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Political Animal

Promises, Promises

By Brian Morton | Posted 4/23/2003

The next time you're in the grocery store, check the side of the milk cartons for some of the promises and claims Republicans have made over the past decade.

Back in 1995, Newt Gingrich and his merry band of no-compromise conservatives were claiming that the nation needed a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, as they felt politicians (a class that, lest we forget, included themselves at the time) were simply unable to stomach the willpower required to balance the budget themselves. Solving the problem of the deficit was paramount, a subject of campaign promises going all the way back to the 1992 election, thanks to Ross Perot and his charts, and the spotlight thrown on it by the bipartisan Concord Coalition. Despite the campaign to tar Bill Clinton in 1993 by accusing him of passing the largest tax increase in U.S. history--which raised taxes on the wealthy and made them squeal like stuck pigs--the last popularly elected president balanced the budget by 1998.

Today? There are deficits as far as the eye can see, which are dismissed by a conservative political class that is still harping on the idea of tax cuts for the wealthy. In 2000, back when there was still a surplus, Bush promised that we could afford his tax cuts without having to dip into Social Security money. Then gas prices went up, and Bush said that passing his tax cuts would give people money to put in their gas tanks. Then the nation got hit by terrorists, and Bush said we needed tax cuts to help stimulate the nation's economy in order to recover. Since then, we've been treated to tax cuts in order to create jobs for the military to return to (they have jobs--they're in the military!) and tax cuts for, well, the need for tax cuts. Beware the politician whose solution remains the same no matter how circumstances change.

At this point, the lie about the president claiming budget deficits were OK in times of national emergency, recession, or war--the subject of the Bush trifecta joke--has been repeated so many times, the White House is moving forward as if it were gospel. They're still dragging around the old canard of the "death tax" on the "little guy"--which only kicks in after the first $2 million worth of assets, and the rest can be paid over 20 years.

How about the line-item veto? That was a big priority 10 years ago--until the GOP realized that it could be turned into a political weapon by the man they despised, and so they put it on hold hoping Bob Dole would win in '96. When Clinton won and signed the line-item veto into law, the Right let it quietly be overturned by the Supreme Court, another campaign item consigned to the dustbin.

Term limits? Uh-uh.

Social Security privatization? In Iowa on Jan. 20, 2000, George W. Bush actually even used the word: "What privatization does is allows the individual worker--his or her choice--to set aside money in a managed account with parameters in the marketplace." Since then, of course, the stock market has lost billions of dollars in equity, and GOP candidates have campaigned in many places saying they never were for privatization. The rest, like Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, accused their opponents of "scare tactics"--Graham responded to ads mentioning Social Security privatization from opponent Alex Sanders by calling the ads "bogus appeals to emotion that are trying to scare us all to death."

Going beyond mere promise-breaking, the Bush administration has made it almost policy to kill reports and commissions that might point out embarrassing facts or contradictions to the party line. When in February the nation's governors complained about the amount of money their states were getting from the federal government, the Bush administration killed the report "Budget Information for States," which serves as the primary document showing who gets what. When it started to become obvious how many jobs were not being created under the George W. bunch, last Christmas Eve they killed the Mass Layoff Statistics report, put out each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the Senate killed a Department of Housing and Human Services plan to consolidate all the department's legislative and public affairs offices into one section reporting to the secretary, after Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson delayed giving senators a report on human embryo research that was seen as contrary to the administration's stated policy.

So, there you have it: lies, distractions, secrecy, and promises with expiration dates. Top it off with all the shifting reasons why the United States went into Iraq in the first place, the no-bid contracts given to administration friends like KBR (a Halliburton subsidiary) and Bechtel (a major Republican campaign donor), and you wonder why there was such hyperbole over Sen. John Kerry's remark that "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States."

Where, of course, in the last presidential election, a half-million more people voted for the other guy.

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Political Animal archives

More from Brian Morton

The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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