“Our only political party has two right wings, one called Republican, the other Democratic. But Henry Adams figured all that out back in the 1890s. ‘We have a single system,’ he wrote, and ‘in that system the only question is the price at which the proletariat is to be bought and sold, the bread and circuses.” – Gore Vidal
That is what Gore Vidal believed. However over at Huffington Post, Drew Weston seems to think there is one more wing that needs mentioning and he describes all three wings.
The first wing, the psychiatric wing, is defined by severe psychological and intellectual impairments, exemplified by the inability to read a birth certificate. Sarah Palin’s recent foray into American history, replete with her description of Paul Revere as the man who rang alarms, bells, and buzzers to signal his support for the Second Amendment years before there was either a United States or a Bill of Rights, provides an example of the kind of “gaffe” that is, in fact, psychologically meaningful. This level of intellectual dysfunction, equally common in the pronouncements of Michelle Bachmann, once disqualified a candidate for high office. That was until the “lamestream media” decided to turn elections into reality shows, where the only real criterion is celebrity (defined as the state of being or becoming famous), and where commentators may poke occasional fun but no longer communicate to the public the seriousness of intellectual deficits in someone running for high office who would actually have to make decisions in which “facts” occasionally matter. (The dangerousness of that level of media indifference to reality should have been a lesson of George W. Bush’s tenure in office, but things have sadly only gotten worse since then.)
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The second wing is the corporate wing, also known as the wing-tip wing. Once the home of moderate Republicans such as Bob Dole, this wing used to be slightly to the right of the American center. Its advocates held beliefs now seen as “quaint” by modern-day wing-tips (e.g., that humans evolved the same way other animals did, that a fertilized egg does not hold property rights any more than an omelet does, and that cutting the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, police, and firefighters does not reduce unemployment).
Today’s wing-tips, in contrast, are defined by three articles of faith.
The first is that whatever ails you (whether budget deficits, unemployment, or kidney failure), the solution is tax cuts for the rich.
The second is the belief (this one true) that whatever ails them
can be fixed within any two-year election cycle by an infusion of venture capital from the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, Big Oil, the Pharmaceutical lobby, or whosever interests could be served or threatened by some piece of legislation.
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The third belief that defines the wing-tips is that deficits present a grave threat to our way of life — except when Republicans are in power, at which point deficits are deficit-neutral. This deep and abiding concern with deficits (under Democratic administrations) stands in sharp contrast to their relative indifference to unemployment, which they consider a luxury good consumed by people with too much time on their hands (after all, they’re unemployed), whose “whining” is really annoying to lawmakers, lobbyists, and Washington pundits who want to get on with the real business of cutting budgets, and who have more important things to worry about than people who, for God’s sake, can’t even keep a job now, can they.
These are the Paul Ryan and John Boehner Republicans, whose virtue is that they seem genuinely to believe what they are paid to say. Some of them, like Ryan, can even do so with earnest looks on their faces (something Boehner has not mastered, even while smearing his mascara). This is an impressive feat, given that what they have been saying lately is that they would happily throw their own grandmothers under the bus, although they know this will never come to pass because they don’t believe in public transportation (hence the absence of buses, ergo the safety of grandmothers).
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And that brings us to the third wing of the Republican Party, the Democrats. Their standard-bearer, President Obama, has proven himself perhaps the strongest potential challenger to Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination if he decides to join the debates, having established his conservative bona fides on a wide range of social and economic issues:
- Deporting more immigrants and breaking up more families than George W. Bush (or to put it in more business-friendly language, increasing U.S. “exports” of poorly documented human capital).
- Coming out in support of expanded off-shoring drilling just before the BP catastrophe in the Gulf; repeatedly touting production of a mythical substance (seen only, legend has it, by industry executives) as “clean coal” (widely believed to be found in the Fountain of Youth); and calling for the building of more nuclear plants, which the Japanese have shown to be a safe complement to offshore drilling (perhaps with the hope that water contaminated with radioactive materials discharged into the ocean might prove useful as a dispersant for oil).
- Extending the “Hyde Amendment” to allow GOP lawmakers to exclude abortion coverage from even private health insurance.
- Cutting 120 billion in taxes for the rich while proposing billions in cuts to “entitlements,” such as home heating subsidies to people who are poor or elderly.
- Making sure the nation’s largest banks remained solvent so they could continue to foreclose on the homes of millions of Americans, whose tax dollars supported the multi-million-dollar bonuses of the executives who continue to refuse to renegotiate their mortgages.
- Saying virtually nothing as Republican governors and state legislators around the country attack organized labor (e.g., remaining almost entirely mum on the Wisconsin law stripping workers of the right to negotiate their contracts).
But that’s just the president. We can’t blame the party whose name he never utters for the actions or inactions of its titular leader, who prefers to remain “post-partisan.”
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Consider the following five-point statement of conservative economic principles from ABC’s This Week a couple of Sundays ago, which concisely describes what conservatives believe the Obama administration should do to solve our nation’s economic ills, and how the Democrats responded to it:
- Our effort now … should be to get the private sector, to help them stand up and lead the recovery. [T]he government is not the central driver of recovery.
- Now, we must live within our means.
- We’ve got to rely on government policies that are trying to leverage the private sector and give incentives to the private sector to be doing the growth. And … so … these tax cuts … will continue over the rest of this year.
- Put in place this regulatory review in which all of the major agencies are going to go through, find any outmoded regulations, ones that are excessively costly for their benefits, find ways to streamline.
- The free-trade agreements, trying to increase exports, which are rising at 15 percent annual rates.
So there you have all the elements of the ineffectual conservative Republican response to a severe recession bordering on a Depression: let the private sector lead and the government step out of the way; cut the budget, exercise austerity, and “live within our means;” use tax cuts as the primary stimulus to get the economy moving again (because they worked so well under the Bush administration); eliminate excessive regulations on businesses, because we all know that excessive regulations are what threw us into the Great Recession and are what are hindering the business community’s ability to create economic growth; and implement free-trade agreements so the sticky fingers of the invisible hand of capitalism can work its wonders across international borders, just as it has done for the millions of Americans who once had manufacturing jobs, but just don’t understand the fine points of the theory of comparative advantage in economics (by which countries with the “comparative advantage” of having the 2/3 of the world’s workers who are willing to work for less than $2/day get jobs as factories in the U.S. shut their doors).
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So what was the Democrats’ response?
Actually, that was the Democrats’ response. This statement of conservative economic principles was actually from the Chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, Austan Goolsby.
To his credit, Goolsby, one of the smartest, clearest-headed, plainest-speaking progressive economists around, looked very uncomfortable having to recite Hoover’s plan for economic recovery (actually, Hoover was substantially more proactive and progressive in his vision as the economy sank into the abyss), and he announced his decision to resign the next day, I suspect out of a sense of futility and disgust that there’s not much he can do with both of Uncle Sam’s hands tied behind his back.
A worthy description of where we stand politically. Shades of George Carlin and Mort Saul. I just had to share this.