Ed Stein's commentary:
It’s not even a question that the national economic policies of the last few decades have favored the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. We’ve seen an astonishing increase in income inequality as taxes have become more regressive and the marketplace has been increasingly deregulated. The percentage of the nation’s wealth controlled by a tiny minority has grown exponentially while the income of lower- and middle -class Americans has stagnated.
I’ve wondered for years how so many people have been persuaded to vote again and again against their own economic self-interest. A revealing article by Jane Mayer in the August 30 issue of The New Yorker magazine helps explain it. Over the years billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers have steadily funded operations designed to stoke populist anger against the government and progressive ideas. The Tea Party, far from being a spontaneous populist movement, has been underwritten with tens of millions of dollars and coordinated through a network of organizations with names like Americans for Prosperity, with the singular goal of creating an angry block of disaffected voters who will unwittingly vote for policies that benefit the very wealthy.
Lurking behind the trumped-up fear of a government takeover of our lives is a desire on the part of these rich funders to force government out of the job of regulating how they do business, protecting workplace safety, defending the environment, overseeing the safety of the food supply, and raising their taxes–in other words, doing anything that might reduce their profits. That would also include, by the way, paying for the safety net. How this will be good for the army of middle class Americans they’ve enlisted to fight their battles for them is something I can’t answer, and I suspect the zealous Tea Party devotees can’t either. But letting out the anger, I guess, feels really good, even if the eventual consequences most certainly won’t. But, by then, we might have another Democrat in the White House we can blame for our troubles.
I guess people are persuaded to go against their own interests by constant repetition. After all, the super-wealthy have been making out like bandits, so they've plenty of money to spare for propaganda. And Fox "News" not only gives a million dollars to the Republicans, it also broadcasts their ideology constantly.
In both cases, it's an investment. The more Republicans Fox can make, the more viewers they will have and the more money the station will make. And when the super-wealthy can influence politics, they can make sure their donations more than pay for themselves.
Well, thanks to the Supreme Court, we've got corporations making the same calculation these days. When Best Buy and Target give $100,000-$150,000 to a right-wing candidate, they expect a return favor that will make that amount seem negligible. It's legalized corruption on a grand scale.
Sadly, it's just human nature that a lie told over and over again will be believed. If you have enough money to push pretty much any point of view, you can develop a following. And if you have a "news network" dedicated to pushing that philosophy day in and day out, logic and evidence have little chance to compete.
At the same time, demagogues are most successful when times are bad. Apparently, it doesn't even matter that they were the ones who created the bad times in the first place. Fear, stress, uncertainty - all of these lead people into a mob mentality, easy prey for fanatics. And what has happened to the moderate Republicans, who might well put America first? For the most part, there are no moderate Republicans left. Or if there are, they're frightened of admitting it.
We've been on the wrong path in this country for decades, and that path itself has made it more difficult to change course. I fear for my country. What happens when the Republicans retake Congress in November - or even just the House of Representatives - and completely shut down our government?
We could survive that in the 1990's, when our economy was booming. But now that we're in the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression? After eight years of George W. Bush, we are in no shape to suffer yet another era of disastrous right-wing incompetence. We haven't had nearly enough time to recover from the last time Republicans were in charge (mainly, because they've been so determinedly dragging their feet for the past year and a half).
Paul Krugman makes this point in his New York Times column:
So what will happen if, as expected, Republicans win control of the House? We already know part of the answer: Politico reports that they’re gearing up for a repeat performance of the 1990s, with a “wave of committee investigations” — several of them over supposed scandals that we already know are completely phony. We can expect the G.O.P. to play chicken over the federal budget, too; I’d put even odds on a 1995-type government shutdown sometime over the next couple of years.
It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too. The 1990s were a time of peace and prosperity; this is a time of neither. In particular, we’re still suffering the after-effects of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and we can’t afford to have a federal government paralyzed by an opposition with no interest in helping the president govern. But that’s what we’re likely to get.
If I were President Obama, I’d be doing all I could to head off this prospect, offering some major new initiatives on the economic front in particular, if only to shake up the political dynamic. But my guess is that the president will continue to play it safe, all the way into catastrophe.
I don't understand what Barack Obama is thinking. True, he campaigned on bringing back bipartisanship, but he's bent over backward trying to be reasonable and look where it's gotten him. He's been compromising with people who won't compromise an inch in return. And he's been using calm reason to combat demagogues. I wish that worked, but it doesn't.
I suspect that he wants to get along with everyone. I suspect that he's afraid of being pegged as "an angry black man." That's understandable, I guess, especially considering how racial bigotry has made such a strong resurgence lately. But we need a bold leader in the White House. He's got to see that, doesn't he? We can't expect leadership in Congress, especially when a minority can so completely shut it down.
Maybe Obama is as astonished as I am at how dumb the American people really are. They want the Republicans back in power? Really? What would the right-wing have to do to lose their credibility? Whatever it is, they've certainly done it in the past ten years, don't you think? But not all of us deserve what's going to happen when they gain power again. Heck, I didn't deserve it the first time.
It's almost too late. The polls for the November election are looking worse and worse. I don't know if bold action by President Obama can change that, but we're on a guaranteed course for defeat right now. And after that, it will be too late, too late for us all.