Paul Krugman pulls no punches with Judas, Tax Cuts and the Great Betrayal.
The denarius, ancient Rome’s silver coin, was supposedly the daily wageof a manual worker. If so, the tax cuts that the richest 1 percent of Americans will receive if the Affordable Care Act is repealed — tax cuts that are, obviously, the real reason for repeal — would amount to the equivalent of around 500 pieces of silver each year.
What inspired this calculation? The spectacle of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, defending Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey.
Modern conservatives are obsessed with cutting taxes. It’s the one thing they always try to do regardless of whatever other hobby horses they might be riding. So…
So here’s where we stood as of Thursday evening: 138 Democrats and independents had called for the appointment of a special prosecutor; just one Republican had joined that call. Another 84 Democrats had called for an independent investigation, joined by only six Republicans.
At this point, in other words, almost an entire party appears to have decided that potential treason in the cause of tax cuts for the wealthy is no vice. And that’s barely hyperbole.
Read the Whole Thing.
So How Did We Get Here?
Late last night, I caught a radio show via my local NPR station which was re-airing the latest episode of WNYC’s On The Media: Rewriting The Right. The portion of the show that really hit home was a segment with Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. We are where we are today, because as Mayer explains, we’re at the end of the long game played by the wealthy going back a hundred years to the 16th Amendment and the imposition of the income tax. From the show description,
Although the Republican healthcare bill is still a long way from being a law, its passage in the House of Representatives was seen as a victory for conservative orthodoxy, a triumph in the name of limited government, states rights and lowered taxes. But this orthodoxy did not spring up with the election of Trump or with Paul Ryan's ascension to Speaker of the House. Rather, conservative billionaires have worked for decades to develop a sturdy infrastructure -- from think tanks to the media to academia to churches -- to help propagate conservative ideology and protect their interests.
Listen to the audio at the link. It’s compelling. (It also demonstrates why conservatives are determined to stamp out public radio and public TV — they have this thing about turning up inconvenient truths.)
The short version is that the wealthy accepted paying income taxes — barely — only when they were given the option of making charitable contributions in lieu of taxes to the government they did not support. It’s how we ended up with things like the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller foundation. The original intent was to do public good without an overt political agenda — produce objective policy research, fund worthy endeavors, etc.
Over time that changed, and Mayer explains how and when, going back to the creation of the Heritage Foundation among others and things like the Powell memo. Scholarly institutions were weaponized into propaganda mills and centers of radical political activism. The web of dark money has spread across the land reaching into every corner. (Charles P. Pierce has a case study here.)
And the thing is, this is largely invisible to the public and the press unless something outrageous draws attention for a moment or two. Democrats focus on big races; Republicans are in it for the long haul — and they’re there now.
And if you’re wondering why so much of the conservative movement has attracted con men engaging in outright fraud and other chicanery, it’s the natural result of billionaires looking to throw their money around, and the marks they’re targeting. Honey draws flies; so does bull shit. Both are in over supply in movement conservatism. Rick Perlstein’s The Long Con has been out for a while but it’s still very relevant. While he was talking about Mitt Romney at the time, this quote is even more pertinent today:
...Publics are amorphous, protean, fuzzy; they don’t leave behind neat documentary trails. Studying the leaders they choose helps us see them more sharply. Political theorist James MacGregor Burns’s classic book Leadership explains that “leadership over human beings is exercised when persons with certain motives and purposes mobilize, in competition or conflict with others, institutional, political, psychological, and other resources so as to arouse, engage, and satisfy the motives of followers . . . in order to realize goals mutually held by both leaders and followers.” Watching charismatic people try to seize their attention and win their allegiance becomes the intellectual whetstone. As political psychologist Harold Lasswell once put it, a successful aspirant to leadership is one whose “private motives are displaced onto public objects and rationalized in terms of public interest.” Watching those private motives at work, the public they seek to convince comes into focus.
All righty, then: both the rank-and-file voters and the governing elites of a major American political party chose as their standardbearer a pathological liar. What does that reveal about them?
If you wonder how people like Ryan and McConnell expect to get away with what they’re doing, Perlstein gives you a look into the world they’re coming from. Mayer talks about Paul Weyrich and his role in the Heritage Foundation; Perlstein shows you what he does.
...Following the standard scare-mongering playbook of the fundraising Right, Weyrich launched his appeal with some horrifying eventuality that sounded both entirely specific and hair-raisingly imminent (“all-out assault on our traditional family structure”—or, in the case of a 1976 pitch signed by Senator Jesse Helms, taxpayer-supported “grade school courses that teach our children that cannibalism, wife swapping, and the murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior”; or, to take one from not too long ago, the white-slavery style claim that “babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood”).
Weyrich’s letter concludes by proposing an entirely specific, real-world remedy: slaying the wicked can easily be hastened for the low, low price of a $5, $10, or $25 contribution from you, the humble citizen-warrior.
These are bedtime stories, meant for childlike minds. Or, more to the point, they are in the business of producing childlike minds. Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.
To get back to Paul Krugman, the Great Betrayal is in the DNA of movement conservatism. It is founded on fraud, lies, and promises they have no intention of keeping. It is the selling of snake oil on steroids. It has been made possible by a systematic dumbing down of America, a war on rational thought in the service of “the gut” which is easily led around by the nose and bumfoozled.
And it will continue until we openly acknowledge it and move to fight back. They’ve spent decades on this; rolling it back won’t happen overnight or with one “wave election”. We have to strike deeper, fight harder, and we must persist. Eternal vigilance, because it’s never over.
UPDATE: I should have done this sooner. Dartagnan was kind enough to link to my diary on this. Here’s the one he posted. Krugman: Yes, Republicans Are Perfectly Willing to Betray This Country.