| Political Waves
In his New York Times
opinion piece, That's Where the Money Is,
award-winning journalist Bob Herbert turned a phrase that gave me pause. "It's beyond astonishing," said Herbert, that John Boehner has a chance to become Speaker of the House. While many citizens haven't the slightest idea who the House Minority Leader is, the notion that they might awaken in November to find him leading the nation's lawmaking institution is, to me, beyond astonishing indeed. Mincing no words, Herbert went on to describe Boehner as "sleazy" and a "slick, chain-smoking, quintessential influence-peddler."
Herbert's candor surprised and pleased me. Frank assessment of Boehner's leadership should not be confined to the opinion page. Mainstream media has sidestepped its obligation to denounce views that go over the top, leaving truth-telling to risk-takers like Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone
, who recently reported on a Palin meet-up that, "The dingbat revolution is nigh." This is not just an ideological war of words. This is a moment of enormous instability attended by a perfect storm of human petulance, paranoia and neurosis. Orchestrating that movement is a party interested in nothing less than complete power, which makes them, ultimately, ruthless. Mr. Herbert hit the nail right on the head. It's not too much to name the current leadership of the GOP an extremist movement.
Baggers -- the people who earned Taibbi's comments -- have sold themselves to the world as 'real Americans', the purest defenders of American values and liberty. They have impressed us with their fury at big, taxing government and captured the media with their passions. Those who are sincere allow an opportunistic political wing to exploit their simplistic idealism. In a reasonable political world, where opposing philosophies wrestle each other to a standstill in round after round of electoral prowess, it would be comforting to think that this season's minority voter has a taste for something other than snake oil. I am not comforted.
Case in point, Kentucky's Rand Paul. Paul is losing Libertarian support by moving closer to the Republican leadership that is busily grooming him. He has adopted their talking point in promoting continuance of Bush's tax cuts because we shouldn't "punish rich people." This week, Dr. Paul ignored a Treasury estimate of $3.7 trillion in lost revenue over 10 years when he announced, "I'm not seeing the Bush tax cuts
as a cost to government."
If you have any question about the cost of continuing this horrific expense -- referred to by populist Jim Hightower as the 'billionaire's tax loophole' -- visit the White House white board lesson linked above, featuring newly promoted CEA Chair Austan Goolsbee. Simplistic to the point of boring, I think this says a good deal about how we must approach the American public these days. With graphics drawn in dry erase marker, it's impossible to miss the point. In a rational world, there is opinion and there is fact, with a clear division between the two. Mr. Paul plays fast and loose with facts, as do many of his contemporaries in this electoral race. These are not differences in opinion or philosophy, they're outright lies. To quote Bill Moyers, "A democracy can die from too many lies." And a $3.7 trillion lie is a pip.
It isn't The Crazy™ I worry about this election season so much as the sternly iconoclastic Independents that Obama swept along in 2008. The Baggers' anti-government screed pleases them, especially with so much that Obama promised not yet delivered. You have to wonder how this election might have progressed had the stimulus been bigger by half, if healthcare had settled on the public option, if finance reform had knocked on Wall Street's door with a subpoena in hand. But policy success in recent months was too often stymied by Republican obstruction, and progressives are now being pounded by a propaganda machine funded by Midas. Thank you, Supreme Court, for opening all corporate checkbooks eager to contribute.
It's the money behind the lies we should worry about this year. Billions of dollars are being channeled into conservative war chests, another of those 'beyond astonishing' things in this insane period: American lives are crushed beneath the weight of economic mayhem while billions go into swaying a handful of votes at the polls. Outside interests are spending five times what they spent on the last midterm, their donations largely secret. Karl Rove is back in the saddle again. According to The Washington Post
, conservative groups are outspending liberals by 7 to 1. The Chamber of Commerce,
which is putting upwards of $75 million into thousands of right-wing ads, is taking foreign money to fill its coffers; it already stands accused of money laundering and risks investigation.
Not surprisingly, oil companies are behind the $8.2 billion used to block California's clean energy law. Oil and gas interests put $174 million into the political system last year; how much more they'll spend this pivotal election year is anyone's guess. And the insurance industry? According to The Los Angeles Times
, it's "pouring money into Republican campaign coffers in hopes of scaling back wide-ranging regulations in the new healthcare law but preserving the mandate that Americans buy coverage." That's three times more money to Republicans than Democrats. According to a former Cigna exec, "The industry would love to have a Republican Congress. They were very, very successful during the years of Republican domination in Washington." Oh yes, they surely were.
How is a virtual tsunami of political money possible while the nation suffers what is known as The Great Recession, you ask? You're going to love this, citizen: corporations have money to burn. Corporate profits are 'near-historic' this quarter. Big business has achieved such record profits by streamlining various operations, firing workers, outsourcing labor and closing unprofitable divisions. There is little trickle-down to impact unemployment statistics because the economy requires a market for goods produced and services offered. If the little guy isn't employed, he won't buy; if nobody buys, corporations won't employ. Instead, they sit on their cash in this Catch 22, like the banks that won't lend. According to an article in Huffington Post
It's beyond astonishing that there are those incapable of connecting these dots back to the iron fist of the Republican Party. It is beyond astonishing that anyone wants insurance companies, oil conglomerates and commodity traders to make out like bandits. It is beyond absurd that Republicans can talk solemnly about abandoning reforms and entitlements for the average citizen while they spend billions to curry favor and buy power.
While Bob Herbert faults both parties for their corporate coziness, he insists that for our friends on the right of the political spectrum, it really is all about the money. Believe him long before you believe Rand Paul or John Boehner or Sarah Palin. I can think of 3.7 trillion reasons why you won't be sorry.