As someone of British background, I regard April Fools' Day as a high
Holy Holiday, on a par with Festivus or St. Swithin's Day (both holidays
center around the use of bare poles). It's a day for reverently
reflecting on the spaghetti farms of Switzerland, or the flying penguins
that Terry Jones found in the Arctic.
I do my part, of course. This year, I sent a piece out on my newsfeed
that, pursuant to his conversion to Roman Catholicism, Newt Gingrich had
proceeded to resign from the GOP and re-register as a Democrat. Last
year, I grandly announced that the LA Dodgers had signed Barry Bonds to
a ten-year, $250 million contract.
But this year, the best tribute to April Fools' came from that most
unlikely of sources, the grim, humorless stalwarts of what's left of the
They came out with an budget proposal that purported to be a legitimate
and viable alternative to the budget that Obama proposed. For starters,
it had...well, MSNBC described it best: “GOP Releases Detailed Budget
Plan With Specific Numbers.”
That's right. It had numbers in it. This made it much more budget-like
than last week's example, which had no numbers, but a great deal of
optimism. The GOP had realized that the country could save quite a bit
of money if they just stopped having natural disasters. And as everyone
knows, “trickle down” works: if you give a billionaire another billion
dollars, he'll give you back one and a half billion dollars. That's why
he's a billionaire and you're not. So they want to restore trickle down.
But that was last week's budget, and small minds caviled at the notion
that there were no numbers in it. Numbers are for petty mentalities, the
province of bookkeepers and bureaucrats. To fashion a grand budget that
will stand like a rock of ages, numbers should be avoided.
I want to note here that I've been writing commentaries for 10 years,
and I have been waiting for a chance to use the word “caviled.” I don't
quite know what it means, but my spell checker tells me I spelled it
properly. When one is describing GOP policy, the meaning of words just
doesn't matter very much, anyway.
The third time was the charm. Last week, they introduced a budget with
no numbers. Yesterday, they grandly announced that they had a new
budget, but it turned out that someone had left it in the printer at home.
If the first budget lacked numbers, and the second lacked a budget, the
third lacked sanity. Trust me, for the GOP, that is a better way forward.
That's how Representative Paul “If I'm Lyin' I'm Dyin” Ryan described
it: “A better way forward.”
There's an automotive technique that is considered a good way of moving
forward. You start the car, shift into drive, and let the car move. This
is a better way of going forward than what the GOP has in mind, which
can be best described as setting off a massive explosion under the car,
and hoping some of the bits land in the general direction of where the
car was pointing when it was vaporized.
Here's how “USA Today” described the budget on their blog, and I did
check to make sure it was posted after noon today, when it's considered
bad form to pull further April Fools' pranks:
“Rescinding the newly passed economic stimulus package in 2010, except
for unemployment insurance for those who have already lost their job.”
That would include the funding for projects designed to create four
million jobs over the first two years of the package, along with major
infrastructure improvements and funding to bring America's antiquated
and nearly moribund industrial base into the 21st century.
“Repealing the latest budget and freezing non-defense, non-veteran
spending.” Some right winger on Usenet was actually making the
argument that the funding for the military was necessary to, among
other things, protect Australia from attack by Indonesia. I imagine
the Australians hadn't really considered Indonesia to be that much
of a threat, which shows how much they know. If they manage their
weather the way they manage their foreign policy, it's no wonder
they have droughts.
“Converting Medicaid into an allotment to states. Reforming Social
Security and Medicare, including "means testing" for drug
prescription benefits.” In other words, they still want to privatize
Social Security, so it can be as cost-effective and reliable as all
those private pensions that have, er, died over the past year. They
already reformed Medicare once already, and the results have
bankrupted millions of people. “Means testing” would probably mean
what it does for some of the other “humane” programs of the GOP, in
which, in order to qualify, you must sell off everything except your
primary residence and one car worth less than $4,000, and then spend
the rest of your life filling out endless forms and acceding to
impossible and often contradictory requirements.
“Simplifying the tax code. Taxpayers would have a choice of keeping
the current system, or choosing one that would tax couples making
$100,000 (or individuals making $50,000) at a 10% rate and taxing
those above at 25%. The plan would include what Ryan called
'generous' personal and standard deductions.” Doubtlessly for
yachts, vacation homes, and private jets. There's a technical term
for countries that have such “simplified tax codes”: they're called
Cutting the corporate tax rate to 25% as a job-creating measure.”
Said job creation, presumably, would be in Indonesia to help prepare
for the Australian invasion. Somehow, I doubt that the GOP plan
would ban the use of tax havens, since corporations have better
things to do than waste a quarter of their profits on the people who
made those profits possible in the first place.
“Increasing offshore oil drilling,” always a crowd pleaser. Why
spend money on developing clean and efficient energy when you can
keep on drilling? When future generations wonder why there is no oil
for plastics or agriculture, they sure will be grateful to us for
burning it all. Especially after climate change kicks in and much
arable land is lost. The title of that provision? “Reduce Greenhouse
Gas Emissions with Offshore Drilling” Burning lots of gas really
cuts down on CO2 emissions, you know.
“Placing a moratorium on all earmarks.” You know when your
Congressman gets a provision in the budget to get your town a
day-care center for the kids, or a swimming pool for the public?
That's an earmark. They aren't bad things. Overusing them is bad,
and using them in secret is bad, and the GOP was the worse of the
two parties when it came to that. But they want to simply stop them
all. That will save less than 2% off the budget. And virtually
guarantee no government help at the local level, which is what
nearly all earmarks do.
The GOP seem to think that the best way to stop a chainsaw is by
putting it in their mouth and biting down. Or maybe tomorrow,
they'll release a real budget, one that has something – anything --
to do with reality.
Remember when I said that Newt had become a Democrat? Well, April
Fools. But he really did become a Catholic last week. And that makes
him unique among Republicans, in that he actually has a prayer.
April 10, 2009