Meet the Cla$$ of 2014

Elizabeth Schulte introduces you to the corporate-backed fanatics who make up the freshman class of the new Republican-controlled Senate.

Mirrored from Socialist Worker

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Clockwise from top left: Bill Cassidy, Mike Rounds, Joni Ernst and Dan Sullivan

THE NEW Republican-controlled Congress came in this year like they owned the place, with an agenda to wreck the environment, workers’ rights and women’s access to abortion. And that was just in the first week.

With the biggest majority in both houses of Congress since the Great Depression, the Republicans’ message was clear: We’re here to make some changes in the way things are run in Washington. But with all the Republicans’ talk about being “outsiders,” what distinguishes them isn’t how outside the political establishment they are, but how much they’re a part of the system–and doing the bidding of Corporate America.

In 2010, Tea Party Republicans made their mark by claiming they were working against the crimes of “big government” and insider Beltway politics. Their populist image wasn’t worth the script it was printed on. In reality, billions were funneled from superrich backers like the billionaire Koch Brothers to the so-called “grassroots” Tea Party groups, led by the likes of former Republican honcho Tom DeLay–and the big bucks were used to carefully craft an “outsider” message for Republicans.

The Senate’s 2014 freshman class is less Tea Party and more Cotillion Ball, with at least six millionaires and more deep connections to industry and the Republican political establishment than you could count. In other words, the new face of the Republican Party is pretty much like the old face of the Republican Party–pro-business and anti-worker.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the new Republican senators.

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Joni Ernst, Iowa
In the Iowa senator’s rebuttal to Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, the former Iraqi war veteran touted her humble roots, where children wore “bread bags” over their shoes when it rained to keep them from getting ruined.

That’s where her commitment to “middle-class America” begins and ends.

Ernst is for lower corporate taxes and less regulation of industry. She has said in interviews that she doesn’t support a federal minimum wage. That is, she doesn’t just oppose raising the federal minimum wage, she opposes having a federal minimum wage. States, she says, should decide.

She also favors eliminating the Department of Education–you know, the one that brings us the public schools–and those pesky clean-water people at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ernst believes life begins at the point of conception and co-sponsored a fetal “personhood” amendment to the Iowa constitution. Showing her contempt for poor women’s right to health care, she voted twice to defund Planned Parenthood and sponsored two amendments prohibiting state funding for abortion.

The Republican Party is putting Ernst–with her stories about castrating pigs on the farm,packing a gun and riding a Harley Davidson to Sunday school–out in front in the hopes that they can get back some of that scrappy, regular Josephine, Sarah Palin-esque vibe. But nothing can cover up the utterly hateful, anti-worker policies Jodi Ernst supports.

Ben Sasse, Nebraska
The National Review called him “Obamacare’s Cornhusker Nemesis” after Sasse traveled through the state in his campaign RV with a copy of the Affordable Care Act, proclaiming, “Government this big squashes freedom.”

Sasse is for repealing Obamacare and told the Review, “The most likely outcome is a single-payer system, because that’s the easiest thing for a lazy and broken Washington to lie about and let us drift into.”

After attending such hardscrabble academic institutions as Harvard and Yale, with a brief stint as a consultant for Ma-and-Pa business like Northwest Airlines and Ameritech, it was straight into public service for this anti-establishmentarian.

The nemesis of big government served in George W. Bush’s administration in two different jobs–with the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dan Sullivan, Alaska
After getting his degree from Harvard, Sullivan worked for George W. Bush’s administration. And he must still have close friends in high places, because when he needed someone to help give his Senate campaign a boost last year, he asked former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She starred in one of his campaign commercials.

With the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC, Sullivan is Corporate America’s choice to represent Alaska. And Sullivan promises to pay off–even if that means complete destruction of Alaska’s ecology.

When the Obama administration announced plans to designate 12 million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as a protected wilderness area, blocking oil and gas production there, Sullivan promised to fight it. The administration’s plan puts “energy security in serious jeopardy,” Sullivan told reporters. “We will defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness, as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park.”

National parks? Yeah, those things are terrible.

Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
Compared to the Tea Party Republicans he campaigned against in Louisiana’s Senate election last year, Cassidy is considered pretty mild-mannered. But if you’re a conservative who hates public schools and the environment, he might just strike your fancy.

Cassidy–who comes from a state whose coastline was forever changed by the BP oil spill in 2010, and promises to be obliterated by rising sea levels caused by climate change–was nevertheless the leading sponsor of legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline in the opening weeks of Congress’ new session.

In his three terms in the House, Cassidy voted against Hurricane Sandy relief, against the Violence Against Women Act and against raising the federal government’s debt ceiling–which Democrats and most Republicans agreed was a recipe for a worldwide financial cataclysm. Cassidy, whose wife founded a charter school, supports “school choice”–otherwise known as the privatization of public education for profit.

Cassidy is conservative, but also a political operator. As a state legislator, he proposed a state-run health care exchange similar to the one in the Obama’s administration’s Affordable Care Act. But by the time he was elected to the House in 2009, he switched over and voted against Obamacare. During his race for Senate, he largely concentrated on Landrieu’s support for the ACA and association with Obama in order to pull ahead.

Mike Rounds, South Dakota
“I think big government is the biggest challenge we’ve got, and we want big government out of South Dakota,” Rounds said at a debate during his campaign for Senate. He’s argued that the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming goes too far. Like the rest of the GOP maniacs, he seeks to repeal Obamacare and eliminate the U.S. Department of Education

But despite his hatred for big government, Rounds has been in big government a very, very long time. The 60-year-old served two terms as governor from 2003 through 2011. This was after five terms in the South Dakota state Senate.

He also managed South Dakota’s EB-5 immigration program, which allows immigrants to earn legal status in the U.S. if they invest $500,000 or more to fund an American economic development project. That program was under investigation by the FBI during his race for Senate.

David Perdue, Georgia
Perdue may be the only new senator without government experience, but he has plenty of experience where it counts most: Making money.

With an estimated net worth of $31.6 million, he’s one of the 50 richest members of Congress. As former CEO of Dollar General and Reebok, he boasts his talents as a “turnaround specialist” for failing companies. We know what that phrase means–making workers pay for the bottom line.

“I’m not a politician,” Perdue said at a debate last year. “I spent the last 41 years of my life in the free enterprise system, growing companies and learning how to compete in our global economy.”

According to an investigation by Politico, Perdue said in a 2005 deposition–concerning the loss of 8,000 jobs at a North Carolina textile firm called Pillowtex during Perdue’s time there–that he had spent “most of my career” outsourcing work to low-wage manufacturers in Asia.

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YEAH, LIKE they say, just a bunch of regular Joes.

Despite their populist rhetoric, this crew couldn’t have won because their politics are so appealing. In large part, the Democrats themselves are to blame for the Republican landslide last November–because they offered so very little to counter the Republicans.

The number of people who didn’t go to the polls at all shows just how little voters cared about either party. Midterm elections typically attract fewer voters than presidential elections, but drop-off in voter turnout from Obama’s presidential run in 2012 is the second largest in history: 24 percentage points.

The reality of the economic “recovery” under Obama and the Democrats–where Corporate American has bounced back to doing better then ever, while working-class living standards are stagnant or worse–has had an impact on how voters view both parties in Washington.

Exit polls from the November election showed that 70 percent of voters thought the economy was in bad shape, and 75 percent said they’re worried about its direction in the year ahead, according to analysis by ABC News. And nearly half of voters said they expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse–by far the most to say so since pollsters started asking the question in 1996.

Their conclusion about who to blame? According to those same polls, 59 percent of voters said they were dissatisfied or even angry with the Obama administration, and about he same number–60 percent–said they were dissatisfied or angry with congressional Republicans.

The Republicans may lack a mandate. But that won’t stop them from acting like they have one. And if Democrats respond the way that they have in the last eight years, there will be nothing in official Washington politics to stop the GOP.

The next two years could look like a sped-up version of the last two–Republicans demanding deep cuts to social spending and tax breaks for business, and Democrats going along in the name of compromise. That was the Democrats’ modus operandi when they were the majority in both houses of Congress. Imagine how much compromising they’ll do now.

Corporate America has two parties in Washington–the Democrats and the Republicans.

Corporate America has two parties in Washington–the Democrats and the Republicans. Now that its “A” Team–the Republican Party–is back in the saddle in Congress, there will be no end to big business’s wish list. And there will be plenty more Democratic Party cave-ins.

As American socialist Eugene Debs said a century ago: “The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.

“With either of those parties in power, one thing is always certain, and that is that the capitalist class is in the saddle and the working class under the saddle.”

This situation is already causing frustration and anger among the people who the two parties’ policies affect. But that anger can turn to despair and demoralization unless it is organized into means of resisting both the Republican Party attacks and the Democratic Party betrayals.