On Friday, Oct. 14, Sen. Olympia Snowe addressed an audience in Portland about our economic situation.
While complaining that nothing is getting done in Washington, Snowe said she couldn’t vote yes on President Obama’s jobs bill package because no amendments were allowed. But the vote was not “for” the bill. It was to allow the bill to proceed to the floor of the Senate. Her vote was in support of a GOP filibuster to block consideration of the bill, once again thwarting the will of a majority of United States senators.
In the past couple of sessions this tactic has been used at unprecedented rates by the GOP to paralyze the functioning of government. It is disingenuous for Snowe to lament to us about the very problem she helps create.
Snowe said she wants “tax reform” but did not elaborate except to say that she opposes raising taxes on millionaires like her. As long as Snowe has been advocating for tax reform, don’t you think we should have heard specific proposals from her by now?
We do need tax reform. There was a lot of it in the jobs bill she voted against, including benefits and breaks for low- and middle-income taxpayers and small businesses and a very small shift of the tax burden onto the shoulders of those like Snowe who have benefited handsomely, even in the past couple of years, by their historically high levels of generous tax advantages.
Next from Snowe: regulatory reform. There are “3,000 new regulations every year,” she complained without offering any meaningful context for that lament. A politician complaining about regulation is like one kissing babies. And just about as substantive.
What kind of regulatory reform? And how would that help create jobs in the immediate future? Snowe didn’t elaborate. Should we settle for vague appeals to regulatory revulsion from our senior senator? And why did our economy crash-land? Didn’t it in significant part have something to do with a tragic lack of regulatory oversight of the financial sector of this economy?
The third “pillar” of her program for economic recovery: Snowe has allied herself with Jim DeMint, the extremist senator from South Carolina, in co-sponsoring a so-called balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Arguing for a balanced budget amendment is political theater of the most self-serving (as in: she has a primary challenge from the right.) and irresponsible kind.
Does Snowe not realize that this nation deficit-spent to wage the War of Independence and the Civil War, to salvage itself after the Great Depression, and to conduct the two World Wars of the 20th century? What in history suggests that exigent circumstances will never again arise?
Sure we need to deal with the deficit, but with chronic unemployment hovering over 9 percent nationally, diverting attention to a superficially appealing but fiscally dangerous plan to alter the Constitution is flirting with greater economic chaos and national decline. It is especially hollow as an excuse for voting to obstruct the jobs bill because that bill was constructed to be revenue-neutral.
And it is duplicitous because she voted in the affirmative during the previous administration to create most of the current deficit.
Businesses lack the confidence to produce and hire because too many people lack the means to purchase. Our infrastructure and basic governmental services are crumbling. Right now this nation needs a short-term boost to its economy that this government can and must provide. The jobs bill alone, by outside estimates, would have added 2 percentage points to the nation’s economy and 1.9 million jobs next year.
For purely partisan reasons the GOP has demonized the concept of an economic stimulus. The last stimulus actually did work. It just didn’t work well enough. Let’s not forget it was Sens. Olympia Snowe and Collins who forced imprudent cuts to the original stimulus, compromising its chance at effectiveness.
Snowe came to Maine to give us the same line GOP senators are pushing all over the country while offering no credible economic evidence that their proposals will do anything to improve the economy. Cut, deregulate and send even more Americans adrift.
She comes to us not as a moderate, independent voice. She is trying to sell us the same plan “tea party” senators such as Rand Paul are trumpeting.
Snowe is counting on support from independents and Democrats to hang on to her seat, as she always has. She never has deserved it less.
Gail Marshall lives in Mount Desert and serves on the local school board.