Starving the Beast Just Makes Us All Hungry

Okay, that’s it. I’ve had it, and you should be sick of this crap, too.

As noted, President Bush decided to turn the tragedy in Minneapolis into a political hammer, and tried to beat Democrats in the head with it, by suggesting that Democrats want to tax you into the poorhouse, and that such "fiscal irresponsibility" is just wrong.

This is for the Bushies and every other wingnut out there!


We’ve allowed the assholes to run this country into the ground for more than a quarter century and I, for one, am sick to death of it.

Look, folks; we live in a capitalist democracy, which means that everything costs money. EVERYTHING!

That’s a fact. I know a lot of people don’t want to believe that, but there is no choice. We all pay for everything, and I mean everything. Well, that’s not true; with the fiscally irresponsible Republican right in charge, we’ve passed along much of the cost of everything to future generations. That’s right, you idiots; because of your goddamn obsession with tax cuts of every kind, your shaving 4.9 cents from the gas tax, just because Bill Clinton and the democrats passed it, is money that your kids will have to pay later.

For a generation now, since the day Ronald Reagan took office, this country has been taken over by an ideology obsessed with two things; government incompetence and taxes. They are dead certain that tax rates should approach zero; at least for the rich, and they are equally certain that everything the government touches turns to shit. What’s worse is that they are bound and determined to prove this self-fulfilling prophecy beyond a shadow of a doubt, by cutting taxes on the rich, thus making them even more rich, while borrowing the rest of us into economic oblivion, and populating the government with incompetent dorks, to prove that government sucks.

If you want to know why our pets have been dying from tainted pet food, why the incidences of food-borne illnesses have been rising, why the victims of hurricanes and terrorist attacks can’t get help, and why bridges collapse, look at the current incarnation of the Republican Party, and their Democratic enablers, who are afraid of being labeled "tax-and-spend liberals."

I hate to be the one to break it to this idiots, but "tax and spend" is exactly how things are supposed to work! The government has traditionally built infrastructure and the economy has benefited from it. It’s always been that way, because that way makes the most sense. Why, you ask? Because of a little thing the right wing pays lip service, but little else, to; Accountability.

It’s this simple, folks; government is accountable to us, while private industry is not. Since the right wing started this incessant drive toward "privatizing" every damn thing, we have seen a deterioration in service in damned near every sector. We contract out everything these days. There are no more city or state work crews out there building roads and bridges; instead, we farm out the work to  — are you ready for this? — the LOWEST BIDDER!  Then, the inspection process is done on the cheap, because there isn’t enough money to do it right. Roads are inspected and graded far less often, and it’s no longer a simple task to just send a construction crew out to replace the road or bridge; instead, you have to determine how much money you need, then petition the legislature for the money, then the legislature hems and haws and tries to figure out a way to fund it, then after they approve funding, the bidding process starts, and the job is offered to the lowest bidder. Not the people with the best design, or the capability of making a bridge that will last 100 years or more, regardless of the amount of traffic; but the one who can make it for less money. (Of course, they almost always go over-budget, but that’s another subject.

Why are we such cheapskates?

It’s because the ideology of the right wing is that government can only be "fiscally responsible" if you starve it financially. In other words, if you take away their tax money, the government will have to teach itself to do more with less. The problem is, we’re not talking about buying dishes and pots and pans for the family here; we’re talking about infrastructure, which everyone depends on every day. It’s the government’s goddamn JOB to inspect the food supply, to inspect the roads, bridges and tunnels; to make sure that advertised claims (you know, like "fair and balanced") are actually true. It’s spelled out in the Constitution, and it was put there for a reason. The food supply is very essential for life, and safety of the roads, bridges and tunnels are essential for the economic well-being of the country, as well as essential for life.

The Republican Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota recently rejected a gasoline tax increase of ten cents to pay for roads and transit, because he and the rest of the current incarnation of the Republican Party are viscerally opposed to tax increases that a rich person might actually have to pay. To these bozos, raising such taxes is morally wrong somehow. Imagine; at a time when gasoline is already sitting at $3 per gallon, paying ten more cents per gallon in order to beef up the transit system, which  would alleviate the traffic problem somewhat, and making sure the roads you’re driving on are safer. What the hell’s wrong with people who would think that was a good idea? Are they nuts? I think we’d all agree that such money is far better off lining the pockets of oil barons, right?

The right wing has literally sold this country down the river, folks in the years since 1981, when Ronald Reagan first took office, and the wingnuts first tasted power. They’ve reduced taxes on the rich, raised taxes on the working and middle classes, and effectively reduced the tax base, by giving rich corporations tax incentives to move plants offshore.

You see, most people don’t mind paying taxes, as long as they’re getting a good value for their money. But "good value" isn’t necessarily synonymous with "the cheapest," which is the right wing’s biggest mistake.

Why are we trusting our infrastructure to "the LOWEST BIDDER"? If you live in the eastern part of the country, you have probably come across sidewalks, roads and bridges stamped "WPA." Where I am, there are sidewalks stamped "WPA" and "1934" all over the area. Except for a few areas of sidewalks where tree roots have raised the sidewalk and it needs replacement, all of this stuff is still intact. It was done with pride, and with less of a concern as to cost. Compare that with the constant, never-ending paving and resurfacing of city streets and highways that goes on these days.

It’s our tax money; shouldn’t we expect the best job, rather than the lowest bid? If a bridge is going to experience hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks over it every single day, shouldn’t we be more concerned with making sure it’s well-built and will last for 100 years, instead of simply looking to the lowest bidder?

And yet, that’s the right wing Republican concern. It’s the Wal-Mart mentality on a governmental scale. Think about it; there is nothing wrong with shopping at discount stores for everyday things that you only expect to keep for a short time. If you’re cooking something, and you need a spatula and only have a dollar, you run there and pick one up. But you don’t buy prosthetic limbs at Wal-Mart. You don’t buy dentures at Wal-Mart. You wouldn’t offer your local Wal-Mart employees $10,000 to build you a house, either.

And yet, that’s exactly how the right approaches everything in government. They are paying people as little as they can get away with to build our "house," and we’re surprised when we try to put up a picture and the south wall crumbles. We can no longer afford government on the cheap. We have to reset our priorities, and we have to commit to collecting the money to pay for those priorities. haven’t you noticed how often the state repaves streets these days? Doesn’t that strike you as penny-wise and pound foolish? Wouldn’t it make more sense to build a road with materials that don’t have to be replaced every few years? And if they’re using such cheap materials on roads, what are they using on bridges and tunnels?

And it’s not just roads. There are steam pipes bursting in New York. Have you noticed the number of sink holes appearing lately? The Boston "Big Dig" tunnel lost chunks of concrete. near where I live, a pedestrian tunnel that had been declared unsafe for pedestrians collapsed onto the Baltimore Beltway a few years ago, when a vehicle carrying a tractor hit it. In Washington, DC, there is the phenomenon of exploding manhole covers.

Our infrastructure is getting old, and it needs tending. But we cannot tend to it for free. We have to pay to upgrade. This is stuff we depend on, folks. Our entire economy depends on being able to move commerce from one end of the country to the other safely and securely, and the lives of our people are too precious to risk them on unsafe roads. And if I have to explain why food safety is important, you have to be a right winger. I’ll explain why a bit later on.

Let me explode two myths here. The first one is that low taxes are good for the economy. The second one is that the government screws everything up, and the "free market" is the solution.

Let’s start with taxes. Low tax rates are just as big of a disaster as high tax rates!

The greatest economic period in this nation is absolutely, inarguably the 25 years after World War II. Throughout most of that period, the top tax rate started at 90% and ended at 70%. Now, I know what you’re thinking; that’s too high! No one should have to pay that much in taxes! You’re absolutely right; no one should lose 70% of their income. of course, no one DID have to pay that much in taxes! In fact, have you heard of the "Alternative Minimum Tax"? It was passed in 1969, because 155 of the richest families in the country paid zero tax.

Hmmm… How is it possible for the top tax rate to be 70%, yet the richest people in the country pay nothing?

Deductions. Those of you over 50 probably remember those, or at least remember your parents taking them.  The tax rate was one thing, but when you invested in the country’s economic infrastructure, you got a break on your taxes. In other words, you had to pro-actively avoid high taxes by helping to grow the economy.

Now, let’s use a little common sense, shall we?

Say you have two economies. In one, the tax rate is 70%, but with investment, the rate can be cut to 30%. In the other one, you pay 30% without doing anything. Which one of those two models is likely to feature the most investment?

In one model, the corporate tax rate is 35%, but can be cut to 15% with investments in domestic factories and jobs, while the second model gives them a tax rate of 15%, and allows them even more deductions for moving their operations overseas. Which of those two models is most likely to continue to grow the economy? This is not rocket science. This whole "trickle-down" theory is bullshit. Rich people will only risk their wealth if they are given an incentive to risk their wealth. They have to be coerced into investing in the economy. And they have to be coerced into investing in the infrastructure.

We have to raise more revenues, and the likeliest source of those revenues are those with the most money; imagine that.  And frankly, the rich should pay more. They benefit from government investment in the infrastructure as much as or more than anyone. The goods they sell travel over the same roads you, their employees, use to get to work. A good transit system gets their employees to work on time, and makes their goods move more smoothly on less-clogged roads. Their employees and assistants largely come from the public educational system. They eat the same foods that we do, they take the same medicines that we do, they depend on the same water and sewer systems that we do. They use the same court system that we do. In fact, it could be said that they get better emergency services than everyone else, but again; that’s another column for another time.

The fact is, the rich actually derive more benefit from the tax system than everyone else, so it’s difficult to make the case that they should pay less. It’s time they paid their fair share. When they did pay their fair share, the country was much better off.

Now, about that second myth; that government screws up everything, and that the "free market" works better. It doesn’t. The government may not be perfect — in fact, it most certainly is not — but it’s actually better and more accountable than the private sector. If you don’t believe me, think about this; the healthiest insured people in this country are on Medicare;  health insurance companies have created a bureaucratic morass that would put any government to shame. The only problem most seniors have is with their Part B carrier — usually a private company. Medicare pays faster and more reliably than any private insurance company, and with less hassle. And is there ANY pension plan more reliable than Social Security? How many banks would be willing to lend your kids money for college if the government didn’t guarantee the money? How many people would get mortgages for the home of their dreams without the government guaranteeing most of that money? Think FedEx or UPS could deliver a letter from New York to Alaska for 41 cents?

Again, during the greatest boom period in our history, the government led the way, not private companies! Private companies got us into the Great Depression, and government pulled us out. You see, private companies have no accountability to the public at large; their only obligation is to stockholders. But when the government does something wrong, you can write your Congressperson and at least have a fighting chance of seeing the problem fixed. "Privatization" is a joke, because there is no way the public can force a private company to do the right thing. Got it?

There is more to this, however. It’s far more than a simple disagreement over the "free market." It’s all about politics and "payback."

During the greatest boom period in our history, when we were as prosperous as any nation had ever been in human history, the Republican fought it every step of the way. They resented the New Deal, and they still resent the New Deal. They have always wanted to dismantle the New Deal, and since they have been in power, they have done a great deal of damage to it. Think about what they’ve done. They’ve tried to eliminate the minimum wage. They keep trying to dismantle wage and hour laws. They are trying to kill public works, by privatizing everything. And if you don’t think they’re trying to kill Social Security, you’re not paying attention.

It’s a simple fact that, when the Great Depression hit, and the Republican Party did nothing to combat it, it killed them for a generation. It’s also a fact that the current incarnation of the Republican Party is led by people who still insist that the government programs that make up the New Deal’s legacy are bad for us, and they want them gone.

The problem is, the government programs begun during the New Deal and expanded during the 1950s and 1960s DO WORK, and would work fine, if not for these idiots trying to kill them. And they are trying to kill them. It’s NOT just a tragic coincidence that the bridge in Minneapolis collapsed; it’s the result of a right wing ideological crusade to prove that government doesn’t work by making sure that government doesn’t work. George Bush is not the originator; he is simply the latest and most strident of a long line of Republican leaders who have tried like hell to move us back to a time before the New Deal, when the rich could do whatever they wanted, and when the country experienced a Depression (yes, I said Depression!) roughly every 20 years or so.

Now, their stated goal is to "starve" the beast, in order to make it more "fiscally responsible." But as usual, their stated goal is not their actual purpose. No, their purpose is to kill everything about the New Deal, and "prove" beyond a shadow of a doubt that government doesn’t work, and the "free market" does. Bush’s incompetence is purposeful; it’s his ham-handed way of proving, once and for all, that government doesn’t work, and that the New Deal has failed.

It’s time we put an end to this crap. The New Deal worked, and its aftermath was the greatest boom period ever seen. We have to roll back tax rates to where they were before the country’s economy started going south — pre-1981 would be good. We have to stop doing everything on the cheap. We have to rebuild our infrastructure, but we have to do it with an eye on making the country better, not with an eye on fattening the bank accounts of a few hand-picked rich people. Corporations are not inherently evil, but they cannot be allowed to run the country, because they have no accountability to the people.

If we can find half a trillion dollars to spend in Iraq (so far), then we can certainly find the money to spend on rebuilding the things we need to rebuild to make this country strong again. We have to; we cannot continue to allow these anti-New Deal wingnuts to run us into the ground.

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