It’s an amazement to me what a few days of decent government can do — today, as Obama restored pro-labor laws, his short address … and Biden’s, who will head a new Middle Class Task Force … was literally thrilling, connecting with both the pain and aspiration of Americans everywhere. Obama’s virtues are simple enough — he shows up and tells the truth; then he signs on the dotted line.
“We’re on your side again,” said Smilin’ Joe. Bookmark the new website that breaks it out and asks for your participation — and note that any address marked .gov is no longer your open enemy. How can you say NO to that????
Let’s ask the Republicans. When the going gets tough, the Right gets as dense as dirt clods. I’m sure Jon Stewart is relieved, as is Stephen Colbert — both have been flailing a tad, trying to find their new direction. But with ammo like this, they won’t have to. Trashing Pubs with their own words and actions is like shooting fish in a barrel — big ugly cigar-chewing, Oxycontin-popping, bloviating fish.
Rush is, to quote iconic and dearly missed Molly Ivans, cut from the cloth of “a blue-bellied, full-blooded nincompoop.”
Limbaugh isn’t just the front man for Republican hate-speak — he’s the ad hoc face of the bitterness and smallness of the party line, powerful enough to swing votes and push legislation. He had the ear of the last Prez, was cozy with Uncle Dick and knows where all the bodies are buried — he’s buried a few of his own. He rallies the minions, stabs at the Liberals and carries the flag of the culture war; he can ruin a Pub career in an afternoon. He’s the opiate of the Republican masses, keeping them engaged with faux-outrage at their victimization, lulled by his concern for their common ‘good’ … AS IF.
Nobody has had the street cred to take him on before; some say Obama put his foot in it, stepping on a land mine — I say its time to lance this pustule on the face of American politics, and Barack is both truth-talker and ball-buster enough for the job. As he mentioned, recently: I won. The Pubs, still radical and marching in lockstep, are doing their best to ignore that and portray themselves mainstream advocates and patriotic guardians of American moderation. Pfffft!
This week, despite concessions given to them that sweetened the deal and disappointed the Progressives, the Pub House members voted to obstruct Obama’s rescue bill; not one — repeat, ZERO — voted yes. Count in a few Blue Dog Dem’s … what used to be called Dixiecrats … biting the hand that feeds them and it still passed, but leaving a very sour taste behind.
With unemployment at an all time high —
those collecting, not those that fell through the application cracks, like my son has, or the chronically un- and under-employed. This stat from Dave Lindorff sounds about right:
- At present, it’s approaching an official rate of 8%, but if the methodology used in 1980, before the Reagan administration changed it to hide the depth of that era’s deep recession, were applied, it would be 17% today, or one in seven workers
– and the economy a mindless vacuum, a black hole sucking up everything in sight, the Republican party still wants tax breaks for business and offers nothing else. I’d suppose that’s because supply-side, trickle-down has worked for so many? Because the unprecedented greed of launching two wars without taxing to pay for them was all the Democrat’s fault? They drowned the Golden Goose in the bathtub of their own short-sighted self-promotion and now their plan is for more of the same?
The Republicans continue to think they’re in charge — that they have the confidence of Americans. They march ahead, arms linked, like Dodo birds unaware that everything has changed. Cable news [entertainment TV] seems to think so too; open this link for the graphs — and send an onslaught of e-mail to these corporate lackeys. WTF!!
If they’re going to enhance their ratings with Righty Huffinpuffs, its time for someone to announce that this is political rehash from the minority, and not absolute truth or even credible argument. The horse they’re whipping is breathing hard and limping. Don’t think so? Open this link and look at the map.
And if you want a picture of what drives Republican mentality, watch this video of Dick Armey — misogynistic weenie. This is Dick Politics, for sure — authoritarian, patriarchal, personally insecure. Armey is powerful in the heart of his party, and this is the Pub agenda: keep the masses engaged in survival issues, the women barefoot and pregnant and let the He-Men do all the thinking. Straw men, all — if they only had a brain.
Their horrified clamor against the availability of contraceptives should prove several points at once; Republicans …
- DON’T give women control over their bodies, Lord only knows what they’d want next.
- DON’T eliminate the specter of unwanted children, statistically half of those conceived; they’ll prove useful later as little undereducated Dittoheads to be folded into a system of economic slavery, religious servitude and corporate exploitation.
- DON’T give them any entitlements or safety nets, lest they, like Oliver Twist, ask for more — let them fend for themselves. They’re disposable.
- DO convince them that their moral good is paramount to the Party and the prowess of America the Beautiful, even if the actuality is their failing health, starving minds and eroded liberty.
The Pub’s don’t have an actual plan — there’s no ‘there’ there. The sand is shifting beneath their feet and they don’t have the common sense to step toward higher ground. Their Chinese Checker gamesmanship is being trumped by Obama’s Chess moves. Among other things that have been elucidated for us this week is that everything that comes out of Pub mouths is an embarrassment, splashing back on them, and they don’t even realize it.
Example — Bob Cesca notes this quote on the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) website:
- Thanks to Republican economic policies, the U.S. economy is robust and job creation is strong. Republican tax cuts are creating jobs and continuing to strengthen the economy, yet there is still more to do so that every American who wants a job can find one.
Really?? Didn’t McCain lose big with that line?
As we disengage the public from the sugar-teat of Pub propaganda and point out that they didn’t do a damned thing FOR THEM for eight long years … indeed, did plenty TO THEM … their No, You Can’t mantra is going to look more and more like what it is — belligerent obstruction. It will look less and less like the kind of bi-partisan cooperation Americans have demanded, and that the other side has bent over backwards to offer. Barack continues to be the reasonable broker as they offer resistance like cave dwellers from another era, unwilling to work for the common good.
What you put attention on grows in power — one article below mentions that Obama made Rush more than he was by addressing his influence. Not. There is a discernment level between empowering the enemy and exposing him; the truth of Republican obstruction needs to float to the top … like that unfortunate accident in the swimming pool … so everyone can notice. Those who have tunnel vision may only see the water, but the rest of us will be looking at the crap.
If he can’t break through the Stepford wall, Obama will find a way to step around it; he understands the moment is crucial. He continues to talk the language of the future — the Conservatives sound like nothing has changed since Saint Ronnie the Reagan and the economy isn’t devastated, but instead just a little feeble.
We’re in a national [global] Katrina moment … and the Republicans are Bush and Brownie, patting one another on the back.
With no idea where to go next, the Republicans HAVE nowhere to go next. Their empire is in shambles, through every fault of their own, and they have no clothes … and a bunch of nekkid old coots with an agenda ain’t pretty, citizen!
Dirt clods. There you have it — a screed from the Pea Patch; it’s been awhile. And if you want to know why I’m so cranky, note the following:
We can’t say whether Obama’s stimulus will work or when — but at least he recognizes an emergency when he sees one. He tells us government is about, by and for US. These Righty clowns deliberately put us in this crisis, and the longer the Pubs prolong it, the faster our rage will grow — they’re living in glass houses, too stupid to recognize it … and kicking their collective ass, should that come, would not prove nearly as satisfying as finding some path out of this madness!
Obama continues to move forward … with or without them; and we will too. The smell of desperation is in the air, not just that of the public in its challenges … but that of the Old Guard scurrying to self-protect their remaining power. They don’t seem to realize they’ve already lost it.
One bonus read is on trickle-down; very concise. Get a sense of where it all went wrong. And the BEST bonus read, after that — to encourage your heart — is a commemorative to Molly Ivans on the second anniversary of her passing. Savor every word.
Get pissed, get happy, get encouraged — feel it all … and make it a good weekend by hugging somebody who badly needs it. Here’s my virtual hug for each of you (xx)
My Bipartisan Stimulus
RUSH LIMBAUGH, Wall Street Journal
JANUARY 29, 2009
There’s a serious debate in this country as to how best to end the recession. The average recession will last five to 11 months; the average recovery will last six years. Recessions will end on their own if they’re left alone. What can make the recession worse is the wrong kind of government intervention.
I believe the wrong kind is precisely what President Barack Obama has proposed. I don’t believe his is a “stimulus plan” at all — I don’t think it stimulates anything but the Democratic Party. This “porkulus” bill is designed to repair the Democratic Party’s power losses from the 1990s forward, and to cement the party’s majority power for decades.
Keynesian economists believe government spending on “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects — schools, roads, bridges — is the best way to stimulate our staggering economy. Supply-side economists make an equally persuasive case that tax cuts are the surest and quickest way to create permanent jobs and cause an economy to rebound. That happened under JFK, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. We know that when tax rates are cut in a recession, it brings an economy back.
Recent polling indicates that the American people are in favor of both approaches.
Notwithstanding the media blitz in support of the Obama stimulus plan, most Americans, according to a new Rasmussen poll, are skeptical. Rasmussen finds that 59% fear that Congress and the president will increase government spending too much. Only 17% worry they will cut taxes too much. Since the American people are not certain that the Obama stimulus plan is the way to go, it seems to me there’s an opportunity for genuine compromise. At the same time, we can garner evidence on how to deal with future recessions, so every occurrence will no longer become a matter of partisan debate.
Congress is currently haggling over how to spend $900 billion generated by American taxpayers in the private sector. (It’s important to remember that it’s the people’s money, not Washington’s.) In a Jan. 23 meeting between President Obama and Republican leaders, Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.) proposed a moderate tax cut plan. President Obama responded, “I won. I’m going to trump you on that.”
Yes, elections have consequences. But where’s the bipartisanship, Mr. Obama? This does not have to be a divisive issue. My proposal is a genuine compromise.
Fifty-three percent of American voters voted for Barack Obama; 46% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Give that 1% to President Obama. Let’s say the vote was 54% to 46%. As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009: 54% of the $900 billion — $486 billion — will be spent on infrastructure and pork as defined by Mr. Obama and the Democrats; 46% — $414 billion — will be directed toward tax cuts, as determined by me.
Then we compare. We see which stimulus actually works. This is bipartisanship! It would satisfy the American people’s wishes, as polls currently note; and it would also serve as a measurable test as to which approach best stimulates job growth.
I say, cut the U.S. corporate tax rate — at 35%, among the highest of all industrialized nations — in half. Suspend the capital gains tax for a year to incentivize new investment, after which it would be reimposed at 10%. Then get out of the way! Once Wall Street starts ticking up 500 points a day, the rest of the private sector will follow. There’s no reason to tell the American people their future is bleak. There’s no reason, as the administration is doing, to depress their hopes. There’s no reason to insist that recovery can’t happen quickly, because it can.
In this new era of responsibility, let’s use both Keynesians and supply-siders to responsibly determine which theory best stimulates our economy — and if elements of both work, so much the better. The American people are made up of Republicans, Democrats, independents and moderates, but our economy doesn’t know the difference. This is about jobs now.
The economic crisis is an opportunity to unify people, if we set aside the politics. The leader of the Democrats and the leader of the Republicans (me, according to Mr. Obama) can get it done. This will have the overwhelming support of the American people. Let’s stop the acrimony. Let’s start solving our problems, together. Why wait one more day? ++
Mr. Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.
Limbaugh is talk host king, not leader of GOP
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, January 29, 2009
President Obama has made his first tactical error of his young presidency: He called out conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
It happened the other day while Obama was visiting with congressional Republicans in an effort to get them to support his economic stimulus package. Said Obama to the lawmakers: “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”
On his Monday program, Limbaugh shot back that the president was “obviously more frightened of me than he is of (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell. He’s more frightened of me than he is of, say, (House Minority Leader) John Boehner, which doesn’t say much about our party.”
It wasn’t that Obama’s mention was mean or personal, analysts said. But in citing Limbaugh as influential, the president of the United States elevated a talk show host to his level – the leader of the free world. And in a leadership vacuum like the one that conservatives find themselves in after last November’s devastating electoral losses, loud voices – like Limbaugh’s with his 13 million weekly listeners – echo even louder.
On Wednesday, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., apologized to Limbaugh on his program for telling Politico.com the day before that “it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks,” referring to their criticizing Republicans for not challenging the stimulus package.
Surely on today’s program, Limbaugh will take credit for not a single Republican House member supporting the stimulus package that passed Wednesday. On his show Wednesday, Limbaugh called it the “porkulus” package, for all the pork-barrel projects he saw in it.
But while an Oval Office shout-out may temporarily elevate a man who refers to himself as El Rushbo, it doesn’t make Limbaugh the de facto leader of the Republican Party or the conservative movement. He is, analysts say, a “conveyer belt” of information, influencer of the wider talk radio universe and an outside-the-Beltway party whip who reins in wayward Republicans – as in those veering toward political moderation.
“Whenever a national party is in search of its identity, its mojo, figures like Rush will fill the vacuum,” said Mike Franc, a vice president for government relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “But in this situation, he doesn’t fill the idea. He’s more of an idea aggregator.”
New party chair
The real rebuilding of the conservative brand begins Friday when the Republican Party chooses who will be its new party chair. In the absence of a GOP president, House speaker or Senate majority leader, that person will become the face of Republicanism on cable and network chat shows, the party’s chief fundraiser and one of conservatism’s leaders at a time in which the movement is desperately searching for some leadership.
That quest will continue next month, when hard-core conservatives gather at their annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a coming-to-Mecca type of conference featuring the party’s up-and-comers, such as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
But while the official search goes forward, there is little question that the subtle backhand from Obama gave Limbaugh manna from heaven in talk radio terms.
“Oh, it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Melanie Morgan, a conservative activist and commentator who used to be part of a highly rated talk show on San Francisco’s KSFO-AM. “To have the president of the United States mention you by name, wow.”
“The Champagne is flowing in Rush Limbaugh’s house,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, which chronicles the estimated 3,000 talk radio personalities. Its estimate of Limbaugh’s audience at 13 million weekly listeners is based on a combination of Arbitron ratings and its own metrics. “Obama gave Limbaugh the most fabulous gift you can give a talk radio host.”
Obama’s comment came not long after Limbaugh told his listeners that he hopes Obama fails. “We are being told we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to grab our ankles … because his father was black, because he’s the first black president, we’ve got to accept this.”
And as for Obama, “He’s probably made the first blunder since he took office,” Harrison said. “He’s the president of the United States, and anytime you tell people not to listen to someone, you’re elevating that person to your level.”
“Rush Limbaugh is nothing more than an influential talk radio host. He doesn’t represent anyone but himself,” Harrison said. In 2002, Talkers named Limbaugh its “Greatest Radio Talk Show Host of All Time.”
Big audience, salary
While liberals have compiled 20 years worth of Limbaugh’s misinformation and truth-bending rants, he brings home big audiences at a time when media is fragmenting into smaller ones. Last year, he signed a contract extension to continue doing his nationally-syndicated program through 2016 for a reported $400 million.
Limbaugh led the national talk radio revolution in the late 1980s and early 1990s and became a force in rallying support for former Rep. Gingrich, R-Ga., to lead a Republican takeover of the House in 1994. That year, the conservative standard-bearer magazine National Review anointed him on its cover “The Leader of the Opposition.”
That said, Limbaugh “is not a leader in the party,” said David Keane, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots conservative lobbying organization and the host of CPAC. “He can’t fulfill that role because that’s not where he works.”
“He’s very influential on issues because he becomes sort of a conveyer belt of information to all of these people out there. Everyone else in the talk radio world sort of spins off him, the Sean Hannity’s and such of the world,” Keane said.
In Congress, Franc of the Heritage Foundation said, many lawmakers pine for Limbaugh’s ability to translate complicated policy into simple language and place it in a conservative framework. “There is a lot of Rush-envy there,” said Franc, a former staffer for former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a leader of the mid-1990s Republican revolution.
As for Democrats, “They wish that I would just vanishhhhhhh,” Limbaugh said on his Wednesday show, stretching out the last syllable as he often does in his corner of the theater of the mind.
But not every conservative is a fan. Last October, shortly after announcing his support for Obama for president, conservative commentator Christopher Buckley took umbrage at Limbaugh replacing his father, the late William F. Buckley, as a conservative icon.
“Rush, I knew William F. Buckley Jr. William F. Buckley Jr. was a father of mine,” Christopher Buckley wrote. “Rush, you’re no William F. Buckley Jr.” ++
Rush: 177, Obama: 0
Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks via HuffPo
January 29, 2009
Obama tried to charm them, Rush tried to bully them. And the results are in. Round 1 goes by unanimous decision to Rush Limbaugh. Not one House Republican voted with the president on the stimulus package even after his “charm offensive.”
These guys are the barbarians at the gate, there’s no charming them.
President Obama went to visit them, he invited them over to the White House, he had drinks with them, he stood by while they bad-mouthed Congressional Democrats, he adjusted the bill for them, he cut out the contraception education and he added tax cuts. In the end, what did he get for his efforts? A big fat doughnut. Nothing.
Not one House Republican voted for his stimulus package. 177-0.
On the other side, they went groveling over to Rush, tripping over themselves to court his favor and take his tongue-lashings (how grotesque does that sound?). In the end, he got them all (and all the national attention — which was his true goal).
Now, Obama might be playing a chess match here. He might be positioning himself politically to be able to say to the American people, “Now look, I tried to be bi-partisan. I did all I could. And they did not budge. They are obstinate, partisan and obstructionist.” He would have an excellent case to make.
Maybe he is that smart. But I believe he was also partly naïve enough to believe that he could convince them. That they would listen to reason. That they would be swayed by his compromises. That’s not how they roll.
The maddening part of all this is that the stimulus package, in my opinion, is bloated, vague and rushed. Does anyone really know how we are going to spend $819 billion? Let alone how we’re going to pay for it? Has anyone done the analysis on whether spending $142 billion on education by the federal government is efficient or necessary? Could we have made do with $132 billion?
Instead, the Republicans went the same old tired route – more tax cuts. They have not had an original idea in at least 30 years. Look, we tried endless tax cuts under Bush. Did that seem to do the trick?
Why not argue for spending the money in a constructive and judicious way? Why not pick a project to get behind and say we should concentrate on that for job creation? It could even be green energy because they could argue it is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil for national security reasons – and it creates new, sustainable jobs. They would get huge points for being bold and actually caring about an issue for a change. But that would be constructive. And the Republicans don’t do constructive.
What Obama said to the Muslim world in his inaugural address, he could have just as well said to the Republican Party, “People will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.” ++
For GOP, a Case of Misshapen Identity
Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years
Thom Hartmann, Smirking Chimp
January 27, 2009
This weekend, House Republican leader John Boehner played out the role of Jude Wanniski on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
Odds are you’ve never heard of Jude, but without him Reagan never would have become a “successful” president, Republicans never would have taken control of the House or Senate, Bill Clinton never would have been impeached, and neither George Bush would have been president.
When Barry Goldwater went down to ignominious defeat in 1964, most Republicans felt doomed (among them the then-28-year-old Wanniski). Goldwater himself, although uncomfortable with the rising religious right within his own party and the calls for more intrusion in people’s bedrooms, was a diehard fan of Herbert Hoover’s economic worldview.
In Hoover’s world (and virtually all the Republicans since reconstruction with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt), market fundamentalism was a virtual religion. Economists from Ludwig von Mises to Friedrich Hayek to Milton Friedman had preached that government could only make a mess of things economic, and the world of finance should be left to the Big Boys – the Masters of the Universe, as they sometimes called themselves – who ruled Wall Street and international finance.
Hoover enthusiastically followed the advice of his Treasury Secretary, multimillionaire Andrew Mellon, who said in 1931: “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate. Purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down… enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.”
Thus, the Republican mantra was: “Lower taxes, reduce the size of government, and balance the budget.”
The only problem with this ideology from the Hooverite perspective was that the Democrats always seemed like the bestowers of gifts, while the Republicans were seen by the American people as the stingy Scrooges, bent on making the lives of working people harder all the while making richer the very richest. This, Republican strategists since 1930 knew, was no way to win elections.
Which was why the most successful Republican of the 20th century up to that time, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had been quite happy with a top income tax rate on millionaires of 91 percent. As he wrote to his brother Edgar Eisenhower in a personal letter on November 8, 1954:
“[T]o attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything–even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon ‘moderation’ in government.
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt [you possibly know his background], a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
Goldwater, however, rejected the “liberalism” of Eisenhower, Rockefeller, and other “moderates” within his own party. Extremism in defense of liberty was no vice, he famously told the 1964 nominating convention, and moderation was no virtue. And it doomed him and his party.
And so after Goldwater’s defeat, the Republicans were again lost in the wilderness just as after Hoover’s disastrous presidency. Even four years later when Richard Nixon beat LBJ in 1968, Nixon wasn’t willing to embrace the economic conservatism of Goldwater and the economic true believers in the Republican Party. And Jerry Ford wasn’t, in their opinions, much better. If Nixon and Ford believed in economic conservatism, they were afraid to practice it for fear of dooming their party to another forty years in the electoral wilderness.
By 1974, Jude Wanniski had had enough. The Democrats got to play Santa Claus when they passed out Social Security and Unemployment checks – both programs of the New Deal – as well as when their “big government” projects like roads, bridges, and highways were built giving a healthy union paycheck to construction workers. They kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for things, which didn’t seem to have much effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up, in fact), and that made them seem like a party of Robin Hoods, taking from the rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class.
Americans loved it. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections.
Everybody understood at the time that economies are driven by demand. People with good jobs have money in their pockets, and want to use it to buy things. The job of the business community is to either determine or drive that demand to their particular goods, and when they’re successful at meeting the demand then factories get built, more people become employed to make more products, and those newly-employed people have a paycheck that further increases demand.
Wanniski decided to turn the classical world of economics – which had operated on this simple demand-driven equation for seven thousand years – on its head. In 1974 he invented a new phrase – “supply side economics” – and suggested that the reason economies grew wasn’t because people had money and wanted to buy things with it but, instead, because things were available for sale, thus tantalizing people to part with their money. The more things there were, the faster the economy would grow.
At the same time, Arthur Laffer was taking that equation a step further. Not only was supply-side a rational concept, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, revenue to the government would go up!
Neither concept made any sense – and time has proven both to be colossal idiocies – but together they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.
Ronald Reagan was the first national Republican politician to suggest that he could cut taxes on rich people and businesses, that those tax cuts would cause them to take their surplus money and build factories or import large quantities of cheap stuff from low-labor countries, and that the more stuff there was supplying the economy the faster it would grow. George Herbert Walker Bush – like most Republicans of the time – was horrified. Ronald Reagan was suggesting “Voodoo Economics,” said Bush in the primary campaign, and Wanniski’s supply-side and Laffer’s tax-cut theories would throw the nation into such deep debt that we’d ultimately crash into another Republican Great Depression.
But Wanniski had been doing his homework on how to sell supply-side economics. In 1976, he rolled out to the hard-right insiders in the Republican Party his “Two Santa Clauses” theory, which would enable the Republicans to take power in America for the next thirty years.
Democrats, he said, had been able to be “Santa Clauses” by giving people things from the largesse of the federal government. Republicans could do that, too – spending could actually increase. Plus, Republicans could be double Santa Clauses by cutting people’s taxes! For working people it would only be a small token – a few hundred dollars a year on average – but would be heavily marketed. And for the rich it would amount to hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. The rich, in turn, would use that money to import or build more stuff to market, thus increasing supply and stimulating the economy. And that growth in the economy would mean that the people still paying taxes would pay more because they were earning more. There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again. They’d have to be anti-Santas by raising taxes, or anti-Santas by cutting spending. Either one would lose them elections.
When Reagan rolled out Supply Side Economics in the early 80s, dramatically cutting taxes while exploding (mostly military) spending, there was a moment when it seemed to Wanniski and Laffer that all was lost. The budget deficit exploded and the country fell into a deep recession – the worst since the Great Depression – and Republicans nationwide held their collective breath. But David Stockman came up with a great new theory about what was going on – they were “starving the beast” of government by running up such huge deficits that Democrats would never, ever in the future be able to talk again about national health care or improving Social Security – and this so pleased Alan Greenspan, the Fed Chairman, that he opened the spigots of the Fed, dropping interest rates and buying government bonds, producing a nice, healthy goose to the economy. Greenspan further counseled Reagan to dramatically increase taxes on people earning under $37,800 a year by increasing the Social Security (FICA/payroll) tax, and then let the government borrow those newfound hundreds of billions of dollars off-the-books to make the deficit look better than it was.
Reagan, Greenspan, Winniski, and Laffer took the federal budget deficit from under a trillion dollars in 1980 to almost three trillion by 1988, and back then a dollar could buy far more than it buys today. They and George HW Bush ran up more debt in eight years than every president in history, from George Washington to Jimmy Carter, combined. Surely this would both starve the beast and force the Democrats to make the politically suicidal move of becoming deficit hawks.
And that’s just how it turned out. Bill Clinton, who had run on an FDR-like platform of a “new covenant” with the American people that would strengthen the institutions of the New Deal, strengthen labor, and institute a national health care system, found himself in a box. A few weeks before his inauguration, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin sat him down and told him the facts of life: he was going to have to raise taxes and cut the size of government. Clinton took their advice to heart, raised taxes, balanced the budget, and cut numerous programs, declaring an “end to welfare as we know it” and, in his second inaugural address, an “end to the era of big government.” He was the anti-Santa Claus, and the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as Republican politicians campaigned on a platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases.
Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton by 1999, Winniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part: “We of course should be indebted to Art Laffer for all time for his Curve… But as the primary political theoretician of the supply-side camp, I began arguing for the ‘Two Santa Claus Theory’ in 1974. If the Democrats are going to play Santa Claus by promoting more spending, the Republicans can never beat them by promoting less spending. They have to promise tax cuts…”
Ed Crane, president of the Libertarian CATO Institute, noted in a memo that year: “When Jack Kemp, Newt Gingich, Vin Weber, Connie Mack and the rest discovered Jude Wanniski and Art Laffer, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. In supply-side economics they found a philosophy that gave them a free pass out of the debate over the proper role of government. Just cut taxes and grow the economy: government will shrink as a percentage of GDP, even if you don’t cut spending. That’s why you rarely, if ever, heard Kemp or Gingrich call for spending cuts, much less the elimination of programs and departments.”
George W. Bush embraced the Two Santa Claus Theory with gusto, ramming through huge tax cuts – particularly a cut to a maximum 15 percent income tax rate on people like himself who made their principle income from sitting around the pool waiting for their dividend or capital gains checks to arrive in the mail – and blowing out federal spending. Bush even out-spent Reagan, which nobody had ever thought would again be possible.
And it all seemed to be going so well, just as it did in the early 1920s when a series of three consecutive Republican presidents cut income taxes on the uber-rich from over 70 percent to under 30 percent. In 1929, pretty much everybody realized that instead of building factories with all that extra money, the rich had been pouring it into the stock market, inflating a bubble that – like an inexorable law of nature – would have to burst. But the people who remembered that lesson were mostly all dead by 2005, when Jude Wanniski died and George Gilder celebrated the Reagan/Bush supply-side-created bubble economies in a Wall Street Journal eulogy:
- “…Jude’s charismatic focus on the tax on capital gains redeemed the fiscal policies of four administrations. … [T]he capital-gains tax has come erratically but inexorably down — while the market capitalization of U.S. equities has risen from roughly a third of global market cap to close to half. These many trillions in new entrepreneurial wealth are a true warrant of the worth of his impact. Unbound by zero-sum economics, Jude forged the golden gift of a profound and passionate argument that the establishments of the mold must finally give way to the powers of the mind. He audaciously defied all the Buffetteers of the trade gap, the moldy figs of the Phillips Curve, the chic traders in money and principle, even the stultifying pillows of the Nobel Prize.”
In reality, his tax cuts did what they have always done over the past 100 years – they initiated a bubble economy that would let the very rich skim the cream off the top just before the ceiling crashed in on working people.
The Republicans got what they wanted from Wanniski’s work. They held power for thirty years, made themselves trillions of dollars, cut organized labor’s representation in the workplace from around 25 percent when Reagan came into office to around 8 of the non-governmental workforce today, and left such a massive deficit that some misguided “conservative” Democrats are again clamoring to shoot Santa with working-class tax hikes and entitlement program cuts.
And now Boehner, McCain, Brooks, and the whole crowd are again clamoring to be recognized as the ones who will out-Santa Claus the Democrats. You’d think after all the damage they’ve done that David Gregory would have simply laughed Boehner off the program – much as the American people did to the Republicans in the last election – although Gregory is far too much a gentleman for that. Instead, he merely looked incredulous; it was enough.
The Two Santa Claus theory isn’t dead, as we can see from today’s Republican rhetoric. Hopefully, though, reality will continue to sink in with the American people and the massive fraud perpetrated by Wanniski, Reagan, Laffer, Graham, Bush(s), and all their “conservative” enablers will be seen for what it was and is. And the Obama administration can get about the business of repairing the damage and recovering the stolen assets of these cheap hustlers. ++
What Would Molly Ivins Think?
Betsy Moon for BuzzFlash
JANUARY 31, 2007, IS THE TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MOLLY IVINS’ DEATH. THE FOLLOWING COLUMN WAS WRITTEN BY MOLLY IVINS’ FORMER ASSISTANT AND “CHIEF OF STUFF” FROM 2001 TO 2007, BETSY MOON. Betsy sent it personally to us for posting on BuzzFlash.
AUSTIN, Texas — The question I have been asked most often during the last two years is, “What would Molly think about this?” Molly Ivins would have loved this election. She would have loved the beautiful sight of “We the People” finally stepping up to become the real deciders. She would have loved the drama, the comedy and the characters.
We miss her regular twice-weekly comments and insights, and want to hear her dissect, slice and dice, and make fun of the events and revelations of the week. No one could do it like she did. She made us feel like we weren’t alone. She made us want to be our better selves and stand up and use our power. She would be so proud that we finally woke up and worked to make this happen.
In many of her lectures, she would exhort her audience to believe in their power. She’d say: “I hear people whine: ‘I can’t do anything. I’m just one person.’” Then she’d lift her head high and quote from the Declaration of Independence in her Barbara Jordan voice and remind them, “As a U.S. citizen, you have more political power than most humans who’ve ever lived on this earth.”
In fact, we know how she would have felt, because she was as prescient about this election before her death two years ago as she was about all the other tragedies of the Bush years. Carlton Carl, CEO/publisher at Molly’s beloved Texas Observer, recalls her saying after Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic convention, “You know … that young man could be president some day.”
Before Barack Obama announced his candidacy, Chicago Magazine asked a number of luminaries if they thought he should run. Opinions varied. Molly was succinct and direct, and with her usual wit and certainty said: “Yes, he should run. He’s the only Democrat with any Elvis to him.”
And, in her column on Jan. 20, 2006, she said: “It’s about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief. If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator … with the guts to do it.” She was speaking about Gene McCarthy then, but it might as well have been Barack Obama.
She’d be so happy that her beloved Constitution (she donated one speech a month to groups working to preserve and maintain the First Amendment) is in safer hands — that some of the worst things ever done in our name are over. She’d love that Barack Obama began his community organizing knowing that power lies in all of us united, and that he continues to remind us that we are the deciders.
I saw and heard many interviews after Nov. 4 and during inaugural celebrations with people who all said they wished their mother or father or grandmother or friend had been here to witness this history in the making. Tens of thousands of us wished that Molly could have been here to see it.
I choose to believe she and all of them did see it because they live on in our hearts, minds and actions. Molly is honored with awards, lectures and scholarships in her name. Many of her readers formed “Pots & Pans” Brigades, following the advice in her final two columns to take to the streets and demand an end to the Iraq war. She always signed her books and her letters with, “Raise more hell,” and you can make her live on by doing just that.
She lives in everyone who took courage in who they are and what they thought when they read her columns and books, and knew they weren’t alone and they weren’t crazy. She lives on in The Texas Observer (Texasobserver.org) and the ACLU (aclu.org), to whom she left a large portion of her estate.
In a letter for the ACLU, she says:
- “Every time someone down the line is irreverent about authority, I’ll have my monument. Every time some kid who was born a nigger, a kike, a wop, a Polack, a gook, a gimp, a fag, or just a plain maverick lifts up her head and dares anyone to stop her, I’ll have my monument. Every time they peaceably assemble to petition their government for redress of a grievance, I’ll be there. Whenever they worship as they please (or not at all), I’ll be there. Whenever they speak up and speak out and raise hell, I’ll be there. And every time some blue-bellied, full-blooded nincompoop who holds elected office is called to the floor for deciding to keep us safe by rewriting the Constitution, or by suspending due process and holding a citizen indefinitely without legal representation, I’ll be there. Now that is immortality. I don’t have any children, so I’ve decided to claim all the future freedom-fighters and hell-raisers as my kin. I figure freedom and justice beat having my name in marble any day. Besides, if there is another life after this one, think how much we’ll get to laugh watching it all.”
Ken Bunting, an old friend of Molly’s who’s now associate publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, said of Molly on Election Day, “I’m not much of a believer, but I think our friend is looking down and smiling right along with Barack’s grandma.” You know, I think he is right.
COPYRIGHT 2009 BETSY MOON
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.
“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
~ Molly Ivins, 1944 – 2007
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.