Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Go shopping, or Party's over? 

Adding to my claim that the Bush policy to increase home ownership contributed to this crisis, I'll reference a wider observation on how other Bush policies got us to where we are now economically. Andrew J. Bacevich writes.

From the very outset [of Bush's"War on Terror], the president described the "war on terror" as a vast undertaking of paramount importance. But he simultaneously urged Americans to carry on as if there were no war. "Get down to Disney World in Florida," he urged just over two weeks after 9/11. "Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed." Bush certainly wanted citizens to support his war -- he just wasn't going to require them actually to do anything. The support he sought was not active but passive. It entailed not popular engagement but popular deference.

...[The Bush Administration] sought no additional revenue to cover the costs of waging a protracted conflict. It left the nation's economic priorities unchanged. Instead of sacrifices, it offered tax cuts. So as the American soldier fought, the American consumer binged, encouraged by American banks offering easy credit.

... Bush seems to have calculated -- cynically but correctly -- that prolonging the credit-fueled consumer binge could help keep complaints about his performance as commander in chief from becoming more than a nuisance. Members of Congress calculated -- again correctly -- that their constituents were looking to Capitol Hill for largesse, not lessons in austerity. In this sense, recklessness on Main Street, on Wall Street and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue proved mutually reinforcing.

The laissez-faire economy can do no wrong ideology which has engulfed the Republican Party for three decades has quite possibly lead our country on a road to ruin --- and it seems for now the Party itself. For decades, fueled by anti-government and anti-regulation big money sponsors, conservatives have groomed their new leaders from every avenue - from campus organizations to local politicians' campaigns to K Street lobbyists into embracing the ideology of laissez-faire economics.

The current economic crisis seems to have undone in just a few weeks the decades-long effort by GOP patrons to turn our nation's economy into an naked aristocracy with big business at the helm. Party's over?

To unlock the mystery of the earlier [Wall Street bailout] bill's stunning rejection, consider two numbers: 82 and 0. The first is the percentage of retiring Republican representatives who voted for the bill. The second is the percentage of Republican freshmen who did.

... The new guard is fiercely stubborn, gutsily insubordinate, drama-loving and -- compared with the 82-percent-for-compromise old guard -- unadulteratedly ideological. And it could take the GOP off an even higher cliff than the one the party lurched off two years ago.

The 2007 presidential primary promised to provide a swift survival-of-the-fittest test for the competing new visions. When Sen. John McCain prevailed, it seemed that the winning philosophy was one that, in the main, dumped Republican orthodoxy in favor of solutions-oriented practicality. (In case you've been living in a spider hole this year and haven't heard, McCain likes calling himself a maverick, a doer, a wooer of independents, a post-partisan.)

But McCain's triumph actually hid the fact that, at the lower levels of the party, the emerging center of gravity is more conservative, not less. In the House, such young members as Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), Mike Pence (Ind.) and their ideologically purist soulmates on the Republican Study Committee (which absorbed most of the GOP freshmen) began to influence the party's agenda from the right, clamoring to make pork-busting the GOP's focus, demanding legislation to lower taxes and even mounting a prank revolt on a war-funding bill in May, just to flex their muscles. "The American people thought Republicans weren't acting like Republicans," Hensarling explained.

Yes, I agreed with House Republicans on their "NO" vote, but upon completely different reasoning. And yes, the blogosphere is rife with bloggers who worship big business as the new messiah, but then again somewhere around a quarter of Americans still approve of Bush's job performance.

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