by Linda Beale
The House, dominated by Tea Party/GOP politicians (or those fearful of their impact on upcoming primaries) passed a bill that attempted to tie the continuing operations of the government to compliance with Tea Party ideas about getting rid of the health reform legislation duly enacted four years ago. See Weisman, House Bill Links Health Care Law and Budget Plan, New York Times (Sept. 20, 2013). Ted Cruz has now run his non-filibuster filibuster in the Senate, and then voted against his own “principled” filibuster position (presumably out of a quite justifiable fear that he would be shown for the fool he is as the only one voting in support of his “principles”, since the Senate vote was unanimously on the other side). Ted Cruz Filibuster, NY Daily News (Sept. 27, 2013).
Remember, these are the same Tea Partiers who cried “Get Government Hands Off My Medicare,” so one can’t expect to see much rational debate about facts and ideas, especially on health care. The fact that Obamacare is based on a Republican, business-centered idea is lost on the Tea Partiers, who seem to simply hate anything associated with Obama and Democrats. Similarly, the fact that the reforms for the first time ensure that people who have pre-existing conditions can find insurance to help pay for catastrophic health costs at reasonable rates doesn’t seem to penetrate the Tea Party conscience.
The Tea Party and its amenable GOP politicians, however, apparently aren’t done trying to use whatever tool however destructive to get their way on health care. Having a sustainable economy is not even on their agenda. After not succeeding in repealing the health care reform law that at least offers some Americans a chance for needed health coverage (including those with pre-existing conditions and those whose employers offer no plans and who cannot afford the typical premiums for non-group plans), the Tea Party/GOP coalition is using the threat (and likely reality) of a devastating government shutdown unless it gets its way on a matter that the American people as a whole have soundly rejected. It is ready to push the country off the fiscal cliff all over again. So after the Senate voted cloture to consider the House bill and then passed a clean funding bill to get us through at least a few more months, the House GOP (with the Tea Party reactionaries in charge) again voted on Saturday to add amendments intended to destroy Obamacare to the funding bill (a one-year delay plus a repeal of the medical device tax, one of the measures intended to cut health care costs and pay for needed reforms).
The message is simple. The GOP is attempting to hold hostage the entire federal government, including at least 800,000 federal employees who will be furloughed but who need their paychecks to live, and many towns and cities across the country that depend on their federal government agencies and employees for their own livelihoods. The Tea Party/GOP coalition has demonstrated that it doesn’t care about the government, the long-term harm to the country, or the suffering of individuals caused by these actions. The Tea Party/GOP coalition is willing to keep going its selfish way, like a petulant child determined not to let anybody have anything at all unless he gets his way.
And even then, it apparently intends to continue to wreak havoc, with the threat of causing the US government to default on its debt for the first time ever, using the silly comparison of the federal government to a family operating on a fixed budget as its equivalent of P.T. Barnum’s fictitious but real-seeming mermaid to scam its “Tea Party” members.
While we need to make judicious choices about how and what we spend on, we shouldn’t make those decisions based on a single-minded and short-sighted goal of cutting tax revenues and not increasing the federal debt limit. We are an enormously rich country. We could work miracles of ending poverty, repairing infrastructure, funding basic research, and creating educational opportunity if only we had the will to do so. And doing those things would create jobs and hope for the under-and un-emplolyed. This is because the federal government is not a family operating on fixed wages. It can print money. It can also raise taxes. We are one of the lowest-taxed countries in the OECD, down at the bottom of advanced countries with the likes of Turkey and Mexico. We have allowed corporations (and their mostly very rich shareholders) to avoid taxes, through legislation and through sharp-witted corporate tax attorneys, to the point where they are only paying a pittance of their enormous profits to the government. We have allowed our tax brackets to become fossilized at the upper range at extraordinarily low levels of income, when the top earners get so many millions that they pittance that even the top rate brings in is just a gnat’s bite for the rich.
These facts scream for recognition that the Tea Party goals are not only damaging in the process of government-hostage-taking being used to try to reach them, but highly unfair and irresponsible in their likely impact of accelerating the increasing inequality in this country–inequality that means the rich are getting rich while the poor and middle class are losing ground. Thus, the Tea Party/GOP coalition is pushing forward in what amounts to class warfare on behalf of wealthy Tea Party funders like the Koch Brothers and their corporate empire and the “silver-spoon” crowd like Mitt Romney who think that they got where they are through their “merit” (ignoring the many advantages of networks and educational opportunities that helped them “make it” in the status-and-power-based world of crony capitalism).
Charles Reid at Huffington Post concluded that Cruz was a huckster primarily intent on self-promotion appealing to a Tea Party/Republican base that invites itself to be huckstered. Here’s his description:
[A] good half of the Tea Party is pure, old-fashioned American hokum. There are the conspiracy theorists selling their tales of devious plots by the Federal Reserve. And the gold dealers who spin elaborate yarns of out-of-control inflation which the government keeps secret. And there are the Second Amendment fanatics warning ominously about plots to disarm law-abiding American constitutionalists. There are even the patent-medicine folks. Newsmax, a principal Tea Party news organ, is filled daily with claims about cures for everything from diabetes to Alzheimer’s. Charles J. Reid, P.T. Barnum, Joe McCarthy, and the Rise of Ted Cruz, HuffingtonPost (Sept 27, 2013).
But Cruz also draws on what Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style” of American politics, says Reid.
This mode of thinking is darkly conspiratorial. The world is sharply divided — “us” against “them.” And those who stand against the heroic defenders of justice and the American way are always secretly scheming to run not just the country but the entire world.
[T]o enter today’s GOP base is to cross the border from reality into Glenn-Beckistan. There are the young-earth creationists who see the whole of empirical science as a diabolical plot to conceal divine creation. There are the global warming skeptics, found even in the pages of the formerly great Wall Street Journal. And then there are the folks who come out of the woodwork at conservative workshops and rallies: The ones who want to abolish the IRS. Those who wish to dismantle whole government agencies. Those who believe Social Security is irretrievably insolvent, an accusation first made by Alf Landon in 1936. Even the next generation of segregationists who once thrilled to Wallace and Goldwater.
Charles J. Reid, P.T. Barnum, Joe McCarthy, and the Rise of Ted Cruz, HuffingtonPost (Sept 27, 2013).
This is what the U.S. Congress is reduced to–paranoid hucksterism parading as compassion for the people. A minority of flim-flam artists huckstering for attention that will, they think, win them reelection and please their paranoid-prone base of Tea Party/GOP constituents–the group who thinks their religious freedom is being oppressed when they can’t repress everybody else’s religious rights; who thinks a conspiracy to undermine them exists when saner thinking attempts to impose some kind of reasonable restrictions on the gun mayhem that is killing this country’s children and youth and elderly in what we once thought were relegated to movie depictions of Old West shoot-em-outs; and who combines this paranoid conspiracy-thinking with anarchic libertarianism to conclude that “taxation is theft” and “government is the problem” even when these majority-Republican rural constituencies from Alaska to Mississippi depend on government employment and other federal dollars for their very livelihoods. See In Republican States, More Government Jobs, New York Times (Sept. 27, 2013).
There’s the rub. The inability of the Tea Party base to listen, to consider facts, to accept the importance of community and the important role of taxes in maintaining the institutions that make community possible through collective action. It makes me think of George Orwell’s 1984, as depicted in the movie with John Hurt and Richard Burton –a population that has taught itself not to think with home-schooling and religious indoctrination, reinforced by political demogogues who retain power and perks by figuratively beating the proletarian to a nonthinking mass that resents any attempt to act collectively for the greater good of the people.
cross posted with ataxing matter