Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Party Of Greed And Selfishness Could Make A Come Back… Someday


Don't worry about the GOP. It has not been captured completely by neo-Nazis and Klansmen. Former Bush-Cheney Regime functionary David Frum wants to reassure everyone that "[t]he large donors who supported George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney continue to hold sway within their party." Populism on the right, he asserts, has not taken over his beloved party of greed and selfishness. But the reassurance rings hollow when he starts getting into why the GOP will find itself increasingly unable to win presidential elections and gravely inhibited in its ability to govern effectively if it nevertheless somehow were to win.

He muses aloud about how long it will take the right-wing pup-tent party of Greed and Selfishness to overcome the three plagues it has brought on itself. "First, Republicans have come to rely more and more on the votes of the elderly, the most government-dependent segment of the population-- a serious complication for a party committed to reducing government. Second, the Republican donor class has grown more ideologically extreme, encouraging congressional Republicans to embrace ever more radical tactics. Third, the party’s internal processes have rigidified, in ways that dangerously inhibit its ability to adapt to changing circumstances." Frum goes on to, inadvertently, explain exactly why the Republican Party is, at its core-- the core at which he worships-- all about Greed and all about Selfishness while all the Tea Party hatred and bigotry are merely frills.
What boomers mean when they call themselves conservative is that they have begun to demand massive cutbacks to spending programs that do not directly benefit them. Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. Not surprisingly, then, boomers say they want no change at all to the Medicare and Social Security benefits they have begun to qualify for. They will even countenance tax increases on high earners to maintain those benefits. But compared with older Americans in the late 1980s, today’s aging boomers express less support for such fiscally liberal statements as “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”

Boomers’ conservatism is founded on their apprehension that there’s not enough to go around-- and on their conviction that what little resources there are should accrue to them… [B]oomer conservatives fear that government in the age of Obama will serve somebody else’s interests at the expense of their own.

Republicans have responded to boomers’ fears by reinventing themselves as defenders of the fiscal status quo for older Americans-- and only older Americans. In 2005, Bush proposed bold reforms to Social Security, including privatization. But since 2008, the GOP has rejected changes to retirement programs that might in any way impinge on current beneficiaries. The various budget plans Republicans produced in the run-up to the 2012 election all exempted Americans over age 55 from any changes to either Social Security or Medicare.

…[G]enerational tension thrusts the Republican Party into an awkward spot. The elderly and disabled consume 41 percent of all federal spending. Any project to reduce federal spending while exempting such a huge budget category would require either drastic additional defense cuts or a desperate political struggle to concentrate all cuts on the comparatively meager federal programs for working-aged Americans and the young. The former necessity explains why the once internationalist Republican Party so willingly accepted the defense sequester of 2011. The latter explains why budgetary politics in the Obama years has grown so polarized: the GOP’s largest voting constituency has convinced itself that it cannot afford any compromise at all.

“Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’” So wrote the venture capitalist Tom Perkins in the Wall Street Journal in January 2014. By no means has Perkins been the only wealthy person to hear the tread of Brown Shirts on the march in the Obama years. In 2010, the financier Stephen Schwarzman equated Obama’s attempt to raise taxes on hedge funds with Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and in March 2014, Kenneth Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, warned that liberal arguments about income inequality reminded him of Nazi pro-p-aganda. Although Schwarzman and Langone later apologized for their choices of words, the hyperbole revealed how threatened the nation’s richest citizens feel by the political tendencies of postcrisis America. As the party of opposition to Obama, the GOP has benefited from the resulting surge of funds from the frightened wealthy-- but that support has come at a heavy price.

During the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and then through the long recovery that began in 2009, Republicans offered an economic message of fiscal and monetary austerity. Their donors feared that low interest rates and quantitative easing would generate inflation, so Republicans opposed those policies. Their donors feared that today’s big deficits would be repaid out of future higher taxes, so Republicans had to oppose stimulus spending on roads, bridges, and airports. They voted against extending unemployment benefits, emergency aid to states, and even the payroll tax holiday-- all measures Republicans have supported in the past.

As a Democrat presided over the slow recovery from a catastrophic slump, Republicans proved unable to capitalize on his struggles and find common cause with the jobless. During the 2012 election, Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe-- his private comment that almost half the country had sunk into hopeless dependency on the government-- proved so damaging because it was no gaffe at all. Wealthy Republicans had been talking that way all through the Obama years. The dependency idea formed the central theme of a speech that Representative Paul Ryan gave a year before he became Romney’s running mate, in which he argued that the United States was nearing a perilous “tipping point” that would be followed by “long-term economic decline as the number of makers diminishes and the number of takers grows.” The American Enterprise Institute even released a campaign-season cartoon video warning in Dr. Seuss–style verse that the grasping demands of the takers “took from the makers their makering pride.”

During the campaign, the radicalization of Republican donors propelled the party to advocate policies that were more extreme than anything seen since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign: draconian cuts in benefits for everybody except retirees and near retirees, plus big tax cuts for high earners. So radical was the Romney-Ryan budget plan that when a Democratic super PAC told a focus group what it entailed, the New York Times reported, “The respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”
Frum's delusions end with a grand one, namely that "a multiethnic, socially tolerant conservatism is waiting to take form." Just not this cycle. Or next.

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At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GOTP never left the scene. They will retain some power whether or not the voters support them. Assuming that their voter suppression efforts aren't perfect, and some undesirable voters cast ballots, the GOP is prepared to follow Josef Stalin's dictum, which states that those who vote don't control the election. It is instead he who counts the votes.

And in too many states, that counting is controlled by GOP assets.



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