There are those who claim that racism is behind the impassioned opposition to Barack Obama. And, as the placards of Obama the Witch Doctor attest, there is some truth to that claim. But, last week, what really drives Republican opposition to the president became -- as Richard Nixon used to say -- "perfectly clear."
In an interview with Chris Wallace, Senator Jon Kyl explained why Republicans opposed aid to the unemployed but proposed making the Bush tax cuts permanent. "You do need to offset the cost of increased spending," he said. "And that's what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans."
The next day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear that all Republicans were singing from the same hymnal: "There is no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue," he said. "They increased revenue because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think that what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."
In The Washington Post, Ezra Klein admitted to being not just angry but sad, because "it's hard to see the country prospering when one of its two major political parties is this economically illiterate." Paul Krugman, however, was grateful for Kyl and McConnell's candor. "They've now made it clear, in case anyone had doubts," he wrote in The New York Times, "that their previous posturing on the deficit was entirely hypocritical. If they really do have the kind of electoral win they're expecting, they won't try to reduce the deficit -- they'll try to make it explode by demanding even more budget busting tax cuts."
The Republican program is not new. It has been the centerpiece of the party's ideology for thirty years. And, as Naomi Klein documented so thoroughly in her book, The Shock Doctrine, it is a program which has been applied around the world with devastating results. It aims to "starve the beast" of government by, as Krugman says, "deliberately creating a fiscal crisis in the belief that the crisis can be used to push through unpopular policies, like dismantling Social Security."
What is striking is that the Republicans have learned nothing over the last two years. The crisis is upon us; and their response is to stand pat. They continue to believe -- like the ignorant islanders in King Kong -- that those who the chairman of BP recently referred to as "the little people" must be sacrificed to the Great Ape of the Markets. They have not learned the simple truth behind Franklin Roosevelt 's assertion:
We have always known that heedless self interest was bad morals. We now know that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that, in the long run, economic morality pays.
The Kyl Doctrine is economically immoral. And it proves that Roosevelt got it right seventy-five years ago when he declared, "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward."
This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.