Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It’s Not About the Money

When you see something like the budget that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) proposed with all its cuts to programs that have become ingrained in the fabric of American life such as Medicare, and then listen to the other things the Republicans want to cut such as public broadcasting or regulations on pollution, it’s obvious that cutting spending is just an excuse. Like the teabaggers say, they really do want to take the country back: back in time.

They want to go back to the 1950’s, or better yet, to the 1920’s or even the 19th Century when there were no safety nets for the poor or disabled, when children worked in the textile mills, when minorities were very much in the minority in terms of everything, and everyone was a lot happier as long as you were rich, white, and healthy. If you weren’t, well, that was God’s will, and if the life expectancy was in the mid-50’s and people died from the common cold and 12 hours a day six days a week meant that the factory worker had little time for foolishness and impure thoughts such as striking for a fair wage and shorter working hours, that was the American way.

As Rachel Maddow noted last night, Mr. Ryan said about his proposal, “This isn’t a budget, this is a cause.” And he’s right. His budget proposal perfectly outlines the GOP philosophy of every white man for himself and the rest of you will have to just suck it up and make it on your own, especially if you’re older and not feeling too well.

The Republicans know they’ve lost the battle on such things as multiculturalism, gay rights, women’s rights and reproductive choice. They can’t make the arguments any more on philosophical grounds because they sound like they’re racist, homophobic, misogynistic bigots, so they resort to the one thing they know gets to everyone: money. Sure, we’d love to provide healthcare to all people at an affordable cost but it costs money. Sure, we’d love to turn the public schools into palaces and pay teachers what they’re really worth, but we’re broke. And yes, we’d love to make sure that all the police and firefighters have a say in their negotiations over their wages, but we just can’t afford it. It’s their perfect excuse, and it works, at least until you remember that it was the Republicans who got us into this mess in the first place… just as they did in the 1920’s when everything was hunky-dory right up to the Crash in 1929.

If Mr. Ryan had made such a budget proposal five years ago, at the height of the Bush administration’s two wars that were off the books and the tax cuts that helped get us into the deficit we’re in now, he would have been shown the door not by just the Democrats, but by the Republicans as well. His timing would have been way off; the only time the Republicans care about a budget deficit or too much spending is when a Democrat is in the White House. But now they see this as the opportunity to take us back to the good old days on the excuse that we just can’t afford to be the America we’ve become.

If it was merely a matter of budget deficits and revenue, this discussion would have been over long ago. But it’s really about going back to the days when the white heterosexual Protestant men were in charge; minorities knew their place, children were seen and not heard (but contributed to the work force), women didn’t vote, there was no income tax, and Republicans didn’t govern; they ruled. That’s what this is all about.