3 August 2011: National debt has deep Republican roots

National debt has deep Republican roots

“Government debt and interest payments are slated to double as a share of the economy over the next decade, crowding out private investment and government spending on anything else.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)

That news hardly shocks. The more cynical might grumble, “So, what’s new?”

Except that prediction is old. Not as in Samuel of the Old Testament warning Israelites of Yahweh’s impending wrath old, but as in eight-years old: August 11, 2003.

But unlike Samuel’s, Businessweek’s prophecy was based upon an astute reading of available data. The prognosis came at the end of a paragraph that began with “When George W. Bush became President, the federal government enjoyed a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion.”

In September 2000, CNN reported President Clinton’s announcement: “The federal budget surplus for fiscal year 2000 amounted to at least $230 billion, making it the largest in U.S. history and topping last year’s record surplus of $122.7 billion.”

For Bush though, job one was not paying down the national debt, which would be zero if he had, but securing trillion-dollar tax reductions for “his base,” as he called his uber-wealthy campaign donors. In June 2001 he signed a $1.35 trillion tax cut, the first major piece of legislation of his presidency. Like a kid in a candy store.

Job two, of course, was eliminating Saddam Hussein by starting a war that has cost the economy over $3 trillion in “both government expenses and the war’s broader impact on the U.S. economy,” according to economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Blimes in the Washington Post. As W used to say, “It’s hard work!”

In November 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney spoke truly regarding Republicans and deficits: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” Not then, not now, not ever.

Bush might be in Valhalla but his legacy casts a dark shadow across America especially on the economy. The crash of Lehman Brothers, the collapse of GM, and the bailouts of AGI and Wall St. banks find their roots in Bush’s obsessions.

The cheeky part is that his bygone supporters now dress themselves in costumes of our original revolutionaries. The Republican/Tea Party—RTP—faithful have become spending teetotalers, which serves as cover for their obsessions: the destruction of Barack Obama and eliminating the social safety net: Medicare and Social Security.

In his July 25th speech to the nation, Obama said that while voters might’ve voted for a “divided government, they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.”

Perhaps for rational voters—Independents, frustrated Democrats, and Chamber of Commerce, old-school Republicans that voted in 2010 for pigs in a poke without closely examining the squealers they were buying—but not those fervently doing obeisance to and reciting Ayn Rand, a prodigious writer with a B-level intellect. They fanatically work to undermine government to prove their article of faith: Government cannot work.

The RTP’s irrational fixations mirror Bush’s. By sabotaging efforts to restore tax levels to the level of the 1990s, they want “to starve the beast,” as they see government, and destroy Obama, as Bush did Hussein, no matter the cost.

They’ve become monomaniacal, so much so that the literary character with whom they have most in common is not John Galt of Atlas Shrugged, but Ahab in Moby Dick.

As Ahab was willing to allow his ship—the Pequod, symbolic of America—to be destroyed along with his crew to achieve his goal, so too are those like Michelle Bachman willing to watch America go down. It’s the old military axiom: “We have to destroy the village in order to save it.” Death must precede resurrection.

“Vengeance against a dumb brute!” cried Starbuck. “Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous.”

“He tasks me, he heaps me,” replied Ahab. “I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

In his boat at the end when he sees the Pequod floundering, Ahab cries, “The ship! The hearse! Its wood could only be American.”

Then, as he hurls his harpoon at the white whale, he seethes, “To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

That’s what this is all about. To the RTP it’s an epic battle, a repeat of the Battle of Lexington, MA or was it in NH?

The disheartening part is that the deficit, debt and size of government matter and are in need of a national rational debate. But what is taking place is not a debate but a war launched by the RTP, which causes one to wonder, “Is anybody home?”

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