Tag Archives: Dick Armey

Leaning into Failure: Race, Public Welfare, and Modern Conservatism

The Republican Party is lurching ever farther to the right, hunkering down into a narrower and narrower (white) constituency with an increasingly paranoid, fortress mentality. If we want to understand its appeal, and the dynamic that enables it to attack popular institutions like Social Security and Medicare without being substantially punished for it, we first need to face the root element of that appeal: racism.

Donald Trump has released his third budget, and once again, he broke his campaign promise not to touch Social Security. Once again, the largest vehicle for these cuts is what conservatives have come to regard as the soft underbelly of the system, Disability Insurance. Trump’s budget includes some $25 billion in “savings” from different aspects of Social Security, the largest of which is $10 billion from DI. And yet again, Trump and his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, say they’ll achieve the savings by mounting a strenuous campaign against “disability fraud.”

This is where it gets weird: funds lost through fraud are minuscule compared with the total size of the DI program, and it’s already extremely difficult and time-consuming for anyone to jump through all the hoops necessary to prove they qualify for benefits. Quite a few people die every year before their applications are approved (or not). Realistically, no huge savings will result from Trump’s anti-fraud crusade—but a lot of needy people will be inconvenienced or unjustly denied benefits.

Failure is not a problem when it comes to the budget priorities of the American right, however, because its ideological appeal to its audience is so intensely powerful. At no time, arguably, has this been more easily observable than today, when the president and his party make no pretense of speaking to anyone other than their most hardcore supporters. But what are the roots of this right-populist strategy, and how do they connect with long-time policies like dismantling Social Security and Medicare, which only draw really passionate support from the right and center-right wings of the policy-making establishment?

For some important clues to the answer, a good starting point is Unworkable Conservatism: Small Government, Free Markets, and Impracticality, by political scientist Max J. Skidmore, which appeared shortly after Trump took office and offers many valuable insights leading into the 2020 campaigns. Continue reading Leaning into Failure: Race, Public Welfare, and Modern Conservatism

Newt Gingrich Can’t Get With the Program

Why is the Republican Party leadership so scared of Newt Gingrich? Putting aside his generally abrasive personality, his loud streak of megalomania, and his tendency to self-destruct – OK, that’s a lot! – it’s hard to think of much in the way of substantive policy matters that sets the former House speaker apart from the rest of the Republican presidential field.

Oh yes, there’s one thing.

Early last month, when it still seemed that Mitt Romney’s anointment as GOP nominee was a matter of course, the editors of the Wall Street Journal took Gingrich for his position on, of all things, Social Security. The Journal has been pushing for Social Security privatization for decades, but strangely, Continue reading Newt Gingrich Can’t Get With the Program

Why Do We Keep Calling Tea Partiers “Anti-Government”?

Conservatives, including those of the Tea Party variety, aren’t “anti-government.” In most respects they are pro-government to the point of authoritarianism. What they really oppose is any form of cooperative or collective solution to the problems of a complex industrial (or post-industrial) society – especially when the beneficiaries are people they regard with suspicion or fear.

The Tea Party movement has done the larger conservative cause a big favor by giving it a fresh patina of sexiness. I’m not referring here to Sarah Palin, or to Rand Paul’s curly locks, but to the slightly outlaw, vaguely anarchistic, allegedly leaderless image the Tea Partiers like to project – and that the corporate media have bought into so readily. Continue reading Why Do We Keep Calling Tea Partiers “Anti-Government”?

Who Are the Tea Partiers, and Who Speaks for Them?

Dick Armey certainly thinks he does. As a self-appointed spokesperson for the movement, he’s trying hard to make Social Security privatization one of the big issues in the upcoming midterm election. It’s not clear his Tea Party comrades are behind him, however.

The silly season is upon us, when the Democratic and Republican establishments become obsessed with wedge issues and rallying their respective “Bases.” In the case of the Republicans, keeping the Tea Party movement enthused and eager to vote this November are crucial. Understanding who these people really are and what they want is essential.

What do the Republicans think they know, and what is the reality?

Continue reading Who Are the Tea Partiers, and Who Speaks for Them?