What a mean group of people!
But, then again, you knew that. Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate was often more caffeinated than usual, but aside from that it was the usual. All of the Republican candidates have one thing in common: They want to make America a more brutal place.
There was Herman Cain, doubling down on his scorn of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, refusing to back down from his assertion that if they were unemployed, it was their fault, not the fault of a rigged, dysfunctional economy. There was Mitt Romney, doubling down on his assertion that if millions of homeowners are being foreclosed, we should just let it happen. “The right course is to let markets work,” Romney said, even if markets work in ways that destroy households.
Michele Bachmann sounded compassionate at one point during the debate, talking about mothers who were distraught because “the nest” in which they were raising their children was about to be lost. But when it sounded as if she had relief to offer these mothers, she just left them with a “hang in there” until her repeal of regulations and Obamacare, and her tax cuts for corporations and millionaires, magically produce jobs. Imagine the conversation at a Bank of America or Wells Fargo or Chase loan officer: “But can’t you just hold off foreclosure until private companies decide they’ve been deregulated enough and their taxes are low enough to give me a job?”
Rick Perry, when he wasn’t busy ham-handedly throwing a mud pie at Romney over an old undocumented immigrant controversy, was pushing his jobs plan, which based on what Perry said could be reduced to the “drill, baby, drill” slogan the right was chanting a few years ago. When you remember that Perry rejects the science behind global warming and doesn’t care much for the Environmental Protection Agency, what we are left with is the promise of literally killer jobs, corporations unleashed to make short-term profits doing long-term damage to the planet.
Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich rounded out the posse of pain, seven dwarfs whose extreme conservative ideology would lead America toward a foreboding Darwinian landscape ruled by small hearts and small minds. And none of the candidates seemed to have the least bit of shame about it.
Herman Cain’s cheerfully touts his “9-9-9” flat tax plan, denying the plain truth that for people such as the workers at the Godfather’s Pizza chain he used to be the leader of, it would mean a tax increase of more than $2,000, according to a Citizens for Tax Justice analysis. Bachmann doesn’t like Cain’s tax plan, but not because of its impact on low-income workers; in fact, she’s apparently fine with wiping out such tax breaks as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which enable the lowest earners to escape federal tax and even receive a small check at tax time. “Absolutely every American should pay something, even if it’s a dollar,” she said.
The debate was full of such bumper-sticker aphorisms that had all of the substance of cotton candy. Occasionally a bit of reality would be blurted out — Santorum’s statement that people in some Western European countries have more upward mobility in their economies than the United States was one of the most surprising comments — but then the candidates could not bring themselves to suggest that the government they were campaigning to lead should do anything about that. For to do that would require them to get off their “get government out of the way” message, and would force them to concede that their you’re-on-your-own, only-the-strong-survive conservatism has failed and will continue to fail working-class and middle-class people.
One commenter on Twitter suggested during the debate that President Obama simply buy an hour of television time close to the 2012 election and re-air this debate. What is certainly true is that the seven Republican candidates could not have made the difference between themselves and the kind of America that is being sought by most of the Occupy Wall Street protestors and the American Dream Movement activists any more clear. The Republican candidates represent an America that serves the interests of the 1 percent and, while it says it is “getting out of the way,” turns its back on the remaining 99 percent. The alternative is an America that has an economy and a democracy that serves 100 percent of the people, with a government that doesn’t just protect people from military threats but also from the economic terrorism of an ideology that has devastated our middle class and held our democracy hostage.