By Rick Morris
My paleocon political sympathies have been well-established in FDH quarters over a period of time. So, while my red-to-blue voting ratio is wildly unbalanced, I’ve never been one to settle for the lesser of two evils and it doesn’t take any provocation whatsoever to get me ranting about the stupidity of the Republicans. As such, I see the present debt crisis a little clearer than grizzled DC pundits like Jeff Greenfield, who proclaim “a pox on both houses.” No, this is a pox on all the houses, including that of “we the people.”
Let’s break it down, one guilty party at a time.
WHY THE DEMOCRATS ARE AT FAULT
This one is the easiest to explain. I don’t even have to break a sweat, really, especially compared to the other ones below.
Ever since FDH ripped the Tenth Amendment off of the Constitution and used it for toilet paper back in the ‘30s, the Democrats have been setting the terms of how we define ourselves as a people. There was a non-violent war with the New Deal, and they won it. Thirty years later, the Great Society/civil rights movement/Vietnam backlash/Watergate sealed their gains and built upon them (while the Yippie and Black Panther extremist types felt that they lost because they did not bring the entire system down, the transformation from within was profound).
For almost eighty years, in terms of setting the parameters of the debate, the Democrats have been the winners and Constitution-abiding folks like myself have been the losers – yes, even during times like 2003-06 when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress (as we shall see when I disembowel the GOP below). The wisdom of Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson (“A wise and frugal Government, which shall retrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”) has been forever cast aside as those who ride in the cart are now dictating terms to those of us who pull the cart.
Having won the war, having controlled the terms of debate in which anything other than a substantial yearly increase in government spending is considered a “cut” because it goes against the baseline calculated by government bureaucrats, Democrats are what I would term “status quo extremists.” With our country utterly unable to afford business as usual, they hold the line, screeching at any tiny proposed changes and pulling the old Eddy Guerrero lie/cheat/steal routine when any of them actually make it through. Witness the continuing resolution debate from the spring of this year, when John Boehner allegedly got the best of the president in a staredown only to find out that about $30 billion of the alleged “cuts” were completely kayfabed. Shades of Bob Dole getting rolled repeatedly in the ‘80s (“Hey, they said this deal was going to be weighted in favor of cuts and it’s weighted in favor of taxes AGAIN!”).
To these hippies, the answer to any shortfall is to jack up taxes on “the rich.” What they never tell you is that the top 1% pay more than the bottom 95% already, over 40% of all income taxes. Oh, and 46% of Americans now don’t even pay any income tax. So the reality is way more complicated than that. We’re soaking the rich already and any reputable economist will tell you that there’s no way to finance government at its present (monstrous) rate without moving that tax burden well down the spectrum.
Where does President Obama fit into all this? I can honestly say that I pegged this one pretty early. The Tea Party people screaming about socialism are right, assuming that they’re talking about the “soft” Western European or Canadian sort. There’s no full-fledged Bolshevik movement here, that’s a silly overstatement, but this president very, very clearly envisions our country continuing to expand out its welfare state to the proportions that are now choking countries like Greece.
Even if he loses in his bid for reelection next year, the free lunch theory will never be allowed to die as long as there are any Donkey Party members in Congress. To them, we should have an ever-increasing government that is financed by hordes of phantom rich people with money trees in their back yards or kicked down the road to future generations. Because our political system is so completely wretched at this moment in time, the other political party, which has better ideas when they’re not screwing them up or selling them out, is frequently even worse for the country because they embrace the latter – which is worse than the former. Confused yet? Well, the progression of maddening people at blame continues on relentlessly.
WHY THE REPUBLICANS ARE AT FAULT
Entire libraries could be written on this point, not least of the infuriating reality that they know better, with the exception of their elevation of absolutist free trade positions to religious dogma. But they so often just don’t care. Witness:
^ Their addiction to corporate welfare. To the phony guardians of purity like Grover Norquist (who bullies all the key eunuchs in the GOP into submission), elimination of odious subsidies like the ethanol boondoggle are akin to tax hikes. Oh really? But really, while this is just the odious manifestation, it is part of a larger slavish devotion to Big Business that undermines the entire ethos they profess to support – inasmuch as Big Business actually teams up with Big Government at every opportunity to slam Small Business, the real engine of growth in this country. There was a time when I personally didn’t want to admit this, but it’s clearly undeniable that all but a handful of national Republicans use their lip service to free-market growth economics as a means of simply paying back their Big Money contributors. Tactically, that ties in somewhat to the next point.
^ Their addiction to demagoguery on taxes. Yes, last October I conditionally called for taxes to be on the table. But before any self-righteous partisan calls me a squish, know this: the condition was that the Republicans should give ground if they wouldn’t actually make the kind of severe cuts that are necessary – such as the $500 billion in cuts for the next fiscal year that I identified in the same piece. Again, that’s $500 billion, in a climate where anything other than a raise in overall spending sends the entire political world into upheaval. Ronald Reagan himself, the man who Republicans invoke incessantly, raised taxes himself on a few occasions. Aren’t Republicans supposed to believe in the Laffer Curve, which stipulates that taxes bring in more revenue up until the point that they don’t? Given that federal taxes are consuming the lowest percentage of GDP in 60 years, how do we know for a scientific fact where we are at on the Laffer Curve right now? And we don’t even need to open up the can of worms about how different taxes have smaller or greater effects on depressing economic activity. Again, my strong preference is not to raise any taxes, but rather to burn a lot of the present government spending to the ground. But if you’re not going to have the sack to do that, for the love of all that is decent, pay for your freaking spending. Tax-and-spend Democrat policies, as pathetic as they are, actually occupy higher moral ground than borrow-and-spend Republican policies that dodge tough choices in cowardly fashion and make them the problem of future generations who will curse us.
^ Their complete lack of understanding about how government works. This particular point is aimed specifically at the faction on the right that I otherwise love, the Tea Party. For those of us in the real world who bemoaned the election of Barack Obama in 2008, there was a recognition that the next four years would be about mitigating the damage to the republic and rallying in 2012 with a strong opponent capable of ending this administration. As admirable as the Tea-fueled fervor is, the notion that took root in the 2010 midterms that 2011 could be the year of rolling back Obamunism altogether was incredibly misguided – and that would be the case even if Republicans had taken back both houses of Congress last November. As I indicated on our web TV show, I was rooting for the Democrats to keep a thin-but-meaningless majority in both houses for the rest of Obama’s first term, enough so that they couldn’t get anything worse “accomplished” and sufficient to keep Republicans away from any blame or co-ownership for a fiasco they were powerless to turn around unilaterally anyway. While I must admit that through the continuing resolution debate earlier this year and the debt ceiling process thus far that new Speaker John Boehner has exceeded my low expectations for his competence, the fact remains that the unrealistic short-term expectations of the Tea Party are handing Obama his greatest gift. If anyone denies the consequence of federal default, or is sanguine about being able to blame it all on Obama, they are insane. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who never met a cynical sellout deal he wouldn’t endorse, is nonetheless right about the danger in this instance of willfully allowing Obama to find credible scapegoats at a time of 9.2% (and rising) unemployment. Republicans are right to be tough negotiators with the president and to get what they can to stem the damage to the country’s finances even before the 2012 elections. But the government shutdown of 1995 taught us once and for all that a Democrat president on the ropes can successfully pin blame for a ruinous standoff on his opponents and gain reelection. Tea Party leaders need to stop being Obama’s useful idiots. But the Tea folks who have been driven insane by politics as usual can blame their feelings in part on the do-nothing carcasses who dominate the GOP and exemplify the next point.
^ Their addiction to partisanship and aversion to principle. Republican leaders have never come to any kind of reckoning about the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, the administration that handed this country on a silver platter to Barack Obama. Almost 1 ½ years before Bush left office, in my first post here at The FDH Lounge, I detailed about how he tanked this country’s finances by treating the federal treasury like it was a Midland, Texas bar tab circa 1984. What’s worse is that the opinion leaders on the right, frauds like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh who kissed Dubya’s hiney back in the day, have contributed to the notion that Obama is upending the policies of that humble skinflint from Texas. Actually, Obama is doubling down on Bush’s mistakes (as he has done with many of the worst mistakes of his presidency, not just the spending areas) and moving to the ground where “compassionate conservatism” inevitably takes us. As somebody who was screaming about the Republican establishment shoving Bush down our throats in 2000, my early disgust was all too prescient. Who could forget Bush knifing Republicans in their budget negotiations with Bill Clinton in the fall of 1999 (“I don’t think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor.”)? His willful misrepresentation previewed the eight years of budgetary dishonesty that he would subsequently foist on the American people. Also, for as much as many on the right rightfully cry about today’s Treasury Department and the Fed trashing our dollar, you know who first put us on the initial 10-year trajectory to destroying our currency? That’s right, Dick Nixon back in ’72. One of today’s greatest columnists, the Southern Avenger Jack Hunter, used examples like these to make his point in his wonderful column How Partisanship Hurts Conservatism. Defending the indefensible just because a leader is wearing a “red jersey” is not even elementary-school logic. And attacking the other side for everything – such as lambasting First Lady Michelle Obama for fighting our country’s shameful and embarrassing youth obesity epidemic – is equally juvenile. Allowing an opposition leader to benefit by swatting away overheated attacks is unforgivable, as those who look back with a cooler head at Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection now recognize. Likewise, the “Bush Derangement Syndrome” that so many on the right bemoaned at the time helped reelect him in 2004 – and those moaners are now the first to crack Obama on a daily basis just for the sake of it. Indeed, the only coherent fusion to speak of between the Republican Establishment and the Tea Party comes in the form of their shared daily over-the-top attacks on Obama, as opposed to picking the spots for effective engagement. I warned three years ago that a “kitchen sink” approach to combating Obama would only ensure his election. Sadly, I was right and those tactics have never changed and seemingly never will, adding further weight to the observation of the great M. Stanton Evans about “the evil party and the stupid party.” And although the stupid party makes me grind my teeth, I do have some microscopic bit of understanding – because, as much as I want them to stand on principle, they are restrained to some degree by the intellectual dishonesty of the American people.
WHY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE AT FAULT
Because we’re a bunch of damn hypocrites, that’s why. Somebody once warned us about how we could get corrupted by the New Deal programs that came out of the ‘30s and those like the Great Society ones that came out of the ‘60s:
“The lessons of history … show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit."
Who was that vicious, heartless reactionary? Who was that tool of Big Business who wanted to hold the peeps down and let the hungry starve?
Oh yeah, that was FDR in 1935. Sorry, “progressives!”
But even though he stuck the needle in our arms and started pumping the high-grade opiates right into our bloodstream, that quote proves on some level that he knew exactly what he was doing.
Even worse, the problem was compounded half a century later when we entered full-on denial about the nature of the choice we needed to make: freedom from government control or submission to it. Ronald Reagan – the greatest president of my lifetime in my opinion, but one who still made significant mistakes (actually, being the best president of my lifetime counts for quite little when you stack all the bozos up in a row) – campaigned for office as the spiritual heir to FDR but somebody who also professed that government was the problem, not the solution.
Of course, these are irreconcilable positions. Reagan was trying, as something of a GOP outsider, to claim a populist mantle and it did work inasmuch as his success came from winning over millions of “Reagan Democrats” who treated him as something different from other Republican “tools of the rich” they might have otherwise disdained. But his broad appeal led us away from the choices we really needed to make.
The contradictions really came to the fore when Reagan adopted the – defensible, in my opinion – view that he needed to make tradeoffs on defense and domestic spending. The crux of these compromises was to bribe the Democrats with social spending so they wouldn’t indulge their pacifism and weakness vis-à-vis the Soviet Union right when they were ripe to be toppled by keeping up with our military buildup. Regrettably, however, it must be admitted that Reagan bought in at least to a small degree to the theory that never was an acceptable risk: “starving the beast.”
This risible precept holds that government will eventually have to live within its means if we run up the tab sufficient to deprive it of future income. Of course, the past three decades have proven a different reality: borrow-and-spend politics, lubricated with enough additionally-printed money to kick the can down the road and make it significantly worse when the financial nuke is detonated. Reagan never intended for us to continue down his spending path indefinitely, but his Faustian bargain with congressional Democrats in the 1980s created momentum that would be irreversible as long as our junkie populace could keep cramming “free” goodies down our throats.
At this point, we’re doomed. Eventually, as much as our “respectable leaders” want to demonize anyone who talks about the Amero eventually replacing the dollar as “conspiracy theorists,” we’re going to have to go completely back to Square One once we completely junk this currency. I only pray, selfishly, it’s not in my lifetime – sorry, Morris descendants! Go back to 1989, when Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, normally your standard run-of-the-mill something-for-nothing Democrat, endorsed charging the elderly for better care (catastrophic coverage and a modified prescription drug plan) and his fat, sweaty arse got chased through the streets by a bunch of fired-up old coots. Congress backed off posthaste and proved our doom once and for all.
Even the most “drastic and bloodthirsty cuts” on the table right now are a freaking joke. Obama and the goofs on both sides of the aisle in Congress have the nards to act like a 10-year cut of four trillion bones is a big deal. Well, according to the CBO (I know, I know, not the most accurate or unbiased source, but it’s not like any other major institution is going to have projections much different than this one), that would still leave us with $9 trillion in additional spending over the next decade – and take us from $14.3 trillion in national debt to $23.3 trillion. Oh, and that’s before the most selfish generation in human history, the Baby Boomers, drive us further into the poorhouse by sucking up Social Security and Medicare at insane, unprecedented and wildly unsustainable levels.
Even the Tea Party, whose ideals I subscribe to as indicated above, finds a vast majority of its members tainted with this residue. With apologies to the late former Senator Russell B. Long, who was speaking of revenues as opposed to government programs (“don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree”), Tea Party voters are about 2-1 against cutting both Social Security and Medicaid and more than 3-1 against cutting Medicare. But then again, maybe those Tea Party members are only following libertarian icon Ayn Rand. After a lifetime of railing against all facets of the welfare state, Rand took Social Security and Medicare benefits (under an assumed name) and defended the practice as not leaving behind any loose caysh for the Evil Gubmint.
Think about that: the “guardians of fiscal purity,” the Tea Party, finds itself inundated with people who themselves are part of the poisonous something-for-nothing ethos. And that sums up our collective doom better than anything else ever could.