Posts Tagged ‘ Tea Party ’

This Week in Republican Evil

The Right is sick.

Look to Republicanism of the past–of Eisenhower who built the interstate highway or even Nixon who proposed something quite similar to “Obamacare”–and you will not find anything resembling this current brand of American conservatism with its depraved attachment to an absolutist anti-government ideology. Any given week brings a slew of sheer idiocy from the talking heads of the Tea Party-bent, but this week was particularly foul.

Take, for example, the exchange on–you guessed it–Fox News between Bill O’Reilly and Rick Santorum. O’Reilly, acknowledging Nelson Mandela’s greatness while deriding him for being a “communist,” prompted Rick Santorum to reflect that, “[he] stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that. That’s the reason he’s mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed. But you’re right, I mean, what he was advocating for was not necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that.”

This is the narrative that these people fight, tooth and nail, to promote.

And it is one giant lie.

A well-funded lie. This myth of the big, evil government harkens back to the Reagan Republicanism, it’s true, but it has grown and mutated since then. No, not “mutated.” Mutation is a natural process that proceeds by capitalizing on random change. This shift in the ethos of the Republican party has been genetically engineered by massive influxes of cash from truly evil men.

As a palpable example, consider the agenda of the State Policy Network uncovered this week. This innocuous-sounding group is really just a confederation of various “think tanks” and 501c groups that have been used by big-money donors to conceal their efforts to reengineer society. The web of money sliding back and forth between nonprofit groups and their rich donors trying to shape policy while skirting effortlessly the laughably ineffective regulations meant to keep these groups out of the actual election process is mercifully not entirely invisible. We know that these groups command millions upon millions of dollars and thanks to a few brave souls actually practicing the nearly-lost arts of real journalism, we know where some of the money is coming from. The sources aren’t too surprising. Rich, anti-government fiends like the Koch brothers are paying for this agenda to save citizens from “government dependency.”

And herein lies the hypocrisy of these people.

Government dependency is an unspeakable evil–among the poor. Naturally, the Koch brothers’ fortune’s continuity is every bit as “dependent” on government as is an unemployed mother’s food stamps. Government regulates intellectual property, maintains order, promotes commerce through roads and even tax incentives, codifies their business models by protecting their liability as members of corporations, etc. etc. The Koch brothers and their ilk have no problem with government when it preserves their brand of capitalism.

What they resent and wage war against is government doing anything that does not directly benefit them.

I suppose in their twisted imaginations, this is just and right. After all, they are paying for it. Why shouldn’t they get exactly what they want out of government (and nothing more)? Low wages (Let ’em suffer–that’s their fault for not inheriting daddy’s fortune). No environmental interference (screw the future). No healthcare (um…I really don’t know how they rationalize this one–how can it ever seem just for people to waste away financially and physically in the richest society in human history because of illness?).

They act and speak as though government was evil. But what is evil? If the human condition is defined by both our reason and our empathy, then evil must be that which abandons both.

Government is simply our collective response to society’s challenges. It is how we choose to organize ourselves. Asking for smaller, more efficient government is a rational plea–one that past Republicans championed while still using government to serve the nation’s vital interests. Deriding government as evil and inherently wasteful is itself an evil. Not only is this anti-government ideology one that selfishly endangers a multitude to serve the interests of a few–failing the empathy test–but it is also irrational.

The Koch brothers and the other Tea Party sugar daddies have profited from an American prosperity that blossomed after World War II. That monstrous prosperity was built by a vigorous and strong middle class. Unions, a strong social safety net, investments in infrastructure, and ample funding for education created that unprecedented prosperity, and they were paid for by a tax structure that would turn these fiends sheet-white if it were enacted today. Yet even with a top tax rate three times as high as today, the rich prospered, because society prospered.

It wasn’t enough to satiate the greed of men like the Kochs, though, and slowly, over two generations, the ultra-rich and their ideological stooges–from detached intellectuals like Milton Friedman to rank buffoons like Santorum–have let them chip away at the foundation of our society. The costs we have all paid are now well documented: skyrocketing inequality, job exports, financial instability, and worsening environmental degradation.

These men are systematically destroying America to ramp up their profits.

If they could, they would burn down the world to sell off the ash.

Evil.

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More Budget Idiocy

All of America is sick of this sad dance between the Republicans and Democrats. It’s like we’re trapped in an endless loop of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Each of us keeps getting swapped between drooling, pudge-bellied old white men in suits (some with American flag lapel pins and some without) who drag us around the dance floor awkwardly hissing sibilantly in our ear his own dogged talking points: “No negotiation” or “We have to defund.”

Listen, let’s just cut the crap.

It’s the Tea Party’s fault.

Plain and simple.

Yes, you can talk about various ways in which a myriad of complex party policies from both sides come to bear and have created this messy impasse, but if you talk long enough like that then you start to sound like one of those people who says that the Civil War wasn’t really “about” slavery.

Bull. It was. Everyone living at the time knew it and we should bring equal clarity to our own screwy present. The big business backers of the Republican party co-opted the grass roots movement that was the early Tea Party and they created a monster they cannot control–one that has polluted the ideologies of the entire American right wing to the point of absurdity.

I know, I know, I’ve said all this before. But what else can I say when they–our elected leaders–are doing the same things they’ve done again and again.

I’ll just repeat my last judgement on Washington from the last time this nonsense happened:

In the next election we need to vote out EVERY SINGLE INCUMBENT and vote in only people who actually believe in civic responsibility, compromise, government, and, you know, DEMOCRACY!

Well, It Happened

As I first prepared for my year of blogging dangerously, I was also cognizant of the approaching “fiscal cliff” that loomed over the New Year. So I wrote a few lines that I thought might be a kernel for an essay about the mess Washington had put itself, and all of us, into. Then, weeks later, I thought those lines were useless and deleted them from my “raw materials” file that I leave open all the time for stray ideas.

Now that we’ve reached the sequester, which is the worst half of the “fiscal cliff” we all dreaded, I’ve had to go ahead and dig into a back-up file to find them:

So we’re over the fiscal cliff…We can blame the Tea Party all we want (and we should; we really, really should) but there’s more going on here.  Our apathy…our self-absorption…our lack of civic engagement…we get the government we deserve…

After the Democrats’ resounding victory in November (which I repeat, would have been complete victory were it not for crooked gerrymandering), it seemed as though the influence of the Tea Party who first fabricated this debt crisis (which I say again, is only a “crisis” because they’ve made it into one) had waned enough that Washington might have developed a case of common sense. Enough common sense not to shoot the whole country in the foot, at least.

Yes, for a moment I thought maybe Washington had actually learned something.

Well, if they won’t, then we should.

We have the government we deserve right now. The only way we will have better is if we rise up as an electorate and demand reasoned, responsible governance. That means turning our backs on candidates who know nothing beyond campaigns of attack and seeking out candidates who will lead us to constructive reactions to the problems that face us.

It also means sending a loud, crystal clear message to Congress and the next president by voting out of power every single member of this government who failed us today.

All of them.

End Times

Yesterday I started writing a story (posted today) about an unabashedly positive and optimistic reaction to crisis–a hypothetical portrait of the best in the human spirit prevailing in the, literally, darkest hour. I don’t remember at what moment yesterday I looked up and imagined the sun going out, but I do remember thinking right away that the story taking shape in my head would be a foil to my earlier portrayal of the same kind of resourcefulness mustered for narrower, more selfish ends in “Mending Wall.”

“Mending Wall” was a little story I wrote back during the financial crisis and the rise of the Tea Party. It reminds me now of the people I see on Doomsday Preppers (not that I watch that show…much) and the figures from the gun debate who insist that we need to have the right to bear arms for the (they seem to think inevitable) event of social collapse.

So I found myself thinking again about the anti-government sentiment often expressed by those people who are so certain that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and that there’s nothing our institutions can do to stop it–in fact, many of them believe it is government itself that will cause this cataclysm. In a way, they’re right. In this spending/debt crisis coming to a head yet again this week, the government is the problem. The Tea Party House pressed for spending cuts in the midst of a recession, leading to brinkmanship politics and this sequester. That government, though, was acting at these voters’ behest. We created this crisis through government. The whole mess is a self-fulfilling prophecy brought on by people who voted in a government that doesn’t believe in government!

These folks need a civics lesson. In a representational democracy, the government is our government. It’s ours. It’s us. So this disdain for government, its contention that it can’t be trusted to solve any of our problems is really the assertion that we can’t fix our problems, that we can’t progress. It’s the same fatalism that leads so many conservatives to stockpile weapons for the presumed collapse of society. It is ultimately a dogged determination not to be part of the solution, and you know what they say about people who aren’t part of the solution…

Robin Hood

The legend of Robin Hood has been part of English-speaking culture for five centuries.  For the last two, he has been celebrated as a hero for “robbing from the rich to give to the poor.”

Why celebrate such flagrant thievery?  What kind of example is this for a nice, thoroughly-capitalistic society to hold up for its youngins to enjoy?  We all know the answer.  We know it’s okay for Robin Hood to steal because the aristocrats in the story were abusing their stations–milking the system, if you will–in order to hoard wealth even as the commoners who worked their lands and fueled their economy were starving.

These days, there’s a lot of talk about raising taxes on the rich.  Actually, it’s not even so much “raising” taxes as that the recently reelected President Obama wants to let some tax cuts expire for the wealthiest segment of the U.S. population.  And in response to these suggestions there has been a chorus of complaints from certain sectors of our society.

The president is suggesting we should, according to these voices, punish success. It’s nothing short of socialism!  Theft!  The wealthy have worked hard for their money, and they deserve to keep it!

Let’s get it straight, though.  It’s not “hard” work we’re talking about here.  Hard work is not what makes you rich in America.

Case in point, let us say there is a woman, perhaps a single mother, working two or three minimum wage jobs to support her family.  She is undoubtedly working hard.

But her hard work will not get her rich.  It won’t even earn her a coveted spot in the middle class.

Now, for contrast, let’s say that another hard-working individual dedicates his or her efforts not to minimum-wage labor, but to an entrepreneurial endeavor.  She opens a restaurant or invents something.  She has a smart idea for the marketplace and runs with it.

She might get rich.

So America doesn’t reward hard work.  It rewards smart work.

As it happens, economic analysis shows that that entrepreneur and her start-up is, if successful, likely to create a very healthy kind of economic activity for society as a whole.  Start-ups, in fact, contribute disproportionately to job creation.  Yes, small businesses are the true “job creators.”

So, as a society, we can recognize that this kind of smart work should be given special status in our tax code–encouraged and incentivized–because it strengthens the economy as a whole.  She hires people.  They spend the money they earn from her out in the market, driving further economic activity through something economists call “the multiplier effect.”  It’s a win-win.

Thus the great parable of the American Dream is explained and clarified for a new age.  Come to America, work hard smart, and you will prosper.

Well, not so fast.

Let’s go through an alternate scenario.  Let’s say our smart person is already gainfully employed by some big corporation.  Now her smart idea is going to make the company a whole bunch of money.  True, she might rise up the ranks.  She will probably do well for herself inside the juggernaut of whatever corporation employs her, but the wealth created by her idea does something very different than it did in the entrepreneur example.

For one, the jobs created–if there are any–might pop up on an assembly line in China or be outsourced somewhere else in the developing world.  The pittance paid out in labor costs there will not have a multiplier effect here in the U.S.

What’s more, the profits themselves will not go to her.  They will benefit the stockholders.  Especially the big stockholders.  Yeah, those guys are probably already rich.   So this wealth that resulted from somebody’s smart work will flow into the vaults of capital instead of back into the economy.  You see, dollars earned by lower and middle class families tend to get spent, driving demand in the market and keeping the economy healthy.  But dollars earned by the wealthy have much smaller multiplier effects because they often just get invested back into the stratospheric realm of high capital–the shell game that almost destroyed our economy in 2008.

This all drives wealth inequality and undermines the middle class.  And here’s the funny part:  that’s bad for the rich, too.  When the bottom dropped out in 2008, it was a crisis of demand.  The more the wealth of the nation becomes concentrated in the hands of a few, the more the foundation of demand that keeps the economy chugging along is undermined.

Therein lies the logic of taxing the highest earners.  The system needs us to.  They even need us to.  In the long run, this flow of wealth upward will bite them in the backsides, too.

So Obama’s suggestion is not to rob from the rich.  Their wealth does not arise in a vacuum.  They’re benefiting from a system–everything from the rule of law to infrastructure to political influence from lobbyists they hire–that has set the stage for their imbalanced accumulation of wealth.  Adjusting the tax rate is just a systemic correction of that imbalance.  Not punishment.  Not socialism.  Not theft.

Just good sense.