Even After It’s Over, It Won’t Be Over

The Fortnightly Rant for October 22, 2010, from The New Hampshire Gazette, Volume 255, No. 2, posted on Saturday, January 15, 2011.

In eleven days Americans will elect the first Congress to be chosen under the Supreme Court’s new post-Citizens United campaign rules: 1) money is speech, 2) humans are prohibited from discriminating against corporations, 3) lies and the truth are equal in the eyes of the law, and 4) citizens have no right under the Constitution to know who is paying to spread lies about a candidate.

If the conventional wisdom is right, the House will go Republican; but the Democrats will retain control of the Senate by the slimmest of margins. Controlling the Senate with fewer than 60 votes is like having a gun but no ammunition. The only thing it’s good for is consoling yourself — at least the other guy doesn’t have it. More than a few political soothsayers, though, think the GOP will take both Houses of Congress.

As horrible, nasty and stupid as American politics have been since President Obama’s honeymoon ended,* there is no reason to think they won’t get worse. Republican control of both Houses is the recipe for that.

If there’s anything Republicans are honest about, it’s their disdain for governing. After all, that’s what corporations are for. If you let lobbyists write legislation, you get it right the first time.

What’s more, when you’re not wasting all your time legislating, you can use it to do more meaningful and productive things — like holding hearings to investigate trumped-up charges about your opposition.

It has been said that you can beat skill, but you can’t beat luck. The timing of this election has certainly been lucky for the Republicans. The consequences of their policies like tax breaks for the rich, tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas, and deregulating anything that moves all came together to destroy the economy at just the right time — shortly before the decennial Census of 2010. If their victims the voters are angry enough over their plight to hand the government over to those who caused it, the Republicans will have the upper hand in the Congressional re-districting process. Then they will be able to do to the nation what Tom DeLay did to Texas in 2003 and re-draw Congressional districts in a way that will give the GOP an advantage that will last for a decade or more.

Got Standards?

Peering into a Republican-dominated future is not for the faint of heart. One has to assume that their party will continue to pursue the same basic policies that they have for the past thirty years.

One core theme is sure to be the continuation of the redistribution of America’s wealth until they get what’s left. This may sound counter-intuitive, since hardly a week goes by without some Republican charging that the Democrats are scheming to “redistribute the wealth,” but the apparent contradiction is easily explained. Republicans are prone to a special type of color blindness: when the green is moving towards them, it’s a result of sound tax policy, which is good; when the green is moving away from them, it’s redistribution of wealth, which is evil.

What’s the Limit?

From the Forties through the Seventies, the average American’s wages rose right along with worker productivity. Then came the Reagan Revolution.

Since 1980, the productivity of the American worker has increased by 75 percent, but wages rose less than 23 percent. If wages had kept pace, the average American would be making nearly $30 an hour.

Middle class workers have been able to improve its standard of living over the past thirty years only by working additional hours and by borrowing against real estate. Now, if they’re not out of work altogether, they’re out of additional hours in which to work. And in many cases, they are out of their homes. They are certainly out of patience, and it’s probably about time. Patience can be a virtue, but after a while it starts to look a lot like masochism.

Increased productivity means increased profits. If those profits didn’t go to wages, where did they go? Straight to the top, of course, where “trickle-down” economics theory said they would create lots of good-paying jobs for everyone who wanted to work. And yet the economy is a wreck.

Republican deregulation and tax policies are what wrecked the economy. If John Boehner becomes the Speaker of the House, those policies are not going to begin having the opposite effect. They’ll just keep making things worse.

How much worse can it get before something finally gives? We have no idea.

Who will be blamed? There, we’ve got a good guess — the usual suspects: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, illegal aliens, the liberal media … the list goes on. When a rich nation is robbed blind for thirty years, enough loot and influence accumulate to manufacture some pretty good diversions.


* Presidential honeymoons typically last a hundred days. Obama got 30, from his inauguration until February 19, 2009, when Rick Santelli’s televised rant about a proposal to help people with troubled mortgages let the dogs out.

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