GOP message: Get rich or starve?

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By Rick Howell

    Republicans won’t take over the House officially until the next Congress is sworn in after the New Year. But they’ve already tipped their hand.

    After their election victories in November, they let it be known that they would absolutely go to the mat to get tax relief for the wealthiest Americans.
    The so-called Bush tax cuts have not produced the jobs we were told they would. If they had, we certainly would not have the very high unemployment numbers we’ve seen for many months now.
    Conservatives need this old saw about job creation that comes with throwing more money at the rich, but it’s not true. Their real goal is to reward the true base of their movement and the Republican party: the fabulously wealthy.
    Republicans also voted to end unemployment benefits. To extend them, they said, would be to raise the deficit, a contention that’s getting to be another justification for their bad policies when it suits them.
    They ignored the fact that unemployment benefits go right back into the economy, as jobless consumers buy food, gasoline, clothing and various household needs. That many people need this money in order to survive did not move many cold Republican hearts.
    Maybe it’s time for the Republicans to change the name of their party to something that more clearly expresses what they most deeply believe. How about…the Get Rich or Starve party? That seems to be the only two options they really think people should have.
    They believe so deeply in the capitalist system they seem to think that if you can’t get rich, well, there’s probably something wrong with you.
    Jerry Falwell said once that the capitalist system came right out of the Book of Genesis, where the Lord decreed that man, after the fall, should earn his keep and his food “by the sweat of your brow.” But Falwell neglected to mention that this was a curse, not a blessing.
    Likewise, conservatives today will rave about the glories of capitalism, free markets, and “the private sector,” but they’re in denial about the obvious faults of the system. Capitalism creates more poverty and low-to-middle income people than it ever does wealth.
    Depressions and recessions occur because the profit-based system will often struggle and fail. The remedy for this should quite naturally be a strong role for government, to offset bad times with a vital social safety net, things such as jobless benefits, Social Security, and Medicaid and Medicare.
    But, increasingly, conservatives are making it clear that they just don’t believe that anymore. These aren’t Eisenhower Republicans. They’re hard-core ideologues, short on sympathy and strong on the idea that all government is bad all the time (except when it’s waging war and bloating the Pentagon).
    Just look at what’s becoming acceptable on the right now in the wake of the “tea party’s” prominence. Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller actually maintained that unemployment benefits were “unconstitutional.”
    Incoming Congressman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, is among a new generation of conservative leaders who readily admit that they’d like to privatize Social Security, something Republicans of just 10 years ago would never have advocated.
    So, is “Get Rich or Starve” unfair, or does it seem to reflect what these people believe and will carry out once they start to rule the House?
    Some would say it’s just class warfare, pitting the poor and the average against the rich. Fine. We need some class war in this country. If the working poor would wake up and see who’s keeping them down, they wouldn’t have any illusions about conservatism and they’d never vote Republican again
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    Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.