Ever since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, the Republican party has been taken over by the extremists in the Tea Party and the fanatical evangelical Christian right. Within two years, the majority of the Republican party has either been replaced or influenced by a far right ideology. The conservative mantra that the Republican party has spoken about isn’t something that is new, but rather something that has taken a hold of the party for over three decades.
During his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, Ronald Reagan stated that: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Reagan’s statement has been used for over thirty years as the backbone of Republican politics, taking shots at government and public policy while pushing an agenda that caters to the private sector. The problem with Reagan’s quote is that he’s wrong. Government is a powerful weapon, but it’s far from the “problem.”
The idea that Republicans can simply “blame the government” and convince enough Americans that they will be better off if the power is concentrated to the wealthy elite is a bit far fetched. Thom Hartmann once wrote about the “Two Santa Claus” theory, created by Republican economist and journalist, Jude Wanniski. The theory came about during the late 1970s when Wanniski believed that the Republican party didn’t have enough to offer the majority of the American people to get elected. Wanniski saw the Democratic party as “Santa Claus,” promoting an agenda that helped the American people both directly and indirectly through programs like Social Security and Medicare, to rebuilding American infrastructure like roads, bridges and tunnels. The “Two Santa Claus” theory says that while one party will promise lower taxes and less spending, the opposing party will have to be a second Santa Claus, or the anti-Santa, by having to raise taxes in order to fund mandatory programs.
Wanniski’s theory was put to the front of American politics with the election of Ronald Reagan, and following with supply-side economics, Ronald Reagan spent the better part of the 1980s destroying the American middle class, outsourcing jobs and pushing the majority of the income to the wealthy elite. Reagan dropped the top tax rate from 70% in 1981 down to 28% by the time he left office in January of 1989. While slashing taxes on the wealthy, Reagan tripled the national debt and raided the social security trust fund in an attempt to cover up his loses.
As the years went on, the idea of “starve the beast” put the American economy on the edge of a cliff, and the economy finally fell off in 2008. While President Clinton stabilized the U.S economy in the 1990s, the election of George W. Bush in November of 2000 unraveled all that Clinton had done right. By the time President Bush was ready to leave office after his second term, the economy had crashed, the stock market was dropping and millions of American were defaulting on their mortgages, credit card payments and student loans and the country was at a crossroads.
Even President Clinton couldn’t do enough to turn around the ideology of American economics because of a Republican controlled congress, similar to the obstruction that President Obama has had to deal with during his time in office. With over thirty years of conservative policies destroying the fabric of American society, Americans across the country need to realize that austerity doesn’t work, it’s breaking the backs of Europeans and is doing the same in the states.
The problem isn’t the government itself, but rather certain people who are elected to office. If elected officials have the right motive and policy, then the government can run correctly. The government is and always will be a representation of “We the people,” but by electing politicians who are so often bought off by special interests and have an agenda that only benefits a select few at the top of the economic ladder, the government could be seen as a dangerous weapon. “We the people” need to use the power of the ballot box to vote in the right people and vote out those who are damaging our country with policies that have failed time and time again.
The United States has potential to be the greatest country on earth, but with policies that undermine the American people and hurt them in their every day life, too many proud citizens are left shaking their head at a government that should be looking out for their best interest.