Once upon a time there was a king who promised to create 5.5 million new jobs by cutting taxes for the rich. Years passed and then Prince Boehner appeared in the Forest City and said that renewal of the tax cuts was required to have “real economic growth.”
The growth Prince Boehner speaks of is a fairy tale as the Bush tax cuts yielded little more than half the number of jobs projected; something his audience was painfully aware of since Cleveland (nicknamed the “Forest City”) has had double digit unemployment for 19 consecutive months.
Listening to Boehner and then seeing a clip of Paul Broun (R-GA) referring to the Civil War as the “Great War of Yankee Aggression,” it struck me how increasingly being a Republican today means having not only a distinct political ideology but your own highly sanitized amusement park version of history.
For example, it means believing that we are a Christian nation despite the founders’ clear intention to establish a separation of church and state and the express statement in a treaty signed by President Washington that we are not a Christian nation.
It means believing in the “War of Yankee Aggression” and other revisionist claims that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery despite express statements in articles of secession to the contrary. With the Vietnam War it means believing that we could have won the war had the politicians let the generals win, but they never explain what winning is.
It means believing that the Roosevelt’s New Deal failed and that it took World War II to get us out of the Great Depression. The reality, however, is that Roosevelt restored GDP to pre-Depression levels (in constant dollars) by the end of his first term.
It means believing that government spending on things such as infrastructure is wasteful spending and does not create jobs, when the Obama stimulus plan already has created more jobs than the Bush tax cuts and the GOP’s own website lists the party’s role in infrastructure projects such as the Trans-American Railway and the Interstate Highway System as major accomplishments. It also means believing that tax cuts pay for themselves since revenues went up under Reagan, when the reality is that the tax cuts caused huge deficits which forced Reagan to sign the biggest peacetime tax increase in history.
It means ignoring 32 national science academies and dismissing climate change as a theory, but I do not see any of them jumping out of windows because gravity is just a theory. Surprisingly, it also means claiming there were no domestic terrorist attacks during the Bush administration when Sept.11 was the sine qua non for many of the Bush policy initiatives from Iraq to torture.
The irony is that as they sleepwalk through history having embraced a cartoon version of America, they claim that only they are true Americans. Is this the result of a dumbing down of America or listening to Fox News and right wing talk radio? Or is this the inevitable result of Newt Gingrich’s 1996 strategy memo “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control” in which sound-bytes triumph over facts? Either way, there is a risk that such an extreme divergence in views could eventually cause a dangerous schism. In the short term, however, such “Fairy Tale Politics” impedes informed political debate over the direction of the nation.
In this midterm election season, voters are rightfully angry about the state of our economy. They have endured high unemployment and lost one-fifth of their net worth (which for many will mean having to postpone college, starting a family or retirement and work extra years to recoup their losses) and want answers.
Yet Boehner only offered them fairy tales in pushing for the renewal of failed tax cuts while dismissing the extension of unemployment benefits (which according to Moody’s generates $1.64 in economic activity for every dollar invested). When President Obama responded on Labor Day by following in the footsteps of President Eisenhower and offering a new infrastructure program to create jobs, Prince Boehner of Neverland ignored his party’s own history and dismissed it is as “out of control spending” (and no doubt Tinkerbell will chime in to “refudiate it”).
This is an important debate for the president to engage, since a recent CNN poll found that over half of Americans believed that Democrats are either responsible or equally responsible for the current state of the economy, yet the result flips when Presidents Obama and Bush are included in the question. Obama needs to combat the GOP’s fairy tale politics so that voters understand how we got into this mess and that it simply is too risky to go back to Neverland.
Bennet Kelley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.