If a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds then it's a wonder Americans can even walk, so commodious are their heads. Of course, this isn't what Emerson had in mind — note the word "foolish." We are awash in foolish inconsistency. Americans want a pony.
Here's a good example: We've flushed $4 trillion down the toilet of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, aside from the enrichment of military contractors, got nothing.
Think of all the nation-building we could have done at home for that money — and investments that would have more than repaid themselves. We're the only urbanized advanced nation without high-speed rail. We no longer have a manned space program. And yet, if the media are to be believed, this is Obama's fault and, as always, has "Democrats on the defensive."
Why the hell are Republicans never on the defensive for pushing endless wars; deregulation, union busting, financialization and bad trade deals that have eviscerated the middle class; driving the nation to the brink of default; preventing action on climate change, and a host of nihilist destruction?
At least part of the reason, is that we have voters addled by their cognitive dissonances. Yes, the system has become monumentally corrupt. The right-wing oligarchs have pulled off their quiet coup. Most Americans are ignorant of history. The Obama years have allowed for a primal scream of white entitlement and anxiety. All this and more.
But reading the comments on the previous post about immigration (they're excellent; give a look), I was struck by this one mental impairment in the body politic.
The same people that want to close the borders and stop illegal immigration tend to be reflexively, zealously anti-union. They also support politicians that refuse to put business owners hiring illegals in prison. Yet unions and prison for owners would be the surest way to ensure that citizens have jobs.
The same people who scream "WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND!!" want the cheap products — housing, landscaping, housecleaning, poultry, beef, produce — that disproportionately hire illegals. America is addicted to cheap illegal labor.
Nor would they support a Marshall Plan for Mexico, including undoing the tectonic damage done to small-scale Mexican agriculture and farming. The idea of a failed state (partly because of our appetites) on the U.S. border without the escape valve of immigration, or, conversely, a Mexico with more opportunities...it never crosses their mind.
A modestly coherent and, dare I say, respectable case for caution on immigration could be made. Whereas there are nearly three job seekers for every available opening and wages have stagnated for most people for decades, both would be exacerbated by heavy immigration. And this is true in tech fields, as well as in lower-skilled jobs. The once great American jobs machine is broken. We can't do right by the people we have here now.
Therefore, immigration should be limited — it was done from the 1920s through the mid-1960s. Of course, some guest worker provisions should be made for the 11.7 million illegals here now, by whose cheap labor so many owners and "consumers" prospered.
Sure, much of the anti-immigrant hysteria is cynical political calculation. But beyond the puppetmasters, millions of "real Americans" can't see the mashup of their "convictions."
The same is true as more than 30 years of tax cuts are no longer merely holding back "liberal" causes such as infrastructure, research and "government schools," but also the military industrial complex beloved of the right.
Budget restrictions are endangering the A-10, a much needed close support plane. Nobody knows how the Navy will replace the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines and have money left over for the surface fleet. Discussion of cutting back the carrier fleet is serious, not a feint.
Emil may have much more to add here, but a back-of-the-napkin calculation shows that the United States spent more as a percentage of GDP on defense in the 1950s through the 1970s. And it invested historic amounts in scientific research (the Internet being on outcome). And we went to the moon. And we fought a war on poverty, as well as wars in Korea and Vietnam. But deficits were either non-existent or relatively small.
One big difference: Taxes on the highest earners were between 70 percent and 90 percent.
"Conservatives" have taught the nation that taxes can only go down, never up. Yet they are accepted as the voice of fiscal restraint. But there's no free lunch. That used to be a conservative axiom.