October 21, 2010 9:22:00 AM
Something very strange has happened to the Republican Party I called home for 32 years.
The intellectual core of the party has transformed from lucid conservative thinkers such as William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater, into simplistic slogan shouters who allow no dissent within their ranks when voting in Congress, and who have fielded candidates who must flee reporters to avoid having to defend their out-of-bounds positions.
Republicans have also somehow mis-identified the economic truck that ran over us in 2008; that truck had "crony capitalism" written on the side of it, not "socialism." Yet the term socialism carries Pavlovian resonance with the far right Republican base, so I suppose it doesn''t matter what actually happened if pretending it was something more politically potent proves expedient.
Republicans also speak of out-of-control spending, huge deficits, dastardly tax increases, and mortgaging our grandchildren''s future. Let''s review these fears.
President Bush''s TARP program spent $800 billion to save the banks and financial system, but that has been paid back and even earned a profit. The auto company bailouts will cost about $33 billion. President Obama''s stimulus program was about the same initial amount, but this federal government spending has been largely offset by huge spending cutbacks by state governments, resulting in a nearly neutral amount of government stimulus.
The economic meltdown removed $15 to 20 trillion from the American economy, so $1 trillion in spending to avoid a second Great Depression seems prudent. Such a savage drop in economic activity might demand that several trillion dollars be pumped into the economy to revive American markets, put Americans back to work, and provide new tax revenues to reduce the deficit.
Even before the $20 trillion was lost to the recession, inflation was not a threat. A few trillion dollars in stimulus should not alter that equation since, even then, far fewer dollars would be in circulation than in 2007.
But the Tea Party Republicans will have none of it. They demand budget stringency with huge spending reductions, deficit busting tax cuts, and the privatizing of the social safety net. They decry government stimulus spending, done by both parties, as a budgetary abomination.
Let us be clear. If the Tea Partiers had been in charge in 2008 we would now be in the second Great Depression, deflation would be intractable and ruinous, and unemployment might exceed the 25 percent of the early 1930s. The banking and auto industries, along with the myriad of related enterprises, would have failed, the housing industry would be in total collapse, 401Ks and most pension systems would worth 10-cents on the dollar, and the Tea Partiers would be leaving town tarred, feathered and on a rail.
But the Tea Partiers, incredibly, may yet have their day if the polls are correct.
Inconceivably, they have a large cohort that subscribes to their depression creating plan for the American economy. These followers think, incorrectly, that socialism did-in the economy, that demanding a balanced budget while tittering on the edge of the economic abyss is wise, and that letting the economy free-fall into perfect "balance" is a laudable idea even if it mires us in a decade long depression.
In the 1930s we indulged in such depression creating madness. That debacle required a World War (with deficits that utterly dwarf the current one) to extricate us.
The additional astounding feature of this nightmare is the utter vapidity of nearly every politician of either party. They are so busy cowering at the Tea Partier''s feet that they have become delusional in their pronouncements. Candidates of both parties promise more economically suicidal spending cuts than their opponent, and apparently think that putting a gun to the head of the American economy is a wise idea. It seems there are no leaders running in current elections, only pandering trend followers.
Tea Partier Rand Paul, Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky, claims the economy can only be revived with "lower taxes and less government regulation." Mr. Paul, and those who applaud him, ignore that those two specific imperatives were in full force prior to the 2008 economic collapse.
The economic implosion is largely blamed on lax banking regulation while the worst-ever ecological disaster in the Gulf is blamed on lax government oversight. Yet the Tea Party demands even less regulation as their solution? The Republican corporate memory can apparently be measured in weeks, not in decades.
The 2008 deficit came significantly from tax cuts and two wars funded off budget, yet the Tea Partiers seem intent on draconian spending reductions, that will decimate the American economy and eviscerate our social safety net, instead of curtailing the wars.
Republicans offer billions to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, and to keep 150,000 troops in the theater indefinitely, but offer little to rebuild American infrastructure or to pay extended unemployment benefits to millions of American workers laid off as a direct result of the Wall Street meltdown. Why are we rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan instead of America?
There must be some explanation for this self-destructive economic impulse, but darn if I can see it. I hope we all enjoy the Tea Party economic depression that may be on the way.
Lacklen is a retired Air Force Reserve pilot, who flew missions in Vietnam and Iraq. Presently he is simulator instructor at CAFB and is writing a book about his experiences in the Air Force. His e-mail address is [email protected]
Jay Lacklen is a retired Air Force Reserve pilot, who flew missions in Vietnam and Iraq. Presently he is simulator instructor at CAFB and is writing a book about his experiences in the Air Force.
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