I Smell a Developing Meme…and It Smells Like Poop
The consensus in what passes for conservative thought these days seems to be coalescing on a common theme: we already spent all the money, so you plebes need to tighten your belts.
I don’t recall any teabagger angst over trillion-dollar-plus deficits during the last administration but suddenly it seems to be a crisis now that the Kenyan Usurper is in charge of paying the bills. Never mind that he wasn’t the one who committed the equivalent of signing up for the Columbia Record Club by starting a vastly expensive and unnecessary war or putting the economy in the toilet via neglect and deliberate lack of oversight – it’s his baby now. And apparently his fault the bills are still coming due.
So, what to do, what to do? Which brings us back to our Developing Meme: the way to get our finances under control is to force old and sick people into poverty.
At least that’s what Jeb Hensarling, Texas (Teabagger) would have us believe. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQW0oacbOWg&feature=player_embedded
That was the last Republican who was schooled by Obama at last Friday’s GOP retreat, when he suggested that doing away with medical lawsuits would solve the healthcare problem, BTW.
And then there’s this gem, from one of the deepest thinkers in the Republican House caucus, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (and seriously, this guy is regarded as a moderate in the bunch they have there now):
To move us to surpluses, Ryan’s budget proposes reforms that are nothing short of violent. Medicare is privatized. Seniors get a voucher to buy private insurance, and the voucher’s growth is far slower than the expected growth of health-care costs. Medicaid is also privatized. The employer tax exclusion is fully eliminated, replaced by a tax credit that grows more slowly than medical costs. And beyond health care, Social Security moves to a system of private accounts that CBO says will actually cost more than the present arrangement, further underscoring how ancillary the program is to our budget problem.
Hmmm. Seems like we heard ideas just like these only a few short years ago, decided they were not good, and moved on. But fast forward a few years, past a near collapse of the economy and into a growing crisis in healthcare, and suddenly the answer is to make old peoples’ incomes dependent on the stock market and their health dependent on the largesse of private insurers. No reason why that shouldn’t work out just peachy – for Wall Street and private insurers. For the old people, not so much.
You know, these guys are Republicans, and I don’t really expect them to be reasonable or have new ideas. But when it shows up in the pages of the New York Times, I want to start beating my head against the monitor. Consider the following from “centrist” David Brooks:
The odd thing is that when you turn to political life, we are living in an age of reverse-generativity. Far from serving the young, the old are now taking from them. First, they are taking money. According to Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution, the federal government now spends $7 on the elderly for each $1 it spends on children.
Second, they are taking freedom. In 2009, for the first time in American history, every single penny of federal tax revenue went to pay for mandatory spending programs, according to Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute. As more money goes to pay off promises made mostly to the old, the young have less control.
Third, they are taking opportunity. For decades, federal spending has hovered around 20 percent of G.D.P. By 2019, it is forecast to be at 25 percent and rising. The higher tax rates implied by that spending will mean less growth and fewer opportunities. Already, pension costs in many states are squeezing education spending.
In the private sphere, in other words, seniors provide wonderful gifts to their grandchildren, loving attention that will linger in young minds, providing support for decades to come. In the public sphere, they take it away.
You could summarize that into teabaggerese thusly: Old age is theft!
Now I’m not gonna delve into the myriad stupidities that comprise Brooks’ entire column; what I’m interested in is this stupid “common sense” idea running through all of these pronouncements that “when your family has bills, you pay them!!!” Well, yeah. But in real life, how does that work? I’ve been in debt; my solution to the problem wasn’t to sell the house, drop my medical insurance, and cut out basic necessities of life in order to pay it off. Most people, if they put any thought into it whatsoever, would readily see the utter idiocy of these “solutions” to the debt problem, because many of them are or have been in debt themselves. The incentive for paying it off is that it improves your life. Ordinary people, in this situation, will cut back on buying non-necessities – things like going out to eat, buying new clothes and gadgets – or find a way to make additional money to pay down their obligations. For the most part, they don’t walk away from homes they’ve been paying on for 20 years and move into a refrigerator box under the freeway so they can afford to pay off their credit cards, because there’s no incentive in that – it’s not going to make life better and in fact will make it a whole lot worse.
Yet we’re being told that as a society, that’s the only way we can manage our debt – by giving up the things we’ve been paying into our entire working lives. And make no mistake, the end result of this sociopathy would be old people living on the streets and dying for lack of medical care…and this is presented as somehow preferable to expecting Paris Hilton to forego buying another $40,000 designer bag to pay a few percent more in taxes.
That’s an idea you can dress up any way you like and never get the bad smell off of it, because it always boils down to the same basic thought: the many should suffer so the few can live without limit. If the teabaggers ever get their way they’ll get the chance to smell it up close and personal. The rest of us, we can only hope, only need look at it to recognize it for what it is: bullshit.