In the debt-ceiling debate Republicans are holding the country hostage again, demanding that the country shift to a radical pro-big-corporate/big-wealth agenda as the ransom. At the same time the Tea Partiers say don't raise the debt limit, period, and let the country default, hoping that out of the resulting chaos and desperation they can rebuild the economy in an Ayn Randian, rule-by-the-rich vision.
Either way, this is a radical, unprecedented attempt to redefine our form of government, largely privatizing for a few the wealth of We, the People while stifling our voice. If we give in to this extremist vision of cut and gut, America will lose the engine that made us prosperous.
Sabotaging Economy Short-term
In the short-term it is looking more and more like Republicans are deliberately sabotaging efforts to recover the economy and create jobs, as a strategy to turn voters against President Obama in the coming elections. The cuts that Republicans are demanding threaten jobs and the recovery. From the post Debt-Ceiling Deal's Cuts Could Crash Economy:
Withdrawing government spending literally “takes money out of the economy.” We have a crisis because of lack of demand. Republican solutions of giving the wealthy and corporations even more money and tax cuts obviously will not work because the rich don't create jobs, we do. The rich are already richer than ever, with a greater share of the income and wealth than ever, and giant corporations are already sitting on tons of cash.
So with the stimulus winding down, and state and local budget cuts causing layoffs of teachers, firefighters and other government employees, Republicans are demanding even more layoffs from federal budget cuts as a "cure." But cutting government as a prescription for creating jobs sounds a lot like their claim that cutting taxes increases revenue. The problem is a lack of demand, and budget cuts taking hundreds of billions out of the economy only makes that worse.
So are Republicans doing this on purpose, to tank the economy, improving their 2012 election chances?
Late last year, Washington Monthly's Steve Benen surfaced the question, saying that in light of Republican efforts to take capital out of the economy, stop the focus on unemployment, and take economic growth off the agenda in favor of deficit reduction,
I obviously can't read the minds of GOP policymakers, but it seems at least worth talking about whether they're prioritizing the destruction of a presidency over the needs of the nation.
Early this month Henry Blodget asked Are Republicans Intentionally Sabotaging Economy For Political Gain? Click through for the video.
More recently, in Democrats Explicitly Call Out GOP For Sabotaging The Economic Recovery, TPM reported:
In a Capitol press conference Wednesday, the Senate's top Democrats argued that Republicans don't want to pass measures like a temporary payroll tax holiday for employers because they'll improve President Obama's re-election chances.
"Our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate are driven by putting one man out of work: President Obama," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).
The harshest denunciation came from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the man who crafted the Dems' new "jobs first" message.
"We are also open to hiring incentives, perhaps in the form of a payroll tax cut for employers that was floated by the administration.... [T]hat might not be our first choice, that shows how willing we are to work with the Republicans to create jobs. It's pro-business, it's a tax cut, and many Republicans have been for it in the past. But now all of a sudden they're coming out against it,"
Steve Benen reacted, in The ‘sabotage’ question goes mainstream,
E.J. Dionne Jr. inched pretty close to it last week, noting that Republicans “have no interest” in working on job creation because “Republicans benefit if the economy stays sluggish.” Kevin Drum wondered whether this will ever be “a serious talking point,” adding, “No serious person in a position of real influence really wants to accuse an entire party of cynically trying to tank the economy, after all.”
Michael Tomasky takes the point a step further at The Daily Beast, in The GOP vs. Democracy, writing:
It’s about time the Democrats started saying openly what has been clear for months or even years now—that as long as economic recovery would work to the political benefit of Barack Obama, the Republicans have been, are, and will be in favor of sabotaging the economy.
[. . .] Today’s GOP is about ideological maximalism on all fronts. ... They cannot negotiate, because negotiating means accepting something you don’t like, which the noise machine will not permit. And worse, because the noise machine wants Obama to fail and is so powerful, Republican office-holders inevitably arrive at that point too. ... they hide their political motives behind rhetoric about the deficit. It’s high time the Democrats started pulling back the curtain.
Wrecking Ball Long-term
On the longer term, Republican radicals are advocating "a wrecking ball agenda" that cuts the very things that made us prosperous: infrastructure, education, scientific research as well as the things the define us as a caring people and enable all of us to pursue our dreams: retirement security, health care and a social safety net. The cuts mean lower taxes for the wealthy and less supervision of the practices of their giant corporations. Privatization of public wealth and functions means a wealthy few benefit and receive economic gain instead of We, the People.
At Netroots Nation Van Jones talked about this conservative wrecking crew, calling them "dream killers, who have a wrecking ball agenda for our country. A wrecking ball for America. But they painted that wrecking ball red, white and blue." At the launch of the Rebuild The Dream movement, Jones said,
Look at their great leader, Grover Norquist. This guy, he has proudly said on the record that he wants to shrink America’s Government down to the size that he can drown it in a bathtub, he wants to drown America’s Government in a bathtub…who talks like that?
Who, who even thinks like that? That is not a very patriotic statement sir…
But their contempt for America’s Government perfectly matches their plan for the American people. Paul Ryan’s budget would knock out more critical American infrastructure that our sworn enemies ever dreamed of knocking out. These massive cuts wouldn’t just kill Medicare, as the states and cities adjusted to all that, states and cities would wind up sitting down first responders.
First Priority Is Not The Country - It Is Getting Rid Of Obama
As Obama took office and began to try to address the economic emergency, conservative leader Rush Limbaugh voiced Republican hopes for party-over-country, saying,"I hope Obama fails."
Last year Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Limbaugh, explaining Republican priorities: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Again just last week explained why Republicans are sabotaging jobs and economic recovery, saying,
“I think the president can be defeated if conditions in November of '12 are anything like they are today. ... The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," he told National Journal.
Now Hoping For Default
This weekend Rep. Michelle Bachmann says that under no circumstances would she vote to increase the debt limit, instead allowing the country to default and economy to be destroyed. Announcing her candidacy for President she says that warnings of consequences if the government doesn't raise the debt limit and defaults are just "scare tactics," saying the Treasury can still pay interest.
Candidate Tim Pawlenty says "pay China first"
Here is Bachmann opposing the minimum wage in 2005, explaining her opposition to the state's minimum wage as a form of job creation: "Literally, if we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."
In 2011, Bachmann suggests an unlikely fix to the nation's long-term deficit: "I think if we give Glenn Beck the numbers, he can solve this."
Radical Ayn Randian Cultists
Much of the Republican Party has morphed into a radical, cult-like group. Many are now followers of Ayn Rand, the novelist/philosopher who espoused a vision of a society divided into "producers"— the "job-creators"—and the rest of us, the "parasites" and "leeches" who use democracy to "loot" the wealth of the deserving business owners. As Yaron Brook and Don Watkinsof the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights explained in an op-ed last year,
It is the producers who make life possible: who keep grocery shelves stocked; who discover new lifesaving drugs; who make computers faster, buildings taller, and airplanes safer.
The looters, on the other hand, leech off the wealth created by producers.
Some say that maybe it is a bad idea to base a political party's ideology on a belief that altruism, democracy and Christianity are "evil." Others say that maybe it is a bad idea to base a country's policies on fictional novels rather than science and history. Still others say is it a bad idea for national leaders to think of most of the public as "parasites" while saying people with tons of cash are "producers" who should govern. I am talking about the Republican Party's embrace of Ayn Rand and her cruel philosophy.
Disciples of Ayn Rand's philosophy of selfishness now dominate the thinking of the leadership of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. There is no way around it. Republican budget leader Rep. Paul Ryan says Rand is his guide. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) says Rand's Atlas Shrugged is his "foundation book." Senator Rand Paul is named after her (or not). Clarence Thomas requires his law clerks to watch The Fountainhead. Fox News promotes Rand. Conservative blogs promote Rand. Glenn Beck has been promoting Rand for years. So has Rush. This isn't recent, Alan Greenspan lived with the Rand cult and promoted and implemented her ideas.
Backmann often echoes the Ayn Randian vision of "job-creators":
So if we cut back the corporate tax rate, if we would zero out the capital gains, right, allow for a 100 percent expensing when a job creator buys equipment for their business, that would go a long way towards job creators recognizing that this is a pro-business environment. "
Speaker of the House John Boehner also frequently echoes this Randian perspective of "job creators."
“Everything is on the table except raising taxes on the very people we expect to create jobs and get our economy growing again.”
The rich are "job creators? Actually, "The Rich" Don't "Create Jobs," We Do.
Attacking Our Form Of Government
As I wrote the other day about the story of America: We fought a wealthy powerful few who had all the say and didn’t let us have a say. We won and made a country where We, the People made the decisions and share the benefits. So because we had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage… we protect the environment, we give out social security. We take care of each other. This made us prosperous.
The current Republican Party is fighting our form of government, with China as their "business-friendly" ideal. They want to defund through tax cuts and dismantle through spending cuts the things democracy entitles us - We, the People - to, and sell off our common wealth for the private gain of a select and wealthy few.
Violating The Oath They Took
Just what does it mean to take an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Let's look to another time when the country was under attack from within.
Members of Congress today take this oath,
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
This oath was brought in following more severe changes in the oath during the 1860s Nort/South conflict, According to Senate.gov,
In April of 1861, a time of uncertain and shifting loyalties, President Abraham Lincoln ordered all federal civilian employees within the executive branch to take an expanded oath. When Congress convened for a brief emergency session in July, members echoed the president's action by enacting legislation requiring employees to take the expanded oath in support of the Union. This oath is the earliest direct predecessor of the modern oath.
Then as now the country was under attack from within. Those still loyal to the Constitution insisted that officials take an "Ironclad Test Oath" swearing they had never engaged in disloyal conduct. The difference is that then they enforced it, and those who took the oath falsely were prosecuted for perjury. Today, not so much.
The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Section. 4: The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
Eric Hunt contributed to this post.