Bob Herbert wrote a very good column today about what he calls the "campaign disconnect" between Democrats, Republicans, and average Americans. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but essentially Herbert makes the argument that neither party has adequately addressed the economic desperation of citizens. Democrats have decided to humor the disastrous idea of austerity measures, while Republicans behave as though they've "lost their minds completely," an assessment that I think is way too generous on Herbert's part.
I prefer his latter description when he accuses Republicans of "peddling a fantasy that has already damaged the country profoundly." That definition contains the acerbity needed to fully grasp how poisonous the GOP's philosophy is these days.
Yesterday, I briefly recapped the blatant hypocrisy displayed by certain Republicans in regards to the stimulus. Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, two "stalwart Conservatives" both greedily gobbled up stimulus cash before returning to their roots: bashing any recovery plan the Democratic administration proposes.
But hypocrisy aside, the GOP, and the elite in general, have genuine disdain for the underclass. The truly sad part is that they've brainwashed poor Republicans into going along with their scheme to permanently quarantine the undesirables. That's when you get elderly people showing up at healthcare reform town hall meetings, screaming that they want the government to keep its hands off their Medicare. Sigh.
Senator Orrin Hatch proposed an amendment that would demand mandatory drug tests for welfare and unemployment beneficiaries because, as we all know, the only people out of work these days are worthless drug addicts. Sharron Angle implied unemployment benefits make people lazy, and that there are lots of jobs out there, but workers just refuse to buckle down and find them, and Rand Paul told them to quit being cry babies and go flip fries at McDonald's so they can feed their children.
Tea Party favorite Carl Paladino expressed his desire to transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients where they would receive lessons in "personal hygiene" because, obviously, poor people are poor because they don't know how to use a loofah. Let's not forget South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who ran for the Republican nomination for governor (and lost,) and compared giving people government assistance to "feeding stray animals."
Meanwhile, Rep. Eric Cantor told an uninsured woman with growing tumors that she should seek "existing government programs" or find charity instead of hoping for healthcare reform. And this summer, we saw some shameless class-bashing when Congress dangled unemployment benefits in front of jobless Americans' faces before nixing aid for over 1 million laid-off workers.
But this, we're told, is largely rantings from the lunatic fringe of the right. Meanwhile, "responsible Conservatives" like Meg Whitman and Chris Christie have planned, and/or already implemented draconian budget cuts that have completely gutted the public sector. Whitman has promised to slash $15 billion in spending and reduce the state government work force by 40,000, while Christie declared war on teachers, and then vetoed $7.5 million for family planning centers, causing one facility to close its doors, while at least two more are expected to close by the end of November.
This isn't a campaign disconnect. It's a morality disconnect, or a reality disconnect. Beyond muddled messaging, these elite leaders simply have no understanding of the impact their policy initiatives have on normal people.
There is a very real financial disconnect, too. In 2008, the average per capita income for American citizens was $21,587. The current 2010 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year, and that's without factoring in family inheritances and private corporate salaries. For example, John Kerry is worth $188.6 million. Of the 50 richest representatives in Congress, 27 are Democrats, while 23 are Republicans, so the financial disconnect is nonpartisan.
Herbert earnestly points to the fact that more than 300 economists have signed onto a statement urging policy makers not to undercut the change of recovery by focusing overzealously on deficit reduction. But facts are always observed through the prism of subjectivity.
To the rich elite, there is no real suffering. To average Americans, the strain (and the fear) are all too real. To the GOP elite, and their centrist Democrat facilitators, taxpayers can always sacrifice a little more. After all, they skipped that vacation to the Hamptons, which is on par with skipping a meal. Everyone sacrifices in their own way.