Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Audacity of Republican Hypocrisy

In his book "What's the Matter With Kansas?", which is a must read, historian Thomas Frank described how conservatives use social issues such as gay marriage to divert attention from other issues and drum up popular support for conservative causes. The outcome of the recent midterm provides another chapter in the book. Even before President Barack Obama took office, several prominent and highly paid conservative talk show hosts said that they hoped he would be a "failure." Since that time, they and others have served up an unending frenzy of distortions and fear-mongering aimed at furthering their personal, financial or political interests.

Republicans are attacking Obama for the very positions and policies their party recently embraced

The nation has been told that Mr. Obama is a "socialist" and a would-be dictator, largely on the basis of the so-called "individual mandate" in the health care bill. That ignores the fact that the individual mandate was first proposed by Republicans and the conservative Heritage Foundation as a more market-oriented alternative to a government-run, single-payer system. Back in 1993, 20 Republican senators introduced the Health Equity and Access Reform Act, which the respected, nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation, a health care study group, has shown in a side-by-side comparison to have striking similarities to the health care bill passed last year. Both have an individual mandate. Both ban exclusions for pre-existing conditions, call for insurance exchanges and offer subsidies for those who cannot afford to buy policies.

Even more on point is the insurance mandate program put in place in Massachusetts by then-Republican Gov. Mitt Romney. That many polls have Mr. Romney as the front-runner for the Republican Party nomination for 2012 at the very time that the Obama program was being opposed by every single Republican member of Congress is testimony to the intellectual dishonesty created by partisan politics. The four Republican co-sponsors of the 1993 individual mandate who are still in the Senate, and even Mr. Romney (who the libertarian Cato Institute cited as having created the "prototype" for the Obama program) now rail against the same principle they had proposed and that Mr. Romney signed into law. And most recently, the language in the Republicans' Pledge to America used to describe an alternative agenda to the president's could easily have been given in any Obama speech during last year's debate.

The nation has been told that Mr. Obama is a reckless spender and he is slammed for the TARP program, the auto company bailouts and the stimulus. That the TARP program was created by President George W. Bush, and that work on the auto industry bailout and a stimulus program began in the closing days of the Bush administration, has been lost in the din of battle. Most of the same members of the opposition who denounce the cost of the Obama program voted for the Bush prescription drug benefit that is now projected to cost more than $1 trillion. The Obama program is also now projected to cost $1 trillion, but the Congressional Budget Office "projects" that, unlike Mr. Bush's drug program, Mr. Obama's plan should decrease the federal budget deficit over 10 years. We'll see about that

Remember, too, that the same opposition that warns against the cost of Mr. Obama's health care program approved, almost without any debate, funds for the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq, which is now projected to cost at least $2 trillion to $3 trillion when all costs are taken into account. These same budget deficit hawks became the first in American history to cut taxes in a time of war, funding the wars on borrowed money. They are the same people who inherited a large budget surplus and produced eight successive years of large budget deficits and a collapsed economy, which they handed off to Mr. Obama

Like any government official, President Obama should be subject to criticism. Bringing health care up during the middle of an extreme financial crisis was certainly bad politics, for which principle he and the Democrats are paying a very, very heavy price for. Whether the health care program or the financial regulation overhaul will work are open questions (although the verdicts on TARP and the auto bailout seem favorable). Whether unemployment would be much higher or whether the economy would have collapsed without the stimulus are also open questions.

The political system is, in fact, dysfunctional and in need of massive change, as many of the voices of frustration and outrage rightly declaim. However, if that change is to take the form of a hypocritical opposition that says or does anything to regain a majority, and if public discourse is to be led by those who use half-truths, ad hominem attacks and hysteria, then heaven help us

1 comment:

Slyram said...

Forget speculation that you might exit the Dem Party, they should hold you in an undisclosed location until after the 2012 election for speaking knowledge and wisdom that helps the nation while inadvertently helping the conservative movement. (I am the kind of the American who wants those in the political arena to be better…so help us God.)

It’s like this: in high school, two guys “court” the same lady and Guy A spends all his time running down guy B. What’s silly is that Guy A and Guy B both are catches on simple fact value. The lady selects Guy B because he approached the situation in a classy, more mature manner. Closer to politics, Nixon was going to win the election anyway before some overzealous cats broke into the Watergate.

If the conservative movement developed a chill gear or just presented the budget/role of government facts alone, they would get a sizeable part of the center and win everything. But, they can’t, won’t or don’t control those on the far Right who get their money from drama (radio, TV, web) and who therefore have an agenda based on boiling good folks blood. MSNBC did a thing this morning called “Wisconsin Nice” and I think I will write a blog post about it today but the general idea is that a new group of nicer GOP budget-based leaders are emerging (nice being relative to the bitter homies from our South.) I told you that Rep. Paul Ryan was a solid dude.

Ryan and his friends are Guy B type people but the Guy A types are too busy tripping on ugly stuff.

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