I Should Never Have Turned On The TV
November 29, 2007
I should know better. Really I should. When have I ever found watching Republicans debate amongst themselves anything other than infuriating? And yet there I was, turning on the tube to watch them go at it. Maybe I hoped that people would listen to them. I mean really listen, so that they might hear how unbelievably ridiculous these men sound.
I know. I should know better.
They all tick me off, whether it’s Rudy — America’s Mayor? Puhlease! — lisping his way through another gratuitous attack on Hillary; or Mitt sounding like a snake oil salesman; or Fred “aw shucks”-ing his way through another bungled answer, trying desperately to sound like a Tennessee farmer instead of a millionaire Hollywood actor (we all know how much the GOP base LOVES millionaire Hollywood actors); or John McCain trying once more to justify his devotion to this tragic and obscene war.
But the thing that really ticked me off last night was Mike Huckabee’s big applause line about doing away with the IRS. First off all, let me say that as a self-employed writer who has complicated tax returns every year, I’ve had a good deal of contact with the IRS through their help line. Every person I’ve ever spoken with there has been friendly, helpful, professional, and knowledgeable. These people haven’t hurt anyone. They work thankless jobs in an agency that is universally reviled. Second, what do you plan to do there, Mike? If you’re going to eliminate the IRS does that mean that you’re going to do away with all domestic sources of government revenue? No more taxes at all, is that what you’re proposing? How are you going to pay for this war that you support? How are you going to maintain the interstates that run through Arkansas? Will you be in the towers at the nation’s airports keeping air traffic running smoothly and safely? You planning to do away with Head Start? Social Security? Medicare and Medicaid? Farm Subsidies? (That’ll go over real well with the good people in your home state, not to mention all those caucus-goers in Iowa.)
Right. I thought so. So when you say that you’ll do away with the IRS, that’s just an applause line, isn’t it? Because you know you can’t really do it, or, if you do, you’ll have to come up with a brand new agency, one with a more benign name, no doubt — how about Internal Management Agency for Revenue and Taxation (IM*A*RAT)? — but one that does exactly the same thing that the IRS does now.
Actually, the amazing thing isn’t that he said it — he might be a former preacher, but first and foremost, he’s a politician — but rather that people clapped. Can they really be that naive?
Is this country a fiscal mess? Of course it is. But don’t blame the IRS, Mike. Blame George Bush. He’s the one who squandered the budget surpluses that he inherited from Bill Clinton. Are well-paying jobs harder to find these days than at any time in the last twenty years? Yes, they are. But don’t blame illegal immigrants, Tom Tancredo. Blame the multinationals that export those jobs as cost cutting measures and then pass along multi-million dollar bonuses to their CEOs. And blame the allies of those corporations in Congress who built outsourcing incentives into our tax code. Is government too intrusive? Maybe. But don’t blame “big government liberals,” Ron Paul, not unless you’re willing to admit that government has no business telling my wife or my sister or my daughters what they can and can’t do with their own bodies.
And one more thing. Why is it that all these flag-waving GOP patriots, who love our country so much, are unwilling to bear any of the costs of the freedom they’re so eager to use as a bumper sticker slogan? Do any of these men have children serving in Iraq? With the notable exception of John McCain, did any of them serve in Vietnam or any other foreign conflict? Does it ever occur to any of them that living in this country is a privilege, and that paying taxes to make certain that others can afford medical care and education and food and shelter and all the other things that they take for granted is a small price to pay for that privilege? When they use patriotic rhetoric in their TV ads and pamphlets do they actually believe a word of it?
If you listen closely to what the Republicans had to say last night — or any other debate night for that matter — you hear the same thing again and again. “If your life is not going the way you want it to, if you’ve lost your job or taken a pay cut or lost your health insurance or had a falling out with your teenager, here are the people you should blame.” [Insert favorite scapegoat here: Hillary? IRS? Illegal immigrant? Other racial or cultural minority? Homosexuals?]
I suppose that’s a great way to win an election, but it’s certainly no way to run a nation that is desperate for true leadership.
No music today. Just outrage.