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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 29, 2005

 
Duped

Ezra notices this Andrew Sullivan post and argues with Sully's complaint that Democrats just love raising taxes for its own sake. He makes the observation that Democrats don't really care how we raise the money, we are interested in how it's spent. He contrasts that with the Republicans for whom cutting taxes is a virtue, no matter how much is being spent --- leading to George W. Bush. (I'm pretty sure that Democrats prefer to raise money from filthy rich plutocrats who should be patriotic enough not to begrudge the country that gave them everything a little piece of the action, but maybe I'm wrong on that.) In any case, it's true that Democrats see taxation as a tool that must be used to ensure a stable and prosperous society, while Republicans see it as evil in itself --- or more precisely, they like to market it as evil in itself while they spend like Paris Hilton.

I have noticed this new singular reliance on the tax and spend canard among Republicans who are appalled at the current warm embrace of bigoted theocrats and/or inchoate, messianic global adventuring. It seems to be the last GOP identifier these people have and they are rather desperately clinging to it.

Sullivan says in this unusually (for him) confused article in TNR:

Retreating to the Democrats is not an option. Small government conservatives are even less powerful within the opposition's base than in the GOP's. Bill Clinton's small-c conservatism was made possible only by what now looks like a blessed interaction with a Republican Congress. The only pragmatic option is to persuade those who run the Republican Party that religious zeal is a highly unstable base for conservative politics: It is divisive, inflammatory, and intolerant of the very mechanisms that keep freedom alive.


Good luck with that.

All that remains of Sullivan's Republicanism is a knee jerk conviction that Democrats love taxes and big government for its own sake. But the truth is that most of the time Democrats are forced to raise taxes to fix the messes that Republicans have left us in. For decades we've been bailing out these reckless bastards. And when we have the opportunity, we like to put some brakes on their future rash and irresponsible economic performance by creating some social insurance so that average Americans don't get ruined every time these assholes take power. Ezra is right; we don't believe in "government" and "taxes" as some sort of values in themselves. They are the necessary tools to mitigate the excesses of the market --- and most often these excesses were exacerbated and enabled by Republican governments in the name of individual economic freedom. We just don't think that freedom from taxes trumps the gritty reality of being well and truly economicaly fucked by Republican policies. I guess that's just the difference between us.

Yes, we would like to roll back tax-cuts on the rich because somebody has to pay for all this and they are the ones with all the money. To ask that they pay a higher percentage of their already huge incomes is simply not an outrageous request --- particularly since they are mostly GOP cronies who financed and benefitted from raping the treasury in the first place. We do not believe that rich people are morally superior because the "market" rewards "productivity" with wealth, so they must be more productive and, therefore, more important to a successful economy. (Paris Hilton creates jobs, but I don't think the kind of "jobs" she creates are what we have in mind here.) We believe that the backbone of the economy is a thriving middle class and we believe that the government has to offer some support to make that happen.

Sadly, Democrats are undoubtedly going to have to spend a generation cleaning up the horrible mess the Republicans are creating right now. This is why it's so important that we preserve the social safety net and enhace it in the areas of health and job retraining. People are going to need it. They always need it after the Republicans come along and wreak havoc on the economy.

"Small government" whatever that really means, is a chimera. Nobody actually does it. The way you tell the difference is that the Democrats pay their way honestly and then clean up after the Republicans once they've spent the country into oblivion. Who are the grown-ups again?



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