The knees of the GOP have wobbled a little in the last weeks. The polls have been running against them for a year and they seem to have started worrying about it. The U.S. House of Representatives relented on payroll tax relief. Virginia blinked, a little, on the state-mandated rape by foreign object of its women. Rick Santorum ran a populist campaign. The Senate Republicans bailed on the Blunt Amendment. ALEC is disintegrating under the klieg lights of public scrutiny. John Boehner gives a two-thirds chance for the GOP to hold a majority in the House.
In the mean time, Paul Ryan has doubled down on killing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and cutting more taxes for the already well-to-do. Romney has given Ryan a big wet conservative kiss. The Catholic Church has called Ryan's budget immoral. Scott Walker and company effectively killed the Wisconsin version of the Lilly Ledbetter Act. The war on women and the poor rages on, legislatively and rhetorically. GOP denials only further enrage the already enraged.
Arizona's 'papers please' law goes to the Supreme Court while the economy and employment remain in the Twilight Zone of political hardball. There have been times of greater political discordance, but I don't personally remember any.
I can't testify to firsthand knowledge of what went on during the political debates of the Great Depression, but I know of someone who did. Will Rogers, rope trick artist, actor, humorist, columnist and man with a conscience, once said, "America is fundamentally liberal." The height of his popularity was the height of the Great Depression and lots of folks were figuring out just what the difference was between conservative and liberal. Will figured, as it all came into focus, we were all ultimately liberal.
Not everyone can follow or understand economics and the political forces that got us into another Great Depression, but most can relate to the plight of the laid off, the downsized and the disenfranchised that resulted. Either informed by fact or by instinct, Americans seem to understand that the solution for what ails America and the world is to change a few specific things in public policy and law.
Issue polls show that Americans are now more liberal on specific and litmus political issues than at any time in anyone's lifetime who is under 80. Americans favored repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, favor gay marriage, favor all the enumerated points of Romneycare except the individual mandate, strongly support raising taxes on the rich and closing corporate tax loopholes.
Americans are pro-choice and definitely pro-contraception and anti-"life begins at conception." Americans are for diversity. They like Medicaid and they like Social Security and Medicare for what they are, national insurance programs. Americans, even non-union Americans, see the need for collective bargaining to balance out the dictates of management. Americans believe in environmental protection, green energy and are concerned about climate change. Americans believe in separation of church and state, and separation of government and business as a combine, and they believe regulation of banking and business is necessary. They also want to end the last of the two mid east wars.
Americans are liberal on issue politics. What's confusing then is how a people having all those liberal leanings on issues will self-identify as conservative and vote for conservative-identifying candidates. Maybe it's identification with the reasonable sounding fiscal conservatism that makes them think they are conservative. After all, not wanting to waste money is mainstream. In fact, though, most of the national debt is attributable to self-identified "conservatives" in our government.
Under Reagan and Bush 41, 12 years, the national debt quadrupled. Under Clinton, 8 years, the debt grew 25%. Under Bush 43, 8 years, the debt doubled, and this was with the mid east wars and Medicare part D paid for "off the books" and not part of the budget. Cheney famously reassured us that deficits don't matter. Obama, in the spirit of transparency in government, put Bush 43's wars and Medicare giveaways on the books, adding $1.6 trillion to his record that justifiably is sourced from Bush 43. So on Obama's watch, the debt has increased about $1.2 trillion attributable to his administration or 10%. Here's a chart.
Social spending, what Americans have been conditioned to blame deficit spending on by GOP sound bites, is not the source of our debt. Defense, unnecessary wars and tax cuts for the rich by the erstwhile conservative GOP are what exploded the debt.
Republicans may assert and may even believe that they are fiscal conservatives. They are fiscally conservative only when it comes to social spending, but not when it comes to no-bid contracts with KBR/Halliburton and Blackwater (Xe) and not when it comes to tax breaks for corporations. Being fiscally responsible would seem to be the first step in being fiscally conservative. Republicans are fiscally conservative in name only. Everyone now knows this about Republicans except the Republicans.
What seems to be harder for people to understand is that the Tea Party is just a renaming of the least fiscally responsible element of the GOP. They argue fiscal conservatism but, as Paul Ryan's new budget shows, suffer an even greater neglect of fiscal responsibility than the old school Republicans they would replace. The Tea Party Republican party proposes nothing different in concept in budgeting than is always proposed by Republicans. It's just meaner than at any time since the Gilded Age. Ryan proposes increasing defense spending, cutting taxes for the rich and and cutting the social safety net (Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps and welfare, etc.) of the poor in order to pay for it. Of course, since so little is already spent on the social safety net -- at the time in our history when it most needed -- compared to defense and tax cuts, this is becoming more politically difficult.
The Tea Party only seems to add some extra hatred of the poor and women into the political mix, the Tea Party being nothing more than the John Birch Society retitled and not even refitted with modern ideas. The Tea Party seems to think that stopping abortions, banning contraception, disenfranchising and starving the poor and rounding up the illegals are the only things that matter. It's like white male supremacy is the one true cause of the Tea Party. They seem to think that if they force their views on the public that the public will come to see their ideologies and virtues in some utopian conservative awakening.
Real fiscal conservatism can only be achieved through competent analysis and reasoned discussion between parties who are honestly trying to solve problems. Everyone who is not a criminal is fiscally conservative in any definition other than political of the expression. For the last 70 years at least, liberals have been more fiscally conservative than the party that claims fiscal conservatism as its cause. FDR only ran up the debt because of global war. His New Deal measures were a blip on the GDP/debt ratio, just as are Obama's now.
Still, the Tea Party boasts of itself as truly fiscally conservative while advocating the same policies that have proven fiscally irresponsible in the past. Funding tax cuts for the rich by eliminating social services will not accomplish a balanced budget by any stretch of competent imagination. If social programs are eliminated, it will take any disposable income from the poor and middle classes and divert it to pay for essentials now covered by social programs. The poor will then find a way to pay for these essentials, like food and health care, or die. The net result will be less money or fewer consumers in the economy.
Folks don't seem to realize that social spending is undertaken to supplement wages paid by business. Social programs subsidize business. Walmart's reliance on Medicaid to cover health care for their workers is a prime example. A portion of your taxes goes to pay the difference between what wages business pays and the cost of living for employees. The combination of a progressive tax system and social programs attempts to force the richest to pay for the life support of the poorest indirectly, something the richest have no interest in doing voluntarily. In essence, the portion of taxes spent on social programs are taxes paid in lieu of business paying adequate wages. Minimum wage law is meant to alleviate the need for taxes on the better off as much as it is meant to provide wage justice for the lower rungs of society. Economies are subject to a Newtonian like physics.
Supply-side economics asserts that lower wages are good because lower wages mean lower prices so that lower wages can be paid. It's a 'snake eating its tail' kind of thinking. There is no amount of wishing supply-side economics would work that will make it work. Doubling down on it with Paul Ryan's budget will not make it work, and I'm beginning to believe that no amount of proof will convince the Tea Party GOP that supply-side can't be made to work, short of the total destruction of the economy and nation. The snake will have to go ahead and eat itself. Paul Ryan has his teeth firmly sunk into his own tail.
There is no magic that the Republicans have that will make the economy better or get you a job. In fact, if you vote Republican you are putting your pay and job in jeopardy not matter what your political orientation. The bald truth is that liberal government creates permanent jobs. Laissez faire economies create temporary jobs, just like the Bush economy. Liberal economics creates stable economies as demonstrably proven by the fact that since the New Deal economic revolution, the frequency and depth of recessions have been cut in half.
The thing is, we've been through this before and the New Deal was the answer. Will Rogers saw it happen. We are now seeing it, conservative witch doctors exhorting us to eat our own bootstraps while liberals talk policies the public supports, policies that kept the economy together for the last 70 years prior Bush 43. Will Rogers concluded that Americans were fundamentally liberal. I'll contend that the label 'liberal' is nothing but a synonym for being adaptive instead of voodoo doctrinaire. Americans are smarter now that they've seen what the GOP/Tea Party will do when elected to real government at a time when we most need real government.
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