Thursday, March 5, 2009

Conservative Derangement

After Bush was elected in 2000, many liberals were unhappy. They had two ways to deal with that disappointment—a) accept that they lost and vow to get ‘em next time, or b) embrace paranoia and start accusing Bush of stealing the election and becoming a dictator and lying the country into war and torture and fascism. They chose b.

So we got eight years of Michael Moore suggesting that Bush and bin Laden were playing for the same team, and of Keith Olbermann calling for Bush to resign, and dozens of crazy conspiracy theories about Iraq being a war for oil waged in order to prop up Halliburton.

This phase must have been embarrassing for rational liberals. It’s one thing to disagree with someone, it’s another to be become unhinged over Bush’s existence. But conservatives made hay with all the liberal insanity—they labeled it Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS for short) and used it as proof that liberals weren’t serious about the real problems facing the nation. Among themselves, conservatives swore that no matter how bad things looked, they’d never stoop so low as to engage in Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Then Obama got elected, and they didn’t waste any time. Conservatives managed, for the most part, to avoid the stupid sort of trutherism that said that Obama wasn’t actually a natural born citizen. But the restraint stopped there. Since Obama’s inauguration, the conservative response has been a) tax cuts, b) Rush Limbaugh, c) Atlas Shrugged, and d) accusations of socialism.

Obama’s stimulus package was a flawed bill—incredible amounts of pork, and it meant massive deficits. And it was (and still is) doubtful whether it would even succeed in its stated goal of pushing the economy out of recession.

All devastating points, and the Republicans did use them. But their solution? Tax cuts. Which would have been a great idea, except that Republicans have made tax cuts the centerpiece of their response to every financial crisis since Reagan. And given the size of the deficit (even without Obama’s stimulus package), cutting taxes would simply be irresponsible.

No conservative managed to particularly distinguish himself in the fight over the stimulus bill, so people looking for a leader of the Republican party looked to Rush Limbaugh for inspiration. And that caused a significant controversy, with liberals angrily demanding whether Republicans support Rush, and conservatives divided into pro-Limbaugh and anti-Limbaugh camps; the former considering Rush a real asset and a true conservative leader, and the other vociferously disagreeing.

How about third option: who cares? Well, everyone does now, due to size of the controversy. But it shouldn’t have been a controversy at all. If you like Rush, enjoy him by all means. If not, find a new leader you can get behind. But Rush isn’t going to go away just because some people think he’s too influential.

Some dispirited conservatives are suggesting we live in an “Atlas Shrugged” scenario, where the government will take over the entire economy, and debating whether we should all go “John Galt,” which apparently means stoping producing and hoping that the economy falls apart. Because nothing says “responsible guardians of the economy” by having your supporters run around citing some literary enormity which advocates a stupid, sophomoric philosophy, right?

The whole “Atlas Shrugged” idea brings me to my last point, which is the constant accusations from the Right that Obama advocates socialism. “Socialism” is a serious charge, one that should not be carelessly directed at anyone. So it’s a pity that so many Republicans obviously have no idea what socialism is.

Socialism’s main goal is state control of production and distribution of goods. Seen much of that in the Obama Administration? (There have been some banks nationalized, but that was one of Bush’s plans, not Obama’s) Another goal is a “fair” wage scale. Hasn’t been much regulation of wages either. Obama is simply not a socialist. There are words for what he really is—“statist” is certainly one; “corporatist” is another that seems to fit. You could even make a case (though not a very strong one, in my view) that his program incorporates elements of fascism. But he’s certainly not a Socialist.

So far, conservatives have stayed far away from the level of crazy that many liberals sank to during the dark days of Bush. But still, their performance since Obama’s election has been very poor—they’ve spent most of their time either pushing stupid economic theories or engaging in dumb, counterproductive power struggles. If conservatives haven’t become “deranged”, they still certainly haven’t acted very responsibly.


At March 5, 2009 at 9:31 PM , Blogger Beth said...

I have to disagree with you on your assessment here, I see nothing wrong with criticizing the policies of the president, or pointing out the hypocrisy of his asppointments, or reminding him of his campaign promises that he seems to have forgotten about.

At March 6, 2009 at 2:13 PM , Anonymous steve_b said...

When conservative say Obama is a socialist I think they are refering more to the European style socialism which is really more of a social democracy.

From Conservapedia
Social democracy is an ideology of the political Left that emerged from socialism in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Unlike its cousin Communism, which seeks to destroy capitalism by (violent) revolution and replace it with a different social and economic system, social democracy seeks to regulate capitalism and gives the government a role intervening in order to remedy its alleged deficiencies.

I think this is a more fair characterization of the current administrations apparent inclinations. Especially whereas many social democrats continue to have the ultimate objective of achieving full socialism, albeit by peaceful means.

At March 7, 2009 at 7:45 AM , Blogger Daniel Ruwe said...

Beth--I don't think there's anything wrong with criticizing Obama--I do it a lot here myself. But it's important to criticize him for the right things. Pointing out the massive deficits, increased size of government, and the tax problems of his appointees is good. But calling him a Socialist is inaccurate, as Steve points out, he's more a Social Democrat. Basically, conservatives should pick their angles of attack.

At March 7, 2009 at 9:11 AM , Blogger Beth said...

But the Obama policies at this time in history are the absolute worst policies to help the economic situation no matter what you call it.

At March 7, 2009 at 12:05 PM , Blogger BB-Idaho said...

Ear marks appears to be an angle of attack..except 6 of the top 10
most expensive earmarks are by
GOP legislators. The problem with tax cuts is that we had them for 8 years now and, in the minds of many, they either did not help, or excarbated economic problems. We haven't seen the basic problem..that of a shrinking mfg base & concurrent hemorrhaging to
overseas sources (expanding balance of trade deficit) addressed by anyone....

At March 7, 2009 at 6:05 PM , Blogger Beth said...

BB, how can tax cuts in the USA and overseas jobs be the cause of this global economic situation?

At March 7, 2009 at 7:16 PM , Blogger BB-Idaho said...

Hi Beth, tax cuts without corresponding cuts to balance revenue lead to deficits. Huge deficits. Unprecedented deficits.
Shoddy major financial transactions such as triple CDos
create value of artificiality to the point of ludicrous. World banking gets sucked into the US system, being by far the largest in the world. Neither business nor gov't invested in basic mfg, rather skimmed the profits on cheap labor imports. While our
mgf sector (the sole sector that creates real value) shrank from 32% GDP to 11%, the Chinese experienced the inverse; their mfg
base went from 10% to 30%. During this process we experience a mounting decrease in our balance of trade. So, deficits, job loss,
trade balance and bubble reach critical mass. Unsustainable, in short order approximately $5 trillion vaporizes from the market, home equity and investment.
Vaporizes. If you study marginal tax rates from 1900, you will be surprised to see that when they have been lowered significantly,
recession follows. Since I am hardly an economist, that is just
an opinion of course..but we will
fair poorly with an economy based on 10% real goods mfg (wealth creation) and a 40% financial services sector (moving $$ around, creating not a heck of a lot) As to the rest of the world, see Ireland for example..they were building a robust mfg economy, importing labor and doing well.
Such is globalization, that though they received the benefit of, for example, many former US pharmeceutical operations, they suffered from a loss of US customers when we watched $trillions evaporate and decided to withhold investment. Ireland currently is suffering 10% unemployment. Perhaps we can agree the world economy is an intricate mess? BTW, IMO, it seems simpler to avoid blaming politics or administrations when seeking economic root cause.

At March 9, 2009 at 8:09 AM , Blogger Napqueen said...

That's one of the reasons I support a luxury tax. If you can afford to buy a $200,000.00 yacht there's no reason you shouldn't have to pay a higher percentage of taxes than the guy who can only afford a flat bottom boat. I would like to see a tax on automobiles that reflect the MPG and total cost of that automobile. The higher the MPG and lower the total cost of the automobile the lower the tax.
It is here in America, where we have the myth of the go-it-alone individual that sees no need for taxes because they don’t see they get anything for them. They still have to pay for health care, or their employer does. The Republicans have convinced them to seek their own alternatives to what they tell them is our “substandard” educational system. They see the infrastructure crumbling all around them. And of course they are brainwashed into still believing – after decades of de-funding the social welfare system, that the only people they see getting benefits are cheats they are taught to resent. When the real welfare cheats are in the corporatocracy. So while Americans are bitching to their elected “representatives” about how much they pay in taxes, Industry” and its minions among those “representatives” direct that money into the coffers of the rich and programs that benefit the business community only. So we see little evidence of and no value in the taxes we pay

At March 9, 2009 at 1:35 PM , Blogger Z-man said...

The most socialist thing Obama has said was what he told Joe the Plumber but for me what most bothers is he seems to see government as the answer to every thing and isn't that your basic definition of a liberal anyway? Now some biographers peg Hillary as the true socialist at least going back to her college days...dunno but even though I don't like some of Ayn Rand's other views and Beth knows the ones I mean Atlas ain't a bad piece of work, I mean it wouldn't be a household name if it didn't have some merit.

At March 10, 2009 at 10:17 AM , Blogger Beth said...

BB, I have heard a few economist lately who agree that a depression is inevitable every 60 - 80 years, and I have also heard some say that the government involvement trying to "help" in the Great Depression made the depression "Great".

So, I think as conservatives our message should be constructive and point out these lessons from the past so we can get through the depression quicker.

At March 10, 2009 at 8:33 PM , Blogger Daniel Ruwe said...

I think that Beth is right about government aid helping make the Great Depression "great." No one really understands fully the Depression, but many, many writers think that FDR's policies made the Depression worse. Certainly, they weren't very effective at getting us out of it.

At March 11, 2009 at 8:54 AM , Blogger Sandy said...

Any time the government is called in to solve any problem, they will grab the opportunity to take the initiative of power. In the Constitution it clearly states that the people have the freedoms to handle their own actions and keep the government out of the equation.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a clue how to solve our legal or cultural problems at this time and will go whining to the government to set their standards.

Candidates can promise anything to get elected and at this time in America, the citizens are unable to make their decisions and demand that the government set their social laws.

I would bet that I am the senior member of this blog and was born just after the depression. None of us wanted the government to take over our lives and tell us what to ingest, inhale, inject or eat. There seems to be a lack of knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. We invite the local and federal governments to guide us from the crib to the grave. It was a different world without television and we thrived in independent responsibilities. I came from a world of reading, writing and taking my place in the community.

After WW2, I saw shocking examples of government growth that developed a massive Industrial Weapons complex ignoring the education of the masses. I was lucky enough to have met and read Ayn Rand's essays and books. I read her warnings of giving up our individual freedoms for a false security under a corrupt government.

At March 11, 2009 at 9:20 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

Great premise Napqueen. Now, why don't you adopt it. How about this, the next time you go to the grocery store and, in the enent the person in front of you pulls out an EBT card to pay for their groceries, why don't you tell the cashier to add $2 each to your loaf of bread, your dozen eggs, your gallon of milk et al.

Clearly, not having an EBT card yourself, you can afford to do so.

At March 11, 2009 at 11:48 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

"I was lucky enough to have met and read Ayn Rand's essays and books. I read her warnings of giving up our individual freedoms for a false security under a corrupt government."

And they were, without question, as inspiring and truth telling then as they are today.

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