ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A new generation of mythmakers has begun to make its voice heard in Congress and the media. With earnest supplicants taking to lecterns and airwaves throughout the country voters often end up choosing badly when they are called upon to decide which policies really make sense and which candidates articulate them in a meaningful way.
A buffoon like Donald Trump, as 'birther' extraordinaire, titillates significant numbers of the electorate and represents the triumph of ego over intellect. He says he's a very bright, very rich guy but when people repeatedly sing their own praises it often turns out they aren't so special after all. As for wealth a series of bankruptcies may have skewed his bottom line and could call into question his business acumen. How one might ask do you bankrupt a casino and more than once at that? Isn't the house always supposed to win?
Some say Trump's appeal is that he 'tells it like it is', but in fact he tells it like it isn't as do so many others in the Republican Party. He suggests that should he fail to get the party's nomination he may run as an independent. But the smart money says he won't run at all since he is unlikely to reveal the details of his financial empire, preferring to hang on to a TV show where he has fine-tuned an obnoxious persona designed to delight a rapacious audience that assumes his approach is pretty much how rich people behave.
The best thing about the Trump phenomenon is that it has managed to scare other right-wingers out their complacent assumptions that they can say anything no matter how outrageous and let it fester uncontested. Even Michele Bachmann has backed off the birther stuff to some extent because it is proving to be a distraction from whatever else the Tea Party has in mind to unseat President Obama. She seems willing now to accept the certificate of live birth that has been public for a long time now.
Others will continue to beat the dead horse of this wacky nonsense in an attempt to discredit the president and Democrats, but the policies they describe are not yielding the kind of positive response they had hoped for. No matter, for example, how the debt outdistances other issues in terms of its impact on the economy and fears that the country is on an unsustainable path of entitlement explosion and public service strain at the local level, people are beginning to catch on to the way conservatives have chosen to solve our looming insolvency. Union busting and right-wing social engineering have frightened voters who might otherwise have supported conservative positions. And at least for now, the majority is proving once again that it is a moderate entity not a radical one.
A modicum of logic manages to creep in from time to time. For instance, a Medicare voucher system rather than a guaranteed government payment for services would leave seniors at the mercy of an insurance industry that has shown itself to be more interested in profits than the welfare of patients. Deliberations have always benefited from negotiations involving the largest number of participants - - power in numbers. To throw the system into one-on-one procedures would most certainly work to the disadvantage of most Medicare recipients.
Still Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and the rest of the House Republican majority continue to act as if there is only one way to shave the debt and shrink the budget and that way is to cut spending, especially anything that interferes with the conservative social agenda. That loud splintering sound is the clash of wills among supporters, the goals the majority originally sought to establish and the twisted morality that attaches to them. The Tea Party and the birther movement tinged as they are with racist overtones have proven difficult for the leadership to deal with in the day-to-day work of the Congress.
And with each passing week the party finds it necessary to explain away or apologize for some unpleasant airing of an underlying bias that limits the viability of its candidates and makes ordinary Americans say 'hey wait just a minute.' An elected official calls green energy "this crap" and Tea Partier headliner Marilyn Davenport sends an e-mail depicting chimpanzee adults with a baby Obama chimp. In defending herself she said she didn't stop to think about the "historic implications" and how offensive such a picture might be, something I call the 'duh' factor.
Do people like Davenport really think the rest of us are that stupid? And are too many of us intent on proving that we are?
Here's an idea... Instead of the Republican Party acting as the middleman, why not just turn the government over to the Heritage Foundation? It seems to be a rich source of talking points for all segments of the right wing and speaks with great authority on matters of national concern. While we're at it, instead of nibbling away at entitlements why not scrap them entirely and do away with unions at the same time? That way Congress wouldn't have to spend any more time arguing about ways to trim the deficit with half measures - - one great sweeping piece of legislation and, poof, problems solved.
But failing such a dramatic approach it is astonishing that the mainstream media is describing the Republican budget plan as a courageous effort to take on the arduous task of cutting costs while 'saving' the country's most cherished programs. Even a cursory reading of the document Congressman Paul Ryan introduced under the ponderous title of "Road to Prosperity" makes clear the implications of his plan for the vast majority of Americans. According to its guidelines changes in Medicare would only pertain to persons fifty-five and under, no doubt because a tumult of opposition would soon overwhelm discussions of proposed changes if more recent retirees were to be affected.
But it sounds like more of the same when the top tax rate would be 25% for businesses and individuals alike. That would lower the corporate rate as well as that of the wealthiest members of society. In addition, eliminating taxes on capital gains would be a huge gift to people who earn their income in the stock market rather than the workplace. And abolishing the estate tax, which Republicans have long insisted is a form of double taxation, would clearly offer investors, exempt from capital gains taxes, further enrichment by protecting of their riches when they leave this world. And those "children and grandchildren" Republicans repeatedly mention in their diatribes about debt reduction would reap substantial benefits out of reach for most working Americans.
In terms of health-care the Ryan plan offers seniors of the future a Medicare option that dispenses with the government component and replaces it with vouchers that would allow the elderly to purchase insurance from private companies. As far as Republicans are concerned there's nothing like the free market to tamp down public expenditures and allow market forces to drive costs. As far as most observers are concerned, however, there are few controls over both the cost and quality of care. With rising medical costs and Ryan's hope that he and his conservative base will be able to repeal Obama's health-care reform legislation it's hard to see what the benefits would be from a voucher plan.
And while health-care costs would no doubt continue to rise is isn't clear that the provisions in the plan would keep pace with those increased costs.
But the idea as Ryan and his merry band of conservatives see it is that cutting tax rates in all sectors would help "grow the economy" and create jobs, and he offers some outrageously optimistic figures for job creation and debt reduction. His projections represent a huge leap of faith and a willing suspension of disbelief. Thus the most important considerations in "The Road to Prosperity" are about tax relief for everyone except the neediest members of society and we are back once again on the shaky ground of keep-the-rich-happy and limit spending for most everyone else. In that way, it is supposed, the nation would be magically transformed into a free-market bonanza.
Why hasn't it been commented upon more often by liberals that, if tax cut revisions were job creators and fiscal boosters, we'd be awash in jobs. The Bush tax cuts were a preamble to the debacle of deficits and low returns we have just witnessed. Why does anyone imagine that similar policies would produce a different result?
Perhaps it is as Hal Crowther explained about the common state of mind in the December 15th issue of the Progressive Populist: "It may be that voters below a certain level of ratiocination (logical reasoning), logical faculties permanently maimed by reality TV and video games are no longer able to resist the kind of attack ads that come at them in a $4 trillion tidal wave...Never in human history has so much cash and ... expertise been devoted to what would once have been called mind control or brainwashing and is now called free speech. There's no apparent limit to what the right-wing coalitions... will spend to bring out the worst in Americans."
They have almost won the day especially if the rest of us are prepared to hand over the reins of government to right wing think tanks and their devotees.