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Republicans Struggle to Reboot Their “Small Government, Personal Responsibility” Scam

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Will Americans Buy It Again?

by Thom Hartmann

Republicans Struggle to Reboot Their “Small Government, Personal Responsibility” Scam Yo_3_0
"American conservatism has been a scam since the 1920s and continues to be a scam that exclusively benefits the very White and the very wealthy in this country," writes Hartmann. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Joe Scarborough, on his morning TV show, had a roundtable with George Will and David Frum in which these three old conservative war horses discussed the possibility of the Republican Party returning to its "conservative values."

Those values they identified included balanced budgets, personal responsibility, and small government. It's important for Americans to understand what conservatives mean when they use these words.

"Balanced Budgets": Back in the 1970s, Jude Wanniski, then a Republican strategist, wrote an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal in which he proposed the "Two Santa Clauses Theory."

Wanniski pointed out that the Democratic Party, since 1933, had been the Santa Claus party. They gave Americans Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term unemployment insurance, food stamps, college loan and tuition support, federally guaranteed mortgage assistance, regulation of banks, food and drugs to protect consumers, etc. Republicans opposed every single one of these initiatives.

Wanniski said that Republicans had to figure out how to become Santa Claus, too, and suggested that Republicans should become the "tax-cut Santa Clauses."

When Republicans are in office, the strategy goes, they should run up the debt as hard and as fast as possible, principally using tax cuts for rich people to do it. When Democrats come into office, Republicans should yell and scream about the importance of having balanced budgets to force the Democrats to cut social program spending, thus forcing Democrats to shoot their own Santa Claus.

Reagan was the first Republican president to aggressively use this strategy, tripling the national debt from about $800 billion to over $2 trillion in just eight years. He ran up more debt in those eight years than every president of the United States all the way back to George Washington, combined. And, of course, when Bill Clinton came into office, Republicans started screaming about the budget deficit, and Clinton took the bait, "ending welfare as we know it" and cutting back on a variety of other social programs.

"Personal responsibility": This is an old trope that white supremacists have been using since the failure of Reconstruction.

They argue that African-Americans are less successful in America because they fail to take "personal responsibility" for their lives, a convenient slogan that lets them completely ignore the racism structurally built into America's political, economic, and cultural systems.

It also makes it convenient for them to ignore the plight of poor white people trapped in dying parts of America like Appalachia. Or struggling with issues of mental health or addiction.

After all, if people are always "personally responsible" for their own circumstances, why should we bother doing anything about homelessness, poverty, hunger, addiction, or the struggle that racial, religious and gender minorities face in achieving the American dream?

"Small government": Ever since Republican Warren Harding was elected president in 1920, the Republican Party has used the phrase "small government" as a euphemism for cutting taxes on rich people and big corporations. In every other regard, the phrase is complete gibberish.

Republicans have consistently and repeatedly exploded the size of government over the years, driving our military spending up to the point where it's greater than the next dozen countries combined, and throwing every kind of advanced weaponry imaginable at police forces all across the nation. They give no-bid contracts to their donors and sell off public lands at pennies on the dollar to miners and frackers, wasting hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

In reality, the only "size of government" consideration Republicans have is their obsession with cutting public education and programs like Social Security and Medicare while simultaneously reducing taxes on the very, very rich.

American conservatism has been a scam since the 1920s and continues to be a scam that exclusively benefits the very White and the very wealthy in this country.

No amount of hand wringing or sloganeering or "reinventing" will change that fact. The question is, "When will the vast majority of Americans figure this out?"


Telstar and zsomething like this post


Republicans Struggle to Reboot Their “Small Government, Personal Responsibility” Scam Ef4Czj8XkAAzQuv?format=jpg&name=small

Like I keep sayin', if you ever wanted to see what the REAL Republican party is, you just have to look at the deep South.  That's the best example of what their policies get you -- the highest poverty, the worst health care, the worst education, the highest infant mortality, most crime, highest unemployment, most corruption, most gun deaths, most dependence on federal funding... name it and the states with the most conservative governance get the worst of it.

They've ALWAYS been based on a myth.  Usually they've been good enough at legerdemain to hide how the magic tricks work from their base, but Trump has no skills and has such contempt for the people that voted for him that he doesn't even bother to try making up plausible stories anymore.  Hell, who'd go through the effort when you can sell them some horseshit like "Q"?    I spent a good while last night arguing with some idiots who are convinced that "Antifa" is a real thing, all because they've seen footage of people in masks breaking stuff.  They don't know who that is, but, because they're told it's this "Antifa" organization, they believe it.   It's like I could tell  'em that there's a big well-funded secret society dedicated to robbing liquor stores, and they'll believe it based on the evidence that liquor stores get robbed... so, everyone that does it must belong to the secret society!   When they take junk like "there are violent rioters" as evidence that "Antifa" is a big funded organization... ya can't reason with those people.

They've gotten used to fooling their base and really comfortable with it.  So, they run up debts, never take responsibility for anything, expand government, etc. and just count on their base to be so focused on hatin' liberals that they'll just take it.  And, they do.   They never show any results even on their overriding concern for single-issue voters:  abortion.  Abortion rates are on a steady decline, but they've been declining about the same under Democrats or Republicans.  So if that's somebody's single issue, they should go look for another one, 'cuz the pro-choice and the anti-choice parties end up at the same place.

They'll just sell their base the same stuff they always do. And they'll still buy it, because facts and logic were never what led to them believing the shit they believe in the first place.

Floridatexan and Telstar like this post

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