The idea that the government is the problem rather than the solution, which even today is bandied about by such intellectual heavyweights as Sarah Palin, has been around for a long time, but it really started to gain traction when embraced by Ronald Reagan. I suppose I wasn’t the only one exasperated by the paradox that the head of government would be anti-government, but this didn’t stop the concept from becoming an article of faith among Republicans. The usual national contempt for history caused the usual amnesia concerning the fact that an unregulated industrial and financial sector is the recipe for disaster, but the lessons of the great depression and the abuses of labor and the environment learned in the early twentieth century were scorned. When labor unions and Franklin Roosevelt are routinely derided as if they had never accomplished anything, it’s clear that a spectacular degree of wrongheadedness is being displayed.
Of course this reached its apogee in the most wrongheaded president of all time, George W. Bush, who proudly did away with every kind of federal regulation of business and industry possible (while tightening federal regulation of individuals), and where he couldn’t do away with oversight altogether, turned the reins over to the industries themselves. This certainly helped fill the coffers of the Republican Party as big business rushed to contribute to those who would ease the burden of acting responsibly, but the end result, as with almost everything Bush has done, was the present fiasco. Now all of sudden government IS the solution and a trillion dollars of taxpayer money is being poured into keeping the economy afloat. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is necessary, but if the government had acted properly in the first place it would not be, and the disaster wouldn’t have happened in the first place. If nothing else it’s much more cost effective to act diligently about the small things in a timely fashion, rather than waiting until the crap hits the fan. Global warming is another example of the Republican refusal to face facts and act in a timely manner before catastrophe forces a far grimmer and more costly response.
You could even saw the same thing about New Orleans and Katrina – a concerted effort to improve the levies and prepare for a disaster could have prevented one. During the Clinton years the out of power Republican right crafted a semi-coherent non-governing philosophy with talking points attractive to a semi-conscious electorate that brought them temporary political prosperity, but the unfortunate thing about a non-reality based program is that it tends to go Titanic when it collides with the iceberg of reality. None of the Republican’s ideas have worked, and their willful ignorance has taken the country under the waves with them. The most pathetic reflection on the American people is, of course, that John McCain, a man who is in large part in agreement with all these Republican principles and who has long been trumpeting the politically expedient clarion call of "deregulation" has, by smoke and mirrors, not to mention outright lies, managed to maintain his position as a credible presidential candidate. When I was younger and more callous I’d think it only right when an clueless electorate was tormented by the clueless candidate they’d chosen, but I’ve seem the devastation such "leaders" can produce and can only do what I can and hope that someone with an authentic vision like Barack Obama prevails in November.