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Yesterday Congress gave its final approval to a $500 billion year-end budget deal that shows it makes little difference whether Republicans or Democrats control the House and Senate.

This one, believe it or not, was the artistry of the ruling GOP:

  • $1.1 billion for the hiring of 100,000 new school teachers;
  • $6 billion for emergency funding for farmers and ranchers;
  • $18 billion of new funding for the International Monetary Fund;
  • billions more for summer jobs for youth, after-school programs and low-income home-heating assistance;
  • $20 billion for more Bosnia “peacekeeping”;

Even more interesting than what is included in the legislation is what is not included:

  • no tax cut;
  • the elimination of not one bureaucracy;
  • no end to the discrimination in the tax code against married couples;

In short, nothing the Republicans have been promoting as part of their embarrassingly modest agenda for change was accomplished in this spending plan.

That’s kind of scary because the Republicans are facing an election in about two weeks. They apparently believe the American people are so disgusted by the scandalously criminal antics of this administration that they can cruise back into power, not on the basis of their accomplishments, but rather on his record of abuse.

If the Republicans ever had an incentive to take actions in line with their rhetoric, you would think it would be just before a crucial off-year election, while the nation decides whether to impeach a crippled and disgraced president. Un-uhh. The Republicans chose to put the government on auto-pilot, let momentum carry the day — even while the ship of state is headed for an iceberg the size of Delaware. No wonder the Democrats, led by a womanizing, treasonous con man, are crowing about what they were able to put over from a minority position.

There’s no such thing as party politics in America anymore. It’s a one-party system ruling the country today.

Oh yeah, one side of the aisle yells at the other occasionally to keep us off-guard — to make us believe there is still a choice to be made.

But it’s a distinction with little difference in the eyes of many Americans — including this one.

The choice is really between the fast lane to Hell or the express lane. Take your pick. It’s a Hobson’s choice — or Sophie’s.

No wonder the polls show such surprising levels of support for a criminal White House. They figure there needs to be a check and balance on the mental defectives in Congress. No wonder people are so confused. When it comes to policy matters, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich — or Al Gore and Trent Lott.

It’s difficult to imagine how this scenario will play out at the polls. I predict widespread disinterest. The only people choosing to vote will be those who believe they have something at stake with one party or the other. More and more are calling for a plague on both their houses.

There’s one constituency in America — the dependent class — which votes according to who’s handing out the best goodies. The Republicans can never hope to beat the Democrats at that game. The rest of us — the productive, self-reliant class — have other questions: Who’s going to steal more from me? Who’s going to brainwash my kids at an earlier age? Who’s more likely to get my kid shot up in a useless foreign war? Who’s going to destroy the economy and bankrupt my business? Who’s going to sell out the last vestiges of a free America faster?

It is that constituency that is in play. So all the Democrats have to do is to convince a small percentage of that latter group that they are the safer bet, and they win. But with the actions of the Republican Party this week, the answers to those questions aren’t nearly as obvious as they once might have been.

It’s amazing there are any Republicans in elective office with the deck so stacked against them. Their agenda is feeble and, at best, defensive.

With Clinton on the ropes, the Republicans had a chance to redefine themselves for the American people. With this budget, it looks like they’re more interested in redefining America.

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