The election is only a day away. There’s been a lot of rhetoric from both sides and we all know that the TV ads not only distort and misinform, they have virtually no relationship to reality.
To put things in some kind of perspective a whirlwind tour of the first years of the new millenium is helpful. Americans don’t much like history, and that’s a shame because that’s the only way you can understand the present – in the context of the past. It’s actually painful to look back at those years, but it’s necessary to understand our present plight. What follows is a very brief recap.
In 2001 a terrorist attack using hijacked airplanes destroyed the World Trade Center buildings in New York and damaged the pentagon, killing several thousand people. The chief counter terrorism advisor on the National Security Council, Richard Clarke, who served under four presidents repeatedly petitioned the Bush administration to hold principal’s meetings on the threat of Al Queda and was turned down. The presidential daily briefs warned the administration 40 times about the threat. The warnings were ignored.
Not long after the 9-11 attacks this country invaded Iraq. The administration falsely claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion. None were found. The Bush war cabinet engaged in fraud and deceit to justify a war that killed thousands of Americans, wounded many thousands more, killed over a hundred thousand Iraqis, and cost us untold losses of money and respect.
War profiteering was epidemic. Before he became vice president, Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, the main contractor for logistical support in the war. This was a blatant conflict of interest. The war was funded with borrowed money and the cost put in a special budget to hide it from the general budget. Cheney worked behind the scenes to produce rulings that gave the executive almost unlimited powers, essentially declaring themselves above the law. Torture was justified throught the same legal contortions. People who protested the war were herded into fenced enclaves called free speech zones where they could exercise their so-called first amendment rights.
The war in Afghanistan, initially successful in routing the Taliban, was deresourced to fund the Iraq war. The situation there deteriorated during Bush’s presidency with the Taliban resurgent by the end of his second term.
A category 5 hurricane in the Gulf headed straight for landfall in New Orleans. The day after it made landfall while the levees were failing president Bush was in California learning guitar chords from a country singer.
The housing bubble was allowed to fester until it popped at the end of Bush’s second term, crashing the economy into the worst recession since the great depression. The explosion of speculation in complex financial instruments that were nothing more than gimmicks that only their creators could understand lay at the heart of the collapse. Short term, the people who could do something about it knew the housing boom was a bubble and chose to do nothing, hoping that it would not burst on their watch.
If you seriously want to answer the question “Are we better off today than four years ago?” just remember this: At the start of 2009 we were losing 800,000 jobs per month, the stock market was in free fall, people’s life savings had been devastated, foreclosures were rampant, and total wealth loss was in the trillions. We were as close as you can get to a total economic collapse.
The presidency of George Bush was a complete disaster that did irreparable harm to this country, set some very dangerous precedents in regard to our civil liberties and permanently damaged our standing in the world.
While Fox News did not have many criticisms of George Bush, since Obama took the oath it has engaged in a nonstop creation of a second Obama, a man who is an evil monster, the spawn of Satan, and out to destroy our way of life. It has been a sustained campaign of character assasination supported by lies, misinformation, deception, whatever it takes, all from a news organization that claims it is unbiased. Now I get that there are always attacks on a president, and there were certainly a lot of criticisms of Bush from all corners. But never have I seen such a sustained effort with such a single-minded pursuit of the destruction of a presidency as there is from Fox News and the Republican party.
That alternate universe is the foundation for the talking points you hear from Mitt Romney in his campaign. Governor Romney and his brethren count on amnesia, that people will have forgotten that we even had a crash in 2008, or have any idea of how bad this was, and still is.
Here’s some guidelines for Republicans who want to recycle the talking points:
1) Repeatedly say “failed stimulus” because things are not hunky dory now. It’s hard to argue the negative, that without the stimulus and the auto bailout that we would be in a second Great Depression, but most economists will contend just that, including John McCain’s campaign financial advisor, who published a paper on the stimulus that said we would have millions more unemployed without it.
2) Wring hands and clutch pearls about the national debt, even though few of you objected when the debt began exploding late in Bush’s term, or showed any concern over the reckless fiscal policy that led up to that explosion. Attribute the debt to “out of control spending” by Obama even though government spending since the stimulus is less than it was under Bush. Ignore the real reasons why the debt has gone up: the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, a reduction in government revenues and the payments on the Iraq debacle.
3) After maintaining that the debt is apocalyptic, refuse to make any concessions to do something about the debt other than eviscerating government. Republican leaders in congress insisted that any increases in revenue resulting from closing tax loopholes should be treated as a tax increase which must then be offset by a tax reduction, ensuring no additional revenue to reduce the deficit. In fact when Obama proposed 10 dollars in spending cuts to 1 dollar in tax revenue increases, they rejected the proposal because they don’t compromise, and after all they swore that oath to Grover Norquist.
4) Moan about how bad the economy is, even though you really don’t care because you’re a millionaire and for you the economy isn’t really that bad. The stock market has recovered, gross domestic product has fully recovered and is higher than ever, corporate profits have reached new highs, and home prices have been steadily increasing. The only part of the economy that hasn’t recovered are the number of jobs. In fact over 90% of the recovery has accrued to the top 1%.
5) Express your deep concern for the jobless (see point 4) and how so little has been done to help their plight. But whatever you do, don’t let on that Republicans in congress killed nearly every bill put forth to help small business and create jobs. They filibustered the American Jobs Act. They’ve blocked monetary stimulus. The debt default charade has done real damage to the economy. They even blocked bills that initially had bipartisan support or were written by Republicans and got the support of Obama. Can’t have that, might make the president look good. In fact the cynical among us might conclude that they have been adamantly opposed to any policy that will help get people back to work if it might possibly make the president look good. But do sound very concerned about the unemployed.
6) Constantly restate the ineptitude and downright evilness of government as you seek government office. Portray any government policy to promote job creation as a waste of money or worse yet, socialism. Government that works for people is evil. (Remember that old quaint notion - of the people, by the people, for the people? How ancient history.) Government that serves big business, that’s OK. Providing business with the infrastructure, transportation, patent protection, and research that makes it possible to succeed? Expected. Asking those who have done very well in this system to pay a little more taxes but less than they paid ten years ago? Class warfare!
7) When it comes to your “plan”, provide no real specifics but talk in platitudes. The gist of the “plan” goes like this: the economy will be so glad to see a business man like Mitt in the white house (and doesn’t he just look the part of successful business guy?) that it will explode with good feelings and shower everybody with opportunity. This is all because of the confidence fairy who will be free to work its magic once the burdensome government regulations are lifted and taxes on the wealthy are reduced. Never mind that there is no historical evidence to support this theory or any of the other theories that you constantly trot out, like trickle-down economics or the Laffer curve.
Some people may call these talking points a statement of policy. I call it what it is, horse poop
Now some of you may ask how a political party can sob about the many unemployed people in this country when for four years it has obstructed any and all efforts to help the situation, opposing measures that have proven in the past to be effective. Doesn’t that seem to be an extreme case of putting partisan politics above the country’s well-being? You may ask why there is so much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the deficit, when any analysis of Ryan’s highly praised plan shows that it will increase the deficit even more.
You may wander also just what their plan is, because it’s a moving target. Those who try to crunch the numbers are left with guessing just which plan they will analyze, since it changes daily depending on who asks the questions. It seems that ambiguity is the best shield against criticism, leaving the analysts to make assumptions and guess what plan they are looking at.
Here’s the bottom line. Romney could care less if the unemployment rate doubles or triples. He cares about benefitting the people who are his peers, the 1% of 1%, with protections that make sure that his people don’t have to actually provide any real service to the rest of us but can continue to game the system and divert as much money as possible into their pockets. A sudden defunding of government across the board will result in not only more unemployment but may well send a fragile but recovering economy into a tailspin. Just the defunding of research alone will cause a flight of scientists and engineers out of this country. We will become a third world country.
Two thirds of Romney’s foreign policy team worked in the Bush administration. How did their foreign policy work out? If you think it’s bad now, a Romney presidency will make things far worse. They have no answers. The Romney plan is to pick up where the Bush presidency left off and double down. We have a larger military than the next 9 countries combined, yet Mitt says it needs to be bigger. We have a government that is essentially geared to serve the interests of the financial elite already. Mitt says we need more of that and make the rest of government smaller. We are on the verge of a government that doesn’t even make a pretense of working for people. Income inequality, already the worst since the Gilded Age, will get even worse. If that’s what you want, Mitt will get you there.
There’s a lot at stake here. We are on the verge of handing over what’s left of a human society to the financial elites. The people who are smitten with the darwinism of Ayn Rand’s writings want to run the show. They actually believe that they are the real creators and producers and the rest of us are useless. This is the madness which has taken over the Republican party.