The latest war

If there is one thing that we can depend on from the American Right, it’s this: they use fear to motivate their base, and the solution for the fear is always a war. During the eighties it was the fear of drugs, which lead to the War on Drugs. During the Clinton years it was the fear of immorality, which lead to the war on Clinton. After 9/11 it was the fear of Islam, which brought us the War on Terror.

Recently, now that ten years  have past since 9/11, it’s time for a new war. Voters only stay afraid for so long, you see.  So the war or terror has given away to the war on debt and government. Right-wing media is hysterical with the specter of record-breaking dept. Pundits and politicians tell us we’re broke. They say we’ve never been so far in dept. And they say that only savage and immediate cuts will save us.

Federal debt as percent of GDP by president (Source: Wikipedia)This chart puts things into perspective. You’ll notice first that, as a percentage of GDP, we’ve certainly had more debt before. We have yet to reach post-WWII levels. And that’s significant because now we’re fighting two wars (some would say three) and the effects of a major recession. The second thing is that debt went up significantly under Reagan and both Bushes, and yet we’re led to believe that Obama pretty much invented the concept of debt. Naturally neither of these facts that are mentioned on Fox news or in the Wall Street Journal.

(If logic played any part in all this, then Clinton would be getting heart-felt apologies from conservatives, both for how much was made of Monica Lewinsky which seems even sillier in the post 9/11 context, but also because debt clearly went down during his tenure.)

So does national debt need to be addressed? Yes. Should it be considered top priority? Hardly.

It’s far more important that we rebuilt the aging American infrastructure (which would create jobs, by the way.) It’s far more important that we expand alternative energy sources (which would also create jobs in addition to forging a reduced oil dependant future). It’s far more important that we reform the drug laws (legalization would create jobs, put gangs out of business, and draw in massive amounts of tax money.)  It’s far more important that we have a strong and unified public school system, one that offers current and future generations opportunities to thrive regardless of race, religion, or economic status.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s critical that we stop pretending that it’s okay for corporations and the rich to enjoy the services that tax-payers provide without injecting part of their profits into the common fund. A major factor of success for any business is stability. Business simply cannot function without roads, the police, the legal system, and the regulatory mechanisms that insure fair business practices. Tearing down these things is not good for business in the long term, no matter what Rupert Murdock thinks.

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