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The Schizophrenic Republican Agenda

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Recently there's been a lot of pressure on Democrats to come up with an agenda. For good reason, as the public wants to know more about Dems than that they are not Republicans. Lurking behind the clamor for a Democratic agenda is the assumption that it's already clear what Republicans stand for: strong defense, low taxes, small government, and family values. Ah, but when we poke at the GOP ideological agenda we find that it's schizophrenic. Repugs say one thing and then consistently do something else.

It's important to highlight this Republican schizophrenia, as it not only infects the GOP, it produces a wildly distorted sense of who Americans are. It causes us to boast about our democracy, while we're actually slipping into plutocracy. The US is going crazy and it's the GOP's fault.

Americans are worried about terrorist attacks and believe that the GOP is the Party best able to protect the nation. Citizens cling to this misconception despite the fact that during the Bush regime there have been two successful "attacks" on the US; one on 9/11/2001 when terrorists commandeered planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the other on 8/29/2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. In neither case did the Bush Administration respond effectively. After 9/11 there was an investigation by the 9/11 Commission that pointed out grievous errors made by the White House. Most of these have yet to be remedied by the Republican-controlled Congress.

During the last five years, the GOP has doggedly increased military funding. Today, the US spends almost as much money on defense, approximately $517 Billion, as do all the other nations of the world combined, around $583 Billion. The US defense budget has become the "sacred cow" of American politics, which few politicians are willing to criticize. Yet a bloated military is equivalent to an effective defense.

Americans trust that our massive defense expenditures make us safe. Dinosaurs once believed they were safe because of their massive size, but they failed to survive because they had tiny brains, and their bulk was a burden during the era when the earth was shrouded with dust. The American military is similarly limited by its massive size coupled with the ineptitude of the Bush Administration. The absence of Administration leadership is most evident in Iraq and was the subject of a recent bestseller by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor say in Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. This failure is the first mark of GOP schizophrenia: rather than make our defenses stronger, George Bush and Republicans sycophants have weakened them.

The GOP also boasts that they are the Party of low taxes and small government. Certainly taxes have gone down since George Bush was elected President. But the result has not been smaller government; Federal spending has increased at the fastest rate since the Nixon Administration. The actual ideology of the GOP has been "lower taxes and increase spending."

This Republican profligacy has had four negative consequences. The first is to produce massive deficits, which have weakened the American economy. The second is that tax reduction, which favored the rich, has accentuated inequality. The third is that growth of the defense and security sectors, coupled with the Bush drive for an omnipotent Presidency, has resulted in a savage infringement on individual liberties, moved America closer to a police state. And the fourth consequence has been to eliminate strategic planning in Washington. The Bush Administration sees no further than the next election. Their short-term, win-at-all costs attitude has infected all levels of the Federal bureaucracy. As a result, major strategic issues global climate change, American competitiveness, and energy independence have been ignored.

Finally, Republicans claim to be the Party of family values. Certainly some parts of their agenda play to this; their campaign against gay marriage is part of a larger initiative to demonize gays and lesbians whom they portray as threatening the traditional family. Nonetheless, five years of the Bush Administration has undermined the economic and social supports of the average American Family. The average family income has declined during the Bush years. Repugs favor the rich and powerful rather than typical Americans.

Furthermore, the cornerstone of American values is the golden rule, "do to others as you would have them do to you." Real family values begin with honesty and equity. Yet, for five years the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress have been characterized by dishonesty and venality.

In retrospect, GOP schizophrenia began with George Bush's promise to "usher in an era of responsibility". What he actually initiated was an era of unfettered greed, a period where the watchword has been, "what's in it for me?" The GOP continually lies to Americans about what they stand for. It's no wonder that Americans feel crazy; they've been subjected to five years of a schizophrenic Republican agenda.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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