Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Just for fun – because, really, why are we here, if not for fun – let’s start with a classic statement from a classic Republican hero: “We here highly resolve … that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
You do know that one, don’t you? Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, right? It does have a nice ring to it: government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Got to like that.
And now, just to keep things up to date, here’s a quote from a neo-classic Republican hero: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
That statement comes from Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and, after Rush Limbaugh, one of the most powerful people in Republican politics these days.
Norquist gets virtually every Republican candidate (or would-be candidate) to sign a pledge to never, ever vote for a tax increase or even for eliminating a tax loophole, no matter how vile. It’s part of his Bathtub Plan. (See above.)
So, there you have it:
Lincoln says our government is of, by and for the people.
Norquist wants to drown that government in the bathtub.
Put them together and, there you go – QED, squid pro quo and ipso factoid: The Republican Party wants to drown us – we, the people – in the bathtub.
That’s going to be one mighty crowded bathtub.
It gives a whole new meaning to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Talk about leaving a ring around the tub!
Of course, the other clever metaphor for cutting the government down to size is “starve the beast.”
Which, since we are apparently still stuck with that dratted Abe Lincoln, would seem to mean that we, the people, are now a beast to be starved.
Starved or drowned – take your pick. And if you don’t like the choice, well, that just reveals the dangers of governing by metaphor.
(OK, class! Snap quiz! What’s the difference between simile and metaphor? Between metaphor and metonymy? Between metonymy and autonomy? Between Grover Norquist and Grover Cleveland? Between Cleveland and Cincinnati? Time’s up! Pencils down.)
Back to basics.
In the fight over raising the nation’s credit limit (and, no, you can’t call it a “negotiation,” any more than you could say Othello was “negotiating” with Desdemona), we get to see the Republican approach writ clear when Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says “It’s time Washington takes the hit, not the taxpayers.”
(By the way, for those of you who flunked the snap quiz, McConnell was indulging in metonymy by using “Washington” to mean “the federal government.”)
McConnell is trying to pretend that slashing spending will only hurt the government, the “beast,” while raising taxes will hurt actual human beings, taxpayers.
But, again (see: Lincoln, Abraham, above), we, the taxpayers, are the government. We are the beast.
And, thank you very much, we don’t want to be starved.
That’s why you hear people shrieking when anyone tries to get serious about reducing the deficit with nothing but spending cuts.
The only way to make any real progress on the deficit without raising taxes would involve slashing the hell out of Social Security and Medicare. (The only one who will talk about it is Paul Ryan, bless his evil little heart, whose budget plan calls for keeping the name “Medicare,” but ripping out its heart – sort of like dropping a Volkswagen engine in a Rolls-Royce and entering the Daytona 500. The Republicans all voted for it, but are now desperately insisting it isn’t what is obviously is. New GOP slogan: “It quacks like and duck and it waddles like a duck, but, trust us, it’s a Rolls-Royce.”)
The point is, everyone likes the rhetoric, but they know better when it comes to reality. You can’t starve the beast without starving we, the people.
Or, as the Eagles put it, “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.”
No one wants to cut Social Security or Medicare. They’re what keep us from drowning in the bathtub.
They’re the difference between rub-a-dub-dub and blub-blub-blub.
Pogo the cartoon ‘possum once famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” (That was, by the way, a parody of the once-famous, now little-known message from Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry after the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”)
Pogo, a gentle soul, meant that we should change our ways, stop being our own worst enemy.
These days, certain people are taking it literally.
We have met the enemy? Well … attack!
It’s that classic Vietnam statement, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it,” adjusted for inflation: We have to destroy the country in order to save it.
In 2010, the Republicans ran on a platform of “jobs, jobs, jobs!” But now, the only time you hear the word “job” is when they hyphenate it into “job-killing” and attach it to any Democratic proposal.
The “job-killing health-care plan.” The “job-killing stimulus plan.”
Just you wait for the brutal debate on the “Job-Killing Mother and Apple-Pie Act of 2011.”
But now, Obama has proposed a payroll-tax holiday – an actual tax cut that would pump a little extra money into the economy. Republicans would have to support that.
Republicans love tax cuts!
Did anyone here see “Animal House”? Do you remember the line, “Otis loves us!”
If you do, then you won’t be surprised at the Republican reception for Obama’s proposed payroll tax cut: They greeted it as eagerly as Otis greeted Bluto.
“Tax cut?” they said. “No way!”
Because they now want only “long-term strategies” – which is to say, anything that will help the economy sometime after … oh, November 6, 2012.
To which, we, the people, can only say:
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