Saturday, October 16, 2010

THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN IS A WAKE-UP CALL

A hue-and-cry went up when the Supreme Court decision permitted unlimited and unregulated funds into political campaigns. Many Americans expressed disapproval because they did not want foreign governments and big companies, some foreign, influencing (a euphemism for “buying”) candidates. The US Chamber of Commerce, collecting and distributing (euphemisms for “laundering”) such monies on behalf of Republicans, is enabling them to outspend Democrats seven-to-one.

Since the hue-and-cry soon subsided, Americans have given this corruption of the democratic process little further thought, but they should—now. Otherwise, the more effective this deluge of special-interest money is in buying the 2010 election, the more likely the 2008 election will be remembered as the last relatively free and fair one. My suggestion: vote against all candidates supported by groups or contributors whose real identity and purposes are unknown.

Some may celebrate the success of Bush Justices Roberts and Alito, who lied to Congress that they respect precedent. Their decision enables beneficiaries like Sharron Angle and Rand Paul to avoid broad-based fundraising, conceal their extreme positions from all except followers, prevaricate to the public, run ads with dreamily vague slogans or despicably ugly smears, and dodge the mainstream media. Unaccountable before elected, they will remain unaccountable if elected.

Their Big Lies are that government cannot succeed, though Republican senators have worked to make it fail by using “holds” to block critical appointments and their 40-vote bloc to frustrate majority rule; and that they want small government big enough to enforce their harsh moral code on all Americans. Their White Lies are their fictions about employment and the economy. But….

The latest numbers show that unemployment has dropped to and leveled off at about 9.6 percent—down, but not far enough—with a recent, modest uptick because of the end of census- and stimulus-generated employment. Still, are Republicans pleased? No: apparently, they want higher unemployment, for they have opposed legislation to help small businesses hire workers and to support infrastructure jobs—road, bridge, and airport repairs, etc,—for construction workers unemployed by the housing slump.

The same numbers show that private-sector employment has risen (as it has for seven months) and public-sector employment has fallen. Business is growing, and government is shrinking. Are Republicans pleased? No: they criticize Obama for the unemployment which they have encouraged, because he has done what they only talk about doing.

The stimulus package has done much good but not achieved a full recovery. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and many economists, both Republican and Democratic, estimate that it prevented the recession from becoming a depression and thus saved well over a million jobs. Some economists believe that a stimulus package twice the approved size would have reversed it. Obama claims that he has agreed with this view. But he asked only for what he thought he could get (and got); he did not ask for what he believed the economy required. By not trying harder, he precluded the chance to get more and thus made sure that he got no more. (Does he think that, if he asks for half a loaf, someone will give him the other half?) Nevertheless, Republican leaders decried the stimulus package—they knew economic muddle and misery would win them votes this year. With unabashed hypocrisy, many GOP governors, first touting their refusal of its funds, then took the money and tried to take the credit.

Government intervention in the automobile market to save the Big Three turns out to be an unqualified success. At the time, many Republicans protested it. I, who am not one of them, did, too, and I confess that I was wrong, wrong, wrong. I can confess my error because I am not ideological; I can see that the intervention worked, saved these and dependent companies, saved jobs, and helped the economy. A show-stopper: the latest industry report shows Big Three car sales increasing market share at the expense of their foreign-based competitors. Republicans refuse to acknowledge this or any other government success.

In all four instances, Republican ideology trumps the reality of positive results, which have disappointed them. The danger is that, if and when they return to power, they will be equally ideological in applying purist doctrine regardless of lessons learned.

Economic issues are the big issues. But culture war issues, once concealed, are emerging as Republicans grow confident of big wins. We are learning that, the more conservative the Republican, the more likely they are to hold absolutist views on abortion (Sharron Angle denies exceptions for rape or incest and advises victims to turn lemons into lemonade), repressive views on homosexuality, and bizarre views on sex (Christine O’Donnell equates adultery and masturbation—how would she know about either, much less both?), and regressive attitudes, values, and views, about women and minorities.

If fearful or mad voters prevail and Republicans win big, we shall get unprecedented gridlock and greed, and problems aggravated beyond solution.

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