The single greatest threat to the United States is not joblessness, foreclosures, another recession or skyrocketing debt or health care costs. Nor is it terrorism, China or declining influence abroad. No, the single greatest threat to our country is today's Republican Party.
That's because the GOP is relentlessly pursuing a policy of the American public be damned, so that next year Republicans can regain the national political dominance they held from 2001 to 2006. Their sole, selfish aim is to complete the transformation of the U.S. to a government of, by and for the rich and the far-right.
Veteran reporter Robert Parry, a retired correspondent for the Associated Press and Newsweek, accurately summed up that policy this way:
Modern Republicans have a simple approach to politics when they are not in the White House: Make America as ungovernable as possible by using any means available...
Control as much as possible what the population gets to see and hear; create chaos for your opponent's government, economically and politically; blame it for the mess; and establish in the minds of the voters that their only way out is to submit, that the pain will stop once your side is back in power...
Republicans and the Right... are well positioned to roll the U.S. economy off the cliff and blame the catastrophe on Obama. Indeed, that may be their best hope for winning Election 2012.
George W. Bush's presidency, with Congressional Republicans in lockstep behind him, made an excellent start on the destructive transformation of this country: two unpaid-for wars (one based on lies); failure to prevent the worst terrorist attack on the homeland or punish its instigators; waste of tens of thousands of U.S. and foreign lives, and worldwide diplomatic failure.
At home, approval of torture, warrantless wiretapping and ineptness and indifference in the face of Hurricane Katrina created a permanent stain. Economically, Republican tax cuts created few jobs and increased the national debt by 75 percent. What the Washington Post dubbed "executive grandeur" made income inequality the worst since the 1930s Depression. Finally, the GOP's failed stewardship of the economy resulted in a crisis that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified was even worse than the Depression.
When national revulsion against Republican misrule drove Democrats into power in 2008, the GOP resorted to today's strategy. It became evident even before the new Democratic president took office when the Republican Party's de facto leader, Rush Limbaugh, declared: "I hope Obama fails." And since the inauguration, Republicans have done everything in their power to assure that failure, although it's meant misery for millions of Americans.
"I wish we had been able to obstruct more," says Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell who succeeded brilliantly in keeping his members in line in opposing every important measure that's good for this country including presidential initiatives for health care, financial regulation, economic stimulus and a dozen executive appointments and even more judicial ones needed to keep government functioning.
Given the frightening record of business and financial deception and fraud that led to the economic crisis, who in their right mind could possibly oppose increased regulation of business and enhanced protection for consumers? The answer: almost all Republicans. Elizabeth Warren is too committed to consumer protection to win the votes of Senate Republicans acting for their paymasters at the chambers of commerce.
President Obama's new law extending health insurance to 30 million more people is too good for working Americans. Beaten in their attempt to vote it down, Republicans are now suing to kill it. Remember the GOP plan? It proposed health insurance for one-tenth as many people. Is it any wonder that people in all other industrial countries, where health care is a right, laugh at us.
American business hates government -- except when it needs government help. Which is just about all the time. And it's just fine with Republicans whenever business goes to the government for help. In fact, GOPers are almost always corporate-friendly, as opposed to people-friendly. And they have a right-wing Supreme Court majority that helps them buy legislation by equating money with speech and corporations with human beings.
But heaven forbid the average citizen should try to get a government benefit, or a job or more unemployment insurance or aid in taking back a home seized (often illegally) by the bank, or getting health care for a gravely ill child with a pre-existing condition. Republicans are happy to vote overwhelmingly against him, ignoring the Constitutional command that government "promote the general welfare."
Ronald Reagan, a president with rich friends and poor instincts, did this country an unforgiveable disservice by encouraging Americans to hate and distrust their government. Remember when he declared: "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem," and joked that: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Contrast that with Reagan's almost religious reverence for "the magic of the marketplace."
But my own life experience, like that of millions of Americans, tells me that in important ways the government is more reliable than the marketplace. I spent a good part of my career working for one of the largest, most triumphant examples of American capitalism: General Electric. When I retired late in 1997, GE shares were selling for $68.56; when GE CEO Jack Welch, the greatest corporate genius of them all, quit 11 months later, those shares had dropped to $39.66. In 2009, under his successor genius, they fell as low as $6.66. And they closed the other day at $18.49 -- only about a quarter of what they were when I retired. Needless to say, those shares formed a large part of my now badly-depleted retirement assets. Fortunately for me, GE was one of a declining number of companies that still provided an additional defined benefit pension plan for employes like me -- something the company is now proposing to drop for new union hires.
In contrast to my GE stock disaster, Social Security hasn't missed a monthly payment to me for more than 13 years, or to my wife in nine (imagine the value of our Social Security stock portfolios if Republicans had succeeded in their privatization scheme). Medicare enabled me to have spinal surgery, a hip replacement, cataract operations in both eyes and radiation that cured my prostate cancer; and my wife to have a hip and knee replaced, without breaking us financially.
Maybe that's why I call Reagan a liar and a fool for his denunciations of those benefits from our government to me and millions of others. And you should, too. But Republicans regard him almost as a saint. And those same Republicans just voted almost unanimously in Congress to kill Medicare and replace it with Rep. Ryan's pathetic plan to replace single payer with cut-rate vouchers for money-hungry private insurers. And they're now holding a critically important increase in the debt ceiling hostage to measures that would weaken the recovery.
The Republican Bush administration destroyed our standing abroad and our economy at home, and killed and maimed thousands of our young men and women for no good reason. Since 2009, Democrats have done their best to clean up the Republican mess -- something that unfortunately takes time. Republicans have fought those national cleanup efforts -- and the vast majority of the American people -- every day. And they say they're proud of their obstruction. As for solutions, they offer none, except for tax cuts like those that created record-low jobs under Bush, and spending cuts that would cripple the government.
These policies failed before and would inevitably fail again, and might well drive us into a real Depression. That's why the Republican Party is the single greatest threat to the United States of America. It cannot be allowed to win in 2012.