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CODGERTATIONS: The Land of the Free Stuff


Tom Harker

Some Republicans like to accuse Democrats of giving “free stuff” to people to buy their votes. “They wanna take our money and give it to ‘those’ people.” They imply or even claim directly that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are unnecessary and should be eliminated or seriously scaled back. Yep, these and other programs are used simply to buy votes from lazy Takers.

Well, what first comes to mind is the question: Isn’t the purpose of government to serve the people as the Preamble to the Constitution says: to “promote the general welfare”? Shouldn’t Americans be upset if government acts to abuse them in order to enrich the wealthy? Shouldn’t Americans be upset if government acts to promote the welfare of 10 percent of the People at the expense of the 90 percent? Well, that’s exactly how the tax system works now, and the Republican idea of a flat tax (“it’s so much simpler”) would make it worse. That’s a fact.

The Republican leaders have it backwards. They are the ones taking our money and giving it to the Oligarchs. The wealthy are the Takers. That’s what “Trickle Down Economics” is all about. It started with Ronald Reagan in 1981 and is being touted by Republicans to this day. The idea: give more breaks and more money to those who already have plenty of money, and it will trickle down on the rest of us. Yeah, right. Even George Herbert Walker Bush knocked the scheme, calling it “Voodoo Economics.”

It doesn’t work – at least not for the vast majority of people. It helps the Koch Brothers; it has been helping them. Has it been helping you? Are you getting trickled on? If so, you are the aberration. The disparity in wealth between most of us and the few at the top has been discussed and demonstrated widely and well. Figures from 2013 show the top 1 percent with almost half of the wealth (49.8 percent) and the top 10 percent with more than 90 percent of the wealth (91 percent). Where do you and I fit?

But if I know so much, why do so many people go bonkers over Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Carson, and Ohio’s smiling Johnny? Well, John Stuart Mill (1806-1863) said, “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.” How else can one explain the loyalty to Trump of 30 to 40 percent of Republican voters – so loyal that as Trump says, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Even right-wing columnist Michael Reagan sees through Trump’s pandering. He says it’s time Trump’s supporters “grow up”; that Trump won’t deport 11 million immigrants, build the wall and have Mexico pay for it, keep Muslims out, repeal Obamacare, rebuild the military, defeat Isis, and more. That’s Michael Reagan – not me. He says, “Trump’s vague promises aren’t worth the hot air they were written on.” Thus, it should not be a surprise that Trump announced, “I love the poorly educated!”

Clearly, what the Donald is doing is “buying” the votes of uneducated and uninformed and – to some extent – intellectually challenged Americans by telling them things they would like to hear and would like to believe. But Trump isn’t the only “con man.” He is proudly and openly saying the same things Republicans have been expressing via dog whistles for decades. That is, among other things, using fear (terrorism, “takin’ our guns”), xenophobia (Mexican rapists), racism (States Rights), and classism (“Takers”) to make a significant part of their base dependent upon and supportive of the very ones dedicated to abusing them.

The Conservative establishment is beside itself over Trump’s refusal to follow the “rules” (they’ve even called in The Mitt, Mr. 47%, for the attack). Trump is supposed to tease the base, telling them what they want to hear – but in a way that can be avoided or given only lip service after the election. Trump has given such strong assertions that his plans will be implemented, that Republicans – who control the legislature – will have a much harder time making excuses for ignoring the base’s wet-dream desires.

Besides that, he has twice angered the conservative establishment by allowing the truth to sneak out from behind the official curtain. First he stated emphatically that George W. Bush knew that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction but pretended they did to advance the Neo-Con agenda – an established fact, but according to the establishment, admitting it was a Republican blasphemy.

Similarly, the Donald’s reluctance to denounce David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan revealed the Republican party’s reliance on large blocks of racist voters. The party, of course, reacted with faux outrage that anyone in their party would play the race card. In reality, since Nixon’s day the party has been playing on race, but by using “dog-whistle” terminology (“young buck,” “welfare queen,” “thugs,”) and third party incitement of racial fears and prejudices (check out the Southern Strategy and Lee Atwater). Paul Ryan’s vehement denial of his party’s use of racism notwithstanding, honest people (and even Donald Trump) know the truth (see this article from the New York Times).

So, everything considered, it’s pretty obvious that Republicans buy people’s votes, too. They just give their base different free stuff – all the free stuff Trump is promising: hateful stuff, xenophobic stuff, jingoistic tough guy stuff, free stuff like the 1,500 mile wall that Mexico is going to pay for – Conservative free stuff in the Land of the Free Stuff.

This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal