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Bill Lasarow Headshot

The Complementary Wings of the Republican Party

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The Republican Party of today has divided itself into two factions that are destructive of American values and our national security. Worse, taken together it is not a given that the internal struggle to control this party adds up to electoral disunity. Just as many conservatives once argued that in the struggle between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union there was a falsity to any notion of what was justifiably termed "moral symmetry," commentators seeking to be evenhanded are incorrect when they argue that there is an equality of extremism on the right and on the left.

The more traditional wing of the Republican Party has for generations conducted a program that they casually and regularly accuse liberals of conducting: Class warfare. In fact it is they who conduct class warfare, currently best exemplified by the Bush tax cuts, and wonderfully articulated as an economic policy principle recently by Senator John Kyl (R-Arizona): It is not necessary to offset tax cuts with concurrent tax increases, but it is necessary to offset any addition to the Federal budget with an offsetting budget reduction. When Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stated the other day that "... America is a less equal country today than it was ten years ago ..." he meant that the separation between rich and poor is not only greater than it was quite recently, but that it is greater due to the intended consequences of the Bush tax policy.

We tend to assume that the erosion of the economic position of the American middle class is a product of unintended consequence. I am suggesting that this is not the case. If many rank and file Republicans are nice people who would never knowingly subscribe to such a formulation, their ideological rigidity cripples their capacity to critique. For them the Great Recession was not the product of conservative policies taking their natural course, it was the product of circumstances beyond the control of those policies. To wit: it was something that no one could have seen coming. This assertion, one we all heard on multiple occasions throughout the Bush Presidency, is not only flatly false, it is nothing more than the Big Lie method of altering what is true via simple repetition. It is a blunt instrument that still works quite well, thank you.

But the Republican Party is not, through this wing, controlled by such well meaning people, even if one headed our government for eight years. The transfer of wealth into the hands of an elite class of people -- no, an EXTREMELY elite class of individuals -- is about cowing the general population so as to extract maximum productivity with optimized control. The goal of establishing conditions by which what the post-war generation imagines to be "middle class" is meaningfully lowered is not only, on the whole, more profitable, but has produced a more pliant population and workforce. A more desperate and insecure pool of workers is better than a content and secure pool of workers from this perspective. And, on the whole, that is a reasonable description of our present condition.

It has been presented as fact that the collective unused capital among our major corporations today totals about $1.8 trillion. It is interesting that the rank and file of both the left and right generally believes this excess capital was not legitimately earned, but fleeced from the country as a whole. The view that the $700 billion TARP bailout of 2008 was a rip off of the American people has settled into common wisdom for many. Of course it is not that simple at all; save for some of the particulars it may have been the single most pragmatic decision made by then President Bush. It was also a clean break with his personal ideology. (This counts. Consider what a President Rand Paul would do. With conviction.)

But it is a simple truth that a number of the richest people in the country suffered little or no loss of income whatsoever, and that AIG counterparties received collateral payments related to credit default swaps in full thanks only to $105 billion in public funds. The thievery is real at this level, and it is just as real at the level of tax policy. The problem for the Kleptocracy wing of the Republican Party -- that is the alliance of certain elected officials and private sector individuals to embezzle the nation's wealth for themselves "without pretense of honest service" -- is how to convince the very victims of the crime that they and their policies should be preferred to those who genuinely represent the interests of those same victims? On the face of it this sounds ridiculous. But it is anything but.

The answer to this question is not part of the scope of this piece. But I do have a word to offer describing the people who favor the false arguments of the kleptocracy: Suckers. But millions of such suckers add up to a genuine electoral force that, energized by wrongly directed indignation and emotional identification with the "home team," may threaten to engulf the land. They thrive as the second and complementary wing of the Republican Party. Republican Suckers.

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