Skip to main content

Is National Masochism Causing The Tight Presidential Race?


I don’t understand.

As Juan Cole notes this morning, Republicans came to Washington in 2000 with a solid majority in both houses of Congress and on the Supreme Court, allowing them to steal the presidency. If you ever wanted to know what a pure Republican Party government unhindered by Democrats or anyone else might look like, this was the moment.

After being handed a large budget surplus by a Democratic president, they immediately ran up a gargantuan deficit. In the process, they doubled the national debt to $10 trillion. John Maynard Keynes taught don't run big deficits of $400-billion a year in good times; you save deficit spending for a recession, when the economy needs a jolt.

If you're already racking up a big deficit every year in a good economy, you have no way of making a difference during a downturn except with a mega-deficit, destroying the value of the dollar.

As a result, it must be some streak of national masochism that's causing voters to waver between John McCain and Barack Obama.

Killing Social Security
Remember that when he was president, Bill Clinton was talking about using the surplus to pay down the national debt or fix the looming crisis in Social Security.

But now, with the government already saddled with $10-trillion in debt and with another trillion and a half – give or take a few hundred billion – added to it last week, exactly how will Social Security be fixed?

It won’t, at least not if John McCain is elected Remember that Republicans from Ronald Reagan to George Bush and McCain himself hate Social Security because people are still grateful to the Democrats for creating the program. Bush tried privatizing it and McCain helped with glee; clearly, they want to destroy it. Social Security is the main reason our elderly are not the poorest, most miserable section of society, as they were in the 1930s.

In 2000, many Republicans came to Washington with a crooked plan to use fraudulent methods to ensure that campaign financing went almost exclusively to them through super-lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. The “K-Street Project” guaranteed big corporate dollars for Republicans in exchange for giving corporations the right to write legislation affecting their industry. Laws governing pharmaceuticals were written by the pharmaceutical industry lobbyists, energy laws written by oil industry lobbyists, etc., and the Republicans just passed everything.

So Abramoff, Delay, the whole K-Street crowd, got busted in this slezy scam. This should have haunted Republicans for decades. But Big Media is mostly Republican-owned so it quietly disappeared.

It is not just that the rap sheet against Republican politicians is longer than the trans-Atlantic cable, it is that so much of the corruption took the form of a conspiracy.

Pirates of Plunder
Both parties have people in them looking to get rich on the side. But the K Street Project wasn’t just about individual aggrandizement. It was about fixing the whole American system permanently to kow-tow to the super-rich. Worse, it was to eliminate the middle class.

After the 2002 mid-terms, even George W. Bush wanted to cut middle class taxes. But Cheney over-ruled him, insisting on another deep tax cut for the very wealthy. We won the mid-terms, Cheney said. This is our due.

"Our due?”

Cheney finally said aloud what everyone always suspected: The Republican Party is the party of the super-rich, the 3-million at the top of society who own 45% of privately held wealth. They would benefit by Republican rule, just as in Brazil.

Of course, there were other conspiracies by the pirates of plunder.

Take the Iraq War, one of the great criminal conspiracies of modern times. In his new book Angler, Barton Gellman relates how Dick Cheney lied to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey before the vote on the war, telling him that Saddam's family was al-Qaeda and Saddam's scientists made a suitcase nuke he’d hand to bin Laden. Weeping, Armey tells Gellman he deserved better than to be covered in horseshit by the Vice President of the United States.

Bush, Cheney and the Republicans took us to war against a country that hadn’t attacked the US; they killed or maimed 33,000 Americans; they turned a whole Arab country into a burned-out hulk, displacing millions and continuously bombing the very cities they conquered and occupied, killing and disfiguring.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

They fed us propaganda with implausible lies about mobile biological weapons labs and Baathist al-Qaeda. Journalists bought the snake oil hook, line and sinker, as did the public.

Electronic Roman Forum
Countless car bombs go off every day in Iraq, killing dozens at a time, and we are told by cable news bloviators it is "calm" there. Once called a vast wasteland, television has become worse: A vast, electronic, Roman Forum where unbalanced celebrities and philandering politicians are fed to the lions before millions of cheering plebes by corporate moguls desperately hoping that the marks won’t notice pickpockets in the arena, relieving them of their purses.

This Washington crew thought nothing of inducing the press to out Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative working against Iranian nuclear proliferation. Their culture of lies is such that they attempt to divert attention from all the phone calls to journalists by Scooter Libby and Karl Rove working to get the press to name her by saying they didn’t succeed.

Why is trying to inform the Iranians of the identity of a CIA field officer assigned to spy on Iran not an act of treason? After all, you can't inform the world without also informing the Iranians. The punishment for treason is hanging but I don’t see anyone swinging by their neck.

The Republican Party conducted a vast illegal spying operation on Americans and foreign diplomats. We still don't know why exactly; domestic political motives cannot be ruled out.

They imposed on us the totally unpatriotic PATRIOT Act, gutting the Constitution. So, peaceful protesters at the RNC in St. Paul are actually charged with terrorism for exercising 1st Amendment rights in this upside down world. Folks, we’re through the looking glass.

Meanwhile, bridges and levies are breaking and falling down because Cheney did not want to tax his billionaire buddies to pay for maintaining the country's infrastructure.

They so radically deregulated the banking system while removing any meaningful oversight, they came within hours – literally hours, based on my reporting – of a 1929-style total meltdown of the nation’s entire financial structure. To cover the criminal activities of their cronies, they are now proposing to impose a fine of $1.5-trillion dollars on the middle class to ensure that their partners in deception receive $75-million golden handshakes like Merrill Lynch executive Tom Montag is getting while being held harmless for misdeeds.

What’s To Decide?
Yet in the wake of the greatest and most sustained act of systematic plunder since the Mongol hordes appropriated the riches of Asia, the reaction of the slave-like American voting public is to scratch their heads, trying to decide if they would like more of the same.

Take Joe Castiglione. He is an independent voter in Grand Rapids who went to a McCain rally last week looking for answers about how to fix Michigan's economy. "If you look at Michigan, you're going to find people saying 'we've heard the speech, where's the answers,'" Mr. Castiglione told McClatchy newspapers, adding that he’s struggling to decide whether to vote for McCain or Barack Obama,

He said this on the same day as a report showed Michigan's jobless rate jumped to 8.9% in August. What can’t Mr. Castiglione figure out?

Despite his aristocratic prerogatives and high society connections, even the Marquis de Sade was brought down by a lowly maid who complained to police of his cutting her while having his way with her. In contrast to that plucky domestic servant, the American public appears to enjoy being lacerated, moaning with delight at each new act of abuse and abasement while gasping for air.


If you insist on bending over November 4, you apparently enjoy pain and will be ecstatic.

Charley James

Charley James is an American journalist, author and essayist who lives in Toronto.

Reprinted with permission from The ProgressiveCurmudgeon.

Articles by Charley James: