Posted by: JanF | July 27, 2010

Words Have Meanings

Today’s post starts with a question: What on earth happened to the word “Conservative”? And how on earth can the current right-wing Tea Party GOP lay claim to anything even remotely related to Conserving things?

Oops, I guess that was two questions.

This has been bothering me for a long time.

In my tradition, words have meanings. You don’t say “You’re killing me” about a funny joke, you don’t say “I could have killed him/her” when you are upset with a family member.

And you don’t call people “conservatives” when they really do not want to conserve anything except their own privilege.

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary “Conservative: 3b : marked by moderation or caution.

I think Destructive is a better term. The Tea Party GOP has never found a surplus that they did not feel needed to be IMMEDIATELY returned to “the people” meaning “their people”: the rich. As George W. Bush once declared: “This is an impressive crowd – the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.” (I apologize for reminding you of George W. Bush, what he said and the smirk on his face when he said it. I recommend EMDR.)

In 1978, Lee Dreyfus ran for governor of Wisconsin on the platform of returning the surplus to the people:

When Lee Dreyfus ran for Governor of Wisconsin in 1978, he pledged that if elected he would return the state’s growing budget surplus to the taxpayers. The maverick Republican won handily, and promptly signed into law a $976 million tax relief program. “When you recover stolen property,” boasted Dreyfus, “it ought to be handed back.” Today [1981] the surplus is gone. To keep Wisconsin from going into the red in the next fiscal year, the tax-cutting Governor says he must raise the state’s gasoline tax by 53% and scrap programs ranging from new highway construction to Milwaukee’s student bus service.


In 2001, with a surplus created by the boom of the Clinton years, the “conservatives” in Congress cut taxes:

During his first term, Bush sought and obtained Congressional approval for three major tax cuts. These temporary cuts, scheduled to expire a decade after passage, increased the standard income tax deduction for married couples, eliminated the estate tax, and reduced marginal tax rates.

Bush’s supporters claim that the tax cuts increased the pace of economic recovery and job creation.

Ooops (on economic recovery) and Oooops (on job creation).

From an article over the weekend related to the tax cuts, this really leaped out at me :

Conceived during Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign as a way to return huge projected government surpluses to taxpayers, the cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003. But because they were expected to eventually cause huge deficits, Republicans wrote them to expire in 2010.

When I am being conservative, I save for the future. I do not spend “projected surpluses” or ignore my debts.

What would have been wrong with applying the surpluses to paying down the debt or putting it into trust for the deteriorating Federal highway system or funding programs that would benefit our future growth such as education and reducing dependence on non-renewable energy? Kinda like “investing” … you know … in the “future” … how very quaint, all that “build a better world” stuff those darn libruls think about.

And what part of “projected surpluses” don’t they get? You don’t spend “projected surpluses” for crying out loud! As Inigo Montoya said: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The only good thing about the Bush Tax Cuts is that because of the arcane rules of budgeting, they needed to have an expiration date in order to be enacted. Remember that in the years from 2000 to 2004, when the Republicans showed how easy it was to steal an election and how effective lying and cheating was, they really thought that they had found way to install a “permanent Republican majority”. From Grover Norquist:

“Once the minority [Democrats] of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they’ve been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don’t go around peeing on the furniture and such.” (Washington Post, 11/4/2004)

(Again, apologies for reminding you of Grover Norquist, his awful words and the image of Congresscritters being “fixed”.)

They nearly succeeded but, with all overreaching, there can come a time when you reach just a little too far and you fall off the cliff. That happened in 2005 with Bush wanting to privatize social security (how would that have worked out?), intervening in family end of life matters (Terry Schiavo) and ignoring the needs of the population of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. The result of the delusions of national Republicans in 2005, where they believed that nothing they said or did would matter because they were immune to Realworldia, was that Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006 and we increased our majorities and elected a Democratic president in 2008.

What’s Next?

In 2010 we have the confluence of four things (which reminds me of the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times”):

1. The Bush Tax Cuts expire.
2. The Estate Tax goes back to 2001 levels
3. We have a Senate unable to create or pass legislation
4. We have a mid-term election

So what happens if the Bush Tax Cuts expire? At first I said, “Fine, let them”. Then I read deeper into it and found that along with the tax cuts on the top 1% are some tax cuts that affect middle class families including adjustments to the AMT and reductions in some of the lower income tax brackets. That means that we need to let the tax cuts expire and then replace them with a new tax bill the extends the middle-class cuts.

And we really need to ignore the red herring that has the “deficit hawks” underwear in a bunch. Lest we forget, here is Al Franken on the deficit:

Opponents say, our deficits must be addressed, our debt can’t grow any larger. We’ve got to draw a line in the sand, and insist that these [unemployment] benefits be fully paid for.

This is troubling to me for two reasons. First, because these deficits aren’t new and many of my colleagues seem to have suddenly become aware of them only a year and a half ago. More importantly, I’m troubled because one of the biggest threats to our long-term deficits is a double-dip recession and the stunting of our nation’s economic growth. And this short-sightedness is not only jeopardizing our short-term economic recovery and our future economic health-it’s also causing us to abandon the real and urgent needs of families at home in our states.

My plan (or as I like to call it quite modestly “the winning plan”):
1. Let the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy expire
2. Craft a good tax bill NOW (before the mid-terms) in the House of Representatives under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi.
3. Dare the Republicans in the House to vote against the new tax bill.
4. Pass it on to the Senate
5. Dare the Senate to vote against the new tax bill
6. Use the votes of the Republicans in the mid-term elections and make sure that they know that we will aggressively use their votes against them in the mid-term elections.
My prediction? The House passes tax relief on people earning less than $250,000 a year and the Senate weeps bitterly and also passes it. (Note to self: Senators weeping bitterly does NOT require EMDR and may be used as an effective antidote to images of Bush and Norquist).

And another word of advice to Congress (now that I have their attention): Do not let these guys drive the conversation: “Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are calling on chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to draft a bill in the committee this month to extend the critical tax relief enacted in 2001 and 2003.”

The new tax bill should start in the People’s House where it has half a chance to be good and then sent to the Senate.

The Tea Party GOP wants to conserve things … the status quo, the wealth of the top 1%, and, more importantly, people like us focusing on survival so that we don’t notice what is happening.

Instead, try these words on for size: Go right at them. Fight back. Retain our majorities. Do not let them win.

Happy Tuesday to everyone! And fist bumps!

(A version of this was originally posted on 07/27/2010 at BPI Campus)