Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Shame

So apparently, after eight years of a spending free-for-all, and on the heels of a massive 700 billion giveaway to Wall Street's elite courtesy of President Bush, the Republicans in congress have decided that the most importantest thing evar right now is not to invest in the country to fend of a looming depression, but to be the stoic guardians of the taxpayer's dollar.

Say what you will about Republicans, but man, have they got some balls on them. We all knew that eventually, the revisionist history and alternate reality would begin. But it takes an incredible amount of chutzpah for them to begin the attempt to erase the past decade when Bush isn't even out of office yet.

One begins to think they are living in a parallel universe when they read op/eds arguing for limited executive power by Bush administration figures John Bolton and John Yoo. Yes, that John Yoo, who only a few short years ago was bending over backwards to justify the abuses of executive privilege by the Bush administration.

Not that this is unique to Republicans. Just as Republicans have no shame with being big old hypocrites if it will make the Democrats look bad, Democrats also have no shame with being being big old hypocrites... if it will make the Democrats look bad.

I state this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. It's healthy and necessary to have a chuckle at the absurdity of the Republican's attempt to hide their history and completely contradict themselves. For anyone that's paying attention, the attempt to convince the public to not believe their lying eyes and instead believe Republicans are genuine about limiting government and spending merely because they claim to be is almost parody.

But the problem is not everyone is paying attention, and instead often rely on intellectual shortcuts, like sound bytes or talking points, when it comes to their political views. And we cannot deny that the right has been very successful in making their themes convincing to the public. But when the country is in dire straits, and meaningful debate on how to fix it's ills is replaced by talking points, the result can be disastrous.

This problem is only compounded when it's an issue that is seen as the Republican's turf, like spending and taxation. Despite the pattern of excessive Republican spending followed by periods where the Democrats clean up the budget messes, the idea that it is the Republicans that are the fiscally responsible, and not the Democrats, is dogma in this country. And when it's accepted without question that the government is always bad and intrusive, the "fiscally responsible" Republicans floating what would normally be seen as horrible, failed ideas can be accepted as legitimate, and as such, dangerous.

This idea that we have no obligation to jump-start our economy, or that what is needed is even more tax cuts for the wealthy, trickle-down economics, less spending for the public good and every other idea that has failed miserably every time it's trotted out, can be harmful when in reality, our periods of greatness and economic recovery have come when we invested in the country. And the idea that because America is full of so much awesome that another great depression could never happen here is incredibly naive. It most definitely can, and if the Republicans have their way, it probably will.

Even by the Obama's team's own estimates, the current stimulus package, due to it's being watered down to appease the Republicans, may not be enough to lift the county out of economic danger. Now, if there were any evidence that some of these Republican staples like tax cuts worked, I'd be fine with them in the stimulus bill. But as we've seen time and time again, when trying to stimulate the economy, tax cuts just don't work.

It may not be all doom and gloom. Some folks, realizing what is at stake here, are calling out the flaws. While everyone is talking about "bi-partisan" tax cuts, Senators like John Kerry (D-Mass) are encouraging more infrastructure spending instead, which at the very least, will help the debate by placing a liberal point to begin a compromise with the far right on (rather then a moderate one). And the public probably has not forgotten the increased spending during the Bush years, so attempts by Republicans to paint themselves as trustworthy may be premature, and backfire on them. And although I'm uncomfortable with the pandering to Republican interests, Obama has laid out the issues with the economy as transparently as possible, which will not only boost confidence in his plans, but also put the Republicans at odds with the public should they decide to dissent against the stimulus plan that most Americans believe is necessary.

I think this is key here, if we can present the actual situation as simply and honestly as possible, then the talking points and right-wing obstructionism may fail. It's rather hard to convince the public that the country needs to go down in flames for the sake of Republican ideology.

All the same, we should probably cross our fingers. Or, more productively, contact our representatives.

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