Midnight in the Garden of Reaganomics

12/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Bennet Kelley Host, Cyber Law and Business Report; political columnist; internet lawyer

As the likelihood of an Obama and Democratic landslide moves from possibility to inevitability and as more and more Republicans jump on the Obama bandwagon, wailing Republicans are sounding off as if this were a sign of Armageddon. One Forbes columnist even questioned whether an Obama victory would result in the end of capitalism itself - as if the Republicans have been great stewards of the economy or Democrats have never held power before.

Coupled with comments by Governor Palin, Representative Bachmann and others dividing the country into "real Americans" (i.e., Republicans) and "American haters" (i.e., Democrats), this fear-mongering may only further prove how out of touch the Republican Party has become with mainstream Americans (or even history itself) as the electorate is becoming increasingly aware of how disastrous Republican policies have been over the past three decades.

Since 1980, the Republicans had one response to every problem -- tax cuts; as John McCain demonstrated when he called for a cut in capital gains taxes in response to the stock market crash (in which very few investors actually had gains). Voters went along with this "borrow from Peter to pay Paul" economics thinking they were (or soon would be) Paul, but now most of them realize that they were Peter all along.

Republicans transferred trillions of dollars to the wealthiest Americans, creating the greatest income disparity since the Depression and increasing the national debt by $8.2 trillion (or nearly $75,000 per household). For nearly thirty years, Republicans have chosen to invest in the rich, but not in America and we are witnessing a "quiet collapse in prosperity" as a result. For example, the current United States' rankings on life expectancy, water quality and infant mortality are 24th, 39th and 41st respectively falling behind countries such as Bosnia, Cuba, Panama, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

We have lived off the sacrifices of others and let our roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure decline to second world levels such that it would cost $1.6 trillion to merely get our current infrastructure to a functional level. But as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker stressed last week, we need to begin "the physical rebuilding of our nation now."

We also have failed to invest in the infrastructure needed for our future economic growth. Our broadband penetration rank has fallen from 4th to 15th in five years (the reality is much worse since the U.S. measure relies on a methodology that overstates broadband penetration). Future economic growth also will require alternative energy sources, but Republicans have cut funding for alternative energy programs by two-thirds.

Today we have the highest level of income inequality, poverty and deaths due to lack of access to health care and the lowest level of social mobility among leading developed nations; but the Republicans' answer is to give tax cuts to the richest few Americans. We are spending $720 million each day in Iraq; but the Republicans want to stay indefinitely and cut taxes.

Our economy is in peril, but Republicans merely parrot the same lines they have since 1980. Amazingly, as Rome burns, these Deacons of Disaster and Division have the audacity to claim that only they are suited to run this country even when their policies would only feed the flames. The more Republicans claim that the sky will fall when Obama takes office in January, the more they demonstrate how tone deaf they have become.

Despite their sense of entitlement to power, in this country the power comes from the people. It comes from middle class Americans who have been ignored for years (and who pay the price for Republican's sabotaging a potential deal on the Clinton health plan after Bill Kristol warned it would give Democrats an electoral advantage). It comes from aging baby boomers who see a looming crisis with the Medicare and Social Security trust funds that the Republicans refuse to address. It comes from the many young voters whose future has been mortgaged by the Republican's reckless economic policy.

On Election Day, while Republicans desperately cling to their dogma of the past, a tidal wave of voters from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire and all the way to the curvaceous slopes of California will embrace the future. As darkness descends on the "Reagan Revolution," Republicans will discover that what they saw as signs that the sky would fall was simply the dawn of a new horizon.