Policy Requires More Than Platitudes

I don’t expect that many hard-core Teabaggers bothered to listen in on Obama’s speech in PA today. A good many of them are predisposed to reject whatever he says, regardless of common sense or merit, simply because he makes them uncomfortable. I’ll leave the reasons why that is for another post. Regardless, if any of them had tuned in, I wonder how many among their ranks, the self-styled “all government spending is bad” crowd who simply wants to do nothing as our nation crumbles, noticed just how simple and precise his statements were in regard to the truth. Probably very few.

Among some notable highlights that included praising the spirit of the Teabaggers and correctly placing blame for our country’s ills squarely on the actions of our previous president and his lapdog congress, the president also had this blunt talk about their misguided policies:

“Identify specifically what you would do. It’s not enough to say get control of spending. I think it’s important for you to say, ‘I’m willing to cut veterans’ benefits or I’m willing to cut Medicare or Social Security benefits or I’m willing to see these taxes go up. What you can’t do is say … we’re going to control government spending, we’re going to propose $4 trillion of additional tax cuts and magically these things are going to work.”

Now, Obama can’t go out and debate every Tea Party nut job running for public office (there’s a lot of them this year). What he can do is give his base the ammunition to fight the battle on the ground. And, when I say ‘fight the battle’, I mean it in a philosophical, ideological way. We all have some day to day encounters with Tea Partiers, or, at the very least, some who are sympathetic with their plans to “git the gubbmint out of my life!” Well, I propose offering a variation of the president’s remarks, offered without condescension or malice. Pin them down on the amount of cuts needed to make up for $4 trillion in lost revenue. What would they like to see gone? the VA? Social Security? Medicare and Medicaid? The Department of Education? Keep in mind that many will enthusiastically support these ideas. The problem is that they usually have a very abstract sense of what those types of cuts would mean for them personally.

Do they know a veteran? Have them ask about gutting the Veteran’s Administration. How about an older relative, say, a grandmother? Let’s ask grandma how she feels about getting rid of medicare or SS. Do they attend PTA meetings or Parent/Teacher conferences? Have them bring up abolishing the DoE at the next meeting. The truth is, it’s easy to talk big in a senate race about defunding government completely. It’s quite another when you spell out how drastically that approach would affect the lives of nearly everyone we know.

What this all boils down to, at least for this election cycle, is pretty easy to quantify: either we go with the Republican plan to continue expensive tax cuts for everyone (including the top 2% of earners) that we can’t pay for and cut $4 trillion in spending or we go with Obama’s plan to continue the tax cuts for 98% of America, let the über-wealthy start paying the rates they paid under President Clinton, and continue to fund programs such as education and Social Security.

The problem with the truth is that people don’t like to hear it, especially if it’s bad or scary. Well, the truth is, the Teabagger contingent (basically the modern GOP in general) really believes in their plan. That’s the reason why they run away from talking about their policies on talk shows and scrub their websites to try and hide their positions. If people heard the truth about what they plan to do if elected, they probably wouldn’t be elected.

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