Thursday, September 22, 2005

September 22, 2005

Odyssey 2005

HAL: I know a song.
If you'd like to hear it, I can sing it for you, Dave.

Dave: Yes...I'd like to hear it HAL....Sing it for me.

HAL: It's called "Daisy"
Daisy....Daisy.....Give me your answer due....
I'm half-crazy....all for the love of you....

Republicans have been on a roll since Newt Gingrich dreamed up his "Contract With America," a decade ago. The CWA was the first time in decades Republicans had even given a passing thought to a domestic agenda. They had been riding the Better Dead Than Red express since the 1950s. For nearly half a century it had been their ticket to power. Their program back then was simple too – "Democrats are a bunch of limp-wristed, bleeding heart, pinkos who, if allowed to run the country will hand your children and the nation to the Godless Commies on a silver plater. "

Then the commies disappeared, Bill Clinton replaced Reagan and Bush at the top and Democrats controlled Congress. Yikes. What to do? Without an external threat to demagogue they needed a new threat, one closer to home.

That's when Newt & Co. joined forces with those at the far right of their party. These were the crazy aunts and uncles the party had kept locked in the attic because they were, well, crazy. They didn't just hate communist governments, they hated all government, including their own.

Brilliant! The new threat became the threat within -- creeping, nanny government, that intruded into private lives, strangled innovation and entrepreneurs in their cribs and redistributed wealth through taxation. "Tax and Spend Liberals" and the government programs and services they created, became the new threat.

Newt & Company's Contract With America became their manifesto. They would attack the beast from within, sap its strength by denying it subsistence, thereby bringing the beast to its knees. They promised to topple Big Liberal Government just as they had Big Communism.

Then came 9/11 and they saw an unexpected opportunity to revive their old external threat gambit as well. They dusted of their old "evil empire" play books and updated them. Democrats were still weak, only this time on terrorism. "Democrats don't want to declare war on terrorist, they want to arrest them and put them on trial. Can you believe that? Afford them judicial and human rights? A day in court, even an attorney? That's those bleeding heart liberals for you."

Both plans worked --sorta and for a while anyway.

Republicans reclaimed the White House and both houses of Congress. And, even though doubts about his competency had grown, voters reelected G.W. Bush a second time, because they felt he was tougher on terrorists. Now the GOP is on the very cusp of bagging the judicial branch as well.

But the first part of their plan, the Contract With America part, worked a little too well. Just as they promised, they sapped the beast of huge hunks of tax revenue -- under the guise of stimulative tax cuts. So far, so good.

But now reality set in. In recent weeks voters discovered something startling. Osama bin Laden was not the only threat to their lives and fortunes. No. There are even bigger threats out there for which we was not prepared; Osama bin Hurricane, Osama bin Tornado, and inevitably Osama bin Big-ass Earthquake. We learned that our government could no longer respond well to any of those threats. Why? Because, it's hard to respond to anything when you're weak and on your knees.

It reminds me of the computer, HAL, in Kubrick's Space Odessey 2001. The US government's once robust capabilities have been shut down, one by one, disconnected by busy GOP hands from within. That's why, when the poor folks stranded in New Orleans called for help, all they heard at the other end of the line was a stumbling version of "Daisy."

But therein lays a glimmer of hope. By dismantling critical domestic federal services and programs, the GOP inadvertently demonstrated why they where created to begin with. By slashing taxes they have starved "the beast" into a stupor. Gone are the Clinton surpluses. Gone are many of the tax revenues once paid by corporations and the wealthy. And gone are the services they once funded.

Since Katrina even Red State voters have been telling their GOP representatives they want those services restored. That this is America, not Haiti. Holy moly, they saw Mexican troops coming to the aid of US citizens in New Orleans! Hell, most Red State voters didn't even know Mexico had an army. Red State voter's US flags, normally proudly erect, went flaccid. They were humiliated and swept with performance anxiety. They got on the phone and told their representatives they wanted them to restore the kind of government services every other First World nation enjoys -- now!

So, how are these slash and burn Republicans going satisfy those demands? The game has clearly changed but they are still using Newt's old play books. Logical minds say just repeal the tax cuts for the top 1% of earners. That would bring in a quick and easy $450 billion in tax revenues. Forget about it, they say. No. Will not, will not, will not!

So then, what is their plan?

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - Conservative House Republicans plan to recommend on Wednesday more than $500 billion in savings over 10 years to compensate for the costs of Hurricane Katrina as lawmakers continue to struggle to develop a consensus on the fiscal approach to the disaster. At the top of a partial list of the potential cuts being circulated on Tuesday were previously suggested ideas like delaying the start of the new Medicare prescription drug coverage for one year to save $31 billion and eliminating $25 billion in projects from the newly enacted transportation measure. (Full Story)

Yep, that's right. Rather than ask those who have the most to chip in, the GOP's plan is to take more away from those who have less, a lot less. Perversely they also see more beast-killing opportunity in all this misery. Under the guise of finding money to help hurricane victims, they want to de-fund Public Broadcasting. Call it Katrina's silver lining.

And, rather than raise taxes on the rich they prefer squeezing government workers. One of the ideas they tossed out yesterday was to begin charging government employees for the privilege of parking in the company lot. I kid you not. What's next, pay toilets in all government buildings?

It's all part of a desperate rear-guard action to preserve the Bush tax cuts. Nothing more, nothing less. So get ready for new GOP Orwellian tsunami. Example. the old "fraud, waste and abuse," canard.

Republicans always drag this piece of rhetorical nonsense out whenever they don't want to pay for something in an honest and straight up manner. They claim they can squeeze hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars out the beast by "eliminating fraud, waste and abuse." Then they never..NEVER...ever... EVER, do. N-e-v-e-r.

Yet, here it is again. The GOP claims that by attacking fraud, waste and abuse, and trimming more domestic programs they can pay for the war and hurricane relief and the war without raising taxes. They even gave their plan a nifty bit of Madison Ave. branding. They call it, Operation Offset. They say they will "offset" the cost of hurricane relief with cuts elsewhere. Get it, suckers?

But here's where the fun begins. One politician's fraud, waste and abuse is another's sacred cow. Prime example -- House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, R-Tx. When asked if he was ready to sacrifice the $114 million in pork slipped in the new highway bill for his district, he balked. "My earmarks are pretty important to building an economy in that region," Mr. DeLay said.

Observation: At least those naughty "tax and spend liberals" understood that, in order to spend, they had to raise money. New taxes require a vote, almost always an unpopular vote.Democrats were ready to make that case and take the heat. Republicans discovered they can skip the unpopular part of governing by cutting taxes and then borrowing the difference. Borrow and spend conservatives.

The problem now is that Republicans have cut taxes and spent more than the world is willing to lend us. America now wallows in red ink. If we were a private company our bonds would be rated high-risk corporate junk.

It's at such times that the immutable laws of economic-physics kick in. Interest rates are rising. The Fed boosted them again yesterday. (See Here) Adjustable mortgage rates will reflect that change just about the time already stretched home owners are struggling to pay skyrocketing home heating bills. And, adding insult to injury, paying $3 a gallon for the gasoline they need to drive to work so they can earn enough to pay their utility bills.

Not done yet. Almost every major US airline is either in bankruptcy or heading there. The once lauded US education system has become a joke, cranking out graduates that are among the lamest people on earth. The very foundations upon which we became a super power, our national infrastructure, crumbles before our eyes. Our military has been over-extended and is fraying around the edges. We check old-men's shoes at airports but can't afford to secure our wide open borders. Over 50 million American citizens can't get affordable health care or drugs. When a natural disaster strikes victims are left to fend for themselves.

That's the smell of victory. They succeeded. Republicans starved and brought the Government Beast to its knees.

And, if you believe what they are saying now, they aren't done.

Weird Story of the Day
Jeb Bush's Pretend Friend

No comments: