Sunday, February 1, 2009

Emotionally Exhausted and Morally Bankrupt*

Frank Rich at the New York Times has a splendid take-down of GOP inaction in the current economic crisis.

The crisis is at least as grave as the one that confronted us — and, for a time, united us — after 9/11. Which is why the antics among Republicans on Capitol Hill seem so surreal. These are the same politicians who only yesterday smeared the patriotism of any dissenters from Bush’s “war on terror.” Where is their own patriotism now that economic terror is inflicting far more harm on their constituents than Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent W.M.D.?

...The current G.O.P. acts as if it — and we — have all the time in the world. It kept hoping in vain that the fast-waning Blago sideshow would somehow impale Obama or Rahm Emanuel. It has come perilously close to wishing aloud that a terrorist attack will materialize to discredit Obama’s reversals of Bush policy on torture, military tribunals and Gitmo. The party’s sole consistent ambition is to play petty politics to gum up the works.

The chief problem seems to be that the GOP, over the years, has become ever less the party of Lincoln, and ever more the party of the top 1%. Of course the GOP doesn't want to make sweeping changes: their chief supporters are the wealthiest and most secure among us, and they're not suffering in the current crisis. The sole exception to this mindset is the elderly voting bloc, and the recent GOP shortsightedness of attempting to foist Social Security on the financial markets gives the lie to their concern.

The tax cuts they continue to advocate will certainly help the upper crust, but do little for the rest. For them, though, it doesn't seem to matter. After all, the ones benefiting most from the tax cut are (outside those holding great swaths of now-near-worthless real estate) well poised to benefit from such: their businesses' operations are already somewhere overseas and insulated from the employment crash or already peddling a bottom-of-the-barrel business model, so they can continue to operate nearly as before. The losses on Wall Street smart, to be sure, but when you count your net worth in hundreds of millions or more, even halving that will leave hundreds of millions or more remaining. That their customers, employees and fellow citizens will suffer badly in the current mess doesn't affect them, and if they have to cut their own staff, well, you can run a mansion with six almost as easily as with twelve: if your staff complain about the extra work there are plenty of unemployed folks willing to take their places.

The key here is that the GOP has no plan for the current crisis except to let it run its course while ensuring that the most comfortable among us are least impacted. That may be the ultimate expression of the twisted philosophy that has grown out of the PWE and the concept of the Elect, but it does nothing to help the economy recover. It seems that they see in the current crisis the opportunity to let the economy recover properly without the (in their minds) pointless and wasteful efforts of the New Deal.

The most galling part of this to me is that the GOP continues to sell this idea to those least likely to survive the tumult that would result from their inaction as something to be desired. Of course taxation is a burden, and of course lower taxes would be welcomed by all. Reduced taxation, however, without deficit spending to fill the gap, leads to fewer schools and teachers, fewer police and firefighters, disintegrating roads and bridges, intermittend power and water, and a host of other failed services on which society increasingly depends. And deficit spending has already been rejected by nearly every state.

The longer this goes on, the more transparent the GOP becomes. Their policies - or lack thereof - led us to this point, and the only solution they can provide is more of the same, whenever they can get around to actually articulating that. This is not responsible governance.

(* H/T for the title to M.A.S.H.)

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