Every morning I wake up to news reports that remind me that Walt Whitman was right: America is large enough “to contain contradictions.” I am not surprised to find that a recently elected Teapublican candidate Andy Harris who campaigned against healthcare reform now demands that it be supplied to him ahead of schedule, or that those newbies who said maintaining a strong national defense was a priority have suddenly fallen in line behind Mitch “our priority is to defeat Obama” McConnell and John Kyl in opposing the START treaty, which every expert from Colin Powell to Henry Kissinger to Robert Gates says is key to our future national security.
Yesterday the conservative political columnist David Brooks debated the more conservative Republican congressman and incoming House Budget Committee chair, Paul Ryan, at the ultraconservative American Enterprise Institute. The topic was “The Proper Role of Government.” By his own account, Brooks admires Ryan so the debate was amiable, but here is a point of departure that I think is worthy of giving pause to all of us:
“Ryan and I differed over President Obama and the prospects for compromise in the near term. Ryan believes that the country faces a clearly demarcated choice. The Democratic Party, he argues, believes in creating a European-style cradle-to-grave social welfare state, while the Republicans believe in a free-market opportunity society. There is no overlap between the two visions and very little reason to think they can be reconciled.
I argued that Obama and his aides are liberal or center-left pragmatists and that nothing they have said or written suggests they want to turn the U.S. into Sweden. I continued that Ryan’s sharply polarized vision is not only journalistically inaccurate, it makes compromise and politics impossible. If every concession is regarded as an unprincipled surrender that takes us inexorably farther down the road to serfdom, then nothing will get done and the nation will go bankrupt.”
In the practice of fiction the genre known as “magical realism” is all about introducing fantastic or magical elements into a narrative as if these elements are perfectly normal. This genre should be used as a framework for understanding the fictions being perpetrated by the Republicans and by President Obama under the guise of “budget cuts.” Because as far as I can tell, the idea of a “budget cut” comes fully equipped with magical qualities—from reducing a huge deficit without tackling the big issues to curing unemployment by putting more people out of work to guaranteeing weight loss without exercise or diet control.
OK, so I made up the part about weight loss. But compared to what both sides are claiming their version of the budget will do for us, it’s a wonder they didn’t package weight loss in with the rest of the hype.
Let’s face it: Rich Republicans hate government workers. Actually, they hate all union workers too. For example, let’s take a close look at the state of Wisconsin, where multi-millionaire Governor Scott Walker is attempting to end collective bargaining while increasing the cost of state employees’ health care and pensions plans to the tune of $137 million. Why? In part the answer is to pay for the $140 million tax break he gave last month to the largest corporations, including that anti-union stalwart, Wal-Mart. But it is also fueled by his hatred of public employees and unions. And he is not alone. Walker's move to crush the unions and further demonize state workers is, of course, also heartily endorsed by fellow multi-millionaire Speaker of the House John Boehner, who released a statement commending Walker for “daring to speak the truth about the dire fiscal challenges Americans face at all levels of government."
Eric Cantor asks an excellent question in the excerpt from The Huffington Post article below. But as I will show, if we use that same question and apply the logic driving it to the relationship between the federal payroll and the budget deficit issue writ large, I think we’d come to a vastly different conclusion. Here is the except:
“The Republican plan to cut $61 billion from current spending levels would take a heavy toll on employment, destroying 700,000 jobs by 2012, according to an independent economic analysis by Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics. The study, released on Monday, predicted that the GOP bill would slow economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year.
In his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters, Cantor acknowledged that the Republican stopgap budget bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, might increase unemployment. But he argued that the government should not be creating jobs if that means creating greater deficits.
‘What kind of jobs is he talking about? Is he talking about government jobs? If so, why is the government hiring people it can't afford to pay?’ Cantor asked.