Monday, January 26, 2009


Anything taken to extremes, no matter how good, turns bad. Anything. Write it down. Memorize it. Live by it. Water is a necessity. Life can't exist without it. But there's such a thing as too much water: it's called "drowning."

Less money for government and more for taxpayers can be good news in some situations. I'll even go a step further and say, many situations. But I've spent the last two days writing angry letters to the editor over the Republican Party's downright irrational obsession with cutting taxes more and more and more.

The Republican leadership is always the first to remind the country that we're at war. But until this decade we'd never, in our entire history, cut taxes during wartime. And we certainly never did it again and again and again and again and again during wartime. That was Bush's brilliant idea, and it's near the bottom of that list. Remember soldiers with no body armor? Vehicles that couldn't withstand an IED? Have you read, heard about, or even known veterans who were denied care? When the coffers are empty, the government can't wage war, and soldiers pay with their lives, and children pay by growing up without parents, and veterans pay in pain and hunger. That cause and effect chain is as simple and inexorable as they come, and the consequences are gruesome.

And have you noticed over the past few years that the supermarket has turned into a death trap? That no sooner are spinach and tomatoes are cleared of E Coli risk than the peanut butter is laced with salmonella? Noticed that this didn't seem to happen nearly as often years ago, have you? That's because back then, we actually paid for enough food inspectors to give us a reasonable expectation of clean food! More and more, people from other countries are having to take the precautions, when they visit the United States, that Americans took for years when we visited developing countries. And it's not that we don't have the level of affluence necessary to police our food; it's just that we've got this wildly moronic idea that the more we slash taxes and hollow out government programs, the more virtuous we are. Dying of salmonella is a virtue I can cheerfully pass up.

And been on the highways lately? I wouldn't recommend sipping coffee while driving unless you want it in your lap. And before you cross an overpass, be sure your will is up to date. Can't maintain the infrastructure if we've cut taxes so near the bone that cement and iron are out of reach. Cardboard just won't cut it.

Understand me: I spent my teenage years and early twenties as a die-hard conservative. I know conservative beliefs, conservative reasoning, conservative arguments, and being a bloody fool isn't anywhere in my understanding of what constitutes a conservative. It's been a pretty unmistakable hallmark of this generation's crop of conservative leaders, but there are much better conservative ideas out there. Mindlessly baying "cut the taxes! Cut the taxes!" is not a platform, is not public service, is not anything other than an excuse not to think, not to lead, Grover Norquist be damned.

The thing about the economic stimulus package is that every minute of delay robs it of effectiveness. Another thing about it is that it already contains tax cuts! For the Republican leadership to dig in their heels and demand more, given the state of government resources, given the past eight years of ramshackle, paper-thin services under Republican budgeting, is intolerable. From 2006 to the present, they've been taking loss after loss because people are tired of having the government steered straight into the shoals, and it looks as though they need another loss, and possibly another, and another, and as much as I hate to say it, they may simply be incapable of learning any better.

I don't want that to be true. I want wise, balanced, considered government that bargains integratively and legislates creatively and finds a way to transcend difference and incorporate both sides' good ideas into the outcome. Instead, we seem to be stuck with an opposition with its needle stuck in exactly one groove, and a groove that anyone who isn't blind and brain-damaged can see is a straight road to disaster.

Get us out of this, someone. We need an opposition party that can muster some brainpower. And we need it now!

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