Newt (short for Newton) Gingrich, the right-wing Republican who would be President is back. Gingrich made himself infamous by helping his party’s conservative wing become master of the House of Representatives in 1994. For many years he led that majority. As we know the Republicans only lasted 12 years in power, but in that period managed to nearly ruin the country and did major damage to the rest of the world as well. Of course, Newt doesn’t see it that way. In fact he has most things reversed and so his complaints and claims don’t make much sense at all–unless you know no history.
Gingrich recently gave an interview to NPR’s weekend version of the show All Things Considered . Here he takes a position that the Obama administration has created a "secular-socialist machine" that will destroy the country if the Republicans don’t stop it. This, of course, is nonsense. As the Republican Party moved right its definition of what is "left" got increasingly unreal. Thus, socialism use to be something you got with Marshal Tito or even Scandinavia in the 1960s. But in the peculiar world of Newt and company it became a tag for the likes of Ted Kennedy, and now Barack Obama. And as for the charge of secularism, well what is Newt advocating here? The melding of church and state? Maybe.
Then there is the old fear factor of "big government." According to Gingrich, Obama the "socialist" wants to create "a government that will take care of you, a government that runs virtually everything." There are a number of interesting reactions one can have to these claims.
First of all, the government should take care of us. That is what governments are for. That is why we have police and courts of law. That, at least in theory, is why we have armies. That is why we have regulations for healthy food, drugs, truth in advertising and all that sort of stuff. And that is why we should be pouring most of the money going down the toilet in Afghanistan and Israel into taking care of Americans in the fields of education, health insurance, social security, etc. Is this socialism? Not in any formal sense. But who cares! Life is not ideology alone. There is a lot more to it. Gingrich ought to get off his ideological hobby horse and get with reality.
Second thing is that no Republican government in the post World War II era has really made the U.S. government smaller. What they did is shrink some areas while expanding others. So today, thanks to the stupidity of men like Ronald Reagan, the Bush boys and, alas, we can throw in that quasi Democrat Bill Clinton, the regulatory side of the government is the size of walnut (and we have seen where that has gotten us) and the military and security side of the government is the size of red wood tree. And what was that shift suppose to get the American people?
Well, on one side, according to Newt, it was suppose to get the government out of the way of business. That, allegedly, would make this country more efficient, and free Americans of overweening government bureaucracy. Has any one noticed any big jump in efficiency at any level? Even the corruption deregulation has spawned has not been carried on efficiently. And how about that claim for less bureaucracy? Just take a minute to think about your own encounters with frustrating bureaucracy in the last ten years. How much of it has been with government agencies and how much with private businesses like the phone companies, the cable-TV companies, the banks, hotels, airlines, hospitals/doctors, ad nauseam? Gingrich is really barking up the wrong tree here. It is all those private industries he and his cohorts have let loose that are making our lives miserable as they try to pinch our pockets–rather inefficiently. The IRS has nothing on whoever holds your mortgage.
And on the other side of it the Republicans in all their pseudo efficient glory has straddled the country with enormous debt. Certainly the bi-partisan fiasco of Viet Nam helped in this regard. But it really took the imbecilic fiscal irresponsibility of Ronald Reagan to put the country into an enormous hole of debt. Who would have guessed that the real Republican mantra was "cut taxes and increase spending"? Didn’t notice that? Perhaps it was because the Republicans didn’t spend the money on us civilians. They spent it on military toys (remember Star Wars?) and allies such as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and the Israelis (truly strange bedfellows). And, as an added bonus, all this military spending tied to good old bipartisan foreign policies designed for the benefit of special interests, has made your world much more dangerous. The truth is that the Republicans are bigger spendthrifts than the Democrats. They just spend it on the wrong things. And then they have the nerve to turn around and call their political opponents advocates of big government and builders of big deficits.
If Gingrich and his cohorts were not so dangerous one might think them fools. In truth they are ideologues playing the American voters for fools. They can do this because Americans don’t know much about their own recent history. They seem to think that history is something you get from Fox news, CNN or "the history channel." Not trying to get an accurate sense of what is happening to you, your community and nation is eventually suicidal. That is why America will someday be an ex-great power like the UK and France. Actually, it will be a big relief when that happens. Maybe then we can start to prioritize human needs and spend money where it is really needed.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|