03 March 2016

I used to be a Republican.

By Bud Koenemund

(Written: September 2015)

Once upon a time, I was a Reagan Republican. I was a Conservative. I believed the Republican Party was truly trying to make the United States a better country. Included in that was increasing the freedom, and improving the lives and incomes, of every American.

But, I slowly came to realize this is not what they want. In the last 10 years, I’ve realized the GOP isn’t interested in “the people” – if they were, they’ve had any number of chances to show it. Instead, they’ve made it clear they don’t care about the majority of American citizens; they care only about the rich. They are only interested in securing more and larger tax cuts and subsidies for the wealthy and corporations. These entities receive tax breaks, tax cuts, loopholes, and exemptions worth millions – even billions – and then complain about the pennies falling off their counting tables to the poor – people seeking a living wage, adequate housing, affordable education.

Ronald Reagan promised trickle-down economics would help everyone. They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but, clearly, this is not the case. The rising tide – at least over my lifetime – has only flooded the pockets of the rich. And, this seems to be fine with the Republican Party.

Too many of the rich, the ones who actually could afford to pay higher taxes (or any taxes at all), use that money to hire lawyers/lobbyists to find ways around paying. Now, I’m not talking about raising taxes to some ridiculous level, nor wealth re-distribution. I think if you start a business, work hard and run it well, you deserve to make money. I’m talking about people with more money than they could spend in 10 lifetimes, who complain the poor are poor because they’re lazy. I’m talking about people who graduate college to a $200 million inheritance, and act like they built their world from nothing. And, seem to think everyone who isn’t like them is stupid, or lazy, or somehow less than they are.

Republicans are constantly fighting to pass legislation giving banks more and more power – and, not surprisingly, more money. And, still, the banks squeeze every dollar out those who can least afford it – the little guy; people who work a 40+ hour week, and still can’t support a family.

I was once young, and I thought I knew everything. That’s the way life is. You don’t know what you don’t know until much later. Sometimes, years later. But, I ask you, Gentle Reader, please don’t blindly believe the rhetoric spewed by The Republican Party; or Fox News; or Rush Limbaugh; or your teachers, or even your parents. And, for damned sure, don’t believe me, a stranger on the Internet.

Search for yourself. Look into how much the income of the top one percent has increased over the last 20 years. Look at how much the income of the bottom 50 percent has increased. Google how much money General Electric earned last year. Then search for how much they paid in taxes. Search for the amount we give US corporations in subsidies and/or tax breaks. Then search for how much money and how many jobs some of those corporations move overseas. Search for the percentage of Walmart workers receiving some form of public assistance.

After that, consider what the leaders of the Party think about women. Not what they say about women, but what they actually do. What do their actions reveal? Do they think women should be allowed to make decisions about their own health care? The answer is an obvious and overwhelming no. As we speak – OK, as I type, and you read – Republicans are trying to defund Planned Parenthood. In less than a week, Republicans want to shut down the government over this funding. Even though the last shut down (also Republican led) cost – by one estimate – $25 billion, 140,000 jobs, and caused a downgrade in the credit rating of the United States. Their “do it my way or I’ll take my ball and go home” attitude hurt the country. Oh, and last year, they cut funding for women’s health services.

Increasingly, many Republicans try to pass legislation, or deny equal rights, based on their religious beliefs, apparently forgetting that while the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, it also affords freedom from religion. They cannot seem to accept that The Bible is not the Constitution. For an example, look at the decades long fight to “allow” same-sex marriage? How many of the Republican Presidential candidates do not support same-sex marriage based on their own religious objections? They publicly support discrimination against an entire group (the LGBTQ community) of American citizens.

When President Obama was elected, Republican leaders in Congress decided they would obstruct everything he wanted to try. (Look it up, there’s a memo they sent out notifying members of this.) They have opposed every program intended to help those less fortunate than themselves – which, by the way, represents an overwhelming percentage of American citizens. They did this without presenting ideas of their own – though the President declared himself willing to listen to all sides, regardless of political party.

They opposed – still oppose, and continue trying to kill and/or defund – the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), which provides basic, minimal health insurance to millions, while even the newest members of Congress enjoy the best health insurance and care in the world.

The Republican Party evinces a marked lack of empathy, as if they cannot understand that everyone in the United States is not just like them. That others may go through things they’ll never have to experience. That because they are guaranteed a pension – after just one term in Congress – everyone else will also have a comfortable retirement.

I’m not – and don’t pretend to be – the smartest guy in the world. I’m probably not even the smartest guy in the office I’m seated in. But, I can try to understand what other people are going through. I can sympathize, and hope I never have to deal with situations that can ruin a person, or a family, socially, medically, and economically. And, at the same time, I can vote for candidates and parties that try to do a little more to help people – people who don’t have the word millionaire after their name.

It wasn’t one thing – one issue – that turned me from the Republican Party, but a realization – an awakening – to the Party’s true motivation. Why I would consider voting for the Liberal party? Because things in this country need to change, and the Republican Party has made it clear they see no need for this. I cannot, in good conscience, support what the Republican Party has become.

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