Saturday, March 30, 2013

Defining The Battleground And The Nature Of Conservatism


The other day we mentioned how Indiana reactionary Todd Young just wants all these right-wing social issues-- like marriage equality-- to go away so Republicans can concentrate on all their elites have ever cared about: screwing over working families for the benefit of the Big Business interests that finance Republican politicians' careers. Yeah, that simple. That conservatives have been on the wrong side of history on every single important issue facing America starting with the Declaration of Independence-- conservatives, of course, fought on the British side during the Revolutionary War and thousands fled the new country afterward-- right through:
• The Bill of Rights and the forging of a democracy
• Universal white male suffrage
• Public education
• The emancipation of the slaves
• The national park system
• Food safety
• The breakup of monopolies
• Land grant universities
• Rural electrification
• Women’s suffrage
• The abolition of child labor
• The eight hour workday
• The minimum wage
• Social Security
• Civil rights for minorities and women
• Voting rights for minorities and the poor
• Cleaning up our air, our water, and toxic dump sites
• Consumer product safety
• Medicare and Medicaid
They are always wrong. They are an impediment-- by definition and by nature-- to progress. And their asses are always for sale to the special interests in the process. Now Republicans like Young-- Todd if not Don-- want to get all this extraneous stuff about immigration, gays, lady parts, gun massacres. Latinos, etc out of the way so they can make their case about the economy. Democrats should welcome that debate-- all Americans should. It really is the only thing that could ever expose the GOP for what it is: a tool of the selfish, greed-obsessed millionaires and billionaires. Yesterday Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent welcomed it, urging Obama to keep talking about jobs.
With the country mired in extended sequestration, and Congress trapped in a stalemate over how much austerity to impose, it’s good to see that President Obama today plans to renew his push for infrastructure investment to create jobs and get the economy going. The Associated Press reports that Obama will today unveil a plan to create jobs by encouraging more private investment in highways and other infrastructure projects-- and with billions in new federal spending on infrastructure, partly via a national “infrastructure bank” that was originally proposed during Obama’s first term.

It appears Obama will propose new spending in his forthcoming budget, which will call for a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The White House is likely to argue that deficit reduction measures can co-exist with new spending on infrastructure, research, and early-childhood education, which will be offset by other unspecified budget changes.

Obviously new spending is a nonstarter among Republicans, as the President’s partial emphasis on private infrastructure investment makes clear. But Obama should continue pushing infrastructure spending, anyway. For one thing, it’s highly popular: A recent Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans-- and even 53 percent of Republicans-- support new federal spending to put people to work on infrastructure repairs. For another, the notion that we should prioritize spending to get the economy going over deficit reduction in the short term has been entirely marginalized from the Washington conversation, which remains trapped in a dialog between “balanced” austerity (the Dem push for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes) and extreme austerity (the Paul Ryan budget).

This week, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was bemoaning the fact that with more Republicans coming around to the majority view on most social issues they're still in the dark on the economy. But that's really all they care about and, as he says, "public opinion seems beside the point."
Before January’s fiscal cliff deal, for example, at least 60 percent of Americans, in poll after poll, expressed strong support for raising taxes on incomes over $250,000. As you recall, though, the deal locked in the Bush tax cut for everyone earning up to $400,000.

Yes, legislative deals require compromise. But why is it that deals over economic policy almost always compromise away what a majority of Americans want?

Most Americans weren’t particularly concerned about the budget deficit to begin with. They’ve been far more concerned about jobs and wages. Yet maneuvers over the deficit have consistently trumped jobs and wages.

Recent polls show Americans would rather reduce the deficit by raising taxes than by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, and transportation. Yet Congress seems incapable of making that kind of deal.

Some 65 percent of Americans want to raise taxes on large corporations-- but both parties are heading in precisely the opposite direction.

Half of Americans favor a plan to break up Wall Street’s twelve megabanks, which currently control 69 percent of the banking industry. Only 23 percent oppose such a plan (27 percent are undecided).

You might this would at least prompt an examination of the possibility on Capitol Hill and the White House-- especially now that the Street is actively eviscerating regulations under Dodd-Frank.

But our elected representatives don’t want to touch Wall Street. According to Politico, even the White House believes too-big-to-fail will soon be a closed chapter.

Why are politicians so sensitive to public opinion on equal marriage rights, immigration, and guns-- and so tone deaf to what most Americans want on the economy?

Perhaps because the former issues don’t threaten big money in America. But any tinkering with taxes or regulations sets off alarm bells in our nation’s finely-appointed dining rooms and board rooms-- alarm bells that, in turn, set off promises of (or threats to withhold) large wads of campaign cash in the next election.

When political scientists Benjamin Page and Larry Bartels surveyed Chicagoans with an average net worth of $14 million, they found their biggest concern was curbing budget deficits and government spending-- ranking these as priorities three times as often as they did unemployment.

And-- no surprise-- these wealthy individuals were also far less willing than are other Americans to curb deficits by raising taxes on high-income people, and more willing to cut Social Security and Medicare. They also opposed initiatives most other Americans favor-- such as increasing spending on schools and raising the minimum wage above the poverty level.

The other thing distinguishing Page’s and Bartels’ wealthy respondents from the rest of America was their political influence.

Two-thirds of them had contributed money (averaging $4,633) in the most recent presidential election. A fifth of them had even “bundled” contributions from others.

That money bought the kind of political access most Americans only dream of. About half of these wealthy people had recently initiated contact with a U.S. senator or representative-- and nearly half (44 percent) of those contacts concerned matters of relatively narrow economic self-interest rather than broader national concerns.

This is just the wealthy of one city-- Chicago. Multiply it across the entire United States and you begin to see the larger picture of whom our representatives are listening to, and why. Nor does the survey include the institutionalized wealth-- and economic clout-- of Wall Street and large corporations. Multiply the multiplier.

Great wealth can also influence public opinion. It is possible, for example, that the piles of money spent by billionaire Pete Peterson to persuade Americans that the budget deficit is the nation’s most urgent economic problem is now paying off. Recent polls show greater concern about the deficit now than was expressed a few years ago when the deficit represented a much larger percentage of the total economy.
Yesterday President Obama made the point in Florida that investing "in infrastructure not only makes our roads, bridges, and ports safer and gives our businesses and workers the tools to compete successfully in the global economy, it also creates thousands of good American jobs that cannot be outsourced." With the GOP gratuitously obstructing every single initiative he takes, he's calling for a partnership with private enterprise to rebuild the country's infrastructure. If businesses see the GOP standing in the way of them making a profit... watch out-- all bets will be off.

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At 6:54 AM, Anonymous me said...

conservatives have been on the wrong side of history on every single important issue facing America

It goes back farther than that.

They are always wrong. They are an impediment-- by definition and by nature-- to progress.


While we do need some sort of brake - too-rapid change causes problems - conservatives always overdo it. (And always always always for the wrong reasons.)


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