tax cuts. And, please stop calling the GOP plan a “middle-class” tax cut. At least be honest enough to call it what it is – a massive upward redistribution of wealth.

To borrow a phrase from Ivanka Trump, there is a special place in hell reserved for people who take money away from children and the poor and give it to corporations and the rich – which is all the GOP plan does. But that’s what the GOP tax plan does, along with ballooning the deficit by $1.5 trillion. And Ivanka is the “good” Trump.

The power of committee chairs and congressional leaders to prevent bills from being heard and voted upon is another area of sanctioned corruption that needs to be purged. The refusal of Mitch McConnell and the Republican-controlled Senate to even consider Obama’s lawful nomination of Merrick Garland for a seat on the Supreme Court made a total mockery of the U.S. Constitution. A sitting president nominated a jurist with bipartisan support and impeccable credentials, but GOP leaders wiped their dirty feet on the Constitution and refused to even meet with Garland, let alone hold confirmation hearings.

Just as I do not recognize Trump as the legitimate president of the United States because of the circumstances of his election, I do not recognize interloper Neil Gorsuch as a legitimate Supreme Court justice because he is sitting in Merrick Garland’s seat. No honorable man or woman would have agreed to join the court under such sleazy circumstances. And Neil is the “good” Gorsuch; his mother had to resign as director of the EPA after being cited for contempt of Congress.

I also no longer recognize the Republican Party as a legitimate political party sincerely interested in solving public problems. It has become an outlaw enterprise that will stop at nothing to undermine public education, environmental protection, public health, economic justice, foreign policy and the rule of law in this country in order to benefit the corporate oligarchy it exists to serve.

The U.S. government in 2017 operates like a criminal conspiracy to enrich the wealthy, a conspiracy supported by Republicans, Russian hackers, Wikileaks fugitives, alt-right extremists, conspiracy theorists, religious fundamentalists, white nationalists, Wall Street sharks and gold-plated Trumpian toadies.

There are no “good” Republicans anymore.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.