Monday, January 7, 2013

It's all about the deficit, stupid. Or is it?

If the national debt is, as the Republican leadership says daily, the Number One problem facing America, then they should have been voting for all the Bush tax cuts expiring and the sequestration happening, since those would reduce the national debt substantially.

Only they're against both those things, which means right off the bat that they don't think the deficit is our number one problem. The deficit uber alles meme is propaganda. We have a deficit problem, but the Republicans are using it as a cover for their real agenda--as their opposition to letting the tax cuts for the richest of the rich expire, and to shrinking some of the costliest aspects of government. Above all they're not serious about the deficit because they refuse to name exactly what government benefits they'd shrink or cut off.

It's easy to talk about the debt as this huge problem in the abstract. But fixing it requires doing things nearly everyone doesn't want: reducing particular government services and raising nearly everyone's taxes. 

Of course Republicans want to reduce the size of government. Or so they say. But one of the biggest contributors to the size of government is the military. And that's sacrosanct, despite the complete absence of another world power capable of meeting us on the battlefield anywhere, and the fact that we spend more on our military than the next 13 nations combined.

Another very large source is overspending on medical care by doctors and hospitals doing tests and procedures that have been proven not to be useful for the patient's situation. But Republicans cry "death panels" if you bring up this little $700 billion item. 

And another very large item is rich people's tax dodges--fake company headquarters in overseas tax havens and other dirty tricks that rob the treasury of the nation's fair share of their income. But that's sacrosanct too, because apparently rich people are emotionally fragile and will withdraw from commerce if we hurt their feelings. 

Yet another huge component is welfare, all right--corporate welfare. Farm subsidies to giant agribusinesses. Oil subsidies to companies with a bigger GNP than half the world's countries. And a welter of industry-specific, taxpayer-funded special deals for every business sector that can send a team of lobbyists with bags of campaign donation money to Washington. 

So it's not the size of government per se that the Republicans want to cripple. It's the ability of government to protect you and me from being stomped on by the kind of people who keep teams of lawyers on retainer that bothers the corporatists, along with the ability of government to protect minorities from the Southern white establishment in the states of the old Confederacy. 

The Republicans want to turn the federal government into a giant, toothless cash cow for the financial benefit of the GOP's corporate/Wall Street benefactors and "bigotry benefit" of its undereducated, aging white Southern/Midwestern "base." 

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