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With very little to show for his sincere efforts at bipartisanship, President Barack Obama nonetheless signed his landmark economic stimulus bill into law, thanks to the votes of Democrats and just three common sense Republicans in the Senate.
When one speaks of Republicans and uses the phrase “common sense,” what is being said is a word most conservatives disdain: moderate. Those dipped deeply into the fires of right-wing orthodoxy have no compass for the center. Nor do they want one.
In fact, looking back at the particulars of the debate on the bill, you have to be astounded at the reams of paper and the massive clouds of hot air sacrificed not to talk about the possible benefits - the new jobs, the infrastructure investments, the largest middle class tax cut in history - but, rather, “the cost.”
Congressman Barney Frank remarked that it was a testimony to the power of conservatives in media to put so much focus on the cost and not the benefits. Suddenly, conservatives were shrieking….”Egads, there’s a deficit, and this will increase it!”
Did conservatives just wake up, after eight years of Bush and Cheney, and realize there’s a national deficit? Did they forget that Bush came into office with a surplus and quickly squandered it? Where were their cries of horror about deficit spending and the national debt when the costs of the Iraq war tumbled from billions into trillions?
President Obama himself pointed out the hypocrisy in Republicans suddenly getting religion on deficit spending when their party practically invented it. It was Dick Cheney who infamously said that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.”
Cheney at least had his history right, although his conclusion was wrong. President Reagan began office with the belief that the Pentagon was about to have to hold a bake sale to build a bomber. He proceeded to toss massive amounts of money at “defense,” and the subsequent explosion in the deficit had the support of conservatives everywhere.
The key element of the defense spending that so blew the budget were the tax cuts for the rich. Cutting revenue and increasing federal spending was what the first George Bush had called “voodoo economics.” Even Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, later saw the problem.
Keep this in mind: In voting against this stimulus bill, Republicans everywhere just cast a vote against the largest middle class tax cut in history. They want Donald Trump to get a tax cut; they just don’t want a retail worker in Bedford to get one.
Conservatives have shown their contempt for the stimulus in other ways. There was a report that some Republican governors may not even accept the revenue meant for their states. When Governor Tim Kaine invited our state’s congressional delegation to Richmond to discuss how Virginia might use its revenue, Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte snubbed the governor and the state.
Goodlatte didn’t even send a staffer to take notes. He claimed a “scheduling conflict,” another version of “I’m resigning because I want to spend more time with my family.” He didn’t fool anybody.
Goodlatte should take heed. If Democrats in the Sixth District ever get their act together - and they just might - he could eventually go the way of his buddy, Virgil Goode.
Conservative Republicans everywhere need to be reminded yet again: They and their ideas lost in November, as they did in 2006. You’d better chuck some of your precious notions, and propose something to help the people out of this crisis.
Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com