The factional divide persists in the nation's capital. At least some on one side appear willing to trash the "full faith and credit of the United States" in order to score points with the angry and benighted base. When one considers, the Republic was established to among other purposes to "form a more perfect union", the conclusion that one should fear for the Republic is completely understandable. While both parties have made some contribution to this sorry state of affairs, their responsibilities are nowhere near equivalent. Despite the misguided tendency in the media to pretend objectivity by treating outright lies and complex truths as functionally equivalent, the Republican Party and its three decade old smear campaign on the federal government is far more to blame for the looming crisis. As Stephen Ducat observes,
"As the sign on the desk of his [Reagan's] press secretary, Larry Speakes, famously read, "You don't tell us how to stage the news and we don't tell you how to cover it.'
Since Reagan's subsequent beatification by those have sought to rewrite the history of his administration, GOP politicians and political consultants have gone from adeptly putting a self-serving spin on events to making them up out of whole cloth." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-ducat/gop-2012-candidates_b_890004.html
Unfortunately for all Americans and the Republic, the twenty-first century Republican Party [not necessarily citizens registered or voting Republican] offers us a toxic brew of illogic, ignorance, irresponsibility, immorality, and ideology. They in a sense, take I to the fifth power. As in any exponential process, the power of all these factors combined is far greater than any of them individually.
Let us take these five I's one at a time. After campaigning successfully on the need for jobs, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. After ceremoniously reading an edited version of the Constitution, the Republican majority brought forth legislation on abortion restrictions, sought to defund Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio. They tried to pass bills against same-sex marriage and did a horde of other things that had no beneficial effect on employment. Then, they fixated on the federal deficit and declared it the supreme problem facing the country. The miscellaneous legislative initiatives that consumed the House Republicans in their early months of control obviously have no logical connection to their 2010 campaign theme. Their new public enemy number one, however, has more subtle illogical characteristics.
Any deficit is a shortfall of revenues in relation to expenditures. To resolve any deficit logic reveals two options: raise revenues and lower expenditures. If the deficit is a severe enough problem, one should probably pursue both approaches if possible. National Republican officials, candidates, and spokespeople, however, insist there is only one thing to be done. They are adamant that massive even draconian cuts in federal expenditures are essential. From the perspective of these paragons of limited logic, government expenditures are wasteful because they are government expenditures. Money spent to help secure nuclear weapons must be reduced because it is a government expenditure. Various inspection services need to be cut back because they are paid for by government expenditures. People fifty-four and younger can look forward to no Medicare guarantee because insuring seniors have secure health care is a wasteful government expenditure. The illogic in all this is that one should address a problem of the magnitude the deficit is purported to be in a considered and effective manner. Expenditures that serve a valuable purpose are no less worthy because they are government expenditures. A thoughtful, balanced approach to the deficit is the only logical thing to do. Adopting a rigid position and disguising an ideological agenda as fiscal concern is not a logical approach.
For the current crop of prominent Republicans, however, ignorance is the second element of their poisonous porridge. This is not ignorance in the sense of lack of knowledge. It is more a case of refusing to acknowledge or admit to things virtually every politician surely knows. For example, the Constitution as written and ratified gives the legislative branch [Congress] the power to tax and the power to borrow on the credit of the United States. These just powers are enumerated in Article 1, Section 8. The language is straight forward. The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution gives Congress the power to lay and collect taxes on income "from whatever source derived." There is no doubt about how this reads. This is another just power of granted under the Constitutionally specified procedures. Furthermore, the Fourteenth Amendment stipulates in Section 4, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, ...including debts incurred for the payment of pensions ... , shall not be questioned. Because all federal officials take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, no member of Congress who is faithfully fulfilling his or her duty has an excuse for impairing the power of the Republic to tax or borrow. Nonetheless, a substantial majority of Congressional Republicans are insistent on doing precisely that. This is not because they do not know of the Constitutional provisions. This choice is a wilful one made to disregard what the fundamental law of this nation specifically says. Nowhere is this more evident than in regard to the "public debt of the United States, authorized by law".the To make this perfectly clear, compare this language from the Second Amendment to that quoted previously from the Fourteenth. "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." These phrases are linguistic fraternal twins. Most Republicans are ardent devotees of the phrase from the Second Amendment, but the clear majority of them prefer to conduct themselves as though the phrase from the Fourteenth Amendment is written in invisible ink.
Having combined illogic and ignorance of plainly written Constitutional provisions, contemporary Republicans mix irresponsibility with the two to enhance their destructive power. The first instance of this is their unity in jeopardizing the credit of the United States by making the increase in the debt ceiling a pawn in the struggle for campaign advantage. Prior to the this irresponsible ploy, Congress has increased the debt ceiling seventy-four times since 1962. In fact, the current Republican leadership in Congress has voted to increase the debt ceiling nineteen times. To emphasize how utterly irresponsible the current Republican position is ponder this comment by Mitch Daniels, "the conservative Republican Indiana governor and former Bush budget director, explains that “a responsible government” must routinely raise the debt ceiling. “This ought to be treated as the housekeeping matter it is.” Daniels also said. "Ronald Reagan warned that failure to raise the debt limit would lead to consequences too “awesome to contemplate.” [http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_07/resolving_the_debtceiling_disp030802.php] Without any legitimate question, this looming disaster is completely contrived. "A lot of crises are extremely difficult to resolve. This isn’t one of them. The threat of an economic collapse could be eliminated entirely in five minutes — all Congress has to do is raise the debt ceiling, just as previous Congresses have done dozens of times for decades." Republican past practices, the considered opinions of experts, and prospect of economic hardships for millions have thus far been unable to impose responsible behavior and invoke cogent remarks from contemporary Republicans with the conspicuous exception of Governor Daniels. To make this blatantly obvious if it is not already so, Representatives Michele Bachmann is co-sponsoring new legislation with GOP Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Louie Gohmert of Texas. The trio says that the Payment Reliability for our Obligations to Military and Investors to Secure Essential Stability Act, known as the PROMISES Act, would first prioritize the payment of active duty military salaries and, secondly, authorize the Treasury Department to pay principal and interest on debt held by the public." Note that the second highest priority is to pay principal and interest on debt held by the public. This sounds good until one realizes that there would be no money to pay veterans, social security recipients and many others who will be exceedingly threatened and definitely harmed by the default on these obligations. "Ms. Bachmann has consistently downplayed the potential for catastrophe if a deal to increase the debt limit is not reached, and said she intends to vote against authorizing an increase." Furthermore, these three Republican Congressmembers now blame President Obama for "holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so that he can continue his spending spree." [http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2011/07/bachmann-on-debt-limit-obama-holding-the-full-faith-and-credit-of-the-country-hostage.html] These statements and legislative proposals are not merely irresponsible. They are false and fallacious.
As toxic as the mix of illogic, ignorance, and irresponsibility is the Republicans of the second decade of the twenty-first century, add immoraltiy to the potion. Whatever one's philosophic outlook, almost every American believes swearing falsely on solemn matters is a wrongful act. Surely those who sincerely profess Judiasm or Christianity believe in the Ninth Commandment - "Thou shall not bear false witness ...." According to the book The Ten Commandments by David C. Pack,
"This commandment condemns all manner of lying and deception—every form. This includes outright lying, false advertising, slander, shading the truth, even exaggerating, as well as false testimony in a court of law. Justice can only be based on truth. (Of course, truth extends far beyond judicial proceedings.)
Truth embodies the very character of God—all that He is and does. God’s character is so perfect—but also so powerful—that He literally cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). He wants all mankind to learn the value of truth in every aspect of life." One can only assume, this would include running for and holding political office.
Many others who are not practioniers of the Christian or Jewish faiths also consider truth in oath taking and other instances of swearing or affirming to be the foundation of honest human interaction. The problem is virtually all Republicans have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and taken the oath of office. Because the oath must be taken "without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion", these actions are contradictory and incompatible. If one is pledged not to raise taxes in any form and for any reason, one cannot support and defend the just powers of the Republic as enumereated in the Constitution. If one holds office with such a conflict of solemn commitments, one can neither "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution nor "well and faithfully discharge the duties" of their offices. If any person appeared in court and falsely swore or affirmed the oath to tell the truth, that person would have commited an unethical, immoral act. If any person takes an oath "for qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.", they are also perpetrating an unethical and immoral act,
All of the preceeding toxins are made even more lethal by the fifth and final ingredient in this politically noxious concoction. This is ideology. In this sense, ideology is used to mean a set of assertions, theories, and aims that form a sociopolitical program. Far too many of the Republicans in Congress and in the chase for the party's presidential nomination are not geninely thinking about the issues confronting them. They are recalling and reciting "assertions, theories, and aims" from their fanatical creed. As with any other true beleivers, many Republicans reply to questions by repeating statements or positions that work well in the confines of their cult. For example, Tim Pawlenty asked what he would do now to solve the debt ceiling impasse said, "My goal is to pass a balanced budget amendment." While this is a reply, it is not a response. Twenty-seven amendments have been passed to the Constitution since it took affect in 1789. Ten were passed by 1791. Therefore, only seventeen amendments have been passed in 220 years. To respond to a question about what one would do now by asserting one's goal is an action that happens roughly every thirteen years is to engage in cant, not conversation. As another example, the Senate Minority Leader declared in 2010, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." At a time when the nation is struggling with numerous authentic challenges,this is neither the statement nor the priority of a thinking political leader. It is clearly the priority of a partisan ideologue. In the face of massive unemployment and even larger underemployment, in the face of a sluggish economy, with three military actions threatening the lives and limbs of American service personnel, the second most powerful national Republican has nothing more important to do than defeat a president from the opposing party in two years. As Cynthia Tucker comments, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Perhaps McConnell didn’t mean to, but he provided insight into his contempt for the plight of average voters. What’s the most important job? Not creating a climate to aid job creation. Not cutting the deficit. Not even cutting taxes. President Obama commented on this as follows - "The Republican leader of the Senate said that his main goal over the next two years -- his number one priority -- is to beat me in the next election," Mr. Obama said. "I mean, keep in mind he didn't say his number one priority was put more people back to work, help more small businesses succeed...."
No. As has been the case since Obama’s inauguration, the GOP has as its main goal trying to make sure the president fails — even if the country fails right along with him." No patriot worthy of the name, places political victory over the welfare of the country. Like many fanatic ideologues before them, contemporary Republicans believe in rule or ruin. They have shown by their words and their deeds that they like Lucifer would rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. If it seems likely to increase the chances of election victory, the Republicans will grievously damage the national and global economies. One cannot describe this statement and this priority any better than former Republican Congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough did when he was floored by McConnell’s open admission that his single most important goal is to defeat Obama. “Mitch McConnell said that?!? “ He admitted that on the record?!? That is embarrassing,” he said. “Can I just say for the record – that is pathetic.”
Both Democrats and Republicans should constantly bear in mind and relentlessly demonstrate that they serve in positions of trust and responsibility in the Republic of the United States. The essence of their sworn duty is to govern, not to campaign. Democrats are far from perfect in this vital role, but they look like paragons of patriotic devotion in contrast to current Republicans who resemble nothing so much an American version of the Taliban in their ideological rigidity and fervor. One final example of this rigidity and fervor comes from the ongoing talks on the debt ceiling, "As Monday’s White House budget talks got down to the nitty-gritty, Eric Cantor proposed a series of spending cuts, one of them aimed squarely at college students. The House majority leader, who did most of the talking for the Republican side, said those taking out student loans should start paying interest right away, rather than being able to defer payments until after graduation. It is a big-ticket item that would save $40 billion over 10 years.
President Obama rejected Cantor’s proposal out of hand, reportedly saying that he didn’t want to “screw students.” Cantor’s proposal comes at a time when American students are already overwhelmed by student loan debt. In 2008, the average debt that a college student graduated with was a whopping $23,000. American students continue to pay more than most of their developed world neighbors for a college education, and Cantor apparently wants to make it even more difficult for them while not touching the richest Americans. Once again, such proposals and perspectives are not those of a thinking, serious, open-minded, solution-seeking person. They are those of a person fanatically committed to a set of assertions, theories, and aims that form a sociopolitical program. Truly patriotic Americans should be fervent, but genuine patriotism has neither time nor place for fanaticism. As Bobby Kennedy reminded us more than forty years ago, The future “will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American society.” Ideologues cannot do this. Ideologues do not even conceive of the worth or need to do this. Ideologues are imprisoned in a fantasy world fabricated by their own deranged fixations.
In the next twenty days, those elected to national office will prove to the citizenry that they can or cannot govern. They will prove that they do or do not put country before party. They will determine, perhaps for years or decades to come, whether this is a nation with liberty and justice for all instead of a failed state where power serves the few and multitudinous rest are consigned to what Mantra Lotus calls "The tales and trails of broken hearts." Thus becoming "The neglected and the left behind." Let us ardently hope for the former rather than the latter. If we can manage to apply a patriotic perspective, let us finally understand tha America is a song which must be sung together. Let us all take more responsibility for ourselves, our families, our country, and our communities. Let us resolve that America will not be a truly great place for any of us to live in until it is at least a good place for all of us to live in. Let us understand and act on the belief that they love their country best who stive to make it the best it can be for all its citizens.
On this 221st anniversary of Bastille Day let us heed the words of La Marseillaise, "Drive on sacred patriotism". Let us ensure that years from now when we look into the eyes of young people we cherish, we do not have to admit even if only to ourselves that we could have made a difference in our country's fate but lacked the courage to try and the resolve to persevere. Arise citizens!