Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The GOPer Strategy: Increase Suffering

The political dynamic is set by this perennial difference: Republicans depend on the rich (banks, corporations, lobbyists, certain big media) and promote policies which favor the rich. But that advocacy is only half of the political purpose. They also oppose policies which favor the non-rich--because Democrats depend on the non-rich, the sheer numbers of voters, with particular emphasis on the lower middle class and aspiring middle class, which often means minorities of one kind or another.

The natural constituency of Democrats theoretically should make them the dominant party, because they have the numbers. So how do Republicans win? By manipulating non-rich voters to vote against their own interests. They do this with an arsenal of time-tested techniques and issues. They absorb certain "social" issues that don't hurt the rich, like abortion, guns, etc.--and latch onto politically potent movements, like fundamentalist Christianity and the Tea Party. They divide the non-rich by promoting racial fears, fears of external or internal enemies (Communists, socialists, Muslims.) And they use the time lags and resilience in the political and economic systems to promise something for nothing: government services without taxes.

All of this is evident in pretty extreme form in the headlines of the day. The divide-and-conquer xenophobia over illegal immigration and a Muslim mosque in Manhattan. The corporate funding and direction behind the Tea Party "movement." The opposition to climate crisis and energy legislation, to protect the interests of Big Oil. And close to the essence of it all, the GOPer opposition to measures like unemployment benefits and continuing tax cuts to the middle class, while being in favor of continuing the tax cuts to the rich that by themselves pretty much account for the federal deficit, and that even GOPers like David Stockman recognize are behind the weakening of the very fragile American economy and the health and welfare of its citizens.

The main GOPer technique is the whopper. They lie, frequently and repeatedly. They claim illegal immigration is leading to runaway crime, especially violent crime, when the statistics show this is nonsense--crime in Arizona, for example, had been going down steadily in all categories for at least five years. Nor is there increased crime in border areas.

They claim that Americans are paying more taxes, and that the administration is proposing a tax increase. But the middle class has seen federal tax cuts under Obama. And while I for one predicted this outcome--that when the Bush tax cuts for the rich expired, GOPers would characterize this as a tax increase--it remains true, one way or another, that most Americans will not see their federal taxes increase, but will see the benefits of a declining federal deficit.

By preventing Democrats in Congress from addressing immediate and long-term problems, and thus benefiting their constituencies, GOPers are engaged in a strategy of increasing the gross national suffering, as economist Paul Krugman has pointed out in relation to their position on unemployment insurance.

So far polls indicate that the GOPer strategies are working. They may be working in part for the paradoxical reason that GOPer policies have ruined the economy and government to an extent that is becoming very alarming, very scary. The slack is rapidly running out of the system. State and local governments are starting to cut back essential services. In places like California, the poor have been all but abandoned, and here as elsewhere, cutbacks are affecting schools and even police.

Key businesses are increasingly fragile. The airline industry is on a path to self-destruction. Its attempts at imposing an array of stupid fees are being replicated in hotels. These are key indicators of the weakness in the white collar middle class. America has been on a trajectory since 1980 of dividing the few who are rich from the many who are not. That division has never been greater in terms of absolute wealth, and in social terms it is approaching the Great Depression and before.

It is now seriously being suggested that the economy of the rich can prosper apart from the economy of everybody else, and that they can maintain a society separate from everyone else, as they get ever richer, and everyone else gets poorer.

The resulting realities are accumulating in daily life, evoking powerful responses like this one from Daily Kos. These too will have political ramifications, as divisions increase even as they become starker and more pronounced.

If Republicans succeed in lying their way into control of Congress, especially given the extreme policies they advocate, this basic political division will only increase, and the economic division will increase, and among the non-rich the suffering will increase to levels unseen in generations. Ordinary people, as well as state and local governments, are going to be severely weakened in terms of the resources they can apply to coming emergencies.

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