Monday, September 5, 2011

Republican Wasteland (FILAM STAR, August 19, 2011)

The Republican Party (GOP) has played a fixed range of ideological roles throughout the post-World War Two and post-Cold War periods leading up to the spring of the Information Age. Hurtling along a clear socio-economic, cultural, and political trajectory over the last sixty years, the GOP has stood for conservative ideological principles such as laissez-faire economics, a diminished federal government, lower income tax rates, and the emphasizing of the rights of the individual.

For a long time now, advocates of the GOP’s conservative ideology have fought for their beliefs against their counterparts on the left of the political spectrum. During all these ideological battles between the Left and the Right, there had been a sense that for the losers there would always be another day, another dawn for the revival of their ideologies. The battle may have been lost, but the war was always far from being decided.

If however, the Republicans—and their Tea Party lunatic fringe wing—have their way in the end, not only will there be no new dawns. Their ultimate victory will lead to the social and economic devastation of American society. Here is how political and economic observers have described what I am talking about: what American conservatives and Republicans want to do is to stand over the ashes of Social Security and Medicare, two institutions that they see as illegitimate and burdensome forms of government expenditure.

The Republicans have made veiled arguments for eventually casting off Social Security and Medicare into the socio-economic void. Now why would American conservatives and the GOP want to do anything so destructive to American society? Before I go on, let me say that the Republicans are not so foolish as to make their nihilistic designs for Social Security and Medicare obvious. They will work it so that they can gradually make a viable case to the American public that those two entitlements would have to be emasculated, if not outright eliminated.

Back to why conservatives and the GOP want to do this. There is a powerful ideological paradigm in conservative politics and that is the perception that people are who and what they are according to their nature. This indisputable belief in human essentialism—that everyone has a core, innate essence that fundamentally determines what kind of person they will be—has given rise to exclusionary ideas, ideas that acknowledge racist and other prejudicial ways of assessing people and their actions.

Thus, the significant responsibility to be placed on structural and external factors like poverty or discrimination or historical traumas (such as colonialism) is rendered negligible in the American conservative worldview. To use ordinary language, conservatives and their Republican cohorts would love to tell you that if you are poor or in financial need, it is because you are lazy. If you bought a subprime mortgage without reading the fine print, you are about as stupid as you can get. And if you continue to accept Social Security and Medicare “handouts” then you should feel ashamed for opportunistically bilking the government.

Is it any wonder that the Republicans have been so intransigent in demanding slash-and-burn budget cuts while at the same time refusing to entertain any balanced notion of tax increases, especially as they would pertain to the richest of Americans? It is important to understand that tax hikes would undermine the GOP’s ulterior motive of eviscerating Social Security and Medicare.

The Republicans’ covert idea of using the gutting of Social Security and Medicare as a benchmark for a brighter American future has been derided as a way of “starving the beast” of big government. This economic scheme, which economist Bruce Bartlett called the “most pernicious fiscal doctrine in history”, is succinctly laid out by New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman: “Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.”

Unless we recognize the Republican/Conservative vision for America for what it is, a cruel and compassionless footrace in which the financially-mediocre and below will be left behind to wither away, we will be facing a tough enough future as it is without our precious social safety nets to protect us from the greed and callousness of the Republican Party and its right-wing partisans.


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