Republicans are hell-bent on taking steps to finally get rid of the hated social programs that have helped Americans since the 1930s. When they finally achieve this great goal, what will America look like?
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to see what this America will look like. It will be a land of vast inequality, even worse than today. It will be a country where social classes are based entirely on money, firmly established, and it is all but impossible to move to a higher class and all too easy to move to a lower class. It will be a country of the very rich and the rest of us. It will be a country of great educational inequality and worse economic inequality. It will be a country of princes and beggars. In short, we will become Dickens’ London.
If we could begin in some primeval condition, perhaps we could design a government like conservatives envision that would work. But there is no such thing as a primeval condition. We can only start where we are, and where we are is in a world with nearly seven billion people and finite resources, with 311-million Americans living everywhere from cites much bigger than they were a century ago to isolated cabins in the woods. The real question is: What do we want the shape of this society to be? Will people rely on each other, or will we be cast into the tide to sink or swim alone? The conservative answer is decidedly: alone.
Conservatives want to destroy Social Security. They want everyone to be responsible for his or her own wellbeing in old age. They have no real proposal for something new to do what Social Security does. What they say is that each person must save for old age by himself. But for many people, their income is so small that they really do need to spend it all just to maintain a reasonable life. Saving money is all but impossible. Most people are like this, unable to put aside money by themselves without some sort of formal program to do so. But the Republican plan has no provision for changing any of this. We must be responsible for ourselves, and if we aren’t it’s because of our own deficiencies, and we deserve what we get.
Conservatives see our new, rather limited, program of national health care not only as unnecessary and costly, but the first step on the slippery slope into the slavery of socialism. They are doing everything they can to defeat it. Oddly enough, many of them would kill if their Medicare benefits were cut. We would be left with an odd chimera of health care that is the result of both hating and loving a national plan.
But the real irony of health care is that, by ideological opposition to a national pool of health care insurance, conservatives have already doomed us to spend twice as much money on it as we should. We already spend twice what the advanced countries of the EU spend, and their health care is decidedly superior to ours.
Another irony of the current situation is the cry against our crushing taxes. Almost nobody, certainly not a single conservative Republican, is looking to see whether it is actually true that we have crushing taxes. We don’t. A comparison of the tax burden for Americans compared to the advanced nations of the G7 finds us next to lowest, with the highest about double of what we pay. So Republicans want us to reduce our “crushing load” of taxes, while at the same time launching a full-scale attack on the national debt.
There is no doubt the national debt is too large and must be reduced, although this is not the time to begin such efforts, as we face an economic mess brought about by conservative deregulation. And what created the biggest addition to the national debt in the past decade? The George W. Bush tax cuts for the rich, which were supposed to bring us increased prosperity. Anybody seen signs of that prosperity yet? The tax cuts for the rich will do even worse damage in the future, so surely conservatives want them discontinued, right? Well, no. What they want to do is achieve all their ideological goals by eliminating all the social protections we have enjoyed.
The recently released Republican budget proposal was hailed with all sorts of superlatives and praise. But does it make any sense? No, it does not. There are no data to support the outcomes it predicts. It is not a document built on economic realism. It is a flimsy document that could bring nothing but trouble in its wake. It is a document built on conservative idealism without regard for actual facts.