By David Rosen, Public Citizen
It’s a time honored American tradition. Every July Fourth, friends and families gather together for hot dogs and beer, flags and fireworks. But imagine if you went to an Independence Day gathering where things are a little … off.
The hot dogs are only half cooked and about a third their normal length, and essential condiments like ketchup, mustard and relish are nowhere to be found. Even the buns are absent. Also mysteriously missing are about two dozen stars on all the American flags. Later, you learn that the manufacturer decided to pad his profits instead of paying for white stitching – and that your host thinks guests should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and take personal responsibility for their own hot dogs and condiments.
Now imagine there are also some unexpected additions to the festivities. For starters, the Independence Day parade has several floats dedicated to Russian, Iranian and North Korean national pride; the coolers are packed with sake instead of beer to celebrate your host’s recent trip to Japan; and then you find out that the fireworks are laced with radioactive uranium – and are exploding dangerously close to the on-looking crowds.
This bizarre and disturbing Independence Day celebration is roughly analogous to what’s happening to the federal budget, currently being drafted in Congress. Lawmakers are proposing deep cuts to essential government services on ideological grounds and insisting on adding harmful and inappropriate riders that don’t belong in a budget bill. Really basic things that need to be included are missing, and other things that shouldn’t be included at all have hitched a ride.
This was illustrated most clearly in the draft financial services and general government appropriations bill, which passed out of subcommittee just before the beginning of the holiday weekend. The legislation – which is supposed to fund watchdog agencies such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – was packed with special favors for corporate interests.
Some of the riders attached to this legislation would prohibit the IRS from creating a clear definition of “political activity” to allow nonprofits to engage in the democratic process; stop the SEC from requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose secret political spending to investors; end the CFPB’s political independence; continue to allow forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts, which let corporations to rip off consumers with impunity; and force agencies to put big bank profits ahead of consumers – and there are many more.
Shockingly, this is just one of the 24 appropriations bills with similarly absurd provisions and funding cuts. In case it isn’t obvious, this is a right-wing wish list, not a plan for funding our government and taking care of our country. What’s really going on is that must-pass budget legislation has been hijacked by corporations and ideological extremists to serve their own interests at the expense of workers, consumer and families. It’s unpatriotic and profound betrayal of the American people.
Just as July Fourth is supposed to be about our nation’s independence, the appropriations process is supposed to be about our nation’s priorities. Lawmakers who sing the praises of the American people during the holiday but sell us out when they return to Washington have the wrong ones.
This Independence Day, we should to be able to celebrate free from poison pill policy riders that don’t belong and don’t serve the American people.