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Political Animal

The Fix

By Brian Morton | Posted 8/4/2010

If you were, like me, reading The New York Times this past Sunday, perhaps you were taken aback by an op-ed column written by a name out of the past. It was titled, "Four Deformations of the Apocalypse," and it was taking Congress, specifically Republicans, to task for pushing a fiscal policy of tax cuts and rewarding the rich over everything else, including the nation's well-being.

The author of this breathtaking piece was David Stockman.

Here was Ronald Reagan's former budget director--the man who in only one year, 1981, changed the future of America from a lender to a borrower nation--excoriating lawmakers for running up deficits and cutting taxes on the wealthy.

It's not exactly news to students of recent history (and by "recent," I mean the last 30 years) that Stockman was the person chiefly responsible for implementing Reagan's tax-cut, trickle-down voodoo economics. Economist Arthur Laffer started it with his "Laffer Curve," senators Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and William Roth Jr. (R-Del.) pushed it through Congress, Stockman sold it, and Reagan signed it into law. And the bill, which was built on the false argument that cutting taxes led to greater wealth production, started the great landslide of deficits that were only halted (temporarily) by the Bill Clinton years.

That's also the funny thing about the Stockman piece. Despite naming names of his former Republican collaborators, Stockman never mentions his own name. And despite Clinton being the only president with the political will to momentarily halt the hacking away at the top marginal tax rates (which, in effect, saddles the middle classes with more and more of the tax burden), Stockman never mentions his name either. Apostate as Stockman may be, it's ironic that the two things he can't do in print are own up to his part in the ongoing financial disaster that has been Republican fiscal policy or give any credit to Clinton.

That aside, it tells you something about the Republicans in Congress today. When David Stockman can say of the GOP's tax-cuts-at-all-costs mentality that it has "led to the serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy," then things have seriously gotten out of whack.

But today's Republican leadership has spent the last two years saying "no" to anything that might help the economy recover after eight years of tax cuts for the rich and the disastrous leadership of George W. Bush. When President Obama attempted a stimulus package to try and crank the engine of American productivity, Republicans dragged out the process as long as possible and then watered it down to limit its effectiveness. The GOP killing a bill that would help with medical care for Sept. 11 victims drove Democratic New York Congressman Anthony Weiner to apoplexy on the House floor recently. When the Democrats in the Senate attempted to push through a bill aiding small business, Republicans brought it to a halt in order to try and deny the president any other victories going into the fall election season.

The fix is in. By now it is apparent that the only things today's Republicans care about is winning this fall and tax cuts for the rich, to the detriment of everything else. Jobs, the deficit, the citizens' well-being, none of it matters.

A meeting last week between President Obama and congressional leadership illustrates clearly how the Republicans feel that not only is their irresponsible behavior in the past not their fault, but it points to how they may deny responsibility for any of their failures in the future.

When the president pointed out how the first set of Bush tax cuts were specifically designed to leave the problem of the deficits they created to future lawmakers, House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), who aspires to become speaker if the GOP gains enough seats in November, quickly snapped, "I wasn't there. I didn't structure that deal."

Boehner was elected to Congress in 1990.

It's easy to see from that little exchange that not only do the current Republicans see the red ink that resulted from the Bush tax cuts they all voted for as someone else's problem, should they managed to regain power and somehow managed to continue the irresponsible policies of the past, they'll collectively deny any hand in it, because later Republicans will immediately default to individual denials: "It wasn't me, because I wasn't in the room."

So yes, it's almost funny to read David Stockman calling out the GOP of today. Funny if it weren't so tragic, anyway. When Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) says, "You should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans," when asked about how to pay for the Bush tax cuts he wants to extend, you can take it as an element of faith that the only thing that matters anymore is giving tax cuts to the rich.

And Stockman says that new faith is spoken thusly: "The new catechism, as practiced by Republican policymakers for decades now, has amounted to little more than money printing and deficit finance--vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes." In other words, the fix is in.

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