Trouble in Paradise

The Republicans are fighting over who represents the ‘heart and soul’ of the GOP (news to me it had either). Is this a great philosophical debate about where to draw the line between fiscal responsibility and social responsibility? Or about how far the mixing of church and state should be allowed to go in a democracy founded on their separation? Or how much power the Federal govt should have to invade individual privacy in the name of security?

Nah. It’s about–what else?–money. Specifically, it’s about whether they should destroy the govt by cutting taxes for the rich so there’s no money to pay for programs, or being ‘fiscally responsible’ and just cutting the programs themselves.

A small but powerful faction of Senate Republicans is insisting that the fiscal 2005 budget include rules that require any future tax cuts to be offset so their effect on the deficit would be neutralized; that would mean either cutting spending or raising taxes in other areas. The proposal would strike at the core of President Bush’s domestic agenda if he is reelected by making it much more difficult to cut taxes.But House Republican leaders have vehemently opposed the pay-as-you-go requirement as an affront to their party’s credo that, when it comes to taxes, the lower the better. They have kept the requirement out of the budget resolution passed by the House — and have openly questioned the loyalty of Republicans who disagree.

“It is a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party: Is it a party about deficit reduction or a party about tax cuts?” said Stanley Collender, a budget expert at Financial Dynamics, a business communications firm in Washington.

To cut taxes is to cut the govt’s income, which means that the pressure will be on to cut ‘unnecessary spending’, and we know what they mean by that; they’ve demonstrated it time and again since Reagan. It means cutting or eliminating any program that isn’t corporate welfare and borrowing for the military expenditures, putting the burden of payment on the backs of the children and grandchildren–and great-grandchildren–of the middle class, assuming there is a middle class by the time they get through with it.

To cut the deficit is to cut the amount of money the govt borrows by cutting the programs it pays for, and we know where they’ll look for their cuts: any program unrelated to corporate welfare will be on the chopping block: environmental protection, consumer protection, poverty programs, education, and the rest of the ‘liberal agenda’.

Either way, guess which group gets it in the neck? The Publicans aren’t arguing over the role of the Federal govt but over which way to destroy it. No matter who wins, if the GOP remains in control of all three branches you can kiss the FDA, OSHA, NMH, Medicare, Medicaid, the EPA, HHS, HEW, HeadStart, and even Social Security ‘Good-Bye’. There will only be money for programs supported by corporate interests, prisons, and the military–and the latter two will be cut to the bone, no frivolous frills like health care and decent food for inmates, or body armor and decent boots for soldiers.

I admit, it’s pleasant to watch the Republicans who are making the country a hell for everybody who makes less than a million $$ a year and are threatening to turn the US into Mexico or Bangladesh, spitting and clawing at each other in public.

An uncharacteristically blunt Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) recently complained about how House Republicans were “bowing and scraping” to the Senate to get the budget passed, and he questioned McCain’s credentials as a Republican.Grover Norquist, a leading tax-cut advocate and president of Americans for Tax Reform, sees the Senate push to make it harder to cut taxes as the last hurrah of a small faction of moderate Republicans who are a dying breed in the GOP. “This is a problem that electing two more Republican senators will fix,” Norquist said.

It does have a certain…entertainment value. But our enjoyment has to be limited when we understand that they’re like two dogs fighting over who gets to disembowel the chickens–and we’re the chickens.

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