This is not your father's (or mother's) GOP. During a time of national crisis, the president has submitted an urgently-needed jobs bill that is well within the mainstream for Republicans as well as Democrats. But today's Republicans are a new breed, dedicated not to their country or even an ideology.
Who could best express the absurd lengths these politicians will go to destroy anything that's stands in their way? Nobody I can think of -- except Groucho Marx. But before Groucho has his say, let's have ours.
Their refusal to pass the strongest provisions in this reasonable bill, if that's what they choose to do, will be conclusive proof that their only allegiances are to their own re-elections and the massive corporations that they serve. This bill is far from perfect, but it's a start.
Rejecting this bill wouldn't just be a vote against jobs, although it would certainly be that. It wouldn't just be a vote against children, although it would condemn them to oversized classrooms in crumbling buildings. It wouldn't just be a vote against bridges and highways and a safer, more prosperous country.
It would also be a vote against business. It would be a vote against the real "wealth creators" and "job creators" in this country. Strangest of all, it would be a vote against the Republican Party and what it has historically stood for: pro-business policies, but commonsense policies that actually made those businesses more prosperous.
What would it be a vote for? It would be a vote for cynicism and self-interest. It would be a vote for the wealthiest among us who aren't paying their fair share. And it would be a vote for the fattest, laziest, richest, and least productive Wall Street businesses who profit most when American crumbles and its middle class withers.
America, meet your new Republican Party.
It was Milton Friedman, godfather of modern economic conservatism, who first said "We are all Keynesians now." And it was Richard Nixon who repeated the phrase during another, much milder financial crisis than the one we face today. They recognized that smart incentives helped the private sector expand, and they found ways to do it.
Today, as we struggle with long-term unemployment and no prospects for change, Republicans like Richard Nixon would understand the need to put people back to work.
William Howard Taft built up the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Postal Service winning the 1908 Presidential election. It was another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who created our modern highway system in the 1950s. How did he pay for it? With new taxes.
Being a Republican, he imposed a non-progressive gasoline tax. We would have suggested another way. But Eisenhower understood the need for highways, and he understood that they would bring prosperity by shipping people and goods from one shining sea to another.
Ronald Reagan signed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, which raised that tax by a nickel to pay for transportation infrastructure spending. "As this bill becomes law," said Reagan, "America ends a period of decline in her vast and world-famous transportation system.
Another president signed $286 billion bill that provided funds for roads, bridges, and mass transit. His name was George W. Bush. President Bush traveled to a Caterpillar Co. factory for the signing ceremony. "there's going to be more demand for the machines you make here,'' he said. "And because there's more demand for the machines you make here there is going to be more jobs created around this facility.''
President Bush understood that government spending creates jobs. Here's an excerpt from a Bloomberg News report (not available online) about the bill's signing:
Hastert said Caterpillar workers at the Montgomery plant represented the thousands of U.S. workers and their employers who will benefit.
"That is what this legislation is all about,'' Hastert, a Republican, said.
That would be John Boehner's predecessor, "Coach" Denny Hastert.
What do today's Republicans have to say in this time of national emergency? Rick Perry: "President Obama's call for nearly a half-trillion dollars in more government stimulus when America has more than $14 trillion in debt is guided by his mistaken belief that we can spend our way to prosperity.
More than half of President Obama's $447 billion proposal comes in the form of tax cuts. Why is it that Republicans get to call these cuts "government stimulus," but don't have to use the same term for their trillion-dollar tax giveaways to the ultra-wealthy and outsourcing corporations? They keep telling us that we should keep the top tax rate at 35% (it was briefly 91% under Eisenhower) because the ultra-wealthy are "job creators." That means they're claiming it's a stimulus. So why the double standard?
It is a stimulus -- a gigantic one. It just happens to be a stimulus that doesn't work. So let's close it down and replace it with one that works.
Mitt Romney, who claims to be a savvy businessman, said merely, "Mr. President, you are 960 days late." Well, what's that expression? Better late than never? For all his "moderate" posturing, the Romney "plan" is one more radical departure from common-sense policies of the past. And for all his supposed business acumen, his policies would devastate all but the least economically productive businesses in this country.
Businesses -- the medium and small ones that really do create jobs -- would benefit from the president's proposal. It would help a desperate nation start to get on its feet. And it would hep to spare more than $3 billion in lost growth over the next nine years, according to study by the Society of Civil Engineers. That's not just good sense. It's also good business sense.
Republicans from Taft to Bush have done the right thing for their country. But today's Republicans are a nihilistic pack who would turn against everything their predecessors believed in, in the name of selfishness and greed.
I have one yardstick by which I test every major problem," said Dwight D. Eisenhower, "and that yardstick is: Is it good for America?" Where are the Republicans of yesteryear?
I've reached the limit of my ability to convey the absurdity of their position. So take it away, Groucho!