by Max Brantley
Actually, it's already begun. House Republicans passsed their version of an extension of payroll tax reductions, an extortionate piece of legislation that illustrates their utter disdain for the environment. If a delay in the Keystone pipeline puts 60 temp workers on layoff for a time in Little Rock, that's sad for them. But the pipeline is to be built and they'll likely get the same temp work in sum for the project, perhaps one that, with more study, isn't as dangerous for groundwater supplies and the health of people ini the states it passes through in the course of delivering profits for Canadian and other foreign owners.
The Repubs are calling this a bipartisan bill because 10 Democrats joined. One of those was Rep. Mike Ross, a foe of clean air and water and the basest of political opportunists. Not exactly a good Democrat. He might as well run for governor in 2014 as a Republican.
President Obama has vowed to veto this bill, as he should. Sen. Harry Reid said it won't pass. Republicans pushed ahead with extortion on the political calculation that they can turn a wildly overhyped jobs claim on the pipeline into election wins as far down the ladder as a state House seat in Arkansas. Maybe people are that gullible. We'll see. Maybe the good hunters and fishers of Arkansas understand the peril of tar sands, spills and other pipeline ills. The Republicans also voted to increase Medicare costs for the middle class, the better to preserve low tax rates for billionaires. They want to drug test unemployed people, though all the testing shows they are less likely to be on drugs than, say, wealthy doctors with ready access to pharmaceuticals.
So there you have it: Republicans will throw a little sop in payroll tax relief IF we tax families making $85,000 more on Medicare and hurry through environmentally damaginig projects. Democrats want to pay for it with a surtax on millionaires and protect the environment. You'd think it was a no-brainer. Election results tell another story about brains.
BTW: When local Republicans start shedding crocodile tears over temporary layoffs, ask them how come their bill required cuts in unemployment benefits? They think the unemployed — except those working on the Keystone pipeline — are a bunch of layabout deadbeats.