Saturday, March 2, 2013

What Lakers and Congress have in common

As bad a year as this is for the Lakers, it's an even worse one for Washington. (photo: AP)
As bad a year as this is for the Lakers, it's an even worse one for Washington. (photo: AP)

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News
28 February 13
hat do the LA Lakers and Congress have in common? One is a group of privileged, entitled old guys past their prime who still get paid way too much to do a job that they aren't doing. The other is a basketball team.

While I normally just follow NCAA basketball and don't pay much attention to the pros, I can smell the stink of the Lakers' 2013 season all the way from Wisconsin. On paper, LA has some really great players on their roster, like Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. But in reality, despite the skill level of these individual players, they're just a few games out from being disqualified from the playoffs. And the problem is, they just don't care. No matter how they perform, the star players on LA's roster know they'll still get paid millions of dollars whether or not they play their hardest on the court, even in spite of the fact that this is one of if not the Lakers' worst seasons since Kobe Bryant first started playing for them. But as bad a year as this is for the Lakers, it's an even worse one for Washington.

The 112th congress, elected in the Fall of 2010 at the peak of the Tea Party's influence, had the lowest approval rating in the history of congressional polling. Their key goal wasn't actually creating jobs or breaking through the corruption at Washington's core, which they all included in their platforms. Rather, their goal was the same as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's goal – to make Barack Obama a one-term president. And to do this, they relished their low approval ratings, because in their minds, the American people would blame the president for Congress's inability to get anything done or make deals with their opponents when serious issues needed to be addressed. Instead, Barack Obama won in a landslide, and some of the worst do-nothing, mean-spirited, corrupt Tea Party Republicans in Congress like Allen West, Frank Guinta, Chip Cravaack, Dan Lundgren and Joe Walsh – were all soundly defeated in their districts. This happened despite a 2-year strategy of obstruction and finger-pointing, a nationally-coordinated effort to elect Republican governors that would gerrymander congressional districts to the GOP's advantage, and literally billions in dark money spent by right-wing groups to influence the election. You would think having their strategy backfire so bad that their heads got handed to them last November would make the Republicans have a major come-to-Jesus moment and get their shit together, right?

Instead, Republicans are doubling down on the strategy of sitting on their thumbs and obstructing anything that isn't in total lockstep with their backwards, irrelevant agenda. Even though sequestration would result in millions of hungry families not getting food assistance, low-income residents of wintry cities not getting heat assistance, and millions of kids not getting their immunizations, House Republicans have refused to even consider cutting any of the corporate tax loopholes that offshore billions in tax dollars per year. They've insisted that the F-35 joint strike fighter, which has already cost us $400 billion and would require a total operating budget of at least $1 trillion and has been indefinitely grounded due to faulty construction, get full funding even as they ask hungry people to go without food. In fact, Eric Cantor, the #2 Republican in the House, believes the best way to save the economy is to end overtime pay for hourly workers. This is coming from a guy who only works 126 days a year and still gets paid vacations courtesy of the taxpayers.

Now, I'm fully aware that some Democrats are also to blame, though I'm never one for false equivalency. After 4 years, the Obama administration still hasn't brought one banker to trial for the 2008 financial crisis and we still continue the $83 billion annual subsidy to Wall Street. Harry Reid still included 6 times as much in corporate welfare as in unemployment extensions in the "fiscal cliff" deal reached with Mitch McConnell. The Democrat-controlled Senate still unanimously approved a $700 billion military budget in December on a 98-0 vote, and out of 200 House Democrats, only half have agreed that cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should be off the table. But at least one of the two parties is willing to have a conversation about stopping the coming cuts that would adversely affect thousands of government employees and their families.

Tech companies alone dodged $225 billion in taxes over the last three years, but these $85 billion in cuts are being directed at programs like Meals on Wheels and early childhood education, instead of the multiple egregious loopholes exploited by multinational corporations. And every member of Congress, no matter their party affiliation, must be held accountable for making us suffer so their campaign donors can keep their tax breaks. The only thing stopping us from giving these corrupt politicians a boot on the ass in 2014 is, well, us.

Carl Gibson, 25, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

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