Politics

Republicans of Obama's Fantasy World Believe "government has little or no role to play"

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The president this week did one of his classic bits of corner-cutting caricaturization of his political opposition:

But to be fair, a good deal of the other party's opposition to our agenda has also been rooted in their sincere and fundamental belief about the role of government.  It's a belief that government has little or no role to play in helping this nation meet our collective challenges.  It's an agenda that basically offers two answers to every problem we face:  more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations.

The last administration called this recycled idea "the Ownership Society."  But what it essentially means is that everyone is on their own.  No matter how hard you work, if your paycheck isn't enough to pay for college or health care or childcare, well, you're on your own.  If misfortune causes you to lose your job or your home, you're on your own.  And if you're a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, you pretty much get to play by your own rules, regardless of the consequences for everybody else.

Keep in mind, the president is talking specifically here not about libertarian freakazoids who want to privatize their own grandmothers, but about governing Republicans. You know, the gang who, "during the first half of 2001 and all of the 2003-07 period maintained full control of both the White House and Congress," during which time they "increased total spending by more than 20 percent, an average of 5 percent a year," jacking up "both nondefense spending and mandatory programs enormously." How in the hell can you spend so much money on "more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations"? Which one of those two answers (the only ones the GOP has, remember) best describes No Child Left Behind, Sarbanes-Oxley, or Medicare Part D? If Bush was really all about "fewer rules for corporations," how was it that he managed to be "the biggest regulator since Nixon"? (And do click on those links, they are filled with things like facts and numbers.)

And no, tax breaks and deregulation were not at the heart of the "Ownership Society." That mostly stillborn idea focused on increasing individual control over retirement, health care, and education. Not much to do with oil spills there, kemosabe.

Since the president is doing battle with imaginary libertarian foes, let me zero in on one claim: that–according to limited-government ghastlies–"if you're a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, you pretty much get to play by your own rules, regardless of the consequences for everybody else." Here's the deal: On Planet Libertopia, if you're a Wall Street bank that screws the pooch you go BANKRUPT, as an opening bid. It's pretty hard to "play by your own rules" when you're dead.

I'll give Obama the last word:

And the truth is if I had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficits that [Republicans] created.  But we took office amid a crisis, and the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget before I even walked through the door.  Additionally, the steps that we had to take to save the economy from depression temporarily added more to the deficit — by about $1 trillion.  Of course, if we had spiraled into a depression, our deficits and debt levels would be much worse.