Somebody I know has been recommending Juan Cole to me forever. So I finally found time to check him out. And this is the first article of his I stumbled upon:
I take it the American news cycle is dominated by the artificial debate over raising the debt limit. It is a silly season story. The budget was being balanced by Clinton in the late 1990s, and the Republicans were the ones who created long-term structural deficits by slashing taxes on the wealthiest Americans (even Bush argued with Cheney over the second cut), by an unfunded prescription drug give-away to get votes from the medicare crowd, and by two unfunded wars, one of them illegal in international law.
The reason that the Republicans deliberately destroyed the balanced budget and created unprecedented government debt was precisely in hopes that at some point they could use the debt as an excuse to destroy social security, medicare, and myriads of educational and health programs. They represent rich people, and the rich don’t want to be having to bear their fair share of the national burden. What better way to get out of having to pay those pesky taxes than making sure the government doesn’t do anything for anyone but the rich.
So everything unfolding in Washington was planned out in a room in 2001, and is going according to plan.
I like a good conspiracy person as much as the next person, but this one is just too outlandish. A group of people huddled in a room ten years ago and planning everything that would happen ten years from then would make for a bad Hollywood movie. Reality, however, is always a bit more nuanced, complex, and unpredictable.
Also, I don’t think that demonizing the Republicans in this way is useful to the Liberal cause. If they are capable of such brilliant, out-of-this world planning and strategizing, then we really might want these resourceful and organized people leading the country. Of course, the question arises as to why such ultra-intelligent folks allowed themselves to lose the White House in 2008. Maybe that was part of their hidden agenda whose consequences will become evident ten or a hundred years from now.
The reason why the Republicans are anti-tax is much simpler, in my opinion. The voters who handed them the congress last November are anti-tax, so the Republicans are simply following through on that popular sentiment. In my Spanish class that I was teaching right around the time of the 2010 elections, we arrived at the chapter in our textbook that introduced the vocabulary related to politics. I always ask my students to begin approaching the new vocabulary by creating sentences with the new words. From these sentences, I discovered that my students in the American Midwest overwhelmingly believe that taxes are the government’s way of ripping off hard-working folks to feed a huge bureaucracy.
One might not like this fact but the truth is that there are very very many people in this country who are anti-tax and anti-government spending. A huge number of citizens is driven by the hope of becoming extremely rich and buying their own yacht. Whether they will succeed or not, having that possibility is crucial to them. They are more prepared to identify with a millionaire on a personal jet than they are with an unemployed steel worker. Even though their personal circumstances place them much closer to the steel worker, their sympathies still lie with the more positive example of the millionaire. Psychologically, this makes a lot of sense.
I’m sure most of my readers are well-aware of all this. As in immigrant, however, I felt puzzled by this phenomenon for a long time. Only after living in the Midwest and talking to people of all ages and professions did I begin to understand why these hard-working folks seem to vote consistently against their own economic interests. The thing is, they don’t. They are neither stupid nor deluded. They simply vote for the interests of their future selves, the ones who will have managed to make it big eventually.