Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Was that Really John McCain or an Actor from Comedy Central?

By Norman Markowitz

I saw something very funny yesterday, although many people later told me it was real. I saw someone whom I thought was pretending to be John McCain come out with an "economic program." He started with tax cuts and more tax cuts to fight the recession. This wasn't a rerun of Ronald Reagan in 1981, although this character did say that he would also cut deeply "discretionary spending" (this had to be a comedy show, because discretionary social spending has been cut relentlessly in non fiction America over the last thirty years).

As I was expecting this guy to say "sock it to me," he said he would support repeal the federal gasoline tax, as this would reduce gasoline costs over time as against increasing deficits very quickly. While I was expecting an actor dressed up as P.T. Barnum to come out and exclaim "there's a sucker born every minute," the McCain character went on to promise government supported thirty year mortgages to everyone threatened with losing their homes out of one side of his mouth and a promise that the banks wouldn't lose anything out of the other. He also admitted(here was the "straight talk") that he really couldn't balance the budget in short order with these policies (Ronald Reagan said he could twenty-eight years ago but I guess this actor doesn't have much respect for Voodoo).

At this point, I expected a chimpanzee named Bonzo to step out and hit the McCain character in the head with a football. Or may a group of Supreme Court Justices with signs on their robes reading, Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas, to step out and start dancing with the McCain character as the audience chanted "Here Come the Judge."

People this morning though told me that it was really true. That that was the real John McCain. That he was really advocating a rerun of the Reagan policies of the early 1980s that produced the sharpest recession of the post World War II period, when unemployment reached 10% and real wages declined. That, after the Reagan policies and the Bush II policies of spectacular tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy and crippling cutbacks in social services and the public sector, he was really playing that old trick on the people, a little bit like a political Ponzi scheme, where you get a little money in tax cuts in one pocket while you lose much much more in regressive federal, state, and local taxes and fees, out of pocket costs for education and health care, reduced wages and salaries, and then, like the victims of Ponzi schemes, watch as the bubble bursts (in this case, the whole economy goes into a deep recession.)

If that was really John McCain and not an actor on Comedy Central, he has come forward with an "economic plan" that can only repeat the disaster of the Reagan years, the disaster of the George W Bush years, in an economy that is much less able at every level to absorb the blows of trillions more added to the national debt, income inequality intensifying, and living standards for the majority not just stagnating but in all probability dropping significantly.

Maybe I was wrong in comparing the McCain program to a Comedy Central performance. It may have been more like Orson Welles famous 1938 Mercury Theater of the Air Radio broadcast of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which was presented so realistically that some people thought that Martians had really invaded the U.S. and panicked. Except, McCain's plan, which was so absurd it looked like a satirical skit, is real and should help Americans to see the dangers that his candidacy represents.

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