The Bigger Picture
Published on November 1st 2011 in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau
On November 6th 2012, exactly fifty three weeks from today, Americans will troop to the polls to cast their ballots in an extremely important Presidential and Congressional General election. While all elections involving the selection of America’s next president are usually considered vital for the future of the United States, in 2012 America truly stands at a crossroads because American voters will not only be choosing who the next President will be, they will also be making a decision about what they want their government to be.
After surveying the field of Republican Presidential candidates and their respective positions on a range of domestic as well as foreign policy issues, it is very apparent that regardless of who eventually emerges as the Republican nominee for President, Americans will still have a clear choice between either voting to elect a backward looking Republican Presidential candidate backed by an assortment of right wing political ideologues, or voting to re-elect a more forward looking Democratic President with a centrist legislative agenda.
But what makes the 2012 election even more significant, is what the American voters’ choices will say about what they believe our government’s role should be in stimulating the economy as well as its role in providing for and protecting the needs of American citizens. That is because the positions of the Republican presidential candidates reflect the narrow interests of Tea Party activists, evangelical Christians and other special interest groups.
The Tea Party minions claim that the solution for America’s economic ills is to eliminate the federal budget deficit by cutting government spending but they also refuse to countenance tax increases of any kind. However, most of the anti-tax Tea Partiers also don’t want to see any cuts in their Social Security and Medicare benefits, which together account for roughly 50% of government spending. Furthermore, a majority of them also don’t want to see any cuts in America’s defense spending which comprises another 25% of the budget.
The fact that no reputable economists agree with the Tea Party activists’ contention that America can eliminate its budget deficit by cutting government spending in other areas and without raising taxes is beside the point. Tea Partiers are wedded to their angry fantasy that federal government spending is the problem and cutting both spending and taxes is the solution. As a result, rather than risk the ire of these anti-tax extremists, all of the Republican presidential candidates have now adopted the Tea Party’s hard line stance and none of them will even agree to a compromise such as $1 in tax increases for every $9 in spending cuts.
But all of the Republican candidates must also appease socially conservative white evangelical Christians, many of whom were hoping Sarah Palin would run for President. Given their equally rigid anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and anti-immigration positions, it should come as no surprise that many of these so called “Christian Values” voters are also supporters of the rigidly anti-tax, anti-government spending Tea Party movement.
However, something the Tea Party and evangelical Christian movements don’t like to acknowledge is the extent to which they both rely on support and funding from corporate special interest groups to spread their antagonistic and ideologically extreme message. Fox News supports them with in kind donations of media publicity and Rupert Murdoch then reaps profits from advertisers using Fox employees like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to hawk gold and books that are aimed at this segment of the American public.
But the ultimate symbol of right wing hypocrisy is the billionaire Koch brothers funding and sponsorship of groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works that also train Tea Party activists and provide funding for the Republican candidates they support. These organizations support the Koch brothers’ opposition to an extension of unemployment benefits and federal regulation of the oil, finance, food and drug industries, but then ignore the fact that the Koch brothers’ companies also head the list of America’s biggest corporate beneficiaries of federal tax breaks for the oil and agriculture industries. I will discuss the effect they have had on the field of Republican presidential candidates in my next column.