So there are these two scientists, see. The kooky one wears sandals and yesterday’s lunch on his tie and thinks up hair-brained ideas about love and peace and making the world a better place and stopping evil-doers from doing evil: all commendable, well-motivated, and laudable, to be sure. But now for practicalities: Where’s the money? The resources? The step-by-step plan? Let’s sing our hallelujahs for that second, trimly-groomed scientist with horned-rimmed glasses and spit-shined shoes. He asks nuisance questions and keeps our feet on the ground.
Such was the roll-play between America’s two great parties for most of the twentieth century. The Democrats were the idealists and the Republicans were the realists. The Democrats launched the New Deal and the New Frontier and the Great Society; the Republicans pushed for lower taxes, disciplined spending, and the friendly business environment. Just to clear out one myth, both were hawkishly anti-communist (the Democrats implemented the anti-Soviet “containment” policy and pushed us into Korea and Vietnam). They usually campaigned rough but relatively fair – partly because they knew the press would ferret the truth and they’d govern with these people after the election.
But something has happened. The trimly-groomed scientist crossed his fingers behind his back while the kooky scientist fell asleep and the press wilted under the weight of its hair spray and the guilty American public pled innocent. The consequence: truth, honesty, facts, accuracy, and candor have been smashed on the anvil of market-driven spin and clichés. The Republicans accuse the Democrats of anti-American socialism when, in fact, the Democrats now snore on the terrain of the late-GOP moderates. Rare deals are compromises between the center and the snarling right.
What’s more, the Republicans have become the spend-thrifts while they plead for less spending. Witness statistics from the Congressional Budget Office. Our government’s debt increased 186 percent under Republican President Reagan, 54 percent under the first President Bush; 41 percent under Democratic President Clinton, 72 percent under the second President Bush, and 23 percent under President Obama. Perhaps we can view this as a graph:
Here’s another graph, from The Atlantic:
And then there’s the August 18 Propublica article, “Economic Myths: We Separate Fact From Fiction.” Two fable-slaughtering specifics: individual and corporate taxes are at their lowest since 1950; and the stimulus package, while not exactly “rescuing” our economy, probably prevented unemployment from sky-rocketing to 12 percent (it didn’t produce more jobs because we were in worse shape than previously feared).
But the trimly-groomed scientist still mouths his clichés while crossing his fingers. Perhaps he even believes them despite the cold, hard facts. It’s a tragedy. He always brought us back to reality before. He now avoids it at all costs – and our nation suffers. We have paid a grave price for abandoning the truth.