Popular Economics Weekly

Why does the USA have such a problem with bullies? Whether in the schools, in politics, or on Internet social media? The result has been teenage suicides, horrendous school shootings by students who felt bullied or belittled, and now a whole political party that opposes anything that smacks of aiding the poorest, seniors, and less educated.

Paul Ryan’s latest budget proposal, is one such example of Republican bullying tactics. It is a repeat of past years’ proposal that would cut $5 trillion from government spending, 69 percent of the cuts in the Ryan budget come from programs that benefit people with low or moderate incomes, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Why pick on the poor?

Economist Paul Krugman can’t understand it either. “…while supposed Obamacare horror stories keep on turning out to be false, it’s already quite easy to find examples of people who died because their states refused to expand Medicaid. According to one recent study, the death toll from Medicaid rejection is likely to run between 7,000 and 17,000 Americans each year.

“But nobody expects to see a lot of prominent Republicans declaring that rejecting Medicaid expansion is wrong, that caring for Americans in need is more important than scoring political points against the Obama administration. As I said, there’s an extraordinary ugliness of spirit abroad in today’s America, which health reform has brought out into the open.”

The “ugliness” is really a bully mentality. Bullies prey on those weaker than them, and so they have tried every trick in the book to oppose any programs that smack of aiding those most in need. Why? Because it would empower the less fortunate so they are not so easily bullied. The Republican-dominated red states are the best example of the bully mentality.

If Republicans can’t keep their constituents poor and less educated, then they would lose their hold over them, and so their power. Conservatives oppose expanding educational opportunities such as Head Start and pre-school aid because it would encourage rational thinking, and an appreciation of science. Their constituents would then begin to understand global warming, and maybe evolution.

Republicans opposition to expanding voters’ rights; even social security and Medicare; is because Repubs fear being outvoted by those very same immigrants, minorities and seniors that depend on those services to improve their circumstances, and would enhance economic growth, by the way. Republicans only answer is to restrict voting hours and pass draconian voter ID laws in the red states. It is restricting citizens’ voting rights, even though sacrosanct and protected by the constitution.

In fact, the bully mentality requires such ignorance of facts about economic growth as well. The slow recovery from the Great Recession has mainly been because private businesses have been reluctant to hire due to slack demand, and governments have been unable to spend more on public services. Yet Republicans have opposed any form of government stimulus spending, even on badly outmoded infrastructure that will only cost more to repair and replace in the future.

Not all Republicans are bullies, and not all Democrats enlightened progressives, of course. But the bully mentality of House Speaker John Boehner’s “no compromise” tactics, or Senator Mitch McConnell’s filibustering of even the most innocuous Obama Administration appointments have been the reason recovery from the Great Recession hasn’t been stronger.

Fostering a culture of fear and ignorance is not the way to run a political party, or a country. Such tactics that attempt to suppress the rights of those that disagree, as well as the willful denial of scientific and economic facts are a danger to our democracy, not to speak of the US position as a leader of democratic nations. That is the ugliness that has crept into American politics. It is a complete denial of greater opportunity for all but Republicans’ most conservative constituents, and disregard for the most basic human rights.

Harlan Green © 2014

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