Monday, July 18, 2011

Hitting the Pavement

There are times when arguments that sound good in theory are horrible when actually carried into practice. Like the Republican insistence that the Federal debt limit should not be raised without cutting the deficit. Sure, it sounds reasonable. The government is spending more than it’s bringing in already and it now wants to be able to borrow more. This, therefore, would appear to be a good time to examine spending priorities and to develop strategies both to contain future expenditures and to pay down the existing debt. Except the Republicans want to somehow magically pay down this debt without actually… uh... paying down the debt. They want to cut spending but not raise taxes. But without raising taxes, how can the debt be paid off?
Let me put it in personal terms. If my credit card debt were out of control, it wouldn’t be enough to simply say I’ll fix the problem by living on Ramen noodles and tap water because they’re cheaper. I would also have to – you know – actually make payments on the debt I’ve already racked up. If I fail to do that, any statement on my part that I really, really, really want to eliminate my credit card debt would be disingenuous. Munching Ramen, while symbolic in an ashes-and-sackcloth sort of way, does nothing to actually reduce my existing debt. The only way to do that would be to make the move of setting aside a larger share of my income and applying it toward paying it down. And while this would be painful for awhile, doing so would be beneficial in the long run. Since once I’m free from debt, I could actually start saving money for cool things I really want to do or buy.
But the Republicans don’t seem to get that. These same people who appear so eager to slash medical and Social Security benefits for the poor and working classes somehow find tax loopholes for gazillionaire oil companies, owners of corporate jets and racehorses sacrosanct. I may not be the brightest bulb on the marquee when it comes to figuring out politics, but when it comes to figuring out whose side these people are on, I sure as hell know it isn’t mine.
When pondering the Republican position on the debt ceiling, I couldn’t help but think of a recent incident in upstate New York. It seems there was a group of motorcyclists who didn’t like the state law requiring them to wear helmets while riding. They felt it was an infringement on their personal freedom. So they had a rally in which they defiantly rode their cycles without helmets. While on this protest ride, one of the cyclists lost control, flew over his handlebars and smashed his head on the pavement with fatal results. Had he been wearing a helmet, authorities stated, he likely would have survived.
Lofty-sounding pronouncements in favor of individual rights and liberties do little to alter the fact that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is a profoundly stupid thing to do. And that, to me, is the perfect analogy to the entire Republican/tea party platform: nice-sounding arguments which, if carried out, would lead to disastrous results.
The Republican willingness to let the US Government default on its loans rather than have the rich pay their fair share of taxes shows me that they’re not serious about deficit reduction. They’re only serious about protecting the rich. They like feeling the wind flow through their hair as they ride. It’s the feeling of freedom.
And if the poor and working classes get their heads splattered on the pavement as a consequence, they can console themselves knowing they were martyrs in the cause of liberty.

1 comment:

  1. Good analysis, John, but you're forgetting one thing: The magic of the free market. If corporations are free to profit as much as they want, eventually that profit will trickle down to the rest of us. Much like beer trickling down a drunk person's leg (after being digested and excreted from his penis, of course).

    Taxing corporations is like damming the river before it starts to flow. It's bad for everyone. Especially for fish, which are sort of like consumers. So I'm making a metaphor I guess, wrapped in a simile, converted into an analogy.

    I think you get my point. Magic will save us all. Whether it's the love of Jesus Christ or the Magical Hand of the Free Market.