Turn on the business news and you'll hear lots of happy talk about the stock market being near six-year highs, and the economy going gangbusters. Somehow it just doesn't seem that way to the average American. The happy times for rich people were set in motion when Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan dropped the Fed interest rate to 1%, and when Bush, with the help of the Republican Congress, pushed through massive tax cuts for the wealthy. Taxes on investments were dropped to 15%, while working people still pay up to 28% in payroll taxes, not to mention Social Security tax. The inheritance tax has been cut, while state and local taxes are rising for most people. Right about now the American public ought to be wearing a T-shirt that says We joined the Bush economy, and all we got to show for it was this lousy $9 trillion in public debt.
While it may have escaped notice among much of the disinterested US populace, it is no small secret to the Republican elite that their party is a hodgepodge of completely unrelated groups. Rich businessmen form the smallest but most powerful portion of the coalition, with two of the other much larger groups being religious fundamentalists on the one hand, and conservative working class people on the other (not mutually exclusive groups, by the way). The relatively small group of rich Republican businessmen has worked hard, in part by buying and controlling huge blocks of print and broadcast media, to keep this loose, eclectic Republican coalition together.
The Republican elite keep the religious right on board primarily with lip service, and occasionally tossing them a bone such as Supreme Court Justice Alito. But for the most part, they offer nothing but strong words about gay marriage, criminalizing abortion, and limiting access to contraceptives. Yet all this talk about making abortions illegal, constitutional amendments to ban gay marriages, and eliminating any barriers between church and state is just so much hot air. Rich Republican businessman and their buddies in the Bush administration have no intention of passing any such legislation, because it would give the Democrats too much ammunition to fight back with.
Inept handling of this loose knit confederation by the Bush administration has created strains between the various groups that make up the Republican Party in the 21st century. Now there are even strains between conservative politicos and big business, the two subgroups that make up the Republican elite. This can be excused in part as long as taxes remain low and business remains robust. But more and more, the Bush administration seems to inadvertently step on big business's toes because they aren't looking where they are going.
For example, working at political cross-purposes, conservative religious groups have convinced the administration to block over-the-counter sales of Plan B, a morning-after contraceptive pill, much to the chagrin of the pharmaceutical company that makes the pill (Barr Pharmaceuticals). Further, the Bush administration's recent, ill-conceived saber-rattling over Iran has been helping fuel speculative trading, thus driving up oil prices, which tends to hurt the bottom line for many businesses. Even the recent anti-immigration frenzy has simultaneously put off big agribusinesses, small business owners that rely on day labor, and many Hispanics. And of course, big business hates instability and uncertainty, both of which have been fueled dramatically by the botched war and growing insurgency in Iraq. The list of political fumbles by the Bush administration seems almost endless.
When the Republican bubble finally bursts, as it seems hell-bent on doing under Bushs divisive leadership, will Democrats be able to pick up the pieces and put our country back together? Maybe, but maybe not. Democrats are demoralized and disorganized, and have been marginalized politically by the conservative, corporate-controlled media. Despite the fact that our founding fathers were liberals to the core, all you need to do now to belittle someone on a TV or radio talk show is to call them a liberal. This leaves the public trusting no one to be competent or trustworthy enough to run our government. A true quagmire that I fear the United States will find extremely difficult to extricate itself from under the current political atmosphere. But for now, the Republicans seem determined to debate a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, rather than trying to figure out how to get out of Iraq, how to pay down the 9 trillion dollar debt, or how to fix our health-care system.