A well funded network of right-wing extremists wants to make it socially and politically impossible to express the ideals that made this country great. One of those extremists appeared on their billionaire-funded network this week to attack Elizabeth Warren, and anyone else who isn't on the far right, as a Communist.
How retro, you may be saying to yourself. They haven't pulled that trick since the Eisenhower era.
That's the strangest part of all this: They seem to think "Eisenhower era" is a euphemism for "Bolshevik control."
Mainstream vs. Extreme
Displaying her customary gravitas, here's what Sarah Palin had to say on the FOX News channel this week:
(If those sentences don't seem right to you, if it seems as if something's missing, don't worry: It's not you. As always, Palin's locutions are hypnotizing to contemplate; they're the verbal equivalent of M.C. Escher drawings.)
"I will tell you, though. It's cracking me up watching what the Democrats, this idiotic strategy of theirs, to have Elizabeth Warren, who has almost confessed to her Marxist views. These views that replicate failed European countries about redistribution of wealth, you know, and all these failed policies and she is going to be the face of that message in the convention. I think it's very risky ..."
What is the Demi-Governor talking about? Why is the Person Who Single-Handedly Doomed the GOP Ticket saying that Elizabeth Warren is a "Marxist"? Because Palin, like the rest of the Robotic Right, is harping on some comments Warren made about taxation and "class warfare" rhetoric in a very popular online video:
"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid for. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything ..."
The Massachusetts Senatorial candidate was referring to the equally moderate and centrist comments President Obama made on the same subject:
"Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business. you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
For all their hollerin', the radicals on the right can't point to a single statement by Warren and Obama that isn't objectively and literally true. Has any factory owner ever transported his goods to market on roads the rest of us didn't pay for? Hired workers the rest of us didn't educate? Did any of them not have a great teacher, not take advantage of our American system, or (if they're in the Silicon Valley) not get rich off an Internet create with public funds?
Of course not. But when that's pointed out they pivot to their next gambit: Obama and Warren are "Marxists." It's Standard Operating Procedure to suggest, as Washington Post blogger Ed Rogers does, that they're engaging in the "disparagement of private business." Never mind the fact that Obama often praises successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Warren's so-called "disparagement" included the words "Good for you," "God bless" and, for good measure, "Keep a big hunk of it."
"Both the Obama and Warren campaigns are anchored by the belief in offering punitive tax hikes," writes Rogers, "diminishing the role of the private sector and building government dependency in America." He then concludes: "Please show me otherwise if I am wrong."
I'll do better than that: I'll have some of history's most famous Republicans show you. Oh, Ms. Palin? I've got some "Marxists" here that would like to meet you.
Our first apparatchik is Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, a son of Texas who rose to command the Allied forces in World War II before reaching the Presidency in 1952. How Marxist was this comrade? Eisenhower supported and signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which funded 41,000 miles of highway construction and imposed new taxes on fuel consumption to do it. At a total cost of $25 billion, it was the largest Federal project in history at the time.
Obama was right. When it comes to roads, "you didn't build that": Eisenhower did.
Can a President get any more Leninist than that? Actually, yes. As the Eisenhower Memorial website notes, "Dwight Eisenhower was the principal force behind the greatest single expansion of Social Security beneficiaries in the history of the program. He led the legislative drive to add over ten million Americans to the system."
Ooh. Sounds like a certain former Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force was building government dependency in America.
Eisenhower even dissed the God of Conservative Economics in the process. As Eisenhower's memorial website notes, "Those opposed to the initiative stressed their belief that retirement income was the responsibility of every individual and the federal government should not be involved." Here's how Eisenhower responded to these conservative objections when asked about them at a press conference:
What a Commie! Conservatives must have risen up in outrage at his actions, right? Wrong. The leading conservative of the day, Sen. Robert A. Taft, had already assured Eisenhower he supported the idea. We've always had conservatives -- but they haven't always been crazy.
"A strict application, let us say, of economic theory, at least as taught by Adam Smith, would be, 'Let these people take care of themselves; during their active life they are supposed to save enough to take care of themselves.' In this modern industry, dependent as we are on mass production, and so on, we create conditions where that is no longer possible for everybody. So the active part of the population has to take care of all the population, and if they haven't been able during the course of their active life to save up enough money, we have these systems."
Eisenhower also supported lowering the highest tax bracket -- from 92 percent for the wealthiest Americans all the way down to ... 91 percent How many of today's right-wingers would support an 91 percent top tax rate?
Eisenhower also kept taxes high for corporations, saying this in his 1954 State of the Union address: "Because of the present need for revenue the corporation income tax should be kept at the current rate of 52% for another year, and the excise taxes scheduled to be reduced on April first, including those on liquor, tobacco, gasoline and automobiles, should be continued at present rates."
Guess he learned that at a meeting of the Abilene Soviet.
Ike had no problem blocking a cut in corporate taxes, even when they were at 52 percent. The highest official rate is now 35 percent, but so many loopholes have been added to the system that the actual average rate paid in 2011 was 12.1 percent -- the lowest effective tax rate in forty years. "Disparage private business" much, General Eisenhower?
If you want to call Warren and Obama "Marxists," Ms. Palin, you'll have to get past Ike's five stars to do it.
Quotations From Comrade Ike
In most communities it is illegal to cry "fire" in a crowded assembly. Should it not be considered serious international misconduct to manufacture a general war scare in an effort to achieve local political aims?
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
Comrade 'Honest Abe'
Abraham Lincoln was called many things: Honest Abe. The Rail-Splitter. The Great Emancipator. Lawyer. Orator. Statesman. Peacemaker.
Lincoln established the Federal income tax in 1861. What's more, he used the power of what's called 'transparency' nowadays to ensure that people paid their taxes, by making taxation records public for everyone. (Wonder what Mitt Romney thinks about that?)
Lincoln's tax was progressive, too, starting at a 3 percent tax rate for earnings of $600 and above and rising to 5 percent for earnings above $10,000. Very few people earned $600 per year back then, so yes: It was a tax on the rich. Why, it almost sounds like Honest Abe held "views that replicate failed European countries about redistribution of wealth, you know, and all these failed policies."
We can almost picture the Rail-Splitter saying to the millionaires of his day: That railroad over there? You didn't build that. I did.
Quotations From Chairman Abe
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
I care not much for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it. (That one's gotta sting Romney a little too.)
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
George W. Bush stood shoulder to shoulder with Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert and signed a $286.4 billion infrastructure bill.
That alone makes him too Red for today's conservatives. But his rhetoric was even more subversive: "If we want people working in America, we got to make sure our highways and roads are modern. We've got to bring up this transportation system into the 21st century."
Bush expressed these Comintern-style sentiments while dressed as a proper proletarian: no shirt or jacket, collar open and sleeves rolled up. As he triumphantly shook hands with Hastert outside a quonset manufacturing building, they might have been posing for the cover of Soviet Life.
It gets worse. "I mean," said Bush, "you can't expect your farmers to be able to get goods to market if we don't have a good road system. You can't expect to get these Caterpillar products all around the United States if we don't have a good road system."
George W. Bush to Caterpillar Inc: You didn't build that.
There were more Republican Marxists, of course. In fact, the party's history is lousy with 'em:
Richard "Comrade Tricky Dicksky" Nixon froze wage and steel prices, was the first President to propose a national health insurance system (one that was more "leftist" than Obamacare), and even proposed a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) for all Americans that was based on principles which included "economic democracy," "family stability," and "rehabilitation."
George Bush the First raised taxes.
And as for for Ronald Reagan, Paul Krugman explains that "no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people" as Reagan did during his two terms.
Now we know why they color Republican territory red.
Better Dead Than Well-Read
There are only two explanations for these actions and comments: Either the Republican Party's greatest heroes were all closet Communists -- or even the most right-leaning among them were not completely irrational human beings. Either explanation opens a yawning chasm between them and today's conservatives.
Inquiring minds want to know: Were these Republican icons all Marxists, or has today's right gone completely off the deep end? Would today's "conservatives" have been considered radical extremists during any other period of American history, too far outside the political mainstream to be taken seriously?
As their billionaire-funded network likes to say: We report, you decide.