The capacity to feel shame

If Mitch McConnell is capable of feeling the emotion of shame, then I hope somebody holds his eyes open, A Clockwork Orange-style, and makes him watch last night’s Daily Show on a loop:

Jon Stewart has gone after Mitch McConnell in the past, but now he’s so mad that turning him into a bizarre internet meme won’t suffice. On Monday night, the former host returned to The Daily Show for the first time since he stepped down in August as part of his years-long effort to secure health-care funding for 9/11 first responders, who have suffered with serious illnesses linked to the air they inhaled at Ground Zero. First responders received funding through the 2011 Zadroga Act, but that law will expire if Congress does not pass a long-term extension this week.

Most of the episode was devoted to the issue, and it featured a field piece showing Stewart’s mostly unsuccessful attempts to speak to members of Congress in recent days. There’s now enough support to get the legislation passed, but the Republican leadership could still kill it. Stewart said he thinks House Speaker Paul Ryan will get on board because, “ultimately, he is still human.” Instead, he focused his ire on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who he said is “unwilling to move the bill forward for purely political reasons.”

Senator McConnell (above) has so far refused to comment on the Zadroga extension

Republicans, at least those who will speak openly about their hesitation to take what should be the easiest fucking vote they’ll ever take in their lives, say they’re worried that a long-term or permanent extension of the Zadroga Act will cost too much money. Estimates are that a permanent extension would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 billion. This year’s total federal budget was just shy of $3.7 trillion, so $12 billion is petty cash. You could probably find $12 billion in between the couch cushions in the Pentagon.

But even if $12 billion weren’t pitifully small in the big scheme of the federal budget, Republicans would still be talking out of their asses here. Marco Rubio, the recently and desperately anointed savior of the Republican establishment, says that if he’s elected president, he’ll push for a tax cut that the most conservative estimates say will increase deficits by $4 trillion over ten years, with most of the benefits naturally accruing to people who are already doing just fine under the current system. If we’ve got $4+ trillion lying around to hand over mostly to the top 5%, then we’ve certainly got $12 billion to spend taking care of 9/11 first responders. Are you kidding me?

People may be right to say that Donald Trump’s forays into fascism are beginning to reflect who we are as a people, but our elected Congress’s inexplicable unwillingness to foot the bill for people who got sick by running in to the burning World Trade Center on 9/11 is equally emblematic of what America has become. And it ain’t pretty.

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