The Coming War for Control of the Republican Party

As I sat watching my daily dose of evening political commentary, I had an epiphany.  I began thinking about the impending economic collapse that is sure to result from the United States failing to raise its debt ceiling, thereby defaulting on its debt.  I then focused on the words of Michele Bachmann, the budding darling of the fringe right, the Tea Party.  She spoke at length, despite having previously stated she was well read in the subject of economics, that essentially nothing bad would happen if the United States didn’t raise its debt ceiling.  She and the Tea Party faithful believe wholeheartedly that no economic ramifications will result from the most powerful nation in the world going into default on its debt.  They believe that not raising the debt ceiling will force the federal government to “live within its means” which, according to them, somehow will create jobs.

This led me to think about the Tea Party at length.  I thought to myself, how could this relatively small, nonsensical fringe control the whole of the Republican Party to such an extent that every Republican in Washington dares not venture from the ideological path that the Tea Party has laid out.  This is when an unusual thought crept into my mind; the Republican career politicians in Washington are willing to commit political suicide in fear of a Tea Party reprisal?  Something didn’t seem right.  Could Boehner, McConnell, and every other Republican be that foolish? 

Then it hit me like a freight train, does the Tea Party really control the Republican Party?  How could a small, middle class, uninformed, and highly ideological fringe control the whole of the Republican Party?  The answer is, they couldn’t.  However, there is small group within the Republican base that could instill the fear of God in Washington’s Republicans.  The answer has been staring us in the eye all along, it’s the rich. 

It’s fairly straightforward, the relatively small band of discouraged middle class white Americans that constitute the Tea Party don’t possess what it really takes to influence and control a politician, money and power.  The richest Americans on the other hand, possess a majority of the wealth in our nation and as the drivers of America’s corporations, they wield incredible power.  We’ve falsely attributed the authorship of the current Republican agenda to the Tea Party, as we’ve been distracted by their loud anti-government antics.  We’ve seen the Republicans try to appease the Tea Party’s ideology by attempting to push their social agenda through, primarily anti-abortion legislation.  However, we have seen the Republicans cave on “conservative” social issues time and time again.  Yet, there is one thing that Republicans have not yet waivered on, the issue of increasing taxes.

The Republicans have fiercely opposed any tax increase.  They defeated a Democratic led effort to end tax subsidies to the oil companies.  They fiercely oppose any tax increases on the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations.  They fiercely oppose even ending tax loopholes that exist within the current tax structure.  Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has stated that any increase in revenue is “off the table”.  House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, walked out on budget talks in protest of tax increases being mentioned in the discussion. 

The question becomes, why are Republicans so fond of the idea of unadulterated capitalism, and lowering tax rates for the wealthy?  Because politicians are beholden to the election process, and when it comes to elections, those who have the most in their campaign coffers prevail.  The idea that Republicans are fearful of a small middle class minority within their own constituency like the Tea Party is merely a convenient method of disguising their true agenda, their devoted service to the men and women who fund the PACs that flood their re-election campaigns with donations.  It’s better politically, to look like you’re controlled by a radical and entrenched fringe minority like the Tea Party rather than by an even smaller minority composed solely of the richest Americans and special interest lobbyists.  The Tea Party and their anti-government fervor have unwittingly provided the supremely wealthy with a figurehead in the quest to loosen the federal government’s hold over the private sector’s pocketbooks. 

Everyone gets lost in the theatrics and extravagance of the Tea Party and its affiliated talking heads.  Their gaffes and sound bites have distracted everyone.  The Tea Party believes their own nonsensical rhetoric on social and fiscal issues, but they don’t realize that they are nothing more than the political patsies for their rich puppet masters.  However, Tea Partiers are perfectly willing to push the United States economy into collapse by not raising the debt ceiling; this is where the Tea Party’s position as the wealthiest Americans’ political figureheads loses its viability. 

The ferocity of the Tea Party in their advocacy of lower tax rates across the board, served a purpose for the Republicans and their wealthy overlords.  It was good for business to let the Tea Party have the freedom to publicly bludgeon Washington into cutting taxes and pursuing efforts to deregulate big business.  Yet, the rich very well realize that the economic collapse that will result from the United States defaulting on its debts will be disastrous for business and their finances.  If the U.S. defaults on its debt, the resultant economic shock will undoubtedly cause a sharp drop in the stock market, a drop in investment, and a drop in consumption.  All of this leads to significant decreases in the net-worth of the wealthiest Americans, far exceeding the potential benefits of lower tax rates. 

Right now, playing chicken with the debt ceiling is still within the wealthiest Americans’ parameters for a calculated risk.  It’s still a profitable strategy for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations to use the Republicans in Congress, and by extension, to use the Tea Party as a battering ram to obtain lower tax rates.  There’s still a month left for the President and the Democrats to fold and make a deal that cuts taxes in exchange for a Republican agreement to raise the debt ceiling.  However, when the United States economy comes dangerously close to default and collapse, the wealthiest Americans will hedge their bets, fold their hand and call upon their Republican serfs in Congress to cut a deal. 

Does anyone really think that the Koch brothers or the prominent shareholders of ExxonMobil will accept losing vast sums of wealth in exchange comparatively small tax cuts and the passage of the inherently unconstitutional social agenda of the Tea Party?  The Tea Party is merely an unwitting battering ram, whose control over Washington is minimal compared to that of the wealthiest Americans and the corporations.  When push comes to shove, and hundreds of billions of dollars are on the line, the will of the wealthy will carry the day, and the Tea Party will be brushed aside.  They’ll exit the national stage not with a bang, but with barely a whimper.  Tea Party champions like Sarah Palin who hail capitalism, will find that in our capitalist society, they’re merely the expendable employees of Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, and the Koch brothers.  When they have served their purpose and their antics have become too costly, they’ll simply be replaced by a new breed of disgruntled right-wingers.

 

-Uncle Festus, 7-05-2011

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Republican Gutting of Medicare

  

      I was checking my Twitter feed this evening and noticed an intriguing tweet from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.  His tweet read, “The Republican plan will end Medicare by providing an $8000 voucher for seniors to purchase a private health insurance plan #SharedSacrifice”.  I have to admit that the constant evolution of the debt ceiling negotiations have pushed the issue of Medicare back a few places in my political rolodex.  Senator Sanders has reawakened my awareness of the sheer ridiculousness of Ryan’s plan to “improve” Medicare.

     First, let’s examine the harsh reality of Ryan and the Republican plan to “fix” Medicare.  Instead of the guaranteed coverage seniors currently receive, their primary healthcare insurance will be replaced by a government voucher of a mere $8,000 per year.  How Republicans figure that $8,000 a year is enough for any senior to purchase a private health insurance policy is beyond me, or the realm of commonsense for that matter.  I can honesty tell you that for me, a man younger than Paul Ryan, and in peak condition, my current insurance policy would cost me between $5,000-6,000 if I were forced to buy it on the street.  Like I said, I’m an active and healthy young man.  I’m not a 90 year old man with diabetes, heart disease, or lung cancer.  Anyone who thinks that any private firm is going to insure the elderly, who are often high-risk patients with multiple pre-existing conditions, and limited financial resources, is living in a bubble.  Then again, it could be that the career politicians that support the plan haven’t had to worry about purchasing private health insurance for a long time, and if they did, they have a nice $174,000 a year salary with which to do it.  Worse yet, and perhaps more likely, they just don’t care.

     Second, let’s look at the utter short-changing that would happen to everyone 54 years old and younger.  These people have been paying into the Medicare system for up to and over four decades.  They have had money skimmed from each check they sacrificed sweat, blood, and endless days, to earn.  They were guaranteed a service that had been paid for in advance.  Under any normal circumstances, if a customer paid for a service or product in advance, and the seller then gave them a vastly inferior product than the one they purchased; the seller would wind up in court for fraud.  How then, is it moral or legal for the government to take money for a defined service, and then when it comes time for the taxpayer to collect on the promised service, they are given something that doesn’t even remotely resemble what they paid for?  It sounds to me like the American taxpayers aged 54 and younger are owed a refund if the Ryan Plan, God forbid, becomes a reality.

     Here are a few questions for all Republicans who are willing to hold the American economy hostage in exchange for implementing their gutting of Medicare.  For the young bucks of Congress like Ryan and Cantor, men in relatively good shape in their 40s, will you voluntarily give up your nice health insurance provided by the federal government (a more comprehensive plan than offered by Medicare by the way) when you become a senior, and use the Medicare voucher system?  For the elderly among the Republican ranks like McCain, McConnell, and even Boehner (age 61), if you’ve got so much pride in Ryan’s plan, will you show it and voluntarily give up your federally provided health insurance and see how much an $8,000 voucher will get you on the open market?  To make things more interesting, try and accomplish this feat under the income restraints of the average American senior (total income of approximately $18,000 per year – most of which comes from Social Security, another Republican target).  Let’s see just how well capitalism performs when it comes to the unprofitable enterprise of insuring the elderly.

     Well, it’s become quite simple.  It’s time for the Republicans, Ryan Plan stalwarts, to give the voucher system a test drive.  Seems like a perfectly fair and reasonable expectation.  If it’s a good enough plan to suit millions of Americans, then the plan’s champions in Congress should have no hesitance to try it out for say a year and report back.  If they’re not willing to try the plan, then I guess that speaks volumes about the true adequacy of the Ryan Plan.  Republicans, it’s time to put up or shut up, but who are we kidding, you’ll do neither.

-Uncle Festus, 6-27-11

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In Defense of Representative Anthony Weiner

            I seek not to defend the conduct of Anthony Weiner, but rather, I seek to defend the man.  His unusual actions and the deception he directed toward the American people, and more importantly, to his wife, is a serious matter.  However, his personal life is just that, personal.  The raucous calls for his resignation from both sides of the isle are horribly misguided for several reasons.

            While the personal actions of Representative Anthony Weiner seem lewd to many, they have yet to constitute an illegal act.  Until it can be proved that Weiner broke the law, there is no reasonable basis to make a legitimate claim that he should resign his post in the House.  If Weiner is to be expelled from Congress, then why not Republican Senator David Vitter, who confessed to using prostitutes?  Why was there no bi-partisan call for the resignation of Republican Senator John Ensign, who had an affair with one of his staffers and then arranged for the husband of his generally reluctant “mistress” to receive a lobbying job? For those who have whole-heartedly jumped on the resignation bandwagon, you should realize that the actions of Vitter and Ensign actually constituted prosecutable crimes, yet Vitter continues to serve, and Ensign was allowed to resign of his own volition before an ethics committee hearing, yet no criminal investigation has followed. 

            On the issue of sexual morality, well, that issue is entirely subjective.  Some might see the exchange of explicit photos to be immoral in an ostensibly sexual manner.  The key thing to remember is that Anthony Weiner has never campaigned on the issue of being a sexual Puritan, he campaigned on legislative issues.  He has never taken the moral high-ground on all matters sexual and wielded it as a weapon against political opponents, as have Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, David Vitter, Mark Sanford, and Larry Craig.   For those foolish enough to believe that sexual morality is what makes a person fit for office, then they might find the following history lesson a little hard to swallow.  Some of the greatest of the founding fathers, the gold-standard of the American moral identity, were by today’s standards of sexual morality, “marred and impaired” by immorality.  Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson, were all alleged to have engaged in sexually immoral acts.  Moving on, several of our most influential presidents have been involved in acts of perceived sexual immorality, notably, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton.  The point is simple, the fate of our nation does not hinge on what lawmakers do in their bedrooms, it hinges on the policy decisions that they make.

            For those who are lobbying for the resignation of Rep. Weiner because he lied and acted immorally, where is their morality when they knowingly and publicly condemn a man for committing no crime, calling him a “creep” as RNCC Chairman Priebus has.  More importantly, where is the all important virtue of forgiveness?  On the count of Weiner’s egregious lies, we seem to be forgetting that’s simply what politicians do, but instead of lying, we give it a friendly term like “waffling”.  Where was the bi-partisan outrage about the Bush Administration’s lies about conclusive evidence of WMDs in Iraq, and its recent lies about the effectiveness of torture?  Those are the lies the public should be concerned about, the lies that cost American lives and disgraced the United States, something that lewd photos posted on Twitter will never do.

            Now there’s the issue of cowardice.  This is directed at members of the Democratic Party and liberal commentators that heralded Anthony Weiner as the champion of the progressive movement for his ferocity on the house floor on behalf of the American people, but who have now abandoned him.  For those who seek to cast Weiner aside because he has supposedly endangered the progressive movement, what does it say of the progressive movement if it not only forces its followers to abide by archaic conservative morals, but silences its loudest voice for such a reason?  What does it say of this movement and the intestinal fortitude of liberals if they willingly surrender one of their own to those who fight against everything in which a progressive believes?

            The bottom line is that Anthony Weiner has so far committed no crime.  He has not embarrassed Congress any worse than David Vitter.  His sexual proclivities have not impaired his ability to legislate.  His constituents, by a nearly 2 to 1 ratio, do not want him to resign.  Weiner himself does not want to resign.  I do not want him to resign.  For those that call for his resignation but not that of the others listed above, shame on you for possessing such a flawed sense of justice and equality.

            I can tell you that so long as Representative Weiner has broken no law, I am committed to standing behind him.  I believe that a man is innocent until proven guilty, and that condemning someone based on their sexual preferences and persuasion is not only simple minded, but immoral in and of itself. 

            There is one last thing that I will tell you.  If I had the privilege of serving in the United States House of Representatives, I would be at this very instant standing beside Representative Weiner.  If the fear of political defeat and slightly slowed political momentum is enough to cause the whole of the Democratic Party to cast a decade old ally and colleague to the wolves, then cowardice is their cross to bear.  I however, would be proud to sit next to the man who so passionately fought tooth and nail for compensation for the 9/11 responders, for universal healthcare, and for the middle and lower class.  If a man’s value is to be determined at his lowest point, then not one among us is worth very much.

-Uncle Festus, 6-09-11

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