You have to give the Republicans credit for holding onto their views, even when their own actions make them look like hypocrites.
We were told for the better part of a year that Bernie Sanders would seize control of the Democrats and turn them into a socialist—if not communist—party. Since Bernie flamed out, we’re being told that Sanders has pulled Joe Biden so far left he has no chance of winning in November.
They point to Biden’s agenda, which promises free community college, plus free university for every family earning less than $125,000 a year. While he resists “Medicare for All,” Biden wants to add a “public option” to ObamaCare.
Then there’s the cost: Biden proposes tax increases totaling $3.4 trillion over 10 years, twice what Hillary Clinton proposed in 2016. His climate plan alone runs to $1.7 trillion over a decade!
That’s all part of the GOP’s strategy for reelecting Donald Trump: Run on a strong economy while tying Biden to Bernie and the Squad. Neither one of those is working very well right now.
The economy is in freefall and the Republicans have supported legislation to prop up the economy that will add another $2.4 trillion (and maybe another $2 trillion on top of that) to a national deficit that is already over $1 trillion a year. (Big-spending Democrats prefer to inflict the pain now with tax increases while big-spending Republicans prefer to inflict the pain on future generations by piling up national debt.)
And what do Republicans propose to do with this deficit spending? Well, the $2.2 trillion Cares Act draws from key elements of the liberal activist platform honed over the past decade. These include:
Extending unemployment benefits to gig workers, shielding renters from eviction, student debt relief, and creating guidelines governing how private companies pay their executives, reward shareholders, and interact with organized labor.
While it’s not exactly Bernie’s “Medicare for All,” the Trump administration promises the government will pay the coronavirus medical bills of any uninsured Americans—and reimburse health care providers at Medicare rates.
Senator Josh Hawley (R.—Mo.) is actually proposing the government guarantee 80% of the paychecks of private company employees during the pandemic. “Workers ought to be able to keep their jobs,” Hawley said. Just like in Denmark and France.
As things stand now, the unemployed will get $600 a week for up to four months from the feds on top of whatever benefits they collect from their home state, making it profitable for some people to get laid off. Then there’s the $1,200 going to everybody who qualifies, including those who don’t need the money. You would think we’re one of those delusional socialist countries in Europe.
All of this received unanimous Republican support in the U.S. Senate. (For the record, the Cares Act will carried by that here-to-for stalwart of fiscal probity, Major Leader Mitch McConnell.) Nevada County’s two House representatives, Doug LaMalfa and Tom McClintock, lamented the new deficit spending but went along anyway. As columnist William Galston wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “…there are few libertarians in economic foxholes.”
This is quite a change from the Republican response to the fiscal meltdown of 2008-09. When a $700 billion plan to rescue banks came up for a vote in September 2008, two-thirds of House Republicans voted against it despite pleas from party leaders and their own president, George W. Bush. A follow-up $800 billion plan from Barack Obama didn’t get a single House Republican vote.
The Tea Party movement spawned by the big bank bailout—you know, the people who were going to bring fiscal discipline to the Republican Party—has remained silent as the Trump administration routinely racks up $1 trillion deficits. Now they say they’ve had enough.
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, says 96% of the group’s supporters “don’t want any more spending. They think $2.2 trillion-plus in spending should be enough.” But Trump’s talking about another $2 trillion in infrastructure spending, and he’ll get it after he makes enough concessions to the Democrats.
The big thinkers right-of-center are scrambling to explain this aberrant behavior. Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union invoked the spirit of the 5th Amendment—the part about taking property without just compensation—when he said:
“The conservative principal is that when government takes your property and economic rights, they are obliged to come up with a financial settlement.” (Nice try, Matt.)
Other Republicans explain all of this by saying we live in extraordinary times that require radical—but temporary—measures, and that they had to make concessions to Democrats to get a bill passed. But history shows us that once something new—even radical—is tried, it rarely disappears.
“It’s been shocking how certain ideas that have been viewed as fringe and partisan have quickly come into the mainstream,” said Ed Mills, a policy analyst for brokerage Raymond James and Associates. “These tools are now in the tool kit. They will be used again.”
So folks, you can forget about the party that used to oppose big government, deficit spending, and meddling in free markets. Bernie lost the war, but he may have won the revolution.