Editor’s Note: The sight of the same big-spending Republicans in Congress who gave George W. Bush everything he asked for during his administration, including record-breaking deficits, suddenly becoming worried about the national debt is just more hypocrisy than I can take on a full stomach. How short do conservatives think our memories are? Reagan started the ball rolling on serious borrow-and-spend policies in the 1980s, but he, at least, bought us some prosperity with all that debt. In contrast, W ran up the national debt and bought us the mother of all recessions ... thanks, George ... nice job, buddy.

 Who Should Benefit From the Economic Meltdown?


Steal a little, and they throw you in jail; steal a lot, and they make you a king.
                      Bob Dylan

When President Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy in 1993, conservatives from Rush Limbaugh to Newt Gingrich guaranteed it would immediately trigger a crippling recession. After two prosperous terms, Clinton bequeathed his successor a $236 billion surplus, and proved his critics wrong.

With a new administration barely under way, conservatives are incensed Barack Obama is keeping his promise to advance the center-left agenda he campaigned on and for which a majority of us voted. Emboldened by the “successes” of the past eight years, GOP economic wizards guarantee Obama’s recovery program can’t work.

If the president’s efforts do somehow mitigate the Bush recession, the worst since the 1930s, do you suppose Rush and Newt will offer Obama the apology they withheld from Clinton when he showed them to be so clueless? If you do, I have a bridge to nowhere in Alaska to sell you.

The most shamelessly hypocritical Republican complaint is that Obama’s budget and stimulus package will increase deficits. The same conservatives who doubled our national debt during the George W. Bush years (claiming deficits don’t matter) have been “born again” as fiscally responsible deficit hawks.

These same conservatives still revere Reaganomics, which turned our cumulative 1980 national debt of $995 billion into $4 trillion when Bush 41 left office. And these “borrow and spenders” count on Americans being too dumb to realize that 80% of our current $10 trillion national debt was accrued by three presidents — all named Reagan and Bush.

The loyal opposition not only knows Obama will fail, these patriots “hope” he will. Ardent conservative Monica Crowley — a sort of Ann Coulter Lite — explained on John McLaughlin’s political talk show that liberals like Obama want to “punish success.” Is it believable that someone from Obama’s background, who rose to be president, hates achievement?

Perhaps they’re apoplectic at the prospect of Obama keeping his promise to give tax relief to 95% of Americans, while allowing W’s tax cuts for the richest 5% to lapse in the out years. This so-called “tax increase” would return rates for the wealthy to the pre-Bush levels, when Bill Clinton practiced what Republicans are now terming “socialism.”

The GOP’s love affair with the upper class blossomed during the Reagan years, yet he was actor enough to seduce working-class “Reagan Democrats,” who didn’t notice his tax cuts were targeted largely at those who didn’t need them. For example, he removed the deduction for interest on car loans and credit cards, and made unemployment benefits taxable, while retaining deductions for second homes, a write-off few blue-collar families can take.

W’s spectacularly failed fiscal program was Reaganomics on steroids, as the rich got richer, the poor and middle class got poorer, and his deficits made the 1980s look like responsible spending. Yet, he was re-elected, and, despite his patrician roots, working-class guys considered him someone with whom they’d like to have a beer. Maybe it was because his public utterances so often sounded like he’d already had a few.

In Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko,” W referred to “my base” as “the haves and the have-mores,” but repeating this quotation always resurrects conservative canards about “class warfare.” For the Right, support for the poor and middle class is socialism and/or class warfare; tax cuts for the wealthy are capitalism and/or patriotism.

These days, the best example of Republicans’ romance with the haves (and disdain for everyone else) is their passionate defense of raises and bonuses for CEOs at companies receiving Federal bailouts. GOP legislators went ballistic when Democrats advocated capping executive compensation at failing corporations.

Obviously, we don’t want the government micromanaging salaries in the private sector, but, when American taxpayers are footing the bill, we’ve become de facto shareholders of bailed-out companies. Shouldn’t we, and our elected representatives, have some veto power over excessive expenses funded with our taxes?

One objection to capping executive pay is that it prevents failed corporations from retaining effective leaders. Ironically, if the executives at these companies were actually earning their bloated salaries, they might not need the handouts that put them on the dole in the first place.

But this is America, where the primary goal of the minority political party is continuing to widen the gap between rich and poor. According to “Business Week,” American CEOs average $13.3 million (compared with $1.5 million in Japan) at the top 100 companies. Here, we reward high-level failure with enormous stock options, pensions, raises and golden parachutes.

This isn’t Japan, where ineffectual leaders metaphorically “fall on their swords” when they fail in their fiduciary responsibilities. American boards at places like AIG punish unproductive executives with junkets to resorts, financed nowadays by the taxpayers.

Here, Republicans/conservatives — having lost any credibility they might once have had as champions of smaller and less-intrusive government, lower spending and fiscal responsibility — have one abiding concern: advancing the interests of the haves and the have mores. Oh, and from those of us who now have even less, thanks for recession, guys.

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