When someone takes a look at an ideology, which is already an abstraction -- the driving philosophy behind concrete actions -- and makes certain assumptions about its validity, one must decide more than the ideology's efficacy. One must not so oddly enough also examine the motivation and inspiration for advancing that ideology.
Since I'm of the view that politics is money and power (not so original an idea), when I observe what the Republican Party puts forth as its agenda for our national future, I have to ignore the white noise of political obfuscation to get to the nub of their intentions, as it were. Politics has a great deal of white noise to it. Conservatives are better at managing this white noise. In fact, it's their stock in trade.
What do I mean by that? As rhetoricians, conservatives have long outstripped liberals. One only needs to realize that conservatives treat the word "conservative" as though it were deified, while treating "liberal" as if it were gum stuck underneath a theater seat for forty years. And they've done it so consistently that it has taken on the status of a zombie lie. It's almost impossible to kill, leastways by actual liberals.
So, as I take on the conservative memes, I already feel at a disadvantage, one that we progressives have to actively and fervently shake. We can only be successful by treating the word conservative more the way it deserves to be treated in the current context.
What passes for conservative thought in the current political mainstream can be summed up in one word: delusion.
(I want to add parenthetically here that the word "conservative" could have an acceptable, even welcome, connotation. For instance, conservatives could be and should be an ideology that actively supports conservation and preservation of the environment; that wishes to control debt but is willing to engage in Keynesian stimulus to protect a weakening middle class in order to underpin and stimulate broader, sustainable, economic growth; that realizes the value of an educational system that preserves the longstanding American advantage in university and government-driven research and development; that understands that the health of the nation's workers would benefit business interests by increasing productivity. For reasons that should be painfully obvious, "conservatives" represent no such ideals.)
Now, the first challenge to be faced, once one realizes that the conservatism of the Republican base, the so-called tea party adherents, is delusional is to come to grips with why it is so. It's not so stunning an insight: the Republican base is delusional because its leaders have promulgated the delusion.
What are the tenets of this delusion? a quick laundry list of Republican ideals as we head into this election year:
Lower taxes are always good. Who cares if this lower-taxes concept means we have to constantly be lowering taxes to live up to this proposition. When we do this, we have to cut services to people. These services are known as public goods. What are some of these public goods? Education, civil and criminal justice, public safety, public health, the social safety net, clean water, clean air, land management, air traffic control, regulation of commerce, financial regulation, communications regulation, international diplomacy, and defense. Why delusional? If we are always cutting taxes, we are always allowing these public goods to degrade. And they are, rapidly. According to Republicans, this is good for the country. No, it's good for the wealthy who don't care about public well-being.
|Okay, a bridge collapsed. But taxes are low, so it's all good!|
Private sector solutions are always better. Leave it to the private sector. Why delusional? Private-sector solutions must always turn a profit. Without it, there is no private motivation. When the private sector handles the role of government in the area of public goods, these goods generally cost American citizens more money. This in not actually conservative thinking.
|Private prisons: $46.73 per prisoner per day. Public prisons: $42.36 per day. Free enterprise win!|
Government spending is inherently bad because it leads to public debt, which is also bad. Therefore, we have to lower taxes -- generally on the wealthy -- to reign in public spending. Why delusional? Lowering taxes while lowering public spending leads to the same level of debt. The debt remains the same while the general welfare declines and living standards fall.
|Not complicated: too much spending, higher deficit; not enough spending, higher deficit! Capiche?|
Private-sector jobs are better than public-sector jobs, therefore shrinking government by slashing spending is good, even if it eliminates jobs. Why delusional? A lost job is a lost job, and a federal, state, or local government worker laid off because of slashed spending doesn't pay taxes, leading to both lower consumption and lower tax revenue, leading to slower economic growth and higher public debt, with multiplier effects (I lose my public teaching job, I don't pay taxes or into Social Security or Medicare, I don't buy a new car, so someone isn't needed in Detroit, who then doesn't buy new tires, etc. and etc.). Big Government shrinks, everything shrinks, even in the private sector. Also roads go unpaved, bridges fall apart.
|These people were not taxpayers, whether laid off by U.S. Steel or County Parks and Rec.|
Environmental regulation is bad for the economy, bad for business. While this is demonstrably true in certain cases, it depends on your viewpoint. For example, air-pollution-control devices on cars, factories, and power plants can be seen as reducing profits for companies -- no, because companies move the costs to consumers -- or raising costs for consumers -- not necessarily, because paying for your asthmatic son or daughter ain't cheap -- but the overall cost of higher air pollution will inevitably be borne by all. The delusion? What's good for business is good for the nation as a whole. Not! Have you been to Beijing lately? Even the Chinese boil their tap water before drinking it. But Chinese economic growth is great!
|The Chinese have kept their business costs down by not regulating air quality. GDP win!|
Socialized medicine is bad, even evil. If we call it the "public option," Republicans will still cringe and give you that are-you-a-communist look. "Health care is best left to the private sector where competition will lower costs." Why delusional? The U.S. has the highest healthcare costs in the world while being 37th in healthcare outcomes. By every possible measure, U.S. healthcare is not the envy of the world. What's the most delusional aspect of Republican talking points on this subject? That's easy: "America has the best healthcare system in the world." Bunk. Medicare, very much a government-run program, has the best record of controlling healthcare costs in America.
|Americans don't live as long, but we spend a lot trying to. Greatest country on Earth?|
The government should not mandate that any business, religious or not, must provide insurance with no-copay for women's preventative healthcare, including contraception, testing, and other gynecological services. Republicans insist on this, saying that it is a matter of religious freedom. Why delusional? The Obama administration does not demand that churches and their legitimate religious institutions provide such services. It only directs church-operated institutions that directly serve the public, such as universities and hospitals, provide such insurance. And, as an extra layer of insulation, the insurance companies themselves must bear the costs of such preventive services. 98% of all American women use such services at some point in their lifetimes. Women then have to bear costs that men do not. That's discrimination pure and simple. But violation of religious freedom feels better to the Republicans, even if no one is forced to violate their beliefs on whether or not to use contraceptives.
|All that government money going to abortions. Oh, ah, 3%? Oh, that's right, by law, none.|
|Man, religious women sure don't use contraception. You betcha!|
|Clearly our country doesn't use preventive measures to avoid pregnancy.|
The wealthy in this country are the job creators, so lowering taxes on them gives them more money with which to create jobs. Why delusional? The U.S. has low taxes on the rich already, and we've had many economic booms when taxes were higher. What creates jobs are customers. The principal customers of American business is the middle class. Income equality has never been greater -- the richest 20% of the U.S. population own 85% of the nation's wealth, while the other 80% own the remaining 15%. That 80% includes all of the middle and lower classes. Where are the customers that will spur the economy to create jobs?
|Co-owned by Larry Ellison and David Geffen. Think of the jobs they created for the crew! (Probably illegals, saves money)|
The Republicans hate illegal immigration and want to stop it. This is a major delusion. Republican leaders love immigrants from south of the border. Undocumented workers create downward pressure on wages and take jobs away from low-skilled U.S. citizens. Study after study confirm this. If the Republicans are the party of business, they want more illegal immigration. That's why they've resisted immigration reform. They like the status quo. It's my opinion that the most extreme members of the Republican coalition are making trouble for the greater Republican interests by passing laws like the one in Arizona that would drive away illegal immigrants. Maybe they're just getting wise and making room for low-skilled Americans to take back their jobs at Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Burger King.
|Finding workers outside a Home Depot. What carpenters union?|
Spending more on defense than all the other countries in the world keeps us safe. Being able to win any war anywhere makes us the most powerful nation in the world. Why delusional? From Reagan to Bush the Greater to Bush the Lesser (and even Clinton in between and Obama as the capper), we've spent enough money on defense to pay off our national debt many times over. And yet 19 guys leveled the Twin Towers killing 2,606, smashed into the Pentagon killing 125, and destroyed four planes killing 246 more people. Meanwhile, we lost over 50,000 in Vietnam. Why? We lost 4,486 lives -- with 33,184 wounded -- in Iraq. Why? We've lost 1,857 lives -- with 15,322 wounded -- in Afghanistan. Why? Let's not even go into the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians who've died. Still, why? Are we safer? Really? Generally, we just piss off most of the world by our military aggression. (Examples of good outcomes? Two military operations carried out under President Clinton, in Bosnia and Kosovo, ended bloodshed in those two regions without the loss of a single American citizen. That's a model for military intervention.)
|Holy shit. I'm here because? Oh yeah, the projection of American power. Booyah!|
Here's the one delusion that binds them all: if we preserve the individual imperative, if we prevent government from taking over our lives, then we as a nation of individuals with individual prerogatives will prosper. Why delusional? Nations that maintain strong democratic ideals yet restrain individual prerogatives for the greater good fare better in today's world. Examples of this are Japan, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Bhutan, Luxembourg, Iceland, Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, and New Zealand. The U.S. never is ranked near the top of healthy and happy countries, even when reported in such conservative magazines as Forbes and Businessweek. The U.S. has one of the highest poverty rates of any developed country in the world. Most measures place the U.S. as having the 23rd highest poverty rate in the world. That's out of 196 countries.
|We're number, ah, 23rd! highest in poverty. Oh well, home sweet home.|
If Republican leaders are dishing out the talking points that are meant to delude, who are the effective targets?
- Some call them the Tea Party.
- Some call them the Republican base.
- Some call them the Real America.
- Some call them the Heartland.
- Some call them white, non-college-graduate evangelicals.
- Some call them white Christian males, mostly from the South.
- I call them the victims of the echo machine, the good ole boys pissed that a Negro got over on them and got elected president while they were so busy drinking Lone Star that they flunked their third attempt at the GED.
- I call them the dead-enders, the 28% who still think George W. Bush was a good president.
- I call them the people who think as long as taxes stay low they'll be even richer when they win the lottery, even though chances are they'll spend more time hating that Indonesian Muslim Hawaiian black man in the White House than they will trying to figure out why they don't have a pot to piss in and why there are so many fucking tornadoes.
- To be honest, I bet thousands of them make $160,000 a year working for Archer Daniels Midland Group or John Deere Tractor or Monsanto, or some such decent living, while drinking on the weekends with friends in downtown Kansas City, wondering why they should pay for the fucking bastards, forgetting that they went to public schools all their lives (paid for by other fucking bastards), and drive up and down the Interstate highways (paid for by other fucking bastards). Oh, you get the point.
Oh, and I've listened to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and a whole bunch of white, Christian radio asshats, and they suck. And if you listen really carefully, they are completely delusional and their main message is hateful, and you're gay or a Jew or Satan and my Jesus is the bad-ass Jesus, you know, the one who loves guns, the death penalty, and hates the poor and welfare and public goods, and loves the rich, and my Jesus can kick your ass. (But I'm pro-life!)
So, deluded victims of the dead-enders whose heads are stuck way up into the right-wing, Republican echo chamber, please stop. Please reevaluate. Please research, study political systems and social outcomes around the world. Examine the way people do stuff in other countries. Compare them to how we do stuff in the U.S. and check the statistics that shine a light on the outcomes. If you do this with an open mind, you just might emerge from the dark side, the wasteland flattened by those who would, and have, deluded you. Get a real, fucking education. And join human society. We're waiting.
Finally, something makes sense. G'night.