MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Will the Rich Push Us Off the Cliff?
Remember the old adage about looking at a glass that is half-filled with water? The pessimist decries that it is half empty, and the optimist enthusiastically asserts that it is half full.
That reminds me of the whole notion of the "fiscal cliff," a term that derives from the GOP and corporatist/Wall Street mantra that we have a deficit problem from excess spending and not a revenue shortfall from those who don't pay their fair share for democracy. Of course, it's a little more complicated than that, such as having a military-industrial complex that is bloated with government dollars. It was Eisenhower, the Midwest mainstream iconic Republican – and war hero -- before wealthy plutocrats and Hollywood scripting turned Ronald Reagan into the patron saint of the GOP, who warned us about the Pentagon and big business collaborating the nation into bankruptcy.
Reagan's 1965 autobiography is entitled "Where's the Rest of Me?" That is an apt metaphor for what is going on in the Republican Party now as they have remained silent about an alternative to a deficit reduction plan set forth by the White House.
The Republicans have spent decades masterfully defining the terms of the political debate. Only a party that has no shame or principles could begin an assault on Obama for a deficit that was run up by Bush and the Republicans with tax cuts for the rich and a bill for two ill-conceived wars.
Most Republicans are quick out of the gate to boast about the self-flattering concept of American Entitlement, but then they hide their wallets whenever they are asked to pony up to pay for the cost of living in a democracy.
A very high degree of corporate profits come from advances made in the public sector: the Internet, television, biomedical and pharmaceutical advances, NASA space program research, just to name a very short list. Not to mention that our public schools and federal research provide a bank of human and intellectual knowledge that enrich private corporations.
George Lakoff explains in a Truthout article today "Why It's Hard to Replace the 'Fiscal Cliff' Metaphor," as he titled his commentary. It's a complicated and accurate neuro-linguistic analysis, but, as Lakoff notes, that doesn't mean the fiscal cliff term is accurate.
Take that glass filled 50 percent with water. When we apply it to the fiscal cliff, maybe our governmental coffers are lacking revenue from those who think that freedom has no price to pay for it, nor does the government financing in education, infrastructure and research that makes their engorged profits possible have a cost. Maybe the glass is 50% empty because of financial obligations that the very rich have to the nation that made their fortunes possible, but they refuse to ante up.
Maybe, however, that glass is not 50 percent empty, but could be 50 percent fuller by cutting the Pentagon budget and ending the US's need to assert absolute global military dominance.
As Lakoff observes in his Truthout commentary:
Progressive economists like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have rejected the fiscal cliff metaphor, but with different arguments and different alternative metaphors. Krugman points out that the idea of the fiscal cliff is tied to an economically false argument about the dangers of the deficit. He argues instead that the deficit is too small and that we need to invest more, not less, in the development of the economy. The real danger, he argues is that what is called the "fiscal cliff" is really an "austerity bomb." The result would be dangerous cuts in necessary economic investments and safety nets, which would hurt many people and the economy as a whole, as well - just as austerity programs in Europe have done. And Krugman has correctly pointed out that using the fiscal cliff metaphor helps conservatives because it accepts their economic theory of deficits.
But, even if one accepts the tsunami use of the term "fiscal cliff" (which the media and politicans have), the issue is whether lack of revenue from those who can pay the freight for rejuvenating a vibrant economic democracy will do so – and along with Defense Department cuts – avert the cliff – or will they toss us off the precipice, while they transfer even more of their funds to offshore accounts?
The austerity/deficit budget "frame" is a convenient perspective that benefits the pocket books of the rich.
Let the plutocrats and corporate lackey politicians who created the cliff under George W. Bush pay their tithe for the privilege of living in a constitutional democracy that generally basically gives away its government supported research, services, and tax cuts and favored "leases" to the private sector -- or charges a fee so nominal as to be basically a gift. That would go a long way toward filling up that glass of water.
This isn't really a question of an imminent deficit crisis (what is more important is stimulating the economy which will in the end bring in more revenue to reduce the deficit); it's a question of greedy individuals paying the piper.
That will prevent the US from being pushed off of a cliff as the global rich fly off on their private jets to the Cayman Islands.
(Photo: Dennis Barnes)