Uncommon Sense

January 31, 2011

Obama—The True Conservative?

Filed under: Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:10 am
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In my last post I asked the question: Who are these people?, meaning the new Republicans. They describe themselves as conservatives, but one must ask: what kind? These are most definitely not the conservatives of my younger days. The first conservative voice I became aware of was William F. Buckley, who founded National Review magazine, still a standard bearer for the U.S. conservative movement, and had a television program called Firing Line. Bill Buckley was a Yale University educated intellectual. Following on the heels of Buckley was George Will, who had M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in politics from Princeton University. George is still plugging away but no longer is at the point of the conservative spear. Today’s learned conservative voices are more like David Brooks, who holds a degree in history from the University of Chicago, and is a thoughtful and intelligent man who writes a regular column for the New York Times newspaper (part of the liberal mainstream press!) and appears weekly on National Public Radio’s program News Hour (NPR is a conservative whipping boy). Not the point of the conservative spear either.

At the point of the spear are the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Limbaugh attended Southeast Missouri State University for a year but, “He flunked everything,” according to his mother. Beck, a Fox News star, had the singular accomplishment of “getting high” on marijuana every day from the ages of 15 to 30. He managed to graduate high school in there. Neither has run for or held political office or even helped run a campaign as best as I can find out. Yet they make millions of dollars a year “commenting” on politics. But these two vigorously describe themselves as being “entertainers” to hide from the impact their hate-filled rhetoric has on our political and social processes.

Where or where have the thinking Republicans gone? Like a teenager, they have gone “out” swelling the ranks of “independents” who now outnumber the Republicans and Democrats as the largest segment of the U.S. electorate.

The remaining Republicans like to claim that the U.S. public is “conservative” and that they represent the core of the country. This untruth (the new civility forbids me the word lie) is hammered away at as it is a featured talking point for Republicans. Say something over and over and it sounds true after a while. Actually this is not true, the U.S. public is schizophrenic. When we feel uncertain, we tend to be conservative, trying to hang on to what we’ve got. When times are good we tend liberal, being generous with part of the spoils. And we are not consistently so, what we exhibit as an attitude does depend on the issues.

What has happened to the Republican Party is what movement conservatives have wanted all along, all but the most extreme conservatives have been purged from the Republican Party, like a river sweeping away the lighter stones, exposing bedrock. The “Tea Party” (which is not a party) is part of the exposed bedrock. It was always there as part of the Republican Party because what other choice did those folks have. But this is a small part of the U.S. electorate, just as liberals are a small part. Let’s be generous and place both blocks at about 20% of voters which leaves 60% in the center. Those in the center are neither conservative nor liberal, they are basically pragmatists, asking for our politicians to do what seems to be needed at the time.

The conservatives of my youth were asking questions like “What would a conservative welfare state look like?” because they admitted that a welfare state was in no way in conflict with conservative principles. True conservatives value social stability through guiding institutions. But true conservatives have been drummed out of business by movement conservatives who think that the institution of government should play as small a part in our lives as is possible. This ignores that fact that conservatives have always granted that government is the only political actor that can protect the poor from the imbalances of free market capitalism, for example.

So, we have the strange situation that President Obama, labeled a socialist and liberal by the movement conservatives, and who actually represents the center (mostly) is behaving like a true conservative as the times and the Great Recession dictate. (President Nixon believed in spending to stimulate the economy and President Reagan, in eight years, killed exactly one federal program.) And the movement conservatives, who are far to the right of where the Republican Party has ever been, are in a position to exercise their will through their control of the House of Representatives.

If you want to know how things will work out I ask this question: Which U.S. President best exemplifies holding true to the principles of the movement conservatives?

The answer: George W. Bush. His faith-based initiatives, his wars of aggression, his tax cuts for the rich, his disdain for the “liberal media” etc. all hewed to the line of the movement conservatives. So we have a preview of how their ideas will work.

January 28, 2011

WTF? Who Are These People?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:52 pm
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The most recent utterances by today’s sad crop of conservatives boggle the mind. One is tempted to go looking for the proverbial rock from under which they crawled. Who are these people?

I have commented before that today’s “conservatives” are still making war upon the New Deal from the 1930’s. This was brought to mind by some quotes delivered on the Rachel Maddow show a couple of nights ago. Here they are:

“Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. And a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.”

“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice.”

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

No surprise that a self-avowed liberal like Maddow could utter these but they were quotes from . . . drum roll, please . . . President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1960). The contrast with today’s Republicans couldn’t be greater. Do realize, though, that Eisenhower beat out Robert Taft for the 1952 Republican nomination and one of Taft’s delegates after the convention was reported to have uttered “This means eight more years of socialism!” (Name calling has long been a cherished political practice and the epithet of “socialism” has been used ever since the first conservative had it explained to him. Subsequent usages have not required understanding.) Taft, of course, was a “true” conservative who wanted to roll back the New Deal, which was, of course, socialism promulgated by “Ivy League” intellectuals to destroy the country. Sound familiar?

Yes, today’s Republicans can have nothing but contempt for Eisenhower who confirmed many New Deal policies, and also for Ronald Reagan who raised taxes (and the National Debt), and Richard Nixon who recommended a system of national health insurance. These people’s roots go back considerably farther, of course, as there has been this streak in the American psyche since its inception. And what they have to offer is fear as they are entirely fear-based.

They are Republicans and conservatives because they fear what people will do if they aren’t constrained by the institutions of society. People just would not be moral without “the Church” (religion by itself is not enough, one must be a church goer, and they will tell you which churches count and which do not). The police protect us from crime (when in actuality the police protect very little; their jobs are to catch the bad guys afterwards and possibly create a deterrent). The military protects us from foreigners, etc. Their entire ideology is based on the fear of what people might do. Black people still might raise up and try to punish us for slavery when we actually had noting to do with it, that sort of thing.

Their current call for “limited” or “small” government is another fear-based position. These people are not opposed to government poking its nose into your private business, they just don’t want the government poking its nose into their private business. For example, they say that government should not intrude on decisions that doctors and patients should be making. But they make exceptions when it comes to medical procedures of which they do not approve, and then it is perfectly okay for the government to intrude. It apparently is okay that insurance companies have been taking huge numbers of critical decisions away from doctors and patients, after all insurance corporations are institutions.

They think that corporate tax rates are too high, yet two-thirds of all corporations paid no corporate income tax last year. Can you guess why that is so? It is because the U.S. Tax Code is full of special tax breaks for businesses. Can you guess who it was that voted to put those tax breaks into place? Yes, these same Republicans. (To be fair, so did a lot of Democrats because the businesses in their districts paid them to do so.) But, government intrusion into business affairs in the form of regulation is not to be brooked. The current crop of Republicans opposed the most recent regulations of obviously out of control Wall Street banking institutions (as mamby-pamby as they were) because the recent problems were caused by too much regulation, not too little!

So, these folks are for limited government. The only government needed is just enough to: support more military spending than the entire rest of the world combined (currently true), outlaw abortion and gay marriage, ban organized labor, and give tax breaks to businesses and rich people.

The rest of us can go fuck ourselves.

This is who these people are.

January 26, 2011

More Republican Perfidy

Filed under: Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:14 pm
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Many have commented on a particular section of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union speech (excerpted below).

“So I’d like to share with you the principles that guide us. They are anchored in the wisdom of the founders, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and in the words of the American Constitution.
They have to do with the importance of limited government and with the blessing of self-government.
We believe government’s role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense: to secure our borders, to protect innocent life, to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights, to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.”

Most who have commented focused on the “to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves” gaff that Republicans like Ryan actually wish were done away with. But there is more here. Republicans and other conservatives frequently try to wrap themselves in “the original intent” of the framers of the constitution. Interestingly, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s staunchest defender of “Original Intent,” had just previously addressed a “closed doors” meeting of the House’s Tea Party Caucus (about what we don’t know) before he boycotted the State of the Union speech as being too political.

There is only one problem and our own history has documented this to excess. During the ratification of the Constitution, the main topic, the prime topic, of discussion was that the framers had drafted up a document for a powerful central government, which was not even part of their charge. Rep. Ryan’s idea of “limited government” lost out when the Constitution was ratified because the idea of limited government is not in it. All political powers not given the federal government are given to the state governments and, as such, government rules everything! One need only look at Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18 of the Constitution to understand the original intent of the Constitution’s framers. Here it is:

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

This is in the section in which the Congress’s powers are enumerated and is the clause that makes the new health care law legitimate (not the commerce clause as others claim). The other phrase needed is just that the purpose of government is to “promote the general Welfare.”

Limited government was the farthest thing from the minds of the people responsible for the text of the Constitution, in fact, their primary concern was to provide appropriate powers to future generations to deal with problems which they could not foresee.

Maybe it is because Republicans would lose if they actually made a factual appeal to the Constitution (and the documents supporting the positions of the framers of said) that they blithely rewrite the document to make it into what they think it should be. Rep. Ryan should know that nowhere in the Constitution is any mention of “to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves” or “to protect innocent life.” But they have convinced themselves that the Constitution bans abortions (He really meant “to protect innocent unborn life.”) and authorizes some sort of welfare state.

How can these people’s ignorance be any worse? Ah, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)! She thinks the founders cleaned up that slavery thing and the Civil War was about . . . civility, I guess.
These attempts, juvenile as they are, are just attempts of these scoundrels to wrap themselves in authority to do what they want to do, legitimate or not.

What I find most appalling is that these geniuses think we don’t notice their base perfidy.

January 21, 2011

Republican Perfidy

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:42 am
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The Republican Party was swept back into power upon retaking control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections. They ran in that election on “controlling ‘out of control’ spending” of the Federal Government. Upon being seated, their first action on the spending front was to say to the President, “Uh, you go first.” Apparently they would rather lead from behind.

This behavior is not at all atypical, one needs only look back over the previous two years to see what their pattern is. Consider the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka “The Stimulus Bill.” According to Republicans, they were frozen out of the process and the bill was a “Democrat only” bill. They claimed after its adoption that not one job was created due to it, that it was just another example of “more bureaucratic spending in Washington.”

Let’s examine their claims. The Republicans had one, count it—exactly one, idea for stimulating the economy: tax cuts. That was it. Economists of all stripes stated clearly that tax cuts were the least stimulative of all of the possible actions the federal government could take. A $1 tax cut resulted in only $0.80 of stimulus to the economy, mainly because rich people tend to just stash away their savings as they have no need for the funds as “operating expenses,” i.e. food, shelter, transportation, etc. Poor people and middle class people, on the other hand, were spending every dime they could acquire (and more by borrowing) and hence things they were provided actually created more than $1 of stimulus for each dollar they received. (It you don’t understand how $1 of stimulus could result in over $1 of effect, look up “the multiplier effect” in any economics source.) The greatest stimulus is had from things like food stamps which tend to get spent almost immediately and hence go right into the economy instead of a bank account or money market fund.

So, the final bill came in with a $787 billion price tag. Of that cost, $288 billion was formed of tax cuts, with $237 billion for individuals and $51 billion for businesses. That $288 billion constituted 37% of the cost of the final bill. The Republicans, at the time, had about 41% of the seats in the House and the Senate and their one idea, a poor one in the opinion of most economists, got 37% of the bill. Let the whining begin! A party out of power is rarely honored so well. The President said repeatedly that he wanted bipartisan cooperation and was open to ideas from one and all. The Republicans had one idea and the bill gave that idea a near proportional share of the stimulus bill.

The Republicans immediately started to state that such stimuli do not work, cannot work, which kind of conflicts with their claim that only tax cuts could work. Also, they claimed that not one new job was created, obviously counting the 3.2 million people who would have lost their jobs and did not due to the bill (teachers, firemen, police officers, etc.) as not representing “new” jobs. Apparently old jobs people would have lost do not count. (Lying while telling the truth is an art.) And, if you take their claims seriously, the $288 billion in tax cuts should have worked and the rest should have failed. So, let’s see 37% of 3.2 million jobs is about 1.2 million jobs, so this is the number that should have been expected by the perfidious Republicans. But, no, only “zero jobs” would do.

They followed up on this almost two years later with an infamous “hostage taking” during the lame duck session this past December. They would allow nothing to happen unless the Bush-era tax cuts on earnings over $250,000 per year were continued. That this puts a $70 billion dollar charge to the deficit was no matter, even though they were making significant claims to the contrary just days before. Their claim? That rich people create jobs and if those tax cuts weren’t implemented, no jobs would be made. This is a bald-faced lie. In 2010, U.S. companies made all-time, record profits. U.S. companies also were (and still are) sitting on $2,000 billion in cash, also an all-time high. They have no need of a tax cut to create jobs.

Lies and blame is what Republicans have to offer. What else they can do remains to be seen.

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