Monday, December 26, 2011

The GOP's Assault on the Social Safety Net

I have noted before that the current Republican Party seems to want nothing less than to restore the so-called "Gilded Age" of the robber barons when the wealthy knew few limits on excess and everyone else struggled to get by. It was a time of few safety regulations and a time where the unfortunate often had nowhere to turn for help and support. Today, we are seeing Newt Gingrich attack child labor laws and a political party that obstructs every tax increase against the very wealthy yet resists any breaks for the already struggling and shrinking middle class. Adding to the utter hypocrisy of it all, the GOP claims to be the party of "family values" and most of its demagogic leaders wear Christianity on their sleeves - even as they totally disregard the Gospel message. In this setting, Obama is argued by some to be the true conservative seeking to maintain social stability. Here are highlights from a Washington Post column that contrasts the competing visions for America:

At a moment when the nation wonders whether politicians can agree on anything, here is something that unites the Republican presidential candidates — and all of them with President Obama: Everyone agrees that the 2012 election will be a turning point involving one of the most momentous choices in U.S. history.

Obama could not agree more. “This is not just another political debate,” the president said in his theme-setting speech in Osawatomie, Kan., earlier this month. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.

[T]he Republican Party is taking a run at overturning the consensus that has governed U.S. political life since the Progressive era.

Obama is defending a tradition that sees government as an essential actor in the nation’s economy, a guarantor of fair rules of competition, a countervailing force against excessive private power, a check on the inequalities that capitalism can produce, and an instrument that can open opportunity for those born without great advantages.

The GOP is engaged in a wholesale effort to redefine the government help that Americans take for granted as an effort to create a radically new, statist society. . . . . . Republicans are increasingly inclined to argue that any redistribution (and Social Security, Medicare, student loans, veterans benefits and food stamps are all redistributive) is but a step down the road to some radically egalitarian dystopia.

Obama will thus be the conservative in 2012, in the truest sense of that word. He is the candidate defending the modestly redistributive and regulatory government the country has relied on since the New Deal, and that neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush dismantled. The rhetoric of the 2012 Republicans suggests they want to go far beyond where Reagan or Bush ever went.

America has already reached a level of income inequality that would make a former banana republic dictator blush. Yet what we are seeing is only the beginning if the demagogues of the GOP get to have their way.

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