What's up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?
The G.O.P.'s latest campaign is aimed at undermining President Obama's effort to cope with the national economic emergency by attacking the spending in his stimulus package and repeating ad nauseam the Republican mantra for ever more tax cuts.
"Right now, given the concerns that we have over the size of this package and all the spending in this package, we don't think it's going to work," said Representative John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who is House minority leader. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr. Boehner said of the plan: "Put me down in the ‘no' column."
If anything, the stimulus package is not large enough. Less than 24 hours after Mr. Boehner's televised exercise in obstructionism, the heavy-equipment company Caterpillar announced that it was cutting 20,000 jobs, Sprint Nextel said it was eliminating 8,000, and Home Depot 7,000.
Maybe the Republicans don't think there is an emergency. After all, it was Phil Gramm, John McCain's economic guru, who told us last summer that the pain was all in our heads, that this was a "mental recession."
The truth, of course, is that the country is hemorrhaging jobs and Americans are heading to the poorhouse by the millions. The stock markets and the value of the family home have collapsed, and there is virtual across-the-board agreement that the country is caught up in the worst economic disaster since at least World War II.
The Republican answer to this turmoil?
They need to go into rehab.
The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class. (Forget the poor. Nobody talks about them anymore, not even the Democrats.) The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare.
A stark example of this unholy collaboration between the G.O.P. and the very wealthy was on display in the pages of this newspaper on Jan. 18. The Times's Mike McIntire wrote an article about the first wave of federal bailout money for the financial industry, which was handed over by the Bush administration with hardly any strings attached. (Congress, under the control of the Democrats, should never have allowed this to happen, but the Democrats are as committed to fecklessness as the Republicans are to tax cuts.)
The public was told that the money would be used to loosen the frozen credit markets and thus help revive the economy. But as the article pointed out, there were bankers with other ideas. John C. Hope III, the chairman of the Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, in an address to Wall Street fat cats gathered at the Palm Beach Ritz-Carlton, said:
"Make more loans? We're not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans."
How's that for arrogance and contempt for the public interest? Mr. Hope's bank received $300 million in taxpayer bailout money.
The same article quoted Walter M. Pressey, president of Boston Private Wealth Management, which Mr. McIntire described as a healthy bank with a mostly affluent clientele. It received $154 million in taxpayer money.
"With that capital in hand," said Mr. Pressey, "not only do we feel comfortable that we can ride out the recession, but we also feel that we'll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves once this recession is sorted out."
Take advantage, indeed. That, in a nutshell, is what the plutocracy is all about: taking unfair advantage.
When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen. Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles.
This is the party that preached fiscal discipline and then cut taxes in time of war. This is the party that still wants to put the torch to Social Security and Medicare. This is a party that, given a choice between Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, would choose Ronald Reagan in a heartbeat.
Why is anyone still listening?