You hear it all the time. If the two sides would just work together. If they could just compromise. Both sides are at fault and what this reflects is a belief that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, because both sides can’t be completely wrong can they? Here are two examples; The first is from a Jon Stewart interview with Robert Reich:
Jon: It strikes me that we are in a very strange time in history where both sides of the political debate, and we are only allowed to have two because we are chimps, but one side believes in more laissez faire capitalism, tax rat that frees up the rich to create jobs for the rest of us, sort of a 1920 income model. They seem to have gotten a lot of what they want. The other side is the new deal side where the state is a larger social safety net, where there is a lot of infrastructure spending. They seem to have gotten what they want. So now we have two camps who have basically codified their desires, but cannot exist without imploding.
Now Jon makes some statements here that are patently false. If the safety net he is referring to which is Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, he has bought into the the conventional wisdom that we can’t afford them. As Dean Baker and others try to point out over all the noise is that Social Security is sound, is not hurting our deficit (it pays for itself) and with some minor structural fixes, will be there forever (past 2038 which under present funding would be only sound to 80% of its obligations). He also points out that if Medicare and Medicaid cost us what health care does in the rest of the industrialized nations (single payer systems) these would not be problems either and our social programs are modest compared with other nations. But one side refuses to consider these solutions.
Then Jon goes on to say we have got what we wanted in infrastructure spending. Exactly where would that be Jon, as our infrastructure is crumbling? Our spending has been on a downward slide since 1975 and even hurting Europe outspends us on infrastructure improvements. So the assumption that both sides have gotten what they wanted is false and since the Ronald Reagan days, we have been transferring wealth to the rich and our economy is declining for the middle class. Every study says we are moving further and further right, and you don’t need a study to see that moderate Republican policies proposed by a Democratic President go down in flames to understand how far right we have been moving. One side has gotten what they wanted, the other side continues to capitulate in the spirit of “compromise”, and the country is getting worse and worse off. The only thing Jon had right here was that we cannot continue this divided nation “without imploding”. Blaming both sides equally is tilting at windmills. It is also a lie.
Now we get to Exibit 2 which is Tom Friedman’s column on Sunday (Down With Everything) and we hear the same thing:
“A system with as many checks and balances built into it as ours assumes — indeed requires — a certain minimum level of cooperation on major issues between the two parties, despite ideological differences. Unfortunately, since the end of the cold war, which was a hugely powerful force compelling compromise between the parties, several factors are combining to paralyze our whole system…such as senatorial holds now being used to block any appointments by the executive branch or the Senate filibuster rule, effectively requiring a 60-vote majority to pass any major piece of legislation, rather than 51 votes. Also, our political divisions have become more venomous than ever.”
It is the same old drivel, refusing to point out that the Republicans have blocked anything in the Senate, and refused to compromise. His failure to point a finger, like Jon Stewart’s, is a telling indicator of either blindness, or craven cowardliness to maintain access to both sides. But either way, it is a gross disservice to the country. Yes, both sides are controlled by money, but at least the Democrats try new things, which are blocked by the Republicans every time. It wasn’t the Democrats who filibustered getting rid of the tax breaks to oil companies or passing the tax fairness bill. It was the Republicans who passed the Blunt amendment to allow employers to deny health coverage based upon their private whims. Get a grip here. One side is totally out of whack.
Even a casual observer of politics will tell you that the country has not just moved to the right, it has lurched to the right. Even moderate Republican positions are now seen as liberal, and by the way, those moderate Republican positions from back in the Reagan days are what is increasing our inequality in this country and is at the root of all our problems. The middle is not the answer if middle solutions don’t change the fundamental distribution of wealth and power in this nation, and they don’t.
I listened to Up with Chris Hayes on Saturday and he was talking about global warming with a few moderate Republicans who get it. Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA Chief under Bush, was lamenting the Republican failure to recognize this, but she was making excuses why the left left them openings, like calling it Global “Warming” and then when it snowed they could draw the wrong conclusion. Only if you are brain dead, but here was the real denial: She said that this rejection of science was only from the radical right, whereas Chris pointed out that surveys show that over half of Republicans don’t believe global warming is happening. What there is left of moderate Republicans are in total denial about the state of their ideas and their party.
My point is simply this. We are in gross denial if we think moderates or the middle will help us (or that compromise is even possible). We have moved so far to the right that the country doesn’t even recognize moderate, and labels it liberal left. But we are all ignoring that the policies over the last 30 years as income inequality grew, are what caused our collapse. We have to get back to where we were after WWII, and that means major investments in our future (austerity does not work and confusing microeconomics with macroeconomics is a disaster: See Europe or our own terribly slow recovery), we have to pay for our investments (delayed now, but once the economy grows stronger), we need a single payer health care system, and a fair tax code, much simplified. This is not liberal babbling, it is what will work and what will work is what we are ignoring as we have Republicans blocking everything.
What I am proposing is simply that the right has become destructive, and whether it is the media or pundits who blame both sides, or wish for them to work together simply encourage more failed solutions. What I have listed are all proven solutions if we could just learn from history or take a lesson from our neighbors. Instead we have puritan Republicans demanding austerity, status quo, and more tax cuts for the wealthy. The only thing more astounding than that, is that they appeal to over half the country, most who will suffer from these policies. But we are a great country, right?