Wednesday, July 21, 2010

God help the country if it follows Arizona's lead

In regard to Ken Silverstein’s article for Harper’s Magazine, it is clear that if the future of the country is the Tea Party version of the Arizona GOP, then the country is in deep, deep trouble. The media has focused almost exclusively on the immigration issue in Arizona, and this is all that the Republicans could possibly hope for. Due in large part to an almost insane use of tax-cuts as a political prop for decades, Arizona’s state finances is in virtual ruin, so much so that state legislators have taken to cutting billions of dollars from social programs (mainly health care and education), selling off government buildings and illegally raiding voter-approved funding for education and other projects. Arizona has become a stew pot of crackpot notions mostly of the social variety; guns, God, anti-immigrant and anti-government propaganda form the core of a jumble of leftovers from every extreme-right idea that fell off the table of sensible discourse, now washed-off and deemed still edible. The right in Arizona has used illegal immigration as a front to mask a close examination of the state’s much more serious problems, which are not only enormous, but seemingly insoluble so long as the far-right—prodded and pushed to further extremes by the Tea Party Movement—holds sway. Illegal immigration has nothing to do with the state’s primary “growth” industry—an influx of retirees who generated a brief increase in construction and retail projects (in which illegal immigrants helped fill a labor shortage, at a time when most Arizonans who were not consumed with racism gave a wink and a nod at), filling in the gaps of the steadily shrinking mining and aerospace industries. Despite all the tax-cutting, Arizona attracted few significant businesses to relocate there.

The fact is, Arizona is proof that indiscriminate tax-cutting not only does not promote a stable economy, but can crush a state when the time comes that it needs a stable government ready to fill-in the void. That is why the Obama administration needs to oppose the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s pressure to renew tax-cuts for the wealthy; rather it needs to seek ways to promote the spending power of the working consumer while at the very least re-imposing the pre-Bush taxes on the wealthiest Americans who have done nothing useful with all that extra money. If anyone needs proof that this will be an overall positive for the economy, one need look no further than Bill Clinton’s use of the earned income tax credit, that helped promote consumer spending and created 22 million new jobs, while Bush’s massive tax-cuts for the wealthiest created only 2 million jobs—and may have been the most important factor in the fashioning the economic crisis we are in now in.

The question is why are so many Americans are blind to the danger of the Tea Party Movement’s pushing the political dynamic to the extreme right, and the clear danger it engenders. It doesn’t help that the movement is the darling of Fox News, whose ratings are more than CNN and MSNBC’s combined (or that CNN rarely scratches below the surface of the movement’s flaws). It doesn’t help that the media gives credibility to the movement’s one-line gags about taxes, bail-outs, gun rights and deficits while failing to push Tea Party leaders to provide details of a “program” to deal with economic problems. Cutting taxes seems to be the movement’s answer to every problem, which makes them indistinguishable from most Republicans generally; using illegal immigrants as convenient scapegoats is their back-up “program.” What is not understood is that the business community had every opportunity to take advantage of the Bush administration’s laissez-faire and tax-cutting policies to create a sustainable economy, and it failed miserably. Instead of creating new industries, Corporate America chose to pocket its profits and move it overseas, or use it in financial gambling casinos; it didn’t use that money to invest in America. It is as simple as that. Corporate America seems to fail to comprehend that a sound capitalist economy is reliant first and foremost on a working class that has the money to spend on the products produced. Reaganomics’ “trickle down” hokum is to blame for much of this failure to face reality, and the enslavement to this philosophy is such that the business community is incapable of recognizing its destructive power, or reversing the trend.

Since Corporate American has failed the country, government must step in; whether or not the financial reform bill that Obama signed into law will do what it promises is an open question, but it is a step in the "right direction" to curb business' abuse of its freedoms. Meanwhile, the media (such as fence-sitter CNN) needs to address the danger that extreme-right politics, as exemplified by the Tea Party Movement’s influence in Arizona, poses to the country as a whole. Following through on anti-government propaganda only promises to handcuff the country in the time of its direst need.

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