We have all heard the Republican talking points about a million times, or perhaps a billion. We know that they believe that smaller government is the ticket. When they speak about smaller government they are not always very specific about what that means. Some Republicans want the government to divest itself of all of what they categorize as socialist influences. The want to end the programs of the FDR New Deal that remain and they want to get rid of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the poverty programs and the affirmative action programs. That would mean that welfare goes, Social Security goes, housing assistance programs get tossed out, Medicaid goes, Medicare goes, and education will no longer be a concern of the federal government. Consumer affairs will come back off the roster and environmental concerns will no longer be the bailiwick of our representatives in Washington.
I don’t know if every Republican running for office agrees with this whole agenda, but the Republican Party has a lot of wealthy masters and they have a lot of support groups which also, on the negative side, often become pressure groups. Any time you listened to Republicans on Meet the Press over the past 6 years they all reiterated the same list of (obviously Party-approved) talking points. Since they now realize that we have caught on to this and that it makes them sound a bit robotic, they seem to have abandoned this tactic. They still all the say the same things but they are allowed to use their own words a bit more often (or perhaps the Party has written individual scripts). The actual talking points are the same ones we have listened to for the past six years.
Well, I will say that getting rid of all these social programs would certainly trim our budget. Would our taxes stay the same? Would they stop taking Medicare and Social Security “contributions” out of our paychecks? While we might enjoy that at first could we buy the same level of care and old age security with the money that was returned to our paychecks? Perhaps employers would just trim back our pay since they would no longer be required to send funds to the federal government for health care and employee retirement? I have always thought that health care should be separate from employment and since the Hobby Lobby decision I believe that even more strongly. But will we really use additional money in our paychecks to buy our own health care and pay into a retirement plan, or will we be the happy-go-lucky American consumers we have been trained since birth to be and just “spend it up”? If we are issued a voucher to buy our own health insurance and retirement plan will the voucher cover the costs of these two items? If, as Republicans wish, business is confronted by a much lower level of regulation, won’t the costs of health care keep creeping up and won’t they always outpace what we can afford? Will our retirement plans give us the returns we need to live on in our old age, or will the returns fall far short of ever higher living costs? Does a voucher system make you feel secure?
Closing the Department of Education opens whole other cans of popping snakes. Will there be national standards for teachers and schools? How much will education vary from state to state? Will a person schooled in Alabama be able to seek employment in New York City? Is this all about the passion some folks have for putting the Bible into schools and setting science on a back burner, because most scientific discoveries do not appear in the Bible (a book written 2,000 years ago). There is no Darwin in the Bible; there is no Einstein in the Bible; the Bible does not talk about climate change (although if I remember my Leviticus the Bible gives believers a lot of rules to help them live a healthy life in the world they lived in at that time). I do not understand how having differing school standards in each of our states will be a good thing.
I do not see that we have managed to wipe out poverty in America yet, so it seems counterproductive to throw out the matrix of services we have developed to at least try to save poor people from scraping bottom. I know that Republicans think that the matrix we created has become as harmful and controlling as the fictional Matrix that Keanu Reeves saves humans from. I have heard them say again and again that we are now making it too easy for poor people to find a comfortable spot on the grid and just hang there. And while I agree that there may be people who do that, I don’t agree that this describes the vast majority of poor people who find themselves consistently at the bottom because they lack skills and perhaps do not understand the value of training and education or because their pay is so low that even if they get a foot up the grid, the slightest crisis sends them back to their previous level or below it. How many times will you keep trying to move up the matrix, if you keep failing to find a sustainable new level?
I don’t like this kind of Social Darwinism. American success is about survival of the fittest this theory goes; either find a way up or see if someone will be charitable. So while Congress keeps fixing the laws so that fewer and fewer dollars must be divided by more and more people, while the wealthiest Americans roll in money and put a foot in the face of the climbers, they also want to dismantle any assistance for those trapped at the bottom. This is not American in any sense of the word. This is the old world of aristocrats and serfs. This is a world with no middle class. This is a one way ticket back to the Dark Ages.
To some Republicans smaller government means that the Federal government would get rid of the IRS and would stop regulating business. Republicans tell us that if we deregulate, business will come flooding back to America and there will be a get big boom in economic activity and profit. I don’t know how much more profit the top 1% will have to corner to allow some largesse to overflow onto the peons but I suspect their appetites are quite voracious. There are not a lot of specifics mentioned in their deregulation plan. What businesses will come back? Will the steel industry come back? How about the electronics industry? Will the cooler business come home? Will we merely continue to move oil and gas and coal to other manufacturing nations? Republicans only talk about old businesses, businesses that we once had in America. They lead us to believe that deregulation will bring back the fifties. Will deregulation really provide our “new” prosperity? What about new innovative businesses? Will deregulation help us with that? Can we hang on to the car business? What about farming in America? What will the businesses of the future be; solar, wind, space industries, new infrastructure, environmental businesses to change the energy landscape of towns and cities? Could we possibly also become the world’s think tank and sell our innovations elsewhere to be implemented by others? Not if we keep making it more difficult and more expensive for Americans to go to college.
Are the people in the Republican base, who are holding America’s future hostage while they whine about how America has changed, really calling the shots in America? I think they are. They don’t want to be forced to wear seatbelts? They want the Federal government to get rid of consumer safety rules. They want the Federal government to make laws against things that violate their religious beliefs but to stay away from controlling their lifestyles. Well, not having so many rules does sound sort of appealing, but when vehicles collide and no one is restrained by a child seat or a seat belt the horror component in accidents rises and so do the medical and court costs. We have learned that what some people perceive as free costs the rest of us a lot of dollars. I would rather pay for someone’s college education than pay to rescue them from a troubled country where they should not have traveled in the first place. I contend that our loss of freedom is directly proportional to the rise in world population and is probably, in some measure, unavoidable.
The last “beef” I have with Republicans; at least the last one I will discuss here, is this atavistic push we are seeing to put Christianity into our government; to turn us into a Christian nation. It seems clear, however, that that ship sailed a long time ago. We have taken in people from every continent and every nation who have become citizens of America. It is too late to declare our country a Christian nation. It would now violate our Constitution as it might not have when our nation was founded. The forefathers may not have foreseen Muslim Americans or Buddhist Americans or even Jewish Americans, but they all hated government telling anyone how to worship and they did not found a Theocracy, no matter how deeply your religious beliefs call on you to win converts to the church. I do have faith that a government can strive to be moral without being religious, but that the fairest way to have a moral government would have to be the simplest way, perhaps adhering to something like the Golden Rule.
If we want more efficient government, government that is more responsive to the needs of the American people, government that tries to control spending and keep debt within some kind of reasonable boundaries then I am all for that. Creating a Federal government that is pared to bone and offers no national oversight over a Capitalism that can become extremely rapacious, offers no succor to the neediest citizens, and offers no security to the hardworking middle is to create a barren government robbed of all traces of the idealism that was proudly built into our Democracy.
By Nancy Brisson