Failed Policies? Or Disingenuous Ones?

Republican policies have failed the nation — Thom Hartmann explains how. Republican positions have been wrong, wrong, wrong — David Brin explains why. Or have they? The rich are getting richer, and the fundamentalists are getting their way. Perhaps it’s just that Republicans are playing a different game, and are being disingenuous about it. More about this at the end.

Thom Hartmann (a Substack author and talk-show host), 26 May 2022: Dear Republicans: We Tried Your Way and It Does Not Work

Subtitled: “Their ‘Reaganism’ sales pitch was effective, and we’ve now had 42 years of the so-called Reagan Revolution: It’s time to say out loud that it hasn’t worked.”

The modern-day Republican Party was birthed in the 1970s, Hartmann explains, and burst onto the American scene with the election in 1980 of Ronald Reagan.

By 1982 America was agog at the “new ideas” this newly-invented GOP was putting forward. They included radical tax cuts, pollution deregulation, destroying unions, and slashing the support services the New Deal and Great Society once offered people (because, Republicans said, feeding, educating, or providing healthcare to people made them dependent).

Their sales pitch was effective, and we’ve now had 42 years of the so-called Reagan Revolution.

It’s time to simply say out loud that it hasn’t worked

The writer then proceeds with a list of some 13 Republican claims, and 13 responses for how things actually worked out. I’ll quote just a couple.

Republicans told us if we just cut the top tax rate on the morbidly rich from the 74% it was at in 1980 down to 27% it would “trickle down” benefits to everybody else as, they said, the “job creators” would be unleashed on our economy.

Instead of a more general prosperity, we’ve now ended up with the greatest wealth and income inequality in the world, as over $50 trillion was transferred over 40 years from the bottom 90% to the top 1%, where it remains to this day. The middle class has gone from over 60% of us to fewer than half of us. It now takes 2 full-time wage earners to sustain the same lifestyle one could in 1980.


Republicans told us that if we just stopped enforcing the anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws that had protected small businesses for nearly 100 years, there would be an explosion of innovation and opportunity as companies got bigger and better.

Instead, we’ve seen every industry in America become so consolidated that competition is dead, price gouging and profiteering reign, and it’s impossible to start or find small family-owned businesses anymore in downtowns, malls, and the suburbs. It’s all giant chains, many now owed by hedge funds or private equity. Few family or local businesses can compete against such giants.

And then, of course, there’s the biggest GOP lie of them all: “Money is the same thing as Free Speech.”

Five Republicans on the Supreme Court told us that if we threw out around 1000 anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws at both the state and federal level so politicians and political PACs could take unaccountable billions, even from foreign powers, it would “strengthen and diversify” the range of voices heard in America.

It’s diversified it, for sure. We’re now regularly hearing from racists and open Nazis, many of them elected Republican officials, who would have been driven out of decent society before the Reagan Revolution. American political discourse hasn’t been this filled with conflict and violence since the Civil War, and much of it can be traced straight back to the power and influence of dark money unleashed by five Republicans on the Supreme Court.


This reminds me a one of the themes of David Brin’s recent book, a collection of essays (some derived from his blog posts), called Polemical Judo, subtitled “A Brazen Guide for Sane Americans to Bypass Trench Warfare and Win Our Life or Death Struggle for Civilization.” Not to put too fine a point on it, the book is about politics, and Brin is not on the conservatives’ side. He’s out to dismantle Republican arguments on every possible topic. (He criticizes Democrats on some points, too.) Two or three themes stand out, and I’ll mention them briefly for now, and discuss them further in another post. (Brin’s page for the book here.)

First: Republicans win elections by cheating (gerrymandering and so on). Second: Fox and the like are conducting a war on all fact-based professions (name one they’re not, he challenges you). Third, the Right has been wrong, most of the time, over the past decades. And he criticizes the Democrats regularly for not taking the Republicans on; they’re too timid, he accuses. His big idea: propose *wagers,* juried by experts (perhaps military men) both sides can agree on. But he is sure Republicans will never accept such wagers; the evidence doesn’t support their claims.

But for now, I’ll just quote the gist of Chapter 6, “Credibility: How Often the Right Has Just Been Wrong.”

Let’s be clear. U.S. Conservatives are in no position to lecture us, given what they’ve let happen to their movement. Moreover, while conservatives skepticism-toward-excess-bureaucracy is welcome, when it’s sane, we need to recall how often they have been wrong, wrong, wrong, and again wrong… but want us to forget:

  • Prohibition
  • Breaking up monopolies
  • Tobacco
  • Acid rain
  • Cars don’t cause smog
  • Lead in gasoline
  • Seat belts in cars
  • Resisting civil rights
  • Defending Nixon in Watergate
  • Resisting women’s rights
  • Supply Side lies and theft of trillions
  • Resisting mileage efficiency and safety in cars
  • Climate change denial and science hating
  • Claiming moral superiority while Red America scores worse in every category of turpitude, from teen sex/pregnancy/STD/abortions to gambling, domestic violence, divorce, alcoholism, etc…
  • On that note, that Reagan, Hastert, Gingrich, McConnell, and Trump had 12 marriages among them.
  • Gerrymandering, crooked voting machines, voter suppression.

And so on; I’ve selected about a third of the items on his list on pp87-88.

And how could Republicans be so wrong so reliably? He discusses that next.


Before re-consulting Brin, let me speculate.

Perhaps conservatives and Republicans *haven’t* been wrong, exactly. They haven’t been truthful about their concerns, but their actual concerns are easy enough to perceive, considering that the very wealthy contribute heavily to Republicans — to quash government regulations, to maintain the status quo for oil and coal interests (despite the effects of climate change, which they don’t care about, since they live only for the short-term), to reduce taxes (a never-fail policy regardless of circumstances) — and how those policies benefit them, the wealthy.

Meanwhile, this common line of thinking goes, conservatives gain votes by pandering to the religious, despite how commonly Republican politicians flout religious moral values. (Wealthy Republican donors will always find ways to have abortions.) The religious right doesn’t care (e.g. about Trump; i.e. they’re hypocrites), as long as they get their way, and can impose their “values” upon the entire country.

As I’ve noted before, there is a self-righteousness among the religious: they are certain they have a higher calling, and so are willing to dismiss ordinary standards of law and discourse in order to get their higher way. No doubt they can find some Biblical verse to justify it.

This is why they are a great threat to the kind of democracy the founders — if we need to defer to them — envisioned. Or the kind of democracy those of us who are not ultra-wealthy, or blinkered by religious fundamentalism, desire. We’re actually in the majority, for what that’s worth.

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