80 Bad Years: Conservatives’ Exemplary Record Of Being Wrong About Everything

Head in Hands

As Obamacare surpasses its goal of  7 million sign-ups, with over 8 million as of now,  and including those who have acquired insurance either as the result of Medicaid expansion or other elements of the Affordable Care Act raising the number of Americans previously uninsured or newly insured to between 14.6 and 22.1 million, there’s discussion of how supercalifragilistically wrong Republicans have been again.

It’s debatable how many Republicans actually believed Obamacare would tank, the opposition coming from many of them as fiercely as it did simply because they recognized it would work as intended once it was fully implemented. Now that implementation is fait accompli, the told-you-so’s from the reality-based community ought to come flocking home to roost. That doesn’t mean opposition from the Republican Negativity Industrial Complex will cease of course.

That’s the charm of America’s conservatives: they will hate and oppose initiatives no matter how successful purely on the basis of ideological animus. The better it works the more they’re going to hate it, the more good it does for people the more it will be reviled. Nice, huh? Their goal isn’t to solve problems, it isn’t improving the common lot, but rather doing things a certain way. That certain way entails largely draconian social policy, corporatism and feudalistic economic policy: neo-aristocracy dressed in Ayn Rand drag in other words. But as American conservatism continues its march in the opposite direction of the modernizing world, and with the blossoming of Obamacare at hand, it’s an excellent time to review the stellar conservative resume of boat missing.

Social Security: In the golden days prior to the enactment of social insurance programs like Social Security and Unemployment, half of seniors lived below the poverty line, while in the midst of the depression unemployment rates reached 25%. Firm as the rock of Gibraltar, conservatives weren’t fazed. Then as now, such economic havoc and misery were regarded by the reactionary set as the righteous judgment of the Market God, and meant to be endured. Republicans, much as they did when Obamacare was enacted, obstructed, yelped, pranked and attempted sabotage of Social Security. Predictions of imminent Bolshevism and an unworkable safety net were a little off the mark, shall we say. Now that social insurance programs not only are integral, but beloved, we can mark this as a stunning debut in a long era of Fail to come.

Civil Rights: Conservatives’ dubious ingenuity flourished during the Civil Rights era, opposing the package of civil rights legislation eventually enacted with malarkey like states rights, the right’s go-to faux principle when it comes to allowing state and local bullies to tyrannize those within their dominion. As now, conservatives at the time decried legal obstacles to discrimination as impediments to discriminators’ liberty much in the same way they today advocate for the liberty of corporations and the rich to roll right over you at their convenience. Some of the Forefathers were aghast at the temerity of British infringement upon their sacred right to own their slaves, when the Brits offered slaves freedom in exchange for joining the Tory cause. Sound familiar? What the country would look like today had conservatives won this fight in the Sixties god knows. Magnificent a Fail as this was, nimrods such as Rand Paul, like his daddy, believe civil rights laws were unnecessary or ill-advised, that discrimination could have been rectified by Our Lord and Savior, The Market. Uh huh.

Medicare:Conservative brainiacs understood that with the success of Social Security, the only hope for stopping Medicare was going nuclear with the propaganda, smelling another effective and beloved social insurance program waiting to happen. Ronald Reagan famously decried a looming Soviet America if Medicare were enacted, one of the more auspicious moments in his long career of being wrong. Senior citizens who were previously uninsurable in the private sector and doing without proper health care now were guaranteed medical access through a suspiciously socialistic big-government program, something powerfully offensive to conservative sensibilities to this day. Today’s enlightened conservative alternative to Medicare isn’t letting the old prematurely rot away like they did in the good old days, but for granny to cough up every last dime she has to our private insurance companies in order to see a doctor. Makes sense. If you’ve lived to old age without having most of your hard-earned money extracted by powerful private institutions this is officially their last chance. And Paul Ryan is here to hand you a voucher, and guarantee corporate America sends you off to your reward a pauper, meaning you’re really going to need that reward.

Supply Side Economics: Cooked up by kooks Arthur Laffer and Jude Wanniski in the Seventies, Supply Side was conceived as a way of putting theoretical fancy pants on a grand economic heist, shifting the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto the middle class. Obviously it is highly compatible with the Ayn Rand hooey regarding ‘makers and ‘takers’ when it comes to fleecing the masses, and being as kind as possible to the fatted brackets. Prior to Reagan’s election, advocates swore taxes could be drastically lowered for the muckety-mucks at the same time spending remained at current levels, or even increased without resulting in deficits. The alchemy was said to derive from an astonishing explosion of economic activity as the result of the tax bonanza for “makers” that would cause the Treasury to be flooded in revenue.

Well, President Carter left a deficit of 73 billion and Reagan had it up to 128 billion by 1982, and 207 billion by 1983 after cutting taxes in half and raising spending, mostly for defense. Deficits persisted throughout the Reagan era, his last 155 billion, twice the one he inherited from Carter. Of course, all the deficit spending (Keynesian priming of the pump) eventually helped lift the economy out of recession, just not the way Reagan and his witch doctors advertised. Whether Reagan was more surprised by the inevitable deficits or the fact that a tried and true liberal economic prescription provided the actual magic, he never admitted either, nor do his benighted progeny even to this day

Cold War/End of the Soviet Union: I’d hate to foster the misimpression that conservative wrongness is confined to social issues and economic matters, though if only that were so what a wonderful world it would be. Since the days when Californians Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan got the bulk of their financial support from the defense industry in California, Republicans have found that a foreign policy of fear-mongering, saber rattling, hot rhetoric and ill-advised military adventures is marvelously lucrative for the Military-Industrial Complex, and consequently for them.

The challenge for authentically authoritarian despising liberals during the Cold War, as opposed to Republican tinhorns who liked the political benefits of so-called ‘anti-communist’ bellowing, was to keep the idiots from getting us all killed before the Soviet empire could collapse of its own feebleness and internal misery. Liberals argued the latter was bound to happen if given time, while conservatives justified decades of goofy scarification, demagoguery and bloated defense spending with the assertion that Sovietism could only be defeated with bullets, that the evil empire would never, never, never collapse under its own manure. Oops.

Despite decades of intelligence community puffery about Soviet strength, and Republican red-baiting and politically motivated flaking for Soviet power and invincibility, post-Soviet examination of the internal condition of the USSR revealed that the place was woebegone economically and militarily, the flimsiest of evil empires, just as cold war liberals always asserted. Conservatives often claim bogusly and obtusely that Reagan ended the cold war. What he did in fact was come to the realization that Gorbachev was about to end it himself, and that he could advance that eventuality through cooperation, and in fact, befriending of the Russian reformer, easing his task.

The bad news is that politically incited cold war paranoia cost the American people untold zillions, and when Reagan was in charge for instance, the public and financial support of the cruelest, most brutal dictatorial regimes in the world in the name of  “anti-communism,” assisting thugs in the oppression and impoverishment of their own citizens, from Chile to Nicaragua, from El Salvador to the Philippines. The good news is that saner people prevented cynical, hyperventilating boneheads from getting us all killed as the result of recklessness, rashness, misperception or customary conservative ineptitude.

Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993: Bill Clinton won the booby prize upon assuming office in 1993 by inheriting his two Republican predecessors’ rolled up deficits. Like the next Democratic president, Barack Obama who would be confronted with another humongous deficit left by a Republican predecessor (Detect a pattern here Sherlock?) Clinton acted quickly to bring deficits under control. The eventual legislation, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (yes, it sounds serious) passed with only the votes of Democrats. Every Republican from the leadership in congress to nonelected Hoo Hahs made Cassandra herself blush with their squealed declamations of imminent doom. With unwavering certitude, conservatives made explicit promises of an economy devastated, some claiming it all would fall apart in several months, others within the year, but all promising the end was fucking nigh.

Naturally there followed a historic economic boom, low rates of unemployment and four consecutive years of budget surplus. If it needed proving, which it didn’t, this pleasant stretch of years demonstrated beyond dispute that raising taxes, despite what conservatives claimed until their voices cracked, does not deter an economy from growing and flourishing. For conservatives, being wrong no longer was simply a habit but an art form.

Bush Tax Cuts: Bush and his Republican cohorts in congress couldn’t resist running the supply-side economics flag up the pole again when Republicans controlled the branches of government . So in 2001, and again, in 2003, they used tax munificence toward the wealthiest to reverse four straight years of budget surplus under President Clinton, Bush and his Republicans (with a little Democratic help initially) flipping a 128 billion surplus into a 157 billion deficit by 2002. A recipe of Supply Side, unpaid for spending and financial deregulation culminated in 2008’s Great Recession. Were conservatives chastened? You’re kidding, right? They went straight back to the crackerjack strategy of complaining about the invidiousness of deficits, during Democratic administrations, though deficits go down under Democrats, and clamoring to get back into office to start the ball rolling toward the abyss again.

It’s pretty much as certain as water running downhill that if taxes are reduced revenue is reduced too, no matter how many magic beans are rubbed together. It’s true tax cuts can spur economic activity, just not enough by a long shot to compensate for the lost revenue. Supply Side (low taxes for the rich) is one of those ingenious scams meant to convince you that doing what appears not to be in your interest somehow is going to be, the real estate in Boca Raton of modern economics. Historically, the country has done better economically under Democrats, whether the metric is jobs, GDP, the stock market or budget management, and conservative fascination with Voodoo Economics may have something to do with this. Yes, Really Big Fail.

Iraq War: Well, we all know the story: mushroom clouds, 100% guarantee of WMD’s, redacted, cherry-picked intelligence reports, greeted in the streets with flowers, a shiny, happy Iraq, and oil as far as Cheney’s eye could see. After the Freedom Fries and the Mission Accomplished and the ‘with us or against us’ were stacked in the green dumpster, thousands had been killed, millions displaced, cities ethnically cleansed, sectarian violence loosed upon the land, and a civil war unleashed, ravaging the country even as we speak. Not a good day at the office for the Chicken Hawks.

Stimulus/Austerity: With a massive plume of steam bursting out of Republican thinking caps came the prescription for how to cure the Great Recession: the tax cuts, deregulation and all-around negligence utilized to produce it. In the nascency of his administration, Obama, with Democratic votes in congress produced a stimulus package that resulted, as anticipated, in stimulus (many consecutive quarters of GDP expansion and declining unemployment rolls). A staggering consensus of economists later lauded and quantified the degree to which the economy improved as the result of the stimulus package.

The economy could have revived even faster and stronger had Obama been able to commandeer a greater amount of stimulus, as called for by most economists and a majority of Democrats. But he got what he could. Conservatives, as they had at the time of Clinton’s 1993 budget bill, prognosticated apocalypse, and were dead wrong. Again. Emphatically.

2012 Presidential Election: Less indicative of policy or ideological failure, the Great Whiff of 2012 by conservatives predicting election results marked the completed movement of the conservative populous into fantasy land, the media and propaganda generated alternative universe long sought by American conservatism.

With their Biosphere, bubble, or whatever cleanly severed from objective fact and material reality, their own looping set of “facts” was reinforced in this insular universe, causing rank and file conservatives to accept the wisdom of GOP pollsters, GOP political consultants, conservative pundits, every prominent Republican with a microphone or keyboard assuring a Romney win, and indeed, a Romney romp. Hail to the…Chief?

Obamacare: As noted earlier, Obamacare is doing exactly what it was designed to do: provide access to health insurance and health care to millions who formerly had neither; controlling the spiraling costs of health care, reducing deficits, guaranteeing coverage for all with pre-existing conditions, outlawing rescissions (insurance companies dropping coverage when a customer becomes sick) ending caps on coverage that allowed patients to exhaust their insurance when contending with long-term, severe illnesses; providing workers job mobility by removing their dependency on their employer for health insurance, meaning job decisions based upon considerations such as job satisfaction, geographic preference or family need.

The failure of conservatism when it comes to both the morality and the realities of American health care not only is monumental, it is permanently defining, as historically damning as conservative antagonism to Social Security and Medicare, and the safety net in general which Americans largely cherish. Conservatives retain their conviction that some day America will embrace (or secretly does so now) a bogus 18th Century Utopia, or Libertarian feudal paradise, or pre-Enlightenment social order, or Ayn Rand fiction. In the meantime, the world moves on without them, and the implementation and success of Obamacare is another mile-marker in the journey of the modern world, and America, away from the radical and exotic mutations of conservatism incorporated by conservatisms’ principal political vehicle in the United States, the Republican Party.

Coming Attraction: Climate Change: Admittedly, we won’t know precisely how wrong conservatives have been about the climate crisis until “Palm Beach” is an underwater film directed by James Cameron and the Lexington Avenue local is a submarine. This may well prove to be conservatism’s Bizarro World finest hour, it’s greatest Fail in history. It will certainly be the most unnecessary, purely ideological, reckless and imponderable one. Denying the reality of climate change on behalf of the petroleum interests and polluters, and as something like the ultimate act of spite toward environmentalism and sensible regulation, the denial of climate change as a purportedly plausible rationale for evading the measures necessary to address the problem, hence regulation or changed behavior, is arguably the goofiest instance of attempted political legerdemain known to man. When, inevitably, the waves of the Atlantic come rolling into the Appalachian Mountains, I’m sure it will be Obama’s fault.

In conclusion: I left out conservative opposition to the reforms of the Progressive Era, which brought such nanny state interventions as an end to child labor, anti-monopoly laws, women’s suffrage, popular election of Senators, pure food and compulsory schooling. Glen Beck and Teanut Republicans decry the Progressive Era as the beginning of the end of America, and go so far as to call for the repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments for instance. But I was trying not to rub it in. 100 Bad Years is just so harsh.

That conservatism and the Republican Party remain an ongoing joint enterprise to this day with such an astonishing record of misjudgment, mischaracterization and practical failure is nothing short of miraculous, a testament perhaps to the complexities of the modern world, and the diminishment of objective truths.

In fairness, you can’t say conservatives haven’t made the most of their systemic advantages (gerrymandered House districts, a structural advantage in the Senate over-representing rural and red states). What they lack in moral impulses, correct assumptions and sagacity they make up for in propaganda, determination, big money and sheer weaseliness. These gophers are tough to kill.


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