A budget agreement was reached last night at just about zero hour. Thus, the government will not shut down.
Good, bad, indifferent? To me, this (short-term) consensus is a sham. Yes, both sides agreed to $38 billion in spending cuts. The unrelated rider of EPA restrictions was taken off the table. The de-funding of Planned Parenthood will be relegated to a Senate vote, where a sure victory for that organization is almost guaranteed. But — and this is the embarrassing, degrading reprehensible and possibly illegal action — local and federal abortion funds for low-income women of the District of Columbia were denied.
As I wrote yesterday, the GOP used the weakest link in the chain to assert whatever is left of their twisted, political clout. They targeted the only region in the country that does not receive full Congressional representation for their full share of taxation. They set their sights on D.C. because it is made up of a large majority of Afro-Americans, Democrats and poor people. Above all, D.C. was available for the slaughter because they do not have the legal status of the other 50 states. It is not admirable to attack and punish America’s weakest link just because it can be done.
Perhaps in the greater scheme of things, most people will shrug and agree that this move to deny Washingtonians their equal rights was valid in order for a compromise to be struck. Bulldoody! Look: there is nothing good or pretty about abortion, especially when it is used, as is often the case, as birth control. Nobody in their right mind would condone this practice. However, the underlying principle of freedom of choice, underscored by the constant reduction of the safety net for poor, single parents, is the real crux of the matter. The solution is not to ban abortion, but to go deeper and find out why getting pregnant is a status symbol, as tempting as a new pair of sneakers or a designer purse is for so many men and women.
That said, the action taken on the Hill last night is pathetic. Boehner kept up his empty fight to show his Tea Party that he would not forsake them. That wasn’t even necessary, because in the last hours, the Tea Party was begging Boehner to cut a deal. Like all other politicians, these new-fangled politicians were willing to kick the can down the road, willing to avoid a government shutdown so that they could save the “real” budget issues (cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security) for a later date. So much for their white-hot rhetoric to carry out their constituents’ wishes. Those brash, dedicated Tea Partiers chickened out at the last-minute, albeit with the one stipulation that D.C. women be denied access to abortion. Having chosen this particular issue for that particular population, their supposed victory is totally meaningless and empty. To victimize those of a lower socioeconomic status in a region with limited governmental rights is no victory at all. To penalize the lowest man on the totem pole is a total loss.
President Obama is not off the hook here. He chose to compromise to keep the government open. His bargaining chip was the D.C. abortion item. He had a tough fight, but I had expected him to hold firm. This is a major disappointment for me.
Of greater importance, what does this denial of equal rights for D.C. women say about our society? It says precisely that we are not all created and treated justly and equally. It says that it is acceptable to kick a dog when he is down and cannot fight back. It says that the needier sections of our society exist to be sacrificed for the betterment of those that have.
What happened last night is a sad commentary on our present condition. Furthermore, to use the worst elements of our past history as guiding principles for our future is emblematic of our nation’s deprivation and prejudice. We lost the war last night.