Imagine, if you will, that a major political party had adopted an ideological construct that was built on the following concepts;
- Government can’t do anything right;
- Every dime the federal government spends is essentially wasted;
- It is impossible for government to create jobs;
- It is impossible for government to create wealth;
- All taxes are theft;
- Tax cuts are always good;
- Deficits and debts are no big deal;
- “The market” saves governments from ruin, not the other way around;
- The states should determine their own fate in everything.
Then, assume this political party is dominated by a group of people who think all of the above are absolutely true and their political fortunes are tied to proving it all true.
You don’t have to imagine this. This is the basic problem with the Republican Party. Republicans, including the smart ones, really have no choice but to believe this nonsense and when they govern, they have no choice but to do so in a way that proves all of the above correct. There is a reason they’re incompetent; they have no choice. Their political fortunes rest on doing things that make no logical sense.
First of all, the above concepts are ridiculous on their face. Take a look at each of them:
- There is no way private enterprise could pull off Social Security or Medicare, and frankly, if we relied on capitalism for everything, we never would have beaten the Nazis and Imperial Japanese in World War II. Put it this way; when we needed helicopters, the government worked with Ford and had an auto plant transformed within six weeks; no way Ford could have done that on their own.
- Is there government waste? Of course. But government spends most of your tax money on investment. What the government invests in education protects our kids and the future. What the government invests in healthcare makes everyone’s health insurance premiums lower and makes sure everyone who needs a doctor gets it. What government invests in science makes everyone capable of doing everything we need to do, in order to move society forward.
- Of course, government creates jobs. When they built the Interstate Highway system, they invested billions and created a great many jobs. And when everyone in town is working to build the country, they use the money they’re making to buy things. That pizza shop you love in the middle of town may be thriving because of government investment. In other words, when our infrastructure falls apart, it costs a lot more than you think.
- The government creates a lot of wealth. They spend about $4 trillion per year, and every dollar of that goes into someone’s pocket. Yes, that also means welfare and SNAP/Food Stamp money, which goes to local stores and supports it. The stimulus package passed by Democrats (and opposed by ALL Republicans) in 2009 was a major reason why the Great Recession ended as soon as it did.
- Taxes are not theft, of course. They are the cost of living in a free country. Everyone who pays taxes benefits from them. The roads they use are built with tax money. The schools our kids go to prepare them for the future are paid for with tax money. Taxes pay for the regulations that make such things as the 30-year mortgage possible. When those regulations broke down, the Great Bush Recession happened.
- Deficits and debt can be a big deal, if they are not kept under control. And that is the key. No matter what they say, the deficit only explodes when Republicans are in charge and it always comes to Democrats to fix things and get them back under control. After World War II, with the greatest government-funded mobilization in history, the debt was at 120% of GDP. By the time Republicans finally started to take control again under Saint Ronald Reagan, it was down to 33% of GDP. Since then, the debt has increased as a percentage of GDP, to almost 110% of GDP. Only two presidents have reduced the deficit significantly, and neither was a Republican.
- The idea that markets fix everything is just plain ridiculous. Go ahead and name one time when the government caused a recession or depression and “the market” bailed them out. On the other hand, every time “the market” fails, the government makes it all better. Other countries use their government to support business, which should be a major purpose for it. but Republicans see that as an “insult.”
- Everyone believes the states should have a lot of say in everything they do. However, the fact of the matter is, Republican states depend mightily on the federal government and they depend almost entirely on subsidies from blue states, run by Democrats. The “low taxes” paid by people in Mississippi are low because the people of California pay more.
In other words, everything Republicans believe is nonsense and they insist that their politicians follow that nonsense, even if it results in sending the entire country off the proverbial cliff.
We’ve seen this in the recent attempts to push through a repeal of the ACA, or “Obamacare.” There is nothing to be gained by repealing the ACA and a whole lot to lose. They are actually looking for a way to prove that the government can’t do anything right, even though the ACA has been nothing but positive so far, and they are trying to prove that all government spending is essentially wasted, even though most of the spending on the ACA has come from the people buying the insurance. They are lying when they claim the ACA is failing; what is happening is that insurance companies don’t like to take on additional risk, which means there is only one solution for this. It’s the same solution we made with Medicare; we have the government take on the excess risk, in the form of a public option.
In other words, killing Obamacare won’t fix a goddamn thing. However, it doesn’t matter because it’s what the Republican “base” wants and Republican politicians don’t have the guts or the brains to do the right thing. And now you know why. They are driven entirely by ideology and their ideology is completely irrational.
It’s why Republicans can’t govern. So stop helping them get elected. They’re a disaster.
Also published on Medium.