Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you actively disliked the United States, and wanted to deliberately undermine its economy. What kind of positions would you take to do the most damage?
You might start with rejecting the advice of economists and oppose any kind of stimulus investments. You’d also want to cut spending and take money out of the economy, while blocking funds to states and municipalities, forcing them to lay off more workers. You’d no doubt want to cut off stimulative unemployment benefits, and identify the single most effective jobs program of the last two years (the TANF Emergency Fund) so you could kill it.
You might then take steps to stop the Federal Reserve from trying to lower the unemployment rate. You’d also no doubt want to create massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system, promising to re-write the rules overseeing the financial industry, vowing re-write business regulations in general, considering a government shutdown, and even weighing the possibly of sending the United States into default.
You might want to cover your tracks a bit, and say you have an economic plan that would help — a tax policy that’s already been tried — but you’d do so knowing that such a plan has already proven not to work.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Steve is a sharp guy and has probably previously entertained the very real possibility Republicans do not like democracy very much. In the movie Runaway Jury ( based on the novel by John Grisham) conservative lawyer Rankin Fitch has a talk with his clients in which he explains how to stack a jury with people predisposed to certain verdicts. It is because, to paraphrase, verdicts are too important to trust to juries. Since Nixon Republicans have had a similar approach to democracy or rather how America Inc. should be run. There is too much money and power to be trusted to informed voters. Conservative politicians, think tanks, lawyers and most ( though not all) conservative judges have always pushed for more power for the wealthy and corporations than individuals. The Citizens United case, if not their crowning achievement, certainly one of the cherries on top of that half century long tradition. It is one of those true conspiracy that we dare not speak. While it has clearly been a nefarious conspiracy, it has not been particularly secret. It would be nice to have one or two smoking guns – a body or two. Instead what we have is years of circumstantial evidence. In 2004 Paul Krugman made note of it in The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century.
The Great Unraveling is a chronicle of how “the heady optimism of the late 1990s gave way to renewed gloom as a result of “incredibly bad leadership, in the private sector and in the corridors of power.” Offering his own take on the trickle-down theory, economist and columnist Paul Krugman lays much of the blame for a slew of problems on the Bush administration, which he views as a “revolutionary power…a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system.” Declaring them radicals masquerading as moderates, he questions their motives on a range of issues, particularly their tax and Social Security plans, which he argues are “obviously, blatantly based on bogus arithmetic.” Though a fine writer, Krugman relies more heavily on numbers than words to examine the current rash of corporate malfeasance, the rise and fall of the stock market bubble, the federal budget and the future of Social Security, and how a huge surplus quickly became a record deficit. He also rails against the news media for displaying a disturbing lack of skepticism and for failing to do even the most basic homework when reporting on business and economic issues.
Sure the sum of the intelligence and knowledge of many Republican politicians (Mitch McConnell(R-Ky), James Inhofe (R-OK) and pundits like O’Reilly and Beck could fit in a thimble, but conservative leadership as a whole is not that dumb. They can do basic math. They knew the combination of the Bush tax cuts with spending trillions on two wars would cripple the government. While they all seem like shrill banshees now, during the Bush years the very same conservatives would only grumble about the deficits in an interview on their way to a K-Street meeting. Dick Cheney declared that deficits did not even matter. he was right in the sense they do not matter when you have about 10% of the population out of work and millions have lost their homes. Moderate to liberal Democrats have pointed out the catastrophic damage and apparent lack of morality and accountability millions of times. Some have thought that doing so would be a source of shame for Republicans. That has not been the case because on the contrary – wrecking the economy, stacking the courts with activists right-wing ideologues, running up historic deficits is part of a truly accomplished mission. The mission Krugman warned about over five years ago. You might say that the Bush era was about killing the body. Now, having turned even further to the Right, they are about to kill off the head during the Obama administration. There Will Be Blood
So here’s what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April. … When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ’em a piece of meat, real meat,’ ” meaning spending cuts. “And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary,” he continued.
Think of Mr. Simpson’s blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than most people realize.
Some explanation: There’s a legal limit to federal debt, which must be raised periodically if the government keeps running deficits; the limit will be reached again this spring. And since nobody, not even the hawkiest of deficit hawks, thinks the budget can be balanced immediately, the debt limit must be raised to avoid a government shutdown. But Republicans will probably try to blackmail the president into policy concessions by, in effect, holding the government hostage; they’ve done it before.
Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and undermine America’s role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But no, Mr. Simpson “can’t wait.” And he’s what passes, these days, for a reasonable Republican.
The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing.
Democrats are not going to hold Republicans accountable. They’ll make a few statements. The network infotainment programs will show snips of Obama, Reid or Pelosi saying this is awful with a Republican saying no it ain’t. The press will have continued its stellar job of letting both sides have their say, than drive home to their McMansions in Connecticut. Informing the public is no longer the media’s job as they see it. The conservative pundits – in all their malicious glory – will droll over their keyboards about how they stopped the Kenyan socialist agenda. It is small and relatively little consolation that the working class conservatives – those in the median income range ($55,000 household income and below) will have a gaping foot wound. It will fester and smell like a rotting corpse. In exchange for shooting themselves in said foot one assumes they’ll take solace in perhaps getting closer to their cultural ends. Those Don’t Tread on Me flags will seem even quainter as they actively helped give their savings and rights way to the corporate plutocracy.
It mat seem like a change of subject but the START treaty is a good case in point. A wide variety of defense experts think START is a good deal for U.S. and world security. Everett McKinley Dirksen, He Ain’t
The Obama administration has gone the extra mile – well, several extra miles, actually – to satisfy Senator Kyl’s concerns over New START. So far, Team Obama has been taken to the cleaners.
A friend of mine, who worked on nuclear issues during the Reagan administration, likes to say that, back in his day, those who tried to block and parry nuclear negotiations and treaties were “under adult supervision.” The naysayers were mere Assistant Secretaries or lower; enough of their superiors understood that proper deterrence required complementary reassurance to audiences at home and abroad. A world leader and a leader of alliances needs to be able to make nuclear arms reduction treaties happen.
Now the supervisors are retired, and the blockers have risen to become former-undersecretaries-in-waiting for even more exciting positions in the next Republican administration. The supervisors – former Secretaries of State and Defense, former national security advisers, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, and a host of ex-commanders of the U.S. nuclear deterrent – understand what’s at stake, and urge the Senate’s consent to ratify New START. Senator Richard Lugar gets it. The rest of his Republican colleagues do not appear to be eager for a vote, at least without Senator Kyl’s blessing. The prospective crop of presidential candidates have been Palinized, and what’s left of the moderate wing of the DC chapter of the Republican Party fears Tea Party challengers in primary elections. There aren’t many profiles in courage on the Republican side of the aisle besides Sen. Lugar at this point.
“Despite what anybody says, I, as secretary of Defense, and the entire uniformed leadership of the American military believe that this treaty is in our national security interest,” Gates said, taking on claims by critics of the treaty that some in the military privately oppose the accord.
The main Republican talking point and as usual a completely false one, is START will hamper future technological advances in our defense system. Not true at all. Funding is already in the works for that very thing. Republicans have weighed the issue. Help America and the world be a more secure place or do anything to stop Democratic achievements. They have chosen the latter. With that in mind there is no reason we will not see Simpson’s bloodbath in February.
Only Monday but I’ll take a chance and call E.J. Dionne Jr. snip from his latest column the quote of the week, Calling the bluff on deficits
So on the one hand, we have to cut, cut, cut because fiscal catastrophe is looming. On the other, we have to make the problem worse by shoveling more money to the rich because . . . taking care of those with tidy incomes is contemporary conservatism’s highest purpose.
Than E.J. goes on to try to shame Republicans. Moderate minded Americans might as well give up that ghost. many of you still believe that Republicans feel some fidelity to responsible government. No. They have sworn allegiance to the right-wing agenda, America be damned.