Conservative dementia in the US

datePosted on 20:08, July 6th, 2010 by Pablo

One has to hand it to the US conservative movement. They have no shame, or at least plenty of chutzpah.

They love to bark about the evils of Democrats while having no regard for the consistency of their own positions. Take the issue of corporate responsibility. Conservatives railed against the bail-outs of the Wall Street banks and Detroit automakers, arguing against the “they are to big to let fail” logic of the W. Bush and Obama administrations when these came to the financial rescue of the beleaguered  giants. “Let ’em fail” they screeched, since “the market will sort ’em out.” Yet, when Toyota lied about the causes of sudden uncontrolled acceleration in its cars and delayed recalls while “investigating” the incidents (which resulted in over a dozen deaths and more than a hundred injuries), these same groups demanded that the US government step in to investigate and charge those responsible for everything from criminal negligence to consumer fraud. Likewise, the US right wing is now raving that the US federal government has done too little too late to respond to the BP oil spill even though–surprise surprise–the US federal government does not have the deep water capping technology available to the private oil industry, had previously deregulated that industry at its request in order to stimulate production (and profits) and was initially relying on that industry to give honest estimates of the disaster and rectify the situation based upon its own expertise and record in controlling spills of that nature. Some conservatives even demanded that the US accept offers of foreign assistance in controlling the spill, and scolded the Obama administration when it declined to do so. Fancy that, conservatives calling for foreign aid at a time of domestic crisis. Thus, when it comes to issues of corporate responsibility, US conservatives cannot make up their minds about the why, how and when of government intervention.

As far as taxation is concerned, the likes of the Tea party movement are opposed to current federal taxation rates and demand cuts across the board without considering that it is taxes that pay, as just one example, for the US military’s trillion dollar budgets and prosecution of a seemingly endless procession of wars abroad in defense of the “freedom” they so much rhetorically cherish. They appear ignorant of the fact that without taxation the US would not be able to maintain its preeminent global position, and that the current federal budget deficits originated in the W. Bush administration’s deficit spending to fuel the wars while lowering the taxation rates for corporations and high income individuals. In fact, in this regard W. Bush was emulating the champion of all American conservatives, Ronald Reagan, who massively increased defense spending and the overall size of the federal budget while lowering taxes for the upper third of the population. How is this “fiscally responsible?”

Finally, although all conservatives are self-styled “patriots” who literally wear their flags on their sleeves, bumpers and lapels, some are of the “America first” persuasion whereas others are of the “US superpower” kind. The former prefer that the US concentrate on its own affairs and limit its foreign entanglements, while the latter wants to see the US as the major player on the world stage. One view is isolationist; the other is imperialist. The two views are irreconcilable.

In effect, American conservatives are not the limited government champions they claim to be, nor are they consistent in their linkage of national necessities with taxation. They are divided on their views of the US role in the world. Instead they are a collection of blustering fools, economic retrogrades and illiterates, corporate toadies, religious zealots, assorted bigots, xenophobes and militarists mixed in with a minority of true libertarians and honest believers in the primacy of individual over collective rights and responsibilities. That means that even if they make major gains in the November 2010 elections, the centrifugal forces within the US conservative movement, as well as the lack of a coherent core rationale underpinning it, will prove deleterious to their chances for successful overhaul of the US political system. In fact, such a victory could well make the crisis of US politics even worse.

12 Responses to “Conservative dementia in the US”

  1. Phil Sage on July 7th, 2010 at 03:47

    Did you pause for breath while you wrote that? ;^)
    Obviously something upset you.

    How is this “fiscally responsible?”

    It is a tactic similar to that used by Brown in the UK, Obama now and any number of other governments. By creating a massive fiscal imbalance you constrain the behaviour of the administration that follows by forcing them not to cut taxes or increase spending. Clinton was forced to practice fiscal austerity and actually did a pretty good job of that. Imagine if he came into a fiscal surplus and got healthcare passed. What would his legacy have been?

    Instead of the incoming UK government facing 40% government spending and the opportunity to genuinely reform government in the UK by reducing to 30% of GDP they are making hard decisions to get back to the status quo ante of 1997 from its current 50%.

    American republicans are certainly full of incompatible paradox but so too are European, Asian and any other government you care to name.

  2. Lew on July 7th, 2010 at 10:50

    Good analysis, Pablo, and one which accords with Jon Johansson’s assessment that the US Teapublican movement doesn’t know what it stands for — and more to the point, doesn’t realise that it doesn’t know what it stands for. (Audio here for those who’re interested.)


  3. StephenR on July 7th, 2010 at 12:00

    the likes of the Tea party movement are opposed to current federal taxation rates and demand cuts across the board without considering that it is taxes that pay, as just one example, for the US military’s trillion dollar budgets and prosecution of a seemingly endless procession of wars abroad in defense of the “freedom” they so much rhetorically cherish.

    Doesn’t this simply just fit into the ‘classical’ ‘libetarian’ (‘Teapublican’ now perhaps!) framework of little-to-no-goverment spending in areas outside of justice and defence? It doesn’t seem too crazy to cut taxes and spending if your supreme goal is ‘pure’ individual rights for all.

  4. Pablo on July 7th, 2010 at 13:26


    You are damning me with faint phrase with that comparison.

  5. Lew on July 7th, 2010 at 13:56

    Pablo, I don’t think so, and that certainly wasn’t my intention.


  6. Pablo on July 7th, 2010 at 14:51


    I take no offense and never saw untoward intent in the remark.

  7. Hugh on July 7th, 2010 at 19:26

    Not a fan of Jon Johannson’s work eh Pablo?

  8. Pablo on July 7th, 2010 at 21:57


    To the contrary. Mr Johannson is a well informed commentator about NZ party politics.

  9. Hugh on July 7th, 2010 at 22:51

    Seems like there’s a lot of that ‘damning with faint praise’ stuff going around.

  10. Pablo on July 7th, 2010 at 23:10


    Again, to the contrary. Lew referenced his remarks in all sincerity, and Lew is most definitely a genuine scholar, albeit not employed in academia.

    Do you have a substantive remark to make about the post?

  11. Hugh on July 8th, 2010 at 00:51

    None you haven’t heard before, Pablo. And from memory you didn’t consider them substantive at the time, either.

  12. jcuknz on July 8th, 2010 at 09:36

    If the teapublican situation wasn’t so serious it would be amusing.

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