Thursday, May 22, 2008

Drowning in Failed Policies

We are all feeling the pinch of the failed Bush economic policies of the last seven years. Unemployment is on the rise, and so are food and energy costs. The sub-prime loan crisis is causing record numbers of foreclosures. Working families are in desperate need of relief. This administration has been on a borrow and spend war spree that is destroying our nation’s financial stability, and plunging us so deeply into debt that it will take generations to dig our way out.

It is disheartening to see the NH GOP ready to repeat the same mistakes that have gotten us to this point. Congressional candidate John Stephen recently brought Grover Norquist, of the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) to NH, so that he could sign Norquist’s pledge against raising taxes. This was a staged tableaux, since Stephen actually signed the pledge in November of 2007, according to the ATR website. Former Congressman Jeb Bradley signed the Norquist pledge in February 2008. Senators Judd Gregg and John Sununu, Jr. have also signed the pledge.

Grover Norquist is most famous for saying, “ My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” This is code for cutting spending on just about everything except defense. We’ve seen the results of that shrinkage - in the failure of the levees around Lake Ponchartrain, in the aftermath of Katrina, where residents did not require a bathtub in order to drown. We saw the results in the collapse of the bridge in Minnesota, which came about because repairs were put off - to save money. The repairs and rebuilding will cost more than the upkeep ever would have. When we choose to pay the pound of cure, it’s a sign that our spending priorities are out of alignment. Federal spending on domestic programs has been shrinking, even as federal spending on defense has skyrocketed. As we borrow billions to fund the war in Iraq, we neglect our own national infrastructure. In addition to risking American lives, this jeopardizes our economic future.

Americans For Tax Reform is a lobbying group that is funded by lavish contributions from special interest groups and conservative foundations. The ATR served as a conduit for funds that Jack Abramoff’s clients donated in order to secretly fund grassroots lobbying campaigns. Norquist’s goal is to eliminate taxes on the wealthy. The Bush tax cuts were a move in that direction. Most of us understand that with taxes we pay for things like roads, bridges, fire and police protection, and education. These are some of the benefits we reap in a civilized society, but they aren’t free. Most of us are willing to pay our fair share, and we think that everyone should, including those who happen to be financially fortunate. Norquist and the GOP leadership are not interested in fairness or equal taxation. They don’t care if the middle class has to pick up the tab - they just want to ensure that the rich don’t see the bill. Warren Rudman, himself no liberal, had this to say about Norquist: "Americans for Tax Reform is a wonderful-sounding name. As far as I'm concerned, it's a front organization for Grover Norquist' lobbying activities."

There’s a distinct lack of solutions coming from GOP leadership. They continue to advocate the same economic policies that failed the last three Republican presidents. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” What we need are some new ideas and solutions, and a collective return to sanity. Instead, we have John Stephen embracing Grover Norquist, who said when he was in NH, “We consistently don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” This is the same mantra used by the NH GOP for generations - the mantra that left us with dams about to burst, and bridges about to collapse. The NH GOP loves to invoke the image of families sitting around kitchen tables going over their budgets. They fail to point out, however, that when there isn’t enough money to meet basic needs, someone’s going to have to take a second job to bring in more money.

Stephen also invokes the name of Meldrim Thomson at every opportunity, which seems a curious choice. Thomson was a “colorful” conservative governor, who wanted to arm the NH State Police with tactical nuclear weapons after the first big anti-nuclear protest at Seabrook. Given that all protestors had to go through non-violence training in order to participate, this seemed somewhat extreme. Thomson dressed in military fatigues and flew by helicopter to the site of the Seabrook nuke in order to personally order the arrests of 1400 demonstrators in 1977. Thomson flew NH flags at half mast whenever he felt the urge. NH officially mourned the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty and the official US recognition of Communist China. Thomson used NH State troopers as his personal drivers, and often ordered them to pull over and arrest drivers who were speeding on 93. Looking back at Mel Thomson, it’s clear that he transcended the category of mere eccentric, and was actually pretty crazy. Thomson is an interesting choice for a politician seeking to create his own political image to ally himself with.

Thomson won election in the 1970’s on the same platform Stephen is trying to win on “no new taxes.” That’s a real problem for Republicans. Recycling the same old tired slogans for decades is not new, innovative, or interesting. Jeb Bradley is running is first attack ad against incumbent Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. In the ad he says that in 2006, NH voters wanted change, but this (Shea-Porter) “isn’t what WE had in mind.” I don’t remember Bradley being interested in change in 2006. In fact, he was very pleased with the Bush status quo. The only change he was in favor of was privatizing Social Security, which put him squarely at odds with most of his constituents. The same old GOP tired mantras about guns, abortion, gays, and taxes are meaningless at a time when NH families are facing frightening financial insecurity. We need solutions, not recycled versions of the failed policies that have brought us to this point.

“We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship.”
Grover Norquist

(Picture from

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