Guest columnist Jon McCabe: Republicanism has been disastrous for the country

  • Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Road to Majority conference Friday, June 17, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Mark Humphrey

Published: 6/22/2022 9:19:37 AM
Modified: 6/22/2022 9:17:14 AM

Let’s just say it: Republicans are ideologically and morally bankrupt.

Like financial bankruptcy, ideological and moral bankruptcy happens gradually, then suddenly. If we take Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory in 1980 as a point of departure, a newly resurgent Republican Party held the presidency for 20 of the next 36 years. They stood for economic deregulation, de-unionization, tax cuts for the wealthy, Second Amendment rights, law and order, and fossil fuel expansion. All of this was supposed to make us more prosperous, safer in our homes and persons, and more energy-independent. None of this turned out to be true.

Ronald Reagan championed “supply-side” economics, and in 1986 pushed through a 44% tax reduction for those in the highest income bracket that he claimed would “pay for itself.” Reagan argued that tax cuts for the rich would generate economic growth and more high-paying jobs for average Americans. In 2001 and 2003, President George W. Bush cut taxes on the top income bracket again and pushed through a major reduction of the inheritance tax. Like Reagan, Bush claimed that the tax cuts would pay for themselves and benefit society as a whole by generating economic growth. Faced with the fact that these tax cuts did not pay for themselves, and did not create new economic growth, but instead generated budget deficits and added greatly to the national debt, Bush quipped, “it’s their money, isn’t it?”

Nor did the “supply side,” those at the top, reinvest their Republican tax windfall in our economy to create new jobs for American workers. As corporate America broke unions and shipped jobs overseas, the wealth inequality gap in the U.S. ballooned. Today, the top 10% of Americans own an estimated 89% of the country’s wealth (CNBC, 2021). The next 30% own the rest, and 60% of Americans have either no wealth or are in debt. According to President Biden’s Office of Management and Budget and his Council of Economic Advisors, the nation’s top 400 billionaires paid an average annual income tax rate of 8.2% in 2021. In contrast, those earning less than $89,000 annually paid an average rate of 24% (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

And how about that Second Amendment! In 2008, a five-member Supreme Court majority (all appointed by Reagan and the Bushes) struck down long-standing precedent and ruled in D.C. vs. Heller that the right to handgun ownership is a constitutionally protected. Fourteen years after Heller, the number of civilian-owned guns in this country has risen above 391 million (AmericanGunFacts.com). The number of mass shootings and gun-related homicides and suicides has literally exploded.

Law and order Republicanism has also been disastrous for the country. With approximately two million people incarcerated, the highest incarceration rate in the world (Pew Research), at an estimated annual cost of $184 billion (Bureau of Prisons), violent crime and crime rates remain stubbornly problematic. And the disproportionate impact of incarceration on people of color has devastated a generation.

Republican presidents and red state elected officials have steadfastly supported expanding fossil fuel production across the country in the face of overwhelming evidence that we face a climate crisis of massive proportions. While over two-thirds of Americans know full well that man-made global warming is an existential problem, Republicans, including Trump, continue to push climate science denial and call for increased fossil fuel production.

If you still identify as a Republican, you need to ask yourself a question, how does it feel to know that everything you have stood for over the last 42 years has been disastrous for the country? And to top it off, three in four of your party members now claim to believe Trump’s baseless lie about the stolen 2016 election. Let’s face it: Republicans now stubbornly cling to power without any sense of purpose. Everything you have advocated for the last four decades is now completely discredited. All you have left is white supremacy, insurrectionism, guns and Trump. If you are still going along with this stuff, you are morally bankrupt and a direct threat to American democracy. Shame on you. Just sayin’…

Jon McCabe is an adjunct professor of political science and philosophy at Holyoke Community College. He lives in Amherst. 
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