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The Steep Distortion Curve of Republican Populism

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Beware of Republicans bearing populist speeches. Republican populism is an oxymoron, a con-job, a Fox friendly flimflam for those in lemming lockstep to bolt blindly over the cliff at the bidding of some of America's wealthiest.

Republican legislators beat the drum of tax cuts for "all Americans."

That soundbite-savvy bit of double-talk is supposed to fool the voting public into believing that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires are a good thing. Apparently we are not biting. A recent CBS News poll showed that only 26% of Americans polled believe that the rich should recieve a tax break.

The Republicans are your friend, Joe Average, except, of course, if you are unemployed. To get the tax cuts for the rich, Republicans blocked the extension of Unemployment benefits and both of the House bills looking to cap Bush-era tax cuts to people making less than $250,000, or even, amazingly, $1M.

In an economy where cash-fat corporations are sitting on their piggy banks, and the jobless rate is still 9.6%, the GOP held hostage money that working class and middle class people need to get through some very tough times, and rewarded the very wealthiest Americans with a 3% rebate on their Clinton-era taxes. President Obama, lacking enough Democrats with a backbone in the senate to defy the Republican spin machine, will be unable to do much more than extend the status quo and try to fight another day.

Hollow Thunder

Republicans love crafting speeches full of sound and thunder, but usually saying nothing.

Take Minority leader Tom Coburn (R)(OK). Speaking during a meeting of the Deficit-Reduction Commission on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, his finger-wagging exercise was liberally laced with facts that aren't facts.

"If you look, no Republic has survived for as long as we have," Coburn says with great gravitas. "And they have all failed for the same reason: They lost control of their fiscal policies long before they were ever conquered."

I looked. Of course, his statement is ridiculously inaccurate. The Roman Republic overthrew the Roman Empire in 509 BCE and finally fell in 305 ACE, a period of roughly 815 years. It wasn't conquered, so much as co-opted by the rise of Christianity and the constantly changing social and political relationships that were evolving into the feudal system. Oops.

"There's more in this plan that I dislike than I like, but the urgency requires me to put aside other than my Constitutional obligation to try to get the Federal government reined in to the realm and size and intent that it was originated upon," he told reporters at his press conference.

By that strict interpretation, the only states in the Union that would have any form of government, or any right to participate in government, would be the original thirteen, and Mr. Coburn would probably have been driven back to the East Coast by the indigenous population in Oklahoma.

Coburn also used the standard Horatio Alger, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps logic to justify Republican dogma that Medicare and welfare are always evil, because everyone should be able to do what nice wealthy white able people do. Of course, corporate welfare and hand-outs to the richest Americans are okay. They deserve it, after all, because they're rich, and they have the power and influence to focus the attention of people like Dr. Coburn.

The Founding Fathers never envisioned 50 states, freeways, television, or facebook. As much as they love to rail at government, our federal government needs to cover a lot of regulatory ground to protect the public interest, and to protect our shared assets, like land, air and sea. It has to regulate a lot of activity that, left unchecked, causes little problems like the BP disaster from happening.

Our government of 1776 did not face the social issues that we face today. It did not have to deal with the after effects of more than a century of slavery, when "free" applied all people, not just white men. I think it is very much what the framers of the Constitution had in mind, even though the moires of their day would not allow for all of it to happen.

America has been and will always be an evolving social experiment in liberty and freedom and justice for all. To look back and say that 18th or 19th century thinking was sound is to be an Ostrich not much worse than the dogma-at-all costs religious extremists who have attacked this country.

The Media's Role

That most of the Hill's leading Republican voices, and their bastions of the airways, Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, spew distortions and mendacities by the hour is the constant banter of this publication, the Jon Stewart show, and Stephen Colbert's Fox-mockery.

The question is why the major non-politically-leaning networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN don't regularly lambaste these guys and make them look like the fibbers and cheats that they are.

We don't seem to have anyone smart enough to pick up lies like Coburn's and just embarrass the hell out of them. Did no one working at CNN take Ancient Roman History? It's a small thing, but a lie or an ignorant statement is telling, no matter how small. Call them on it, and they look like what they are.

Life in the Media Bubble

No one challenges them because they won't talk to either the reporter or to their company again if you make them look bad. Republicans have become so accustomed to the color of their own spin that all they can see is Red, and the number on the TV dial for Fox News.

It is encouraging to see that the polling data suggests, post election, that we're not all quite as stupid or gullible as our GOP friends would like to believe we are.

What is troubling, though, is that our future Speaker of the House of Representatives, and our Senate Minority leader, are drunk on their own power Kool Aid.

For their to be change, both parties must govern. The Party of No is now the party of "This is chickenshit."

That is business as usual. Not change under a GOP flag.

If Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell can't find ways to stop gaming the system and start governing, then it is time to visit the wrath reserved for Democrats in November on the Republicans in 2012.

They made the mess. They wanted the chance to clean it up. They're not showing that they even have a clue how to do it.

My shiny two.