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Fool Us Again: 30 Years of Bait and Switch Budget Politics

Republican Blackmail, Press Malfeasance, and Democratic Complicity Are Rewarding the Rich and Cheating the Rest of Us

Once again we go to the cliff.  Once again Republicans are threatening brinksmanship.  Once again, Democrats are practicing preemptive capitulation. Once again, the media is missing the real story.Well done, Ron. Well done. (Photo: AP)

You’re going to be hearing a lot from Republicans about the horrors of debt and deficits in the next couple of weeks.  The last time they cranked up their fear machine prior to a vote on the debt ceiling, it caused a downgrading of the US credit rating and cost us some $90 billion.  You know, crashing the economy in order to save it.

Let’s be clear:  Republicans don’t give a damn about debt and deficits. 

In fact, the bulk of our current and projected deficit is a direct result of Republican policies. And Republicans watched in silence as Reagan tripled the deficit and Bush doubled it.  Both Cheney and Reagan claimed deficits don’t matter, and again, conservatives nodded in agreement.

So what’s going on?

Republicans are trying to accomplish through the back door that which they could never accomplish directly: gutting social security; Medicare; Medicaid; Pell grants; unemployment insurance; and regulatory programs covering the environment, labor, worker safety, food and drug safety, the financial sector and anything else which might get in the way of giant giveaways to oligarchs, plutocrats and fat cats.

But there’s a problem. These programs all enjoy broad public support. In fact, when Gingrich tried to start a real debate about cutting them under his Contract for America, he got his head handed to him.  Same with Bush in 2005 when he said he was going to use his “political capital” to reform Social Security.

So what’s a good gubmint’-hating, industry-loving conservative to do?

Well, it’s no secret that for the last 30 years they’ve embarked on a systematic campaign to make Americans think government is an incompetent and destructive force, to starve it of resources and spend it into mega-deficits, and make people believe that the private sector will provide all good things by pure serendipity.

The theory was, when deficits were large enough, people would have no choice but to support cuts to these popular programs.

Now, thanks to Republican tax cuts, unfunded wars, and unfunded drug benefits (designed primarily to enrich big Pharma), government debt is growing.  It’s not an immediate crisis.  In fact, at a time when we can borrow for next to nothing, and we’re in the middle of a stagnant economy, we need government to spend more, not less.  Other countries which have followed the austerity prescription are experiencing double dip recessions, and even the austerity crazed IMF is rethinking the idea of imposing budget cuts on stagnant economies.

The problem for Republican is that the policies designed to enable them to cut New Deal programs and shred regulations, created a massive recession, making it inconvenient to recommend more of the same as a prescription for fixing the problem they created.

So you’d think that the inside the beltway chattering class and the press would stop hawking this Republican fear bomb and reveal it for what it is – a destructive back door strategy for getting their way on entitlements that could bring on a bona-fide Depression.  And you’d think the media would start investigating why they want to eviscerate government in general and entitlements in particular  (hint, both the Romney and Ryan budgets used the cuts to fund giant giveaways to the uber rich and corporations).

But of course you’d be wrong. 

To hear the punditry tell it, debt is our number one problem, and drastic cuts are an absolute necessity. Hell, they’re even buying the notion that cutting Social Security will somehow address budget deficits.  Social Security, as everyone except these “experts” seems to know, isn’t even funded on-budget.  We pay for it with our contributions.  And contrary to conservative myth-makers, it’s not in trouble.  It is solvent for some 30 years -- far more than any private sector pension is.  Trying to fix a deficit by cutting social security is like blaming the milkman because your mail is late.  Stupid.

And of course, you’d think Obama would be ready to call the Republicans on their debt-ceiling brinksmanship. Particularly after campaigning and winning on the idea that government fiscal policy should be something other than a ponzi scheme for the rich.  Particularly when polls overwhelmingly support taking a hard line on conservative blackmail.

Yes, you’d think Mr. Obama would mint the $1 trillion coin and make these ass-clowns and their destructive games irrelevant.

But again, you’d be wrong.

The Compromiser-in-Chief can’t seem to help himself.  He seems programmed to play the Republican game; to take seriously, what amounts to utter nonsense.