Mike Lofgren is a Republican congressional staffer who retired on June 17 of this year. He served for some three decades, including stints as an aide to both the House and Senate budget committees . He cares very little for big "D" Democratic principles or policy. But apparently he has decided the modern Republican Party has become the functional equivalent of an asylum taken over by the residents. He wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times back in June, shortly after resigning in disgust, that made it clear that the nation's deficit problems were, at least in his view, the creation of the GOP, which then used the problems to take the U.S. economy hostage.
The failure of our leaders to offer realistic budget proposals was a major reason I decided to retire after 28 years in Congress, most of them as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees. My party talks a good game, railing about the immorality of passing debt on to our children. But the same Congressional Budget Office that punctured Obama's budget also concluded that the major policies that swung the budget from a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion in 2001 to the present 10-year deficit of $6.2 trillion were Republican in origin.If that whets your appetite, there is another piece he has recently authored in the progressive on-line magazine Truthout entitled: "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult." that makes for even more interesting reading. It is a much longer piece than the L.A. Times op-ed, but well worth the time to read.
Consider the two signature GOP policies of George W. Bush's presidency: the wars and the tax cuts. Including debt service costs, Bush's wars have cost about $1.7 trillion to date. Additionally, as part of being "a nation at war," the Pentagon has spent about $1 trillion more than was expected in the last decade on things other than direct war costs, which has been a bonanza for military contractors but a disaster for the federal budget. And finally, there has been another trillion dollars spent domestically in response to 9/11, including spending on such things as establishing the Homeland Security Department and increasing the budgets for the State Department and the Veterans Administration.
The Bush tax cuts have added another $3 trillion in red ink. While Republican leaders wail that Americans — particularly their rich contributors — are overtaxed, the facts say otherwise: U.S. taxpayers, particularly the wealthiest, pay far less in taxes than they would in most other developed countries. Today, the 400 wealthiest Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 125 million. The GOP insists that those wealthy people use their money to create jobs, and that taxing them more heavily would ultimately hurt the economy. But, if that's so, why was the rate of job creation in the decade after the Bush tax cuts the poorest in any decade since before World War II?
Like a drunk swearing off hooch for the hundredth time, Republicans are now trying to show they are serious about controlling the deficit by saying they won't raise the debt ceiling unless they get through some of their cost-saving projects, like privatizing Medicare. Meanwhile, they want revenue increases "off the table," even though, at 14.8% of GDP, revenues are at their lowest level in 60 years. And the budget passed by the Republican-controlled House further cuts taxes on the wealthy, a fact it glosses over with optimistic growth forecasts.
But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy..
. . .
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
. . .
This legislative assault is moving in a diametrically opposed direction to 200 years of American history, when the arrow of progress pointed toward more political participation by more citizens. Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy; exporting democracy (albeit at the barrel of a gun) to the Middle East was a signature policy of the Bush administration. But domestically, they don't want those people voting.
You can probably guess who those people are. Above all, anyone not likely to vote Republican. As Sarah Palin would imply, the people who are not Real Americans. Racial minorities. Immigrants. Muslims. Gays. Intellectuals. Basically, anyone who doesn't look, think, or talk like the GOP base. This must account, at least to some degree, for their extraordinarily vitriolic hatred of President Obama. I have joked in the past that the main administration policy that Republicans object to is Obama's policy of being black. Among the GOP base, there is constant harping about somebody else, some "other," who is deliberately, assiduously and with malice aforethought subverting the Good, the True and the Beautiful: Subversives. Commies. Socialists. Ragheads. Secular humanists. Blacks. Fags. Feminazis. The list may change with the political needs of the moment, but they always seem to need a scapegoat to hate and fear.
It is not clear to me how many GOP officeholders believe this reactionary and paranoid claptrap. I would bet that most do not. But they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base with a nod and a wink. During the disgraceful circus of the "birther" issue, Republican politicians subtly stoked the fires of paranoia by being suggestively equivocal - "I take the president at his word" - while never unambiguously slapping down the myth. John Huntsman was the first major GOP figure forthrightly to refute the birther calumny - albeit after release of the birth certificate.Harsh assessment. Guess he finally decided not to drink the Kool-Aid.