No-fair fares on this conservative merry-go-roundPolitically Aware Thursday, October 27th, 2011
Commentary: Politically Aware
Conservatives seem to understand homonyms, those pesky words that sound the same but are spelled differently. They’ve seen Rick Perry’s attempts to parry debate shots, and they’re certain Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan may cause some pain, but doesn’t actually involve a cane. Their mastery of homographs, words that are spelled the same, but sound differently, is less clear. In Congress, and on the presidential campaign trail, they promote policies to create jobs (‘jäbz) that are far more likely to create Jobs (‘jōbz). Given their professed religious bona fides, you might think they’d know the difference.
Job, as in “patience of,” is the Old Testament figure who “feared God and avoided evil,” and was doing pretty well for himself when Satan suggested that Job might not be so faithful without all the goodies. First went the oxen, donkeys and sheep, each struck by lightning or carried off by raiders. Soon, more of Job’s riches fell by the wayside.
Most Americans haven’t lost livestock; but many have similarly lost their livelihoods – their jobs. To get Americans working again, President Obama offered the American Jobs Act, which was judged “effective” by the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. Instead of signing on, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor cut and pasted talking points from a decade of right-wing speeches to create an alternative plan based on relaxed regulations and tax cuts for the wealthy. But the fallacy of congressional Republicans’ claim that theirs is a jobs plan is exposed by the plan’s very title. “The House Republican Plan for America’s Job Creators.” “Job Creators” is how we now say “the rich,” using a politico-phonetic device known as spin.
In the Bible, Job’s next hit was losing his family when a wind storm knocked down his eldest son’s house. Just the kind of thing that can happen if you relax building codes to spur growth. A better analogy might be the slashed banking regulations that allowed millions of Americans to end up with underwater mortgages (add to that the subsequent decision to bail out banks, but not homeowners). Both parties were complicit in those choices, but at least President Obama is trying to ease the suffering with programs meant to help people stay in their homes, and by offering some sympathy.
The same is not so of the president’s potential Republican challenger, Herman Cain, who has pulled ahead of former Gov. Romney in some polls. If Job were around today, with no work and no riches, he would hear Cain telling him to blame himself. Sadly, the Cain pain would not end with rhetoric. Experts on both sides agree that his 9-9-9 plan (9 percent income tax, 9 percent capital gains tax, 9 percent sales tax) would increase taxes on low and middle income Americans to benefit the rich. I mean the job creators.
Job didn’t blame himself, and he retained sufficient optimism to give us the classic quip, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” At least he had his health. Until the boils came “from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.” Talk about kicking someone when he’s down. Who would do such a thing? Republican presidential candidates.
The Affordable Care Act will make health care easier to obtain for Americans who have lost their jobs and homes, or are stretching every dollar to stay afloat. Every Republican presidential candidate is on record calling for its repeal. House Republicans, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, would take things a step further, cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits, saving money to cut taxes for job creators. Apparently seniors and the poor who get sick can also “blame themselves.”
To be allegorically fair, the story does end well for Job. Because of his faith, God relents. The boils go away, he has more children and the livestock come back in greater numbers. Expecting the conservative agenda to deliver the same results to struggling Americans isn’t faith – it’s folly. Faith applies to belief in something we haven’t seen, and we’ve seen this plan twice. President Bush’s tax cuts for the rich didn’t trickle down any better than President Reagan’s. Instead, the rich got richer and budget surpluses became whopping deficits. The American Jobs Act and Affordable Care Act aren’t perfect, but they make more sense than cutting taxes on the wealthy again and expecting a different result. If there are new conservative ideas, let’s hear them; but first they should tear (‘ter) up the “Plan for American Jäbz Creators” before it brings America’s Jōbz to tears (‘tirs).
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