The OxyContin and Viagra-soaked brain of Rush Limbaugh is warning of the coming self-destruction of the Republican Party. But, former Republican insider and Reagan staffer Bruce Bartlett knows the grim truth: The Republican Party has already destroyed itself.
On his radio show Tuesday, Limbaugh explained what’s at stake for Republicans during the fiscal cliff debate, saying, “Barack Obama wants the Republican Party to essentially destroy itself.” He continued, “When you think of Republican Party, what do you think it stands for? Tax cuts…If [Obama] can get the Republicans to raise taxes on the rich, then…he is helping the Republicans destroy their brand.”
Yes, by raising taxes, Rush Limbaugh’s Republican Party – that Party that’s denied thirty years of economic reality, attempted to set up an Ayn Randian paradise in America, and fear mongered everything from Muslims to socialists to gays to women – will indeed destroy itself.
However, the actual Republican Party – the Party that existed long before Limbaugh and the rest of his rabid ilk – will not be affected at all by what House Republicans do with the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
That’s because, tragically, the Republican Party, as we used to know it, has already destroyed itself.
“Things have changed so dramatically since the days when I first got involved with Republican politics,” says Bruce Bartlett, a former senior policy analyst for Ronald Reagan and executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. “The Republican Party was the Party of ideas and now it’s the Party of crazy people, ignorant Tea Party people – people who know nothing and are proud of it.”
Bartlett has a long history with the Republican Party serving as a staffer for former Congressman Jack Kemp and he also worked alongside Ron Paul, when the Libertarian icon first came to Washington, DC in 1976. Bartlett worked for Conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the CATO Institute, and he wrote columns regularly for Conservative publications like the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and the National Review. As recently as just a decade ago, Bartlett was advising the George W. Bush Administration on economic matters.
But in 2003, Bartlett, the man who claims to have made significant contributions to legitimizing supply-side economics, began to have an “existential crisis.” He was disturbed by the new Republican Party’s out-of-control spending and irresponsible tax cuts. He saw government run wastefully. And he saw Republicans committed to an unwavering denial of Keynesian economics that he knew could help us out of our economic problems in the same way they did in the 1930’s.
He spoke out about it and was basically excommunicated from the Republican Party.
Today, after thirty years of Reaganomics, Bartlett knows that more tax cuts and trickle-down economics isn’t the answer. “Reagan’s policies will not work today,” Bartlett told us. “Today, tax cuts will do no good whatsoever. It is the worst possible solution to any problem at all. We have a lack of aggregate demand. We need to be hiring people and building public works – that’s what the economy needs…I don’t believe in cookie cutter economics.”
Bartlett does, however, believe in the Republican Party of Eisenhower. Unlike today’s Republicans, Eisenhower’s Republican Party could stomach a modest increase in today’s taxes on the rich since the top marginal income tax rate during his time was above 90%. That was a party that promoted spending more federal money for the good of the nation; it was during the Eisenhower Administration that the Interstate Highway System was built.
Just look at the Republican Party’s official 1956 platform and you’ll see what the Party used to stand for, and how it’s been utterly decimated by lunatics today. The planks of that platform included, “programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers.”
It included help for the low-wage workers and, “extended protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many workers as is possible and practicable.”
It included help for victims of discrimination with a pledge to, “continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex.” It included support for an Equal Rights Amendment for women.
And the official platform even gave a fervent defense of labor unions by saying, “the protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration.” Clearly today, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Snyder reside in a much, much different Republican Party.
“The decline of the union movement has been very, very damaging to our politics,” Bartlett laments.
Republicans like Paul Ryan, who has twice tried to end Medicare as we know it and supported plans to hand Social Security over to a ravenous Wall Street, also hang out in a different Party. Rush Limbaugh thinks Paul Ryan is “the last Boy Scout” of the Republican Party. But Eisenhower would have just called Paul Ryan, “stupid.”
As Eisenhower wrote to his brother Edgar, in 1954, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things…a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
Even Richard Nixon’s Republican Party was just fine with tax rates on the rich above 70%; the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency; and support for health reform based on an employer mandate, which today is a center-piece of Obamacare.
“The Republican Party through Reagan and the first President Bush didn’t want to abolish the welfare state…they also believed if you were going to spend money you had to raise the taxes to pay for it,” Bartlett explains.
He went on to say, “Every Republican until George W. Bush was willing to support tax increases to pay for government…Now what has happened is they said deficits don’t matter, all we want to do is starve the beast and cut taxes…So these crazy Republicans have actually created the foundation for the very deficits that they claim they are opposed to.”
Rush Limbaugh’s Republican Party of today is no place for sane people like Bruce Bartlett who still believe in democracy and who don’t think America is best governed by a plutocracy.
“There’s no question that Republicans hate democracy when it comes right down to it…It’s very common to hear Republicans say that people on welfare should not be able to vote,” Bartlett told us. He added: “They’re also basically racist. They don’t want anybody other than white people to be able to vote…I think one reason why they’re behaving so crazily is because they’re desperate. They know the demographic trends are all going against them and they are just holding on for dear life.”
Bartlett then jumped on Mitt Romney’s now infamous 47% comments. “Somehow they believe, as Ayn Rand did, the rich are like John Galt…they’re the only ones who are productive. All the rest of us are just lazy bums and moochers and they carry us on their backs,” he said. “And somehow this propaganda has penetrated millions and millions of ignorant fools in the Tea Party, who are the shock troops of this revolution.”
But, as Rush Limbaugh warns, this revolution may soon go bust when Republicans are forced to raise taxes at the end of the year. So, could this break in radical orthodoxy actually give rise to the Republican Party of yesterday that will welcome back into the fold people like Bruce Bartlett? Bartlett himself is unconvinced.
“As long as you’ve got crazy Tea Party people who for some reason vote against their own direct economic interest and support the billionaires against themselves, we’re kind of stuck,” he lamented.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the Republican Party that’s stuck. As long as those “crazy people” are running the people’s House of Representatives, the American people are stuck, too, watching helplessly as our nation unravels, and waiting anxiously for Bartlett’s “Reality-Based Community” of Republicans to rise again.
Yes, we really mean it – your gift makes a difference.
Did you know that of the millions of people who read Truthout, fewer than 1 percent make a donation? But even with that small number who give, Truthout is still overwhelmingly donor-funded. Every donation that comes our way makes an outsized impact for every single one of our readers.
If you can find a few dollars here or there to support the independent, always-honest journalism we produce, please consider making a donation. All gifts are tax-deductible and go directly to funding our justice-driven work. Will you give today?