Thursday, February 03, 2005

Rant, rant, rant

This is going to be a long one, so hang on to your hats.

I’m angry and frightened at the turn this nation has taken, both socially and fiscally. I'll start with the fiscal. Our government is saddling us with an enormous debt while spending billions of dollars getting Iraq in shape, and yet George Bush wants to make permanent his tax giveaways to the rich. Yeah, yeah…instead of raising taxes to fund a war, let’s cut taxes and go into unprecedented amount of debt. Aren’t Republicans supposed to be fiscally conservative?

Now Bush is talking about “saving” Social Security from a crisis that doesn’t really exist. His numbers, while not wrong, are used, uh, selectively to support the dubious notion that the entire Social Security system is about to collapse. His solution? Put our Social Security taxes into the stock market, which as we know functions oh so equitably, and always pays out. Bush says we can’t trust the government, whose members we elect, but we can trust the likes of Ken Lay, who’s selected by a bunch of rich people we don’t know. Even worse, he wants to borrow one trillion dollars to make the switch to a privatized system. When I think of what we could do with one trillion dollars I could just cry. Who’s going to pay for all this? Sure, Bush says he wants to protect future generations from Social Security collapse by saddling those generations with a crushing debt. Does that make sense to anyone who’s not a Republican? Hell, does it even make sense to all Republicans?

Let’s move on to the social. The Republicans have done an admirable job of riling up voters with cultural wedge issues while furiously screwing them on fiscal issues. The percentage of low-income voters who side with the GOP is staggering. Why the hell would anyone who’s poor vote Republican? Because they’ll protect you from the gay couple next door who might get married? What the hell does that matter if you don’t have health insurance? If every state in the union banned gay marriage, and a federal gay marriage amendment passed Congress and sailed through the ratification process today, no one is going to make more money tomorrow. No children are going to be better fed. No Iraqi insurgents are going to stay their hands. Can’t these low-income GOP voters see this?

I think I can answer all these questions. I’ve learned that, at least in today’s politics, the only thing you have to do to promote an agenda is to keep repeating it. It doesn’t matter if what you’re saying is true or even likely, as long as it’s superficially plausible. When countervailing evidence arises, you simply attack the source of the evidence and raise your voice. Sooner or later, people will start to believe what you’re saying, I think because they figure that you wouldn’t be saying it if it weren’t true. Look at the fantasy WMD’s that we didn’t find in Iraq. Bush said they were there when the evidence was shaky at best, and did his best to link Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda, but when he was later forced to admit that neither of these things was true, a majority of Americans still believed it. Some of them still do. So you see that all you have to do is keep repeating yourself and a lie can become true. The same strategy is in play in the Social Security debate. Bush is already backpedaling on the crisis claim, yet the seed has already been planted. It no longer matters if a crisis exists in reality, because it now exists in the minds of Americans. If I had to guess, I’d say Bush is going to win on Social Security, at least partly, because many Americans are too foolish to distinguish between reality and an oft-repeated lie.

What can we do about this? I honestly don’t know. A lie often makes a better slogan than the truth, which makes it easier to repeat. Although I truly believe that truth is the resonant frequency of the mind, in these days truth is an endangered species, and many minds are closed to anything but the latest tripe spewed by Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly or some other conservative liar. The guy in the White House claims to be a uniter, and yet he has divided us with anti-gay amendments and anti-abortion bills that affect a tiny, tiny percentage of Americans. When running for president, John Kennedy had to prove he wouldn’t take marching orders from the pope, but John Kerry had to prove he would. Christians prove their piety not by feeding the hungry or housing the homeless, but by voting against gay marriage and stem-cell research. Up is down, black is white, and nothing is true anymore.

We as a society are increasingly distanced from reality, and I fear that a sharp lesson is in store. I can’t say what form that lesson will take: a dramatic jump in the death-toll of our troops in Iraq, or perhaps a draft. I do know that we’ve sown a pretty foul crop these last four years, and if we reap a bitter harvest it will be no more than we deserve.

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