I am one of those independent voters who are talked about so much in our political news and commentary. I have never been a registered member of either of the two major parties, since neither consistently represents my interests and beliefs. Nevertheless, I have typically voted for Democratic candidates over the years, as they come nearer to my views—though often not very near—than Republicans. Lately, however, as they debate issues surrounding deficit reduction and budget priorities, I am having a difficult time understanding what it is that Democrats in congress and in the Whitehouse stand for. (What the Republicans stand for is all too clear.)
Although they now cry out for deficit reduction, Republicans have worked to create the current deficit ever since the first Regan administration, by cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and engaging in unnecessary wars. Their goal has been and remains to transfer wealth and power to their true constituency, large corporations and the small class of people that run them and reap most of their profits. Their ultimate goal is to return the U.S. to the robber-baron laissez-faire capitalism of the late nineteenth century. They have made great progress toward this objective—the distribution of wealth in this country is more unequal today than at any time since before the great depression. But the Republicans are not yet satisfied. They are closing in for the kill: reduce social security, eliminate Medicare, abolish the federal minimum wage, defund the EPA, OSHA, higher education, public broadcasting, and so on. Why? Because we have to reduce the deficit, stupid. Republican talk about deficit reduction is a smokescreen to conceal their real goal, which is to eliminate any and all government programs that interfere with the power of the interests that they serve. The power of the federal government, though often a clumsy and unwieldy tool, is the only available counterbalance to corporate power. Hence, it must be reduced or eliminated.
When Democrats allow the Republicans to set the terms of the debate, arguing about which social programs and regulatory agencies should be cut and by how much, rather than addressing the more fundamental issues of how and why this huge deficit was created, they have lost the battle without firing a shot. It is time for Democrats to stand up and speak the truth about the Republicans’ goals. If they lack the courage to do so, of what use are they?
Some Democrats, including the president, persist in the delusion that they can “compromise” with Republicans. The Republicans do not compromise: they want total victory regardless of the cost, and Democrats seem willing to give it to them. Why? We don’t need another so-called compromise, like the one that extended the Bush-era tax cuts. If the goal is to reduce the deficit—and I’m not at all sure that this should be our highest priority at present—then let’s start taxing the people who have amassed the great bulk of America’s wealth. And I mean really tax them, by restoring the marginal income tax rate to what it was before tax cuts became the first article of faith for Republicans.