Foreign Policy

Republican Party Today

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My father must be turning in his grave.

In the time of my father and at the time I like him called myself a Republican; the party represented values that seemed to make sense to anyone knowing the limits of government but at the same time seeing the job of government with non ideological pragmatism. Defense was important, having learned the lessons of two World Wars. Lower taxes were part of the equation but not to the point of becoming a fixed issue where the idea that raising taxes was "off the table" as one means for a government to deal with problems or new challenges.

The Republican Party of today is not the party neither I nor my father knew. It has to be said that at some point along the way the party would appear to have been hijacked by a one dimensional idea that itself triggered associations and positions that were adopted to support that one dimensional idea. Identifying that idea explains how the Republican Party ' a party traditionally of pragmatism could now be "emotionally" against such ideas as global warming, abortion rights, gay rights, Medicare, high speed rail, a stimulus package in a dire economic recession, the National Endowment for the Arts, Public Broadcasting, gun control, environmental protection, to name a few while at the same time espousing greater intrusion of Christian "values" into the political system, use of torture and rendition, and other seemingly contradictory ideals. Indeed ' if one would imagine all the dos and don'ts of today's Republican Party fed into a computer ' the answer the computer would spit out would have to be "information does not compute" as many tenants are completely contradictory and would not seem to fit together in a cohesive party platform.

However, if you start at the very basic idea at the core of the Republican mantra today ' low taxes ' and understand that this position more than any other helps the rich and major corporate interests more than it helps anyone else one realizes that a very real political problem exists for a party that has this as the core mantra. Simply put: there are vastly more less well off than the small percentage of those earning over $250,000 per year. So how can such a party ever win an election? How can a party that is so blatantly out for the interests of the small wealthy minority ever hope to gain voting power beyond pure financial power?

It can be done by identifying and adopting principles that are not affected by financial self interest alone but issues that are emotional and guided by belief far more than logic. Religious groups would therefore be first on the list. Let's face it, faith can be encouraged beyond any facts or empirical evidence to the contrary. Going down the list of "Republican values" one can clearly see that Republican alliance with religious driven ideals and groups has given them a voting power that would otherwise not be there for them if they only relied on those who voted for them out of pure financial self interest. This most clearly explains how such contrary ideals could co-exist within one party.

Even so it is a strange marriage. Against social programs to help the disadvantaged; for torture (or at least "enhanced interrogation methods"); for supporting the War, against "turning the other cheek", for guns, against abortion, for the death penalty, all while espousing belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile Truth be known, if Jesus were alive today his doctrine would have more in common with Communism than with Capitalism. Indeed he would be totally against Capitalism as indicated in a fundamental Christian commandment against usury (without which banks would not operate). "The meek will inherit the earth" ' not if the Republicans can help it! That is now clearly reserved for the rich. We have heard the term Rino to mean "Republican in name only" How about Cino ' Christian in name only.

Religious support may not be enough to win elections so there are other ideals and principles that would have to be adopted to give a party of the rich a winnable chance at elections. Patriotism, early values found in the Constitution, the idea of limited government give additional resources to potentially draw from. Given that the rich don't have to worry about the state of public schools (their kids go to private schools), health care (they can afford insurance) and numerous other services provided by Government, elimination of these services is not an issue the rich would need to worry about. Strong defense helps the rich AND the less well off so of course the rich support defense spending as legitimate government expenditure. Police, fire, well yes those are need by all but not much else. So if one could sell small Government and even states rights, as the real American way then patriotism could be added to the support mechanism to sell the party's single minded low taxes mantra and win at the ballot box even if such policies were against the self interest of the majority of the public. After all the strategy has to be to get the majority on board with supporting policies that benefit a minority. A neat trick if you can pull it off.

So if one was completely cynical the name of the game would be eliminate any cost of Government that does not directly benefit the rich so the mantra would obviously be "smaller Government" hence less Government spending and less need for taxes. Sell Government as bad, wasteful, costly, intrusive, killing "freedom" ' whatever it takes to reduce the need for taxes to finance Government. Needless to say, the idea of deficit spending would be a complete no no so a Government deficit would need to be front and center as a big evil. If you are trying to cut taxes and keep them low you can't allow the Government to spend beyond the tax income because one day that could necessitate the need to raise taxes as the only way out of that financial situation. Wow, cynical or not, that's exactly what we hear being sold to us daily from the Republicans right now!

Regulation would also become an obvious target as it could interfere with profits and make it harder to make the huge salaries some at the top enjoy. The fact that almost all regulations came about not out of some "socialist" ideal but as a result of disasters, and learning from mistakes gets lost in the selling of that mantra. The disaster in Haiti was a great example of no government regulation in building codes while Chile with an even bigger quake a good example of how Government regulations prevented huge loss of life and destruction. Cars are safer now, the workplace is safer now, food is safer now, advertising more truthful, air is better, water cleaner, houses safer, and monopolies have not killed free enterprise (though that is under attack admittedly) the list goes on. But, yes this makes things more expensive. A safer more fuel efficient car is more costly to make than one that is not safe and guzzles fuel. A safer house with proper foundations and earthquake withstanding construction is more expensive in the short run but come the earthquake is an investment well worth the extra expense. The unfortunate reality is left to their own devices humans will normally choose short term gains to long term benefits so that is where Government regulation comes in ' to force long term thinking. The point is we learned things from the Great Depression, from the San Francisco "fire", Three Mile Island, Cigarette smoke, Thalidimide, car crashes ("Unsafe At Any Speed"), September 11, - a host of everyday events and put restrictions in place to prevent such dangers from happening again. That is 99% of what Government regulation is. How can we be against things learned from experience that are created to protect us? So one cannot glibly state that regulation is bad or we are over regulated without being specific. Yet it has become a regular statement in Republican lexicon that "regulation is bad". Some regulations may not be needed or over-reaching but most are entirely necessary and we are the safer and better off for their existence.

One has to admire the ability of the Republicans to have sold their doctrine, contradictory as it may be to common sense. Especially admirable is how they have managed to sell the deficit as an evil we will saddle our children with and therefore not eliminating it virtually "immoral". At the same time they see no problem with firing teachers, complaining teachers make to much money or get too many benefits thereby making that profession less attractive resulting in the inevitable lowering the of standard of education available those same future generations of our children. Of course the rich kids in the private schools are not affected by that. Meanwhile by giving heed to the Christian fundamentalists who are at odds with science generally this process has also undermined the teaching of science in public schools. Creationism, or "intelligent design" is now becoming taught along side with evolution as real science. Surely if we Americans are to have any hope of competing in the future, science will have to be ever more important to our children's education. Can we really afford to allow religious doctrine to supersede scientific investigation and questioning? I think not.

I have to admit I find it fascinating that the Republicans have managed to equate the large deficit with high unemployment to the point that it is now an accepted truism that lower the deficit and employment will magically increase.

The jobs, jobs, jobs slogan is now "the deficit is unsustainable". The fact that the size of the deficit has never in US history been a factor in the level of unemployment, and it certainly is not now is completely obscured. In fact, drastically cutting the deficit in a short period of time will ' and there is absolutely no question about this - increase unemployment. The UK has proved this already. Cutting Government expenditure means cutting jobs so de facto cutting the deficit means higher unemployment.

A favorite talking point of Republican Politics today is that "Government does not create jobs, private industry does". Thinking this through nothing could be further from the truth. The biggest employer in the US, and just about every country in the world, is the Government. So a cut in Government automatically means less jobs, while an expansion of Government automatically means more jobs. That is a fact. It is pure math. One can argue good or bad but not the fact.

Meanwhile what about the private sector?
Has the private sector been focused on creating jobs in the US? Unquestionably, driven by very reasonable need to make products available at the best prices to US consumers and therefore produced at the lowest cost, the private sector has sought out the lowest cost labor ' not much of which exists within the US. Private enterprise, therefore, NOT Government has been the driver of exporting jobs overseas. What is to prevent lower taxes in the US and hence more profits to the companies selling products in the US from further hiring foreign sources of labor? I would argue nothing. Therefore lowering taxes thereby increasing profits to a company that has already discovered the advantage of hiring foreign labor will have zero affect on creating more jobs in the US though it will very likely it will lead to more jobs being created overseas.

It was amusing to hear Donald Trump quite correctly identify the fact that the Chinese labor market vs the US labor market is not an even playing field and so unfair to American labor BUT offer as a solution slapping a duty on Chinese goods. The inference he made was that it was the Chinese who would suffer from this as it would be the Chinese who would pay the duty somehow. No, it would be the American consumer that would pay so that a Chinese T-shirt that heretofore cost $8 at Wal-Mart would now cost say $12 (just like when the price of a barrel of oil goes up- we pay more at the pump). Meanwhile the Chinese could build further efficiencies and still keep their prices lower than we could make in the US. I can argue that slapping a duty on Chinese goods would definitely make a difference and could in some, perhaps many cases make manufacturing in the US more affordable BUT and this is the BUT Trump did not mention, this would also mean higher prices on these goods in the US. In affect it would be like raising taxes on goods we currently get at low prices.

This brings us to the essence of the US employment problem. It is not the deficit, it is not the policies of the Obama Administration, it is not the stimulus, it is the simple fact that the cost of labor in the US is too high in relation to labor available elsewhere. Shipping costs are so low and duty into the US so low that manufacturing in Pakistan does not add much to the cost of goods. In almost all industries the single highest cost on any balance sheet is the cost of labor so that will ALWAYS dominate any effort to make anything at the lowest possible price. Lower the cost of US labor dramatically and that would inevitably dramatically decrease unemployment. There is NO other way to decrease unemployment unless there are things American workers can do that others cannot and these days there appear to be fewer and fewer of those. AND, sorry to say, if we reduce our investment into education those areas will not only end totally but we will find that not only are Americans too expensive to hire, but they are less educated, smart, creative etc etc. If the Republicans were really worried about what mess we will leave our children then cutting education should be last on the list. The fact that they apparently place more concern with the deficit than with education gives a very clear example of the underlying principles driving them and its not concern for all our citizen's future generations but only those of the rich.

There is another unfortunate truth that we face as a nation that there would be huge difficulty in changing AND it is a truth that gives great advantage to the Chinese. We are set up to think short term gain NOT long term benefit. For instance 99% the argument against tough environmental controls to prevent long term damage is that such regulations will hurt jobs TODAY. To help make this argument acceptable the very idea of global warming is questioned even though it is obviously happening. Having a job today appears more important than breathing tomorrow.

In the world of industry and commerce the game is quarterly reports and year end bonuses. Thinking long term 5 years down the line is a luxury that cannot be considered when it is share value tomorrow that is of concern. If you don't reward shareholders today you may not have a job tomorrow. Meanwhile the Chinese can think 5 years ahead with no problem.

Likewise in the world of politics our politicians have to think in terms of the next election cycle which gets shorter and shorter each decade. No sooner does a new Congressman get elected than he/she has to think about the next election two years away so altering ones thinking as one learns new aspects of an issue opens one up to critique and possible loss of the next election. There is no time to settle into the job, learn the facts and try to do the best one can. As a consequence and given the adversarial nature of our current politics neither party can afford to be compromising and take a long term view of what is good for the country as a whole. It's all about the election next year. Again, the Chinese don't have this to worry about.

In the world of the press, the days when the news was a service to the public are long gone, it's about 24/7 news with sound bites repeated every 15 minutes and the news is a profit center so to make money you go for the things that will attract an audience more than things that are important to the nation. In such a world the Truth will always take a back seat to controversy. A well thought out argument that can see two sides to an issue will always come across as more boring than a conspiracy theory or simplistic doctrinaire "value" forcefully presented. Glen Beck and the Fox people have proved that beyond doubt.

Finally I would like to encourage the view that the deficit is less of a danger than is being sold to us, in fact in some ways it can be of use. For instance a deficit puts pressure on the Dollar downwards. Overall that is a good thing ' contrary to what we hear from Republicans. I would like to see the Dollar drop in value even though it means higher gas prices and higher cost of imported goods. This is because ANYTHING that makes US labor more affordable ' which a lower Dollar would accomplish 'will help jobs and it is jobs we need now more than a high value Dollar. Also if gas prices go up then it will make renewable energy alternatives more attractive and affordable giving impetuous to that industry with the long term benefits we know that will bring and the fact that one day oil will run out so the sooner we come to grips with that the better. As a producer of American entertainment shows I saw foreign demand for my enterprise increase in direct relation to the Dollar going down. As the Dollar sunk my shows became more attractive to foreign buyers paying in Euros or Yen. In other words a low Dollar drives US exports in talent and products, BECAUSE it accomplishes what we can not otherwise do easily ' namely lower the cost of US labor. In the end ' though you hear neither party voice this directly ' our economic ills rest entirely on the cost of our labor. Want to decrease unemployment then decrease the cost of labor. It's that simple. All this nonsense about the deficit, size of Government is completely beside the point. In fact if you really wanted to focus on jobs ' as the ultimate objective in the short term ' the LAST thing one would be talking about is cutting the deficit and keeping taxes lower. In fact you would do what Roosevelt did in the Great Depression and then what World War II in effect did by bringing thousands into the armed forces- both of which led to the end of the Great Depression ' hire more into Government. Expand Government and you automatically and immediately create more jobs and believe me there are many services and things we need as a country that could well use more help ' repair of infrastructure, more agents at immigration to make tourism to the US attractive and easy and generate more income to all sorts of our businesses, more border patrols to stop illegal immigration, hire more teachers and pay better so we regain pre-eminence in education. whatever.

All in all this is the pragmatism that I once thought the Republican party stood for. Not big government for the sake of it but government where it is needed when it is needed ' and certainly not stuck with ideas "off the table". Not fear of government, but pride in the fact that we have made a great idea of government work for so long. Not taking the Rush Limbaugh line of "I want the President to fail" just because it is not exactly as he would do it. That is not what this country is all about. I don't want the Republicans to be the party that tells us constantly that government is bad, that government is the problem. I say it is not bad ' it is what makes our country great. To say it is bad is therefore by definition anti American. The mantra should not be government is bad but how do we make it better. When I vote I would rather vote for the party that talks of positive Government rather than negative. These days all I hear from the Republicans is negative. Take our country back? From who? The people that the American people voted for? There is an "us" and "them"? My father must be turning in his grave.

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Updated Jan 2, 2019 12:29 PM EST | More details


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