Republicans, First, and Foremost, Americans, Not So Much
There has recently been a big change in how politics work in our country. Granted, it has been building up for at least thirty years and in some respects more. If we look back it all really got rolling with Reagan. Reagan said, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Many Republicans seem to have taken this to heart and now seem intent on outright destroying our country. What Reagan actually said in his first Inaugural Address was, “In this present crises, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government must bear the burden.” The crises he spoke of was economic in nature and rising inflation in particular. Currently all you ever hear is that government is the problem. He was actually saying that the elites should not run the country. That part seems to be forgotten as the Republican Party has unabashedly become the party of the rich and the corporations. In other words, they are the party of the elite. This is not to say that the party is composed only of the elite. They have persuaded many of our fellow citizens to vote how they want them to even when it is actually against the voters’ own self interest. They have done this through an endless litany of lies, fear, and hate. Anyone who does not agree with their opinion must be evil. They allow no difference of opinion. It must be their way or no way. That is not how our country is supposed to work. What happened to the loyal opposition? We are all Americans and our country is supposed to be more important than our political parties.
According to some figures from the Department of the Treasury and put together by Bloch (2010) Reagan’s accumulated deficit was over $1.735 trillion. This is in contrast to Jimmy Carter’s total of just under $397 billion. After Reagan the first Bush ran an accumulated deficit of just over $1.129 trillion. Before them the only president to break a trillion in accumulated deficit was F.D.R. and he had twelve years to accomplish it. When Clinton got his turn his total was just under $885 billion and he was running a surplus at the end. Then G.W. Bush set some new records. His accumulated total was over $3.011 trillion. Just to show that it was not all from the present crises he accumulated over $2.131 trillion of that in his first seven years before the crises. The last year under his budget was the 2008 -2009 year and the deficit for that one year was $879 billion which is the record for the highest year ever. Obama’s first full year on his budget which was 2009-2010 was $758 billion or $120 billion less. These figures are in 1983 dollars. These really don’t seem to be the actions of people who are worried about the deficit. On top of that, under Reagan the size of the federal government actually increased. Ooops.
There seems to be a policy of the Republicans since 1981 to spend all they can and to cut taxes at the same time. The only result that can eventually come from this is the bankrupting of our country. You can’t keep spending more and more and keep bringing in less and less and expect it to work out. I don’t think they ever planned on it working out. By bankrupting the country they hope they will be able to get rid of our social safety net. By that I mean Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, and the minimum wage. If you read any of the current Republican leaders, Representative, and Senators you will find they are calling for reductions in all of those if not outright ending them. There is even talk of doing away the Department of Education. After all, what do we need education for? A good education just makes the people harder to fool and lead around by the nose. The rich and elites have private schools so let’s just get rid of the public school system and quit wasting money on the regular people. This is also the attitude in respect to Social Security, Medicare, health care, unemployment, food stamps, the minimum wage and many other things. Why have an EPA? They just make it cost more for companies to do business. Who cares if people end up with toxic water or air? Then you have the climate change deniers who deny there even is a problem. It is all some kind of conspiracy by all the climate scientists in the world to fool them. Isn’t it neat how those sneaky climatologists have managed to make all the glaciers and ice caps shrink away to nothing just to fool us? We have become the laughingstock of the world in this matter. Nowhere else is anyone making such nonsensical arguments against the changing climate. If our public was better educated they would be laughed out of the room when they tried to say the insane things they regularly say. This has all been brought to us courtesy of a large concerted lobbying campaign by a few very large corporations who are large polluters and don’t want anyone to make them stop or clean it up. Climate change denial is basically given to us by the Koch brothers and Exxon. It is just a way to distract people from actually working on the problem.
Several years back the Republicans began in earnest to vilify liberals. Being a liberal was equated to being evil or some kind of traitor. After many years some people actually start thinking that way. Once again they are promoting the idea that if you don’t agree with them you must not only be wrong but evil. This country was founded on the right to our own opinion. There is nothing inherently evil about looking at things in different ways. This is not to say that some ways are not better than others. There is just nothing wrong with looking at all sides of a problem and considering it with an open mind. That concept has become anathema to the modern Republican Party. Liberals have historically done much more to advance this nation than conservatives. The child labor laws, public education, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, the minimum wage, the forty hour work week, the Civil Rights Act, the right of women to vote, and many other accomplishments we can all be proud of, were the work of liberals. Yet our society has basically stood by and accepted this vilification of a large segment of our population. The proportion of liberals in our society has not really shrank but the number of people willing to identify themselves as liberals has shrank tremendously. I think this is a pity and wrong.
Then we come to income inequality. In the last thirty years the gap in income inequality in our country has become the greatest in the industrial world. According to Emmanuel Saez (2010), the share of our national income that goes to the top ten percent held steady from WWII till the seventies at 31-32%. In 2007 it was 49.7% which is higher than what it was in 1928. It is a result of the Republicans always cutting taxes for the rich. The proportion of their tax cuts that advantage the rich and corporations far outweighs the crumbs they may have left for the average citizens of our country. After all, the rich and the corporations finance their campaigns. They have become blatantly obvious about who they really work for. It has become common for lobbyists to even write the laws they would like to see passed and then hand them off to their bought Congressional employees. Our right leaning Supreme Court has recently made the whole situation many times worse with their irresponsible Citizens United decision. Not only have they decided that corporations are entitled to free speech but they can now donate unlimited amounts of money anonymously to back political candidates of their choice. This includes foreign corporations. I guess they figure it would be just fine if North Korea or Iran decided to donate a few billion dollars to elect the president of their choice. This last election gave of a glimpse of what that will mean. Close to four billion dollars was spent on the midterms. That is more than was spent on the presidential race in 2000. In Florida, just for an example, you have Rick Scott. This man was the CEO of Columbia/HCA when they ran one of the biggest frauds ever on Medicare. Their fines were over $1.7 billion. Mr. Scott took the fifth 75 times in court. He then went on and took the mega millions he was paid and started another health care company. His firm Solantic has already had to settle suits for discrimination and fraud. We don’t know the complete details because there was a non-disclosure agreement. This man spent about $50 million of his own money running for governor not counting all the money that was spent on his behalf. Florida is a state with a large elderly population. You might think they might not be too fond of someone who has a history of defrauding Medicare. Apparently not. Even Republican police chiefs in Florida did ads for his opponent, Alex Sink. Anyone who had checked him out would not trust this guy at all. I guess most people never bothered. Now he’s the governor. The rich and the corporations are buying our country. Campaign finance reform is urgently needed so we, the people, can keep some semblance of having a say in our elections. Either a law, or, if necessary, a constitutional amendment needs to be passed to counter the Citizens United decision. That decision is so counter to the ideas of the founding fathers that I cannot comprehend how anyone, much less a Justice of the Supreme Court, could make such a decision. Then again, basically the same court, in 2000 stopped a perfectly legal state ballot recount in Florida to give the election to Bush even though it turned out he did lose the popular vote. Of course the fact that they are a conservative court and he was the Republican candidate had nothing to do with it. Oh, and there was the fact that his brother was the governor of Florida at the time also. Just coincidence.
The recent giveaways to the rich and the corporations are unconscionable and blatant in their pandering. The Republicans talk like if the rich have to pay taxes our country will fall apart. In fact if they don’t pay taxes our country will fall apart but that is starting to seem like the point. It is such a disgusting situation that some millionaires with a conscience are actually to the point of taking out ads asking to let the tax cuts for the rich to expire and let them pay their fair share (see http://www.fiscalstrength.com/). One of the great achievements of the Republican Party is convincing a sizable percentage of the public that the interests of the rich coincide with their interest. In the Republican definition of those interests they are actually against the interests of many of the regular people in their party. The anti-intellectualism and slavish devotion to tax cuts and anti-regulation mind set is astonishing. We are in a recession due to those very policies and they want to do more of the same things that got us here. How does everyone not see through this? The recent health care debate is a prime example of how the Republicans do business these days. The Democrats basically compromised from single payer all the way to what basically amounts to the 1993 Republican health care plan with a few changes. They still got no Republican votes on the plan after sacrificing all of that in hopes of bipartisanship. There is no longer any such thing as bipartisanship. The Republicans have decided to say no to everything and try to deny any success to the current administration. If that means that our economy, our people, or our country suffer for it, too bad. Helping the American people is no longer as important to them as their perception of their political advantage. Look at the Start Treaty ratification. All of the military, along with the current and past Secretaries of State and Secretaries of Defense, both Democrat and Republican are in favor of the treaty yet it is now being stopped by the Republicans. The reason seems to be just to deny Obama a success in any area no matter what is costs the country. This last September, the Republicans, with the help of the Chamber of Commerce, stopped a bill to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship our jobs overseas. How could anyone in these times do such a thing? Simply put, to make our country fail. The Republicans have decided that the worse things get the better it is for them. The fact that making it worse for us is now their policy seems perfectly all right to them. When did it get this bad? I have to state that the turning point was the overwhelming election of Obama. When they saw how badly the country wanted a change from what they were doing they basically freaked out and have since gotten worse. They are no longer a loyal opposition. They are loyal only to the party and to hell with the country. Just because an idea is not theirs does not make it a bad idea. If a plan has merit for the country as a whole it should be backed by both sides. Do they even remember such a thing as the “greater good”?
They have taken to just spouting nonsense and the media treats it seriously. We have one network, Fox, that is totally a voice of the Republican Party. They donate massive sums to them right out in the open. Plus they constantly villainize the opposition and to do so they quite frequently lie. A couple of years ago Fox actually went to court and won the right to lie to the public on their news. If you are not already aware of this you can find out about it at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Akre . They helped create and gave tons of coverage to the Tea Party. They helped organize, publicize and pay for the creation of the Tea Party. Dick Armey, the Koch brothers and Fox created the Tea Party. Yeah, that sure seems fair and impartial to me. Then we have the likes of Alan Simpson. This is a supposed moderate Republican. Obama put him in charge of the deficit commission. When they come out with their recommendations they are mostly talking about cutting Social Security benefits. What the hell? Social Security benefits are not even part of the budget. Social Security has a $2.5 trillion dollar surplus and is solvent through 2037. If they would just lift the income cap for SSI deductions is would be solvent forever. I repeat, Social Security, as is, is solvent through the next 27 years. Why is anyone even talking of reducing benefits at this time? We’ve got 27 years and much bigger problems. After all, as I said above, there is a simpler solution. Just raise the cap and cut no benefits. Yet these people want you to believe that the deficit is a result of giving people Social Security. It has absolutely nothing to do with it. Why is this not pointed out every time it is brought up? Maybe it is because our media has, along with the Republicans and quite a few of the Democrats been bought by the plutocracy. Mr. Simpson is gleefully waiting for the budget crises in April when the debt ceiling must be lifted so we can pay our debts. Many have been horrified by what he has said. He is anticipating getting “real meat”, in other words tax cuts or cuts to Social Security or some other Republican point of attack. In other words the Republicans are planning on holding our country as hostage until they get their way. This brinksmanship is definitely not in the interest of our country and is solely a political maneuver. Just the fact of them trying it will probably cause some serious problems. If they actually do shut down the government the results will be catastrophic. The best description I could find of how that might play out was by Lichtenfeld (2010), and one of the things he says is, “the selloff could cause a worldwide financial disaster, global market crashes and the destruction of wealth that will make the popping of the dotcom and housing bubbles feel like a mild inconvenience.” This is what they want to play politics with. This is what I am starting to dread will happen. I don’t see these people actually doing anything for the good of the country anymore.
They have voted against aid to small business (who they are supposed to be for), extending unemployment benefits and health care reform. Incoming Republican governors are killing jobs by killing off rapid rail projects in their states. Just look at Wisconsin or Ohio. They are doing this even though the money or most of the money is coming from the federal government not their state budgets. This is infrastructure we really need. These are jobs that we really need. Keep in mind that the cost of health care is the number one cause of our federal deficit. The health care reform bill is expected to save something like a $1.2 trillion in twenty years and according to the CBO(2010) $143 billion from 2010-2019. Keep in mind most of it doesn’t go into effect until 2014. So even though this plan, saves money, is basically a newer version of the Republican health care plan from 1993, and helps better our coverage and rights, not one Republican voted for it. Of course the health insurance companies paid them an awful lot of money to vote that way. Plus they want to be the party of “No” and deny Obama any progress on anything even if it hurts the American public. Now they are so concerned about jobs that they want to change the mandate of the Federal Reserve. That mandate is currently to work for full employment and no inflation. The Republicans are saying that is too broad and that it should just be no inflation. Then they turn around and say they care about jobs. The hypocrisy would be laughable if it was not so sad.
Here is a classical bit on the subject of the plutocracy that I really think nails the subject of income inequality in our country. It is the George Carlin American Dream rant. I know most have seen it before but I really like it so here it is again.
I think that income inequality is the major factor in the whole problem. The plutocracy has accumulated so much of our national wealth that the whole system is too slanted their way. They have been buying what they want from our government and been given even more than they ask for. They have decided that what is good for them is all that counts. Corruption is at levels unheard of just a few years ago. You have to go back to the days of the Grant Administration, the Robber Barons and the Gilded Age to find a comparable time when our elected officials were so bought and paid for. At the turn of the century it was Teddy Roosevelt who became known as a “trust buster” for regulating the large corporations of the time who were gaining way too much power, very similar to what they are doing today. An ironic fact is that Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican. Look at what happened when the housing bubble burst. Wall Street was bailed out to the tune of billions of dollars instead of taking their lumps like the Republicans say should happen in a capitalist economy. Yet they were the ones who came up with the bailout. Even though they try to blame it all on Obama he wasn’t even president when the bailout was passed.
As a further example of where their priorities lie just take a look at this popular chart from the Joint Committee on Taxation; http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/GR2010081106717.gif
We all know that the millionaires really need the money. The workings of our economy over the last few years show that the Republican “trickle down” theory does not work. Giving the rich more money just adds to their disposable income as all their real need are already covered by a small percentage of their income. Jobs come from demand and demand comes from a strong and growing middle class. Ours is actually shrinking. According to an article by Leonhardt (2009), “Median household income fell to $50,303 last year (2008) from $52,163 in 2007. In 1998 median income was $51,295. All these numbers are adjusted for inflation. In the four decades that the Census Bureau has been tracking household income, there has never before been a full decade in which median income failed to rise.” According to the Robyn and Prante (2010) during the same time the top one percent saw their income go from a total of $1.01 trillion to $1.685 trillion. This is a gain of approximately 60%. Keep in mind that this is in spite of the fact that 2008 was a bad year for them also. In 2007 they had a total of $2.008 trillion which was an even higher increase. The conclusion is that too much of our income is going to the top few percent. Even though productivity has been rising for years the average workers wages obviously are not. Everything is being taken by those at the top with no thought of the working people whose backs those profits were made. If they can save a few cents or get a tax break for offshoring the jobs of American workers they do it. There should be more to that decision than just dollars and cents. And why in the world would any sensible people have tax breaks for taking our jobs away? Shouldn’t we try to encourage our businesses to hire American workers here, in the United States where they will support our economy by spending their money and with their taxes? This is something that was obviously done for the corporations and the plutocracy. Giving tax breaks for offshoring jobs is not something that actually helps the country, in fact, it hurts us.
When we hear Republicans calling for getting rid of the Department of Education it really lays bare their priorities. The rampant anti-intellectual pontificating by the Republicans these days is really a dead end road. I guess that if only the stupid will believe you, you want everyone to be stupid. The plutocracy have no interest in an educated, critical thinking electorate. Besides, their kids go to private schools anyway. Education is power and they want to keep all of that. It is actually a completely selfish, irresponsible and incomplete view of the way things work. The only way it plays out following the Republican script is for our country to become a second tier power. Without an educated populace we cannot compete in the modern world. Education has become essential to learn modern skills and those skills are in constant need of upgrading. A growing middle class would stimulate more demand which, in turn, creates more jobs and in the end makes even more money for the plutocracy. They just don’t care for the idea that for them to make more they have to let us have a little bit too. It seems like it will end with the top ten percent or less owning everything, which they pretty much do already and the rest of us should be grateful indentured servants working for room and board.
Following their failed policies or even a policy of placating them just ensures that China will pass us as the number one country even sooner. While I expect that I certainly don’t want to see it. Right now China is spending tons of money on improving their infrastructure while ours continues to fall apart. They are building lots of alternative energy projects and becoming the world leader in alternative energy. We should be doing that. If we all would pull together instead of pulling apart we could stay the number one country in the world. We should be a beacon of hope, justice and equality in the world. We should not be the warmongering corporatist plutocrats that the Republicans seem to want us to be. You know it was not that long ago that Reagan said, “The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor.” He said that in his Star Wars speech. That has certainly changed since then hasn’t it?
So, if we can make it through next April and the next two years here is what I see as essential action points. Campaign finance reform, getting rid of the Citizens United decision through law or constitutional amendment, expanding and fixing our educational system, letting the tax cuts for the rich expire, repairing our infrastructure, creating jobs for our people, stopping corruption and curbing the power of the lobbyists, the rich and the corporations. Income inequality can be dealt with by taking advantage of our progressive tax system. The nice part of that for the wealthy is that higher taxes don’t actually give them less buying power. Since the higher rates apply to everyone the price of items will simply drop to make it equal out. On top of that as income inequality equals out it stimulates demand which encourages growth which in turn re-stimulates demand meaning in the long term everybody benefits instead of just some benefiting and everyone else losing. It does not have to be a zero-sum game. We just need to work together for the good of the whole country and not just for a part of it.
CBO(Congressional Budget Office) (2010) The effects of health reform on the federal budget. Congressional Budget Office Director’s Blog. Retrieved from; http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=650 .
Leonhardt, David (Sept. 10, 2009) A decade with no income gains. New York Times Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Retrieved from; http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/a-decade-with-no-income-gain/?ref=david_leonhardt .
Lichtenfeld, Marc (Nov. 10, 2010) How to protect yourself from the crash of 2011. Investment U issue #1385. Retrieved from; http://www.investmentu.com/2010/November/how-to-protect-yourself-from-the-crash-of-2011.html .
Robyn, Mark and Prante, Gerald (Oct. 6, 2010) Summary of latest federal individual income tax data. Tax Foundation, Fiscal Facts, Fiscal Fact No. 249 Retrieved from; http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250.html .
Saez, Emmanuel (July 17, 2010) Striking it richer: The evolution of top incomes in the United States. Retrieved from; http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/