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The Coming Assault on the 20th Century

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The Republican success in the recent midterm election is being billed as a mandate—- but exactly what mandate do the hubris-filled Republicans claim they have been given? They are running several scenarios up the flagpole, or, if you prefer, they are trying on various costumes and trotting down the runway to see which ones are suitable for the upcoming fancy dress ball they will attend in January. The various factions within the GOP, from libertarian to Tea Party, Wall Street to globalal corporations, religious fanatics to seething bigots, are drafting their wish lists, most of which will turn out to be non-negotiable demands to repeal anything even faintly tainted with a Democratic label, and that basically amounts to just about everything that came out of the 20th century. (Maybe even some of the wars, believe it or not).

Supporters of the different scenarios are in full Republican intimidation mode, intending to manipulate frightened Democrats into surender-in-advance, a traditional and frequently successful technique of Republicans. In fact, it is quite likely that the scenarios which are finally chosen for implementation by the GOP leadership will probably depend on which scenarios are most successful in peeling off support from various weak and intimidated Democrats, not on which scenarios are actually most popular among the Republican base. This is Republican bipartisaship in action.

Congressman Ron Paul (R,TX) may not have a formal leadership position but, like Jim DeMint (R,SC), he enjoys rising prestige and clout, and, like DeMint, is a hero to the incoming Republican freshmen class, most of whom resonate to his professed libertarian philosophy… based in great measure on Ayn Rand, a libertarian saint. Paul is also beloved of large numbers of the financial and investor class, no doubt because he can present a coherent philosophical extension of Friedman Free Market theory with a heavy dose of Austrian economics—- it makes such a fine sounding piece of flimflam artistry with which to impress those suffering self-righteously from terminal greed masquerading as patriotism as well as a generally frightened but economically unsophisticated voter who wants to appear knowledgeable in such matters.

The Congressman can make some good points, or good-sounding points, whether or not they are true as presented, much less whether they are as relevant as he pretends. In one of his recent his recent Texas Straight Talk communications he even chastizes some major Republican talking points when he points out “For all the talk about pork and waste, the truth is that Congress cannot fix the budget and get our national debt under control by trimming fat and eliminating earmarks…”

Why, that is exactly the disconnect progressive have pointed out between Republican hysteria about “runaway government debt” and actually reducing the debt when they ask just what the Tea Party-Republicans will cut. This dose of reality from Congressman Paul will not, I predict, modify their behavior, however, since it is his way of explaining why they will have to do what they really want to do: kill Social Security, Medicare, and “entitlements,” by which they mean only those so-called entitlements that help the middle class, not those which subsidize or help big business, no siree.

Paul is providing the Republicans with the rationale and justification for most of the scenarios being ginned up by the many GOP factions when, for example, he claims that “today Social Security faces an unfunded liability of approximately $18 trillion.” Expect to hear this questionable figure pounded into the public’s consciousness.  The same goes for his problematic statement that “Medicare… faces a shortfall of $30.8 trillion in unfunded future benefits…. Congress should immediately repeal the disastrous drug benefit passed in 2003 by President Bush and a Republican Congress.” Aha! see how nonpartisan, bipartisan he is? He provides cover for conservaDems to flock to his standard.

Now comes his frontal assault:

Fiscal conservatives should not be afraid to attack entitlements philosophically. We should reject the phony narrative that entitlement programs are inherently noble or required by “progressive” western values. Why exactly should Americans be required, by force of taxation, to fund retirement or medical care for senior citizens, especially senior citizens who are comfortable financially? And if taxpayers provide retirement and health care benefits to some older Americans who are less well off, can’t we just call it welfare instead of maintaining the charade about “insurance” and “trust funds”?

(emphasis added)

This brings up the woeful failure of President Obama and the Democrats to educate the public in the Democratic philosophy of government and in progressive, updated economics after they received their mandate in 2008, and set about repairing the disasters of Bush’s economic and political policies. Now we must play catch-up, and that is going to difficult given the set of economic advisors (Geithner, Summers) Obama put into place, and given that the Republicans have slyly engaged in a ferocious pre-emptive strike designed to delegitimize progressive non-Friedman economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman. Obama has almost de-armed himself, sad to say, but it is imperative to get out there repeatedly with our own philosophical attack, and not jury-rig something after the next Congress starts.

Another point that Congressman Paul brings up, one that is an outlier, but is, frankly, of enormous importance, is that of military spending. We all know that feeding the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, and taking care of the veterans and other costs of past wars comprise an enormous share of the federal budget, yet repeatedly we hear all the budget-cutters hastily promising “no cuts for the military.” Well, most of them also promise to leave Social Security alone, too, and yet we know they actually intend to savage Social Security. Ron Paul is telegraphing an intention to go after the military, too, when he says:

Military spending and interest on the national debt similarly represent large federal expenditures that Congress should address by rethinking our foreign policy and exercising far greater oversight over the Federal Reserve and the Treasury deparment

Here is where it gets interesting. Remember the Bush-Cheney theory of the “unitary executive,” for which the lawyer John Yoo had such a convoluted rationale? The theory was one which, of course, was extra-Constitutional, so to speak, inasmuch as it trivialized Congress and even the Courts into irrelevancy—- “if the President wants to do it, it’s legal.” Now that we have a Democratic President in the White House, and a new ly Republican House of Representatives, we hear no more about any “unitary executive,” but everything about how the Founders in their wisdom despised the executive and put all power in the hands of Congress. Mr. Paul is offering a scenario here that, under the all-inclusive mandate of November 2010, the Congress is now in charge of foreign policy. I wonder what the Republican-leaning military-industrial complex will think of that, at least as Paul presents it?

As I said, Democrats and President Obama need to get out to the American public with their own philosophical justification and explanations. Oh, I know they are admitting they fell down on that job in 2009-2010, and have promised to do better. But I don’t see them following through, and time’s a-wasting.

  • Teddy Goodson

    may well be the ultimate method Republicans use: break down their agenda for dismantling the 20th century into a bite here, a swallow there, the better to divide and conquer. Thus, one part or two parts of, say, health care will be axed or de-funded, perhaps the retirement age on social security will be raised, and next the rising generation of workers will be given the right to “opt out” of paying social security taxes in part or in full, and so on. This will lure Democrats to join their assault.Thereby weak Democrats will, without the armor of their own overarching philosophy of government, find themselves accepting the Republican philosophy, and having no defense against further depredations in the future.

  • Hugo Estrada

    There is an interesting dynamic going on in the U.S.: the worse off people are, the less that government helps them, the more right-wing they become. It makes no sense from a selfish rational point of view, but I have observed this with many of my relatives in California, where proposition 13 effectively dismantled local government. Even Democrats there are in favor of cutting government spending that benefits the middle class in the name of lowering taxes.

    So it seems to me that the emotional reasoning is the following: you pay taxes, but you don’t see any direct benefit from it, and they are telling you that others are living off the government. Since you feel that you are getting nothing, you want to take away that money that others are getting. So you become more anti-government, which then fuels further cuts and less services.

    From this perspective, the decades-long attack on public education makes total sense: public schools are one of the direct ways in which people get to benefit from government, which in turn makes more inclined to believe right-wing ideology.

    The same can be said about Social Security: destroy it or make it meaningless, and more people, especially older people, will become even more right-wing.

  • Hugo Estrada

    I am sure that they are already working on the talking point on this. Thanks to that deficit commission, Republicans will push to destroy Social Security, and at the same time blame Obama and Democrats for it. Not all, but many people on Social Security will buy this, and will support Republicans in the destruction of their own income.

    If people can opt out of Social Security, the older people in the program are done. The money to pay them will really run out much faster, and then the necessary cuts on people receiving the benefits will follow.

    If elected Democrats had any brains and willingness, they should start campaigning for 2012 saying that they won’t allow the GOP destroy Social Security.

    Unfortunately I get the strong opinion that some moderate, pro-business Democrats want to see Social Security gone as well.

  • Teddy Goodson

    undoubtedly will run as you project. And, why not? Oldsters are themselves frequently into self-sacrifice. not wanting to be a burden to their children and grandchildren, and the Powers That Be figure “how many years do these old folks have left in which to vote? Ergo, there will be no consequences if we attack granny for real” with Republican-style death panels. Republicans are getting ready to induce a generation-war (they’ve been hinting at ithe generation war, and have been postulatibng it for several years, whenever privatization of social security comes up).

    The Democrats here, as in the case of the loss of jobs to overseas, and in the case of Wall Street thievery and malfeasance against Main Street, have a natural constituency and a natural position of leadership—- but I have yet to see the national D’s grasp this fact, and run with it. Quite the other way around, thank you.