Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Brutality and Hypocrisy of Republicans

The Republicans, for the past half century, have been preaching the doctrine of small government, low federal taxes, personal responsibility and states' rights. They have also thrown in large dollops of  religiosity -- pretty much exclusively of the Christian persuasion. It is instructive to see how this has played out in the months since they have controlled the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and (nearly) the Supreme Court (currently at 4 - 4 since Scalia's death).

Small government has been a myth. By small government they pretend to mean small but effective programs to help actual people in their daily lives; what they actually mean is cutting all programs that actually help people in their daily lives. What they don't mean is  cutting the size of government programs which subsidize large corporations (esp. the fossil fuel industry) and the military. This is clearer than ever in Trump's "budget" which sees cuts in almost every federal program to "promote the general welfare" (as the preamble to our Constitution, quaintly puts it), and increases in nearly every military program. The latter increases (proposed by Republicans for decades now) include many programs that the Pentagon has not asked for and has, often, opposedas unneeded and wasteful. In effect these are the military programs which benefit military contractors and the political fortunes of politicians in the states in which they do business. The money is not primarily for the benefit or safety of our troops or our general "defense posture", since a lot of it wasn't even requested by the actual military for these purposes. For example, the navy will get new aircraft carriers to help in its fight against ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the big naval powers (not).

So, from an economic standpoint, the cuts to social programs seem to be more than balanced by increases to the military (contractors). However, the balance in taxes will be radically changed. The wealthy will be asked to pay far less (in terms of their income) and the less wealthy will pay the same or slightly less, but lose services on both the federal and state levels. Interestingly, this is exactly the opposite of the dynamic in most European states, where everyone pays fairly high taxes -- so the taxes are fundamentally regressive -- but the extensive services tend to be aimed at the lower income people which thus re-balances the economic issues: the non-rich may pay the same percentage taxes, but they receive more services that they need. See my discussion of Consumption Taxes, in particular, the case of Denmark and its Value Added Tax (VAT).

So the issue of smaller (federal) government is, for the Republicans, simply transferring wealth from the middle and lower middle class (in the form of programs and taxes) to the wealthy (big tax cuts). This is the usual reverse Robin Hood gambit that Republicans love.

The "moral" issue of personal responsibility is another double standard for the Republicans. Individuals who work several jobs to support their families are the victims of Republican "claw backs": removal of job safety protections, daycare and maternity/paternity supplements, equal pay laws and cuts in funds for schools, playgrounds and parks. Meanwhile, wealthy corporations and individuals are rewarded with laxer environmental laws, looser regulations on business cheating, elimination of rent controls and anti-usury laws (on credit cards that they issue). Republicans don't like anti-discrimination laws of any kind either, whether based on ethnicity, language, sexual orientation (even of young children), age, or religion (unless it's Christianity). They hate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Why? It's too much trouble and expense and it's too "bleeding heart" and "politically correct". The unfortunate fact is that Republicans are incapable of feeling sympathy for anyone other than their immediate family and (select) neighbors: they are basically selfish and unimaginative. Republicans are (mostly) avowed Christians, yet the entire New Testament is antithetical to their idea of how to treat their fellow humans. (This is not lost on most Christian clerics, but their criticisms are simply ignored by the Republican establishment, which is only interested in red meat for anti-abortionists who vote Republican. The latter, in the words of Barney Frank, seem to think that "life begins at conception and ends at birth.")

The Republican hypocrisy on the size of the federal government and states' rights is especially outrageous. They want, in the words of Grover Norquist, to reduce the federal government to a size where it can be "drowned in a bathtub". When asked about the services that the national government (run by our elected representatives) provides, they quickly start talking about the states and states' rights. This is intended to imply that the federal services would be provided more effectively and fairly by the states. However, the  Republicans who run for state offices -- Governors, say -- also run on reducing the size of the (state) government. When elected they proceed to cut state services as well, often with absolutely disastrous effect (see this Chicago Tribune article on what the "conservatives" have done to Kansas). Since the services that government, on any level, provides are not generally the services -- except police and fire -- that the wealthy or their corporations use,  this small-government policy is dishonest and a very real form of class warfare. 

In short, it's nearly impossible to find an example of any Republican, at any level of government, who is trying to help anyone but the rich and powerful. That's their nature and philosophy as people and that's the nature of the Republican party. Maybe because they have become so arrogant and so blatantly vicious with the election of Donald Trump, their true nature will now become clearer to the American People. The recent revolt against the Republican Trump/Ryan "American Health Care Act" is an indication that this realization seems to be happening. As Trump's anti-people budget plans become more widely publicized most people will finally see how mean and small the Republicans truly are and how ignorant and incompetent their big, blustering, bully of a president actually is.

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