Saturday, December 18, 2004

Saving America once again 

Well, I think I have finally figured out why the Bush administration is hell-bent-for-leather on destroying Social Security while simultaneously driving up US federal deficits to unsustainable levels -- they want to Save America!
"Saving America" has been a constant Republican/Christian Right refrain for the last two decades -- on issues as diverse as abortion-on-demand, Hollywood movies, gay marriage, charter schools, government bureaucracy, civil liberties, judicial appointments, foreign aid, and job creation, the Republicans have been convinced since the early 1990s that America is going to hell unless 'something is done'. It must be stopped! American values must prevail!
And the fact that economic prosperity and social progress highlighted Clinton's administration, after the higher crime rates and wars and economic depressions during the Reagan and HW administrations, really infuriated Republicans -- how could it be that things were getting better under the Democrats? No, no - things were WORSE, WORSE I TELL YOU. Any right-wing radio host could chatter endlessly during the 1990s about how awful things were, how America was endangered and declining and immoral.
But after George was elected, objective reality intruded again -- the American economy went into recession, giant companies like Enron disintegrated, terrorists launched the most horrific attack in American history, jobs disappeared as manufacturing went overseas -- and things continued to decline, got worse even, after the Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress.
How could this be, that things were getting worse under the Republican watch? So they had to find things to fix, to Save America.
I have written before about the Republican tendency to think there are Magic Bullets -- its a human tendency, really, to believe there is one noble action or policy which will, when aimed at a problem, solve it easily and magically in a single stroke, making everything better all at once, without any need for further effort or focus or incremental steps.
So they passed massive expensive legislation -- No Child Left Behind, Medicare prescription drug benefits -- to save American schools and health care, and they promoted massive expensive wars -- Afghanistan, Iraq -- to save American democracy and bring peace to the world, and they ran up enormous expensive deficits to fund congressional pet projects across the country, and their social programs consist of one single act - the gay marriage ammendment - which somehow singlehandedly will save American morality and society. They even began to reject objective reality itself, promoting "faith-based" reality in which things were BETTER, BETTER I TELL YOU, regardless of the evidence.
So now here is Social Security, the most successful social program in American history. Democrats keep saying that Social Security doesn't need much fixing, that its basically OK for the next 40 years anyway, and that small-scale tweaks will keep it going after that. But for Republicans, that isn't good enough. The next Magic Bullet must be fired, and Social Security is in the cross-hairs. Democrats won't be able to stop it -- the Republicans are just too excited about it, too enamoured of another big, complicated, massive piece of legislation that will give them lots of ways to pontificate and to add more pork. And they are utterly convinced that destroying Social Security is their new opportunity to Save America!

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