Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Another Republican Mudslide

What a shocker. After some surprising and unexpected language from W in the wake of Katrina about poverty and race, and a stated commitment by him to make things right and to address some of the neglected, ugly corners of our culture, the inevitable about-face has occurred. Suddenly I feel as though someone has been peeing on me.

How does it go? Fool me twice... uh...don't get fooled again!

An article in yesterday's New York Times talks about how, far from enacting new measures to bring relief to the disaster areas, or even to extend existing programs (seemingly the easiest way to help people), Republicans are hard at work to cut funding for those existing programs, and to shift the expense of recovery and reconstruction away from those who actually have money. It seems even Republicans have begun to acknowledge that our commitments are wildly beyond our ability to pay.

The solution? Cut taxes on the rich and cut spending for the poor, of course. You say we're in desperate need of revenue? This will fix it: "Indeed, even as he was calling for deep spending cuts last week, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, who leads the conservative caucus, called tax reductions for the prosperous a key to fighting poverty." This sounds to me like saying that the best way to lose weight is to eat twice your daily allotment of total calories in the form of Peanut M&Ms.

Trust me, this doesn't work.

This rationale sounds like the same wheezy old supply-side song, the stupefying claim that the really wealthy are all that matter in the economy: if we take care of the rich, the rich will lift us up on their gold-leaf platter. (Never mind that Clinton's 1993 tax increases seem to disprove everything about this theory, as does the current state of the economy--and poverty rates--after W's massive handout for the wealthy from his first term.) But I'm just not able anymore to see this administration as well meaning but misguided.

A Paul Krugman column after the hurricane said that the relief debacle was the predictable outcome from a group of people who don't believe that government can help people, or that it's even the government's place to help people.
"...The federal government's lethal ineptitude wasn't just a consequence of Mr. Bush's personal inadequacy; it was a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good. For 25 years the right has been denigrating the public sector, telling us that government is always the problem, not the solution."

But the administration is not admitting to any of this. Instead we get more lies and spin, lies and spin. W quietly suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, a 1931 law requiring reconstruction projects to pay at least an average local wage. And the administrations argument for this, when Halliburton is allowed multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts (you can be damn sure that Halliburton is getting substantially more than the local average)? They claim that the suspension, which applied only to storm areas, would benefit local residents by "stretching financial resources."

Meanwhile, another $70 billion in tax reductions for the wealthy, agreed to in the Spring, are moving forward and are not even on the table for consideration in this crisis. Couldn't we use, say, this $70B to "benefit local residents?"

This is the tactic, folks: say what is necessary to get people to stop caterwauling, having no intention whatsoever to do what you say, either in particulars or even in broad strokes. It is a truism that the best way to propagate a lie is for the liar to actually believe the lie. It may be known as a lie up top, but it's stated to the minions, who go forth and spread the lie as gospel. This is pure Karl Rove, and he has coached W well. It's the cornerstone of W's modus operandi that you be able to convincingly say things you pointedly don't believe. But the minions will believe.

Isn't the brave and upright thing to state the truth simply, even if it's painful? Well, no. Not if you're effecting a revolution underneath the noses of a public that desires no such thing. Because no informed voter, or at least no voter that's not both very rich and not burdened with a social conscience, would endorse either the world dreamt of by W's team or the brutal tactics in their secret handbook.

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