"True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish." (FDR, 1932)
Perhaps the Republicans of that era had no vision, but this current crop had a vision; only it was the wrong vision, a naive vision. A Pollyanna vision of, if we say it's all right then it will be all right. Then, despite the facts and despite all the pain suffered, this administration maintains that it really was all right all along. From "greeted with flowers and candy" to "heck of a job there, Brownie," in their eyes at least, it was always going to be just fine.
This self-deluded philosophy knows no bounds. A sitting Vice President and life-long NRA member shoots his friend in the face in a hunting accident. Then his would-be replacement, an advocate of abstinence only education, campaigns with a pregnant teenage daughter in tow. These farcical nuggets of rhetoric over reality reflect their overall tendency to be wrong at all times and at all levels. Theirs is a vision of "The Music Man." If you think you can play a band instrument, then you can! But then they go the fictional character one better, the best government is the least government, or the best marching band is the band that doesn't march, ever.
This is their vision, that by cutting taxes businesses will pay more in taxes. If that is true why not eliminate taxes altogether and then, theoretically, the government will be rolling in dough! Or their vision of eliminating Social Security because, you see, government programs don't work! George W. Bush and his congressional cronies got their butts spanked when they suggested privatizing the program. Their vision is myopic, tunnel vision, going through life with blinders on. While they become incensed at government waste in the school lunch program, cost overruns on missile defense shields don't bother them a bit.
A kid getting a cheese sandwich he doesn't deserve makes their blood boil, but a missile defense shield that can be fooled by simply painting the enemy missiles white is merely a billion-dollar technological hurdle. That is all right because that is part of their vision, too, of military dominance. During the 1920's and 30's Henry Ford wanted dominance over all his suppliers. He commissioned Fordlandia, a huge, sprawling rubber plantation, to be built in South America. Ford employees, using the same techniques that had made the Model T rule the Earth, began trying to mass-produce rubber. Before it was all over, Ford had lost hundreds of millions of dollars seeking the wrong vision.
Ford sought the wrong vision because while he was trying to browbeat rubber plants and locals alike to his will, a scientist with a test tube spending a tenth of Fordlandia's budget developed synthetic rubber. They are never so wrong as those who believe that they can't ever be wrong. And they never will admit that they're wrong, no matter what, never, never. The laughable John McCain with his campaign of cutting government spending was as ridiculous as calling for Glenda, the good witch of the East, to come and rescue us.
Cutting government spending in the current market would have disastrously increased the economic slowdown. Even Richard Nixon, when facing his own economic downturn, ordered the military and other government agencies to purchase two years' worth of toilet paper, soap, and other consumer goods, to goose the economy until after the election. McCain's strategy was to do the opposite, and it only makes the point that they don't believe in this sh*t themselves. Their repeated mantra in good times is, "Cutting taxes will keep the economy going strong," and in bad times, "Cutting taxes will get the economy moving again," or, "Now is certainly the wrong time to raise taxes."
Because they don't really believe in these things themselves, they find themselves again and again hoisted on their own petards. They hate government programs yet lavish money like there is no tomorrow on the world's biggest government program, the US military. Ten billion dollars a month for the war in Iraq? Sure, why not! How about helmet liners to protect our troops from brain injuries? No, too expensive. How about a fleet of F-16 warplanes for Pakistan? Sure, why not? Can we expand the health insurance program for military dependants? What? Are you crazy? We are fiscal conservatives, don't you know!
By getting government off your back, the free market can work; by allowing church-run day care centers to have less staff and not have to follow the same safety standards, the marketplace works, kind of in a perverse sort of way. Ohio is one of thirty states which operate for-profit "charter schools," an idea originally designed to be an alternative to failing public schools. Taxpayers are shelling out $29.9 million dollars a year for ghost students, students who rarely or never show up for class. Now ask yourself, collecting money for students who fail to show up for class, does that help or hurt the bottom line of a for-profit company?
Next ask yourself, these students who don't show up, are they likely to be the best and the brightest? Or those who might bring down the school's test scores? "Why does this go on? Because we let it go on," said Andy Jewel, a researcher for the Ohio Education Association. "This isn't about education reform. It's about politics. Charter schools have become a highly politicized process. That's why it hasn't been reined in, yet." It's about vision, Andy, a vision of huge profits drained away from public education, but it gets even better! The Ohio Department of Education requires schools to take action if absenteeism exceeds 7 percent, but the for-profit charter schools have been exempted from this rule.
Although the charter schools account for only 3% of Ohio's enrollment, they account for 45% of the state's high school dropouts. In Florida the cost to the taxpayers exceeds $25 million annually, but the cost today is small compared with the costs tomorrow. These cash cows, with little accountability, rack up huge profits while benefiting by doing a poor job, and the worse they do then the more money they make. The cost to the students dwarfs the simple cash losses; they are not getting the services they need while we are not getting the services we pay for.
One of my personal favorites is D.A.R.E., the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, teaching children to stay away from drugs. Apparently the Republicans believe that if you educate children about drug abuse then they will stay away from drugs. However, if you educate children about sexuality in school it will make them curious to try it. D.A.R.E. costs the taxpayers $700 million a year and has become the modern equivalent of "Reefer Madness." Proponents insist that D.A.R.E. does a good job of fighting drug abuse, however statistical studies show absolutely no positive affect.
Tom Colthurst, who recently organized a national conference on drug education at the University of California-San Diego said, "I've got nothing against D.A.R.E., but we need to get some white light on this issue so we can wisely decide how to spend our money and on what programs." But D.A.R.E. executive director Glenn Levant calls the studies flawed and not comprehensive: "Scientists will tell you bumble bees can't fly, but we know they can."
Levant also maintains that a proper national study would cost from $3 million to $5 million and take seven years to finish. Which, of course, as you've probably already guessed, is too expensive and would take too long. If you think you can play a trombone in a marching band, then you can! If you think you're keeping kids off drugs, then you are!
We have seen a titanic failure of Republican free market economics but their flaws are deeper than just the failure of their vision. Not that the Republicans have no vision, but it's a flawed vision of two-dimensional, faith-based beliefs which ignores rationality and human nature until they became a marching band walking right off a cliff. Republicans used to say that liberals see the world through rose-colored glasses, but in the last thirty years they have taught us, if anything, that that is by far a better vision for America. Better than the rapacious, anything-goes, devil-may-care, laissez-faire devastation that Republicans have wrought across the landscape.
Where inner-city teenagers roam the streets, selling drugs because they have no other jobs to do. Where they don't attend schools because there is a profit to be made when they don't. Where we fight abortion by not teaching about birth control until reality rains down upon us like bricks. The meaning becomes clear and florescent as to what government is supposed to be and what it is supposed to do, actively take an interest in the well-being of its people, first, last and always.
The Republican vision of "for me, by me and screw you" may be a noble personal vision but it is a national nightmare and a national disgrace. A nightmare that not only cannot create a great nation but a nightmare that can only produce a nation of monsters, a monster factory.