POTOMAC OBSERVER Social Smokescreen Economic Fire Washington, D.C. The Village Voice has taken to calling the Republican economic program “deja voodoo.” Recycled Reagan nostrums jostle the newest theoretical justifications for raising the tax burdens of the poor in order to provide tax breaks for the rich. The guiding Republican constant is the belief that no services are to be provided to anyone who cannot pay for them. This is the romantic simplicity of purpose that lies behind the “Contract On America” \(a Nation It’s going to take 18 Congressional seats in 1996 to put a stop to the madness. Meanwhile all my good anarchist friends are reminding me of the maxim that “Worse is better,” meaning the more the people are stomped on the more they rise up in reply. , However, I can’t help thinking the Republicans are cruel and cunning enough to do exactly what they accuse President Clinton of: hiding their true radical intent of income upward-redistribution under a smokescreen of punitive social policies, though they claim Clinton is a downward redistributionist with egalitarian social policies, on the basis of what evidence it would be difficult to say. The Republicans are divided, as observers have noted since Barry Goldwater led the successful Western revolt against 1964, into two wings: the loonies and the opportunists. Part of Texas Republican amazing political resilience comes from his ability to straddle this division, becoming the first successful loony opportunist, or opportunistic loony, of . the 1990s. Anyone else’s personality would have blown apart from the internal strain of reconciling those two Republican opposites, but Gramm appears to have been rendered immune to it by means of what appears to be a megadose of hypocrisy. The smokescreen is social. The fire is economic. All the Republican attacks on women, blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, the unemployed, the illand even on white people if they’re poor enoughare part of the corporate-statist Republican economic vision. All their individualist propaganda of “let’s get government off our backs” which is so appealing to small businessmen James McCarty Yeager edits “Minority Business Report” in Bethesda Maryland. 16 JANUARY 27, 1995 and those clinging desperately to the lower edges of middle class respectabilityis belied by their actual legislative actions. Scanning the even-finer-than-the-main print at the back of recent Congresional Records you find a list of social and economic panaceas touted to “restore America.” A scarier agenda has not befallen these shores since the “little old ladies in tennis shoes” bayed lustily for the blood of that notorious business flack, Nelson Rockefeller, at the Cow Palace in 1964, and passed a platform that practically would have abolished Social Security while instigating nuclear warfare. Because of the legislative ascendancy of the loony wing of the Republicans, it may not be necessary to direct much counterfire at their regressive social notions. They’re actually going to succeed in passing much of this nonsense, which is about the worst curse anyone could wish on them, since polls show that while “government” in the abstract has been successfully demonized, government programs retain actual human constituents. to Families with Dependent Children falls about 40 percent on blacks and 41 percent on whites \(and 75 percent on those of an avbe expected to make their own case. Should they fail through, say, lack of effective political representation, well, possibly the costs of mercilessly abandoning a segment of the population in pursuit of some racialist theory will rebound upon those unwilling to bear any public costs at all. BUT THE RETURN OF trickle-down economic theory will now be easier to combat since the sudden departure of so many formerleadership Democrats who claimed to oppose, while failing to prevent, the trickling ravages that have led to a steady 20-year decline in the average family income. When the capital-gains-tax-cut drum is being loudly beaten this session of Congress, there will mercifully be fewer Democratic hands upon the sticks. The Republican personalities involved are negligible influences. Hence the conduct of this column as a Newt-Free Zone, though I must credit drive-in movie columnist Joe Bob Briggs with the best description of this puffed-up nonentity: “The only Speaker of the House ever named after a lizard.” Henceforward, The Lizard shall join The Trick as two Republicans nameless for their heinousness, faceless in their shamelessness. Should the Republicans succeed with their tax breaks in compelling 20 percent across-the-board spending cuts in all departments save Defense and the Bureau of Prisons, as well as forcing states to cut by 20 percent as well, the revolutionary nature of their economic intent will become so obvious that even their practiced hands will be unable to advertise it as something rational. If you throw away most of the government except for the parts that the rich don’t want to pay for all by themselvessuch as the militarythe corporate governmentsubstitutes will absolutely, instead of almost, control the economy, our livelihoods, and our freedoms. All in the name of free enterprise, of course. The Republicans’ supposed anti-politicians have already failed to reform the Congress they so recently invaded. The Republicans have abandoned a thoroughgoing reshuffling of committee jurisdictions, which would have done more than anything to defang the lobbyists now fastened to the committee system’s flanks. They are likewise totally opposed to campaign funding reform, once having become incumbents. These two procedural necessities would have been, if adopted, almost the only countervailing justification for the human pain and social dislocation the Republicans are doomed to succeed in causing. The Republicans are geniuses at selling a two-tier economy with the rhetoric of individual freedom. The Democrats claim to be committed to integrating the two tiers, but when they abandon the rhetoric of populism to become good soldiers for business, they set themselves up for debacles such as 1994’s. Yes, it IS in business’s best interests to have consumers at all ends of the economic spectrum capable of paying the high prices demanded by quality, service, social peace and economic justice. But business is rarely willing to pay the long-term costs of social improvement, preferring short-term one-time gains instead. The danger for progressives lies in imagining that the Republicans will fall of their own weight. It took 20 years longer than it should have for the Democrats to fall, not a hopeful sign. But the attack on Republicanism must remain economic, not social; because while the social issues generate the heat, the economic issues generate the light. Perhaps progressives’ retort to Republicanism can recycle Gary Hart’s pre-presidential Senate campaign slogan, “You won’t get Big Government off your back until you get your hands out of its pockets.” James McCarty Yeager
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