Forum Left, 1/31/12

The Degradation of the American Public

By Ben Thomkins

I have long suspected, despite the endless torrent of lip service they offer to the contrary in the guise of Christianity, trickle-down economics, unregulated mortgage firms and insurance companies, that Republican Congressmen and women actually don’t give a single crap about any human being who isn’t 1. them, or 2. rich.

Up to this Keystone XL pipeline debacle, the basic standard of human decency I was attributing to them in the spirit of fairness and objectivity was completely obliterated by the imperative to unleash judgment — my compassionate liberalism begs me to levy against them every single time they do things like this.

What’s special about the Keystone XL issue is that, being professional politicians, their words and actions rarely illustrate the extent to which they despise us.

As you all know, the Keystone XL pipeline is an extension of the larger Keystone Pipeline System that brings synthetic crude oil to the US from oil sands in Alberta, Canada.  It’s a giant, multi-billion dollar tube that transports billions of dollars worth of stuff to the United States.   The Keystone XL extension would be a huge boon to the economy, and a huge blow to the environment.  We can argue for the rest of our lives about it and come up with good arguments on either side.  I wish we could talk about that, but we can’t because Republicans … well … you’ll see.

Now this thing has been in the works for years, and given the scope and expense of the project it has necessarily been a slow, deliberate process in order to take into consideration as many environmental and practical issues as possible.  For comparison, think about how long it took to fix the freeway interchange at I-70 and I-75, and that doesn’t even go to another country. Thousands of individuals are deeply invested in a gigantic process, and riding on the outcome are thousands of jobs and billions in socioeconomic improvements.

Finally, after all that talking, compromising, rerouting, etc., it looked like we were pretty close to being able to close the show, and do so in the right way … and at the 11th hour the Republicans in the Senate decided to degrade and invalidate every single participant and beneficiary of that process by using it as a cheap political bludgeon.  You know how Akon keeps a white Bengal tiger in a 10 x 5 cage in the backyard of his mansion because he thinks owning a tiger is fly?  This is way grosser.

So the Republicans dismiss three years of work, potentially jeopardizing the entire process, and arbitrarily declare that this multi-billion dollar project must be accepted or rejected in 60 days.  And no, for God’s sake, don’t even pretend it was because they care that deeply about it.  Don’t insult the people who need those jobs.  They waited until we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and rather than let the process play out, they chose to interfere simply to stick it to Obama.

When faced with that choice, Obama rejected the application and openly said it had nothing to do with the merits of the pipeline.  He made it very clear it was because he didn’t want to be gerrymandered into an artificial timetable (conservatives, remember how familiar that sounds …).  And rest assured, you can bet he picked up a phone before he went to press and explained it to TransCanada so they wouldn’t freak out.  They will reapply, it will be approved, the pipeline will be built, and there has never been a single shred of doubt about that fact no matter what Republicans are saying to scare us about TransCanada rerouting that thing to Vancouver for the Chinese.

But back to my original point, how despicable is it that Republicans, on the one hand, are screaming and shouting about how Obama is killing jobs and ruining our economy, and then demonstrating that they are willing to treat everyone involved in this pipeline like garbage for petty political gains?  Try to imagine spending three years working on a painting, and when your friends come over they paint a moustache on it because “that’s hilarious.”  And putrid as that is, it’s actually even worse than that.

How in the name of god did they convince the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass this resolution?  The only way I can think of would be to degrade an even larger swath of the American public by attaching it to something important like, gee, I don’t know, the payroll tax cut extension which benefits over 160 million small business owners and the unemployed?

Yeah.  They did that.

And that, my friends, is what the Republican Party is all about.  They scare you to the point that they can convince you that the solution to your problems is to screw yourself.  For instance, your health insurance company dropped you?  The solution is to deregulate and make it easier for them to drop you.  Can’t pay your bills?  It’s because the rich pay too much in taxes.  And if you are desperately hoping a pipeline will come through your state so you can get a bloody job, they’ll stab you in the back for political gain and tell you to blame of the guy who’s brokering the deal on your behalf.


Benjamin Tompkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist, and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tompkins at

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Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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