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Monday, February 9, 2009

Intransigence (winning at any cost, even if it means losing America)

When Rush Limbaugh said ‘I hope Obama fails’, he spoke volumes, not only about his own world-view, but that of the conservative movement in general, and when coupled with his recent op-ed piece calling for more tax cuts, he really gave us a condensed view of the conservative zeitgeist.

In what he called (apparently without irony, since Rush’s ego knows no bounds) the ‘Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009’, Limbaugh projects a sort of collegial disagreement, a mere quibbling with the President over details and proportions of modalities to be used to stimulate the economy. But on his radio show, his hard-line intransigence shows that he has nothing but contempt for Obama in particular, and the Democrats in general.

The tax plan he ‘boldly’ recommends is striking not only in its lack of originality, but in its utter adherence to the obviously failed policies of the last eight years. He touts more aggressive tax cuts for individuals, notably ‘wealth’ taxes, like Capital Gains (and who has seen their capital gain, of late, Rush?), and feverishly beats farts out of the dead horse that we have ‘one of the highest corporate taxes of all industrialized nations’. Well, yes we do, on the books, but unfortunately, the corporate tax laws are so rife with loopholes that in practice, we have actually one of the lowest.

I guess one question is whether Rush believes his own propaganda (I’m of the belief that he does – witness how he views his own drug problems, which included possession of an incredible 30,000 Oxycontin pills – versus those of others, most notably inner-city minorities). I know it’s hard to believe, but somehow, I think he really believes that he can save us, and with the same discredited ideas, with the label ‘New and Improved!’ slapped on them. Infomercial political thought, Sham-Wow policy-making.

But saying he hoped Obama would fail shows the other side of the Republican coin: that of a group that has been rejected, shamed, cast out into the wilderness, that is essentially saying, ‘If you don’t play by our rules, we’re going to pick up our marbles and go home.’.

The only problem is that home is here, in the US, and it’s teetering on a cliff of another Depression, and it’s the only game in town. I know that Rush and his ilk, with their large salaries, may be out of touch with the ‘common man’ (ironically, the blue collar ‘silent majority’ types they preach to daily on the radio), but on some level, with bank failures, and all the rest, the reality of the situation must have impinged itself on their consciousness a little, no?

But whether it has or not, the logical conclusion of militant intransigence in the face of our grave situation seems to have escaped not only Rush and his imitators, but the Republican party, from John McCain to the entire Republican side of the House: If Obama fails, we fail. It’s that simple. There’s not going to be egg on the face of the Dem’s and a resounding Republican comeback in the midterms if they just dig in their feet and stage (as one Republican congressman actually said) a ‘Taliban-like insurgency’ – there will be a possibly-fatal meltdown of our entire economic system.

During the great depression, things were so bad under Hoover that Roosevelt got what he needed from Congress; in the first 100 days of his administration, they passed almost all of his proposed legislation. Not so this time. Our political culture has evolved into a zero-sum game – Democrats win, Republicans lose – at least in the minds of the hyper-partisan on both sides. This acrimonious warfare trumps common sense, and the common good. Winning or losing the battle for control trumps losing America. We can’t all win, so we will all lose. But if the Republicans insist on clinging to old implementation of old ideas, and also secretly desire the President’s downfall more than America’s resurrection, we’re doomed.

A juvenile policy predicated on Republican shadenfruede at the expense of the Democrats does not public policy make. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. we’ve tried it the Republican way, it hasn’t worked – except for the very wealthy. It’s time to stop bickering, stop worshipping ideology at the expense of empirical observation, and get to work fixing this country.

I am, frankly appalled at the Obama plan, and not because of the ‘tons of pork’ that everyone on the right is apoplectic about (why, oh why, were the TARP bailouts not ‘pork’? Why is Halliburton’s extortionate pricing of military logistical support not ‘pork’? – oh, never mind) No, what galls me are the tax cuts, and, most of all, the miniscule investment in infrastructure! It’s absurd how little is going to project that will put American men and women back to work!

And yet, even this pathetically watered down bill, a bill totally unequal to the task, is too ‘radical’ in Republican eyes.

And I see the next Republican idea on the horizon. I see the billionaires rubbing fingers together. The way out of this situation must be… a nice big war! I mean, after all, it got us out of the Depression, didn’t it? Never mind that common sense dictates that you cannot survive on a permanent war economy, making things that are destroyed, rather than things like bridges, hospitals, and schools. Never mind that we’re already in a war! No, the solution must be… a bigger war! Perhaps a World War!

War in congress, war on the airwaves, perhaps war with Iran, perhaps with all of Islam; war without end, amen. I think that this, plus unrestrained greed, a juvenile Rovian win-at-any-cost pranksterism and a startling lack of empathy for regular folks, is what has blackened the heart of the GOP and reduced it to a legislative prankster and thug, rather than the party of progress and courage that it once was, under men like Lincoln.

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