Clinton gave us peace, prosperity, and a balanced budget* . . . Bush, with a Republican Congress six of his eight years, gave us war, near-Depression, and trillion-dollar deficits . . . Obama has ended wars, avoided others McCain et al would have started, overseen 42 months of private sector job growth despite Republican refusal to pass the American Jobs Act, and shrunk the deficit from 10% of GDP to 4%.

Is it really that simple?  No.  But you know what?  It’s not far off.

Does anyone seriously dispute that Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and — yes, Richard Nixon — would be horrified by what the Republican Party has become?  That even Ayn Rand . . . she of the epic superhero comic books, super-simplistic and super fun, beloved by precocious high school girls everywhere . . . in whose name so much of this is being done, might well have recognized that what she wrote in the 1940s, with the Stalinism her family had fled threatening half the world and communism having made meaningful inroads in her Depression-era America . . . that even she, given the context of 2013, might have been just a bit horrified?

That, of course, we’ll never know.  Though her disciple Alan Greenspan, as close to her as anyone half a century ago, is certainly no Tea Party Republican.  He writes:  “Rand’s Collective became my first social circle outside the university and the economics profession. I engaged in the all-night debates and wrote spirited commentary for her newsletter with the fervor of a young acolyte drawn to a whole new set of ideas.”  [Like Paul Ryan!]  “Like any new convert, I tended to frame the concepts in their starkest, simplest terms. Most everyone sees the simple outline of an idea before complexity and qualification set in. If we didn’t, there would be nothing to qualify, nothing to learn. It was only as contradictions inherent in my new notions began to emerge that the fervor receded.”  [Paul?  Any chance you could listen?]

No, Congressman Paul Ryan and his crew, financed by multi-billionaires who’ve persuaded themselves they are John Galt, they are the job creators — they are NOT — are poised to lead the country they love, and which they have already damaged so badly, over a cliff,  if that’s what it takes to keep the struggling masses (the workers) from getting a better deal on health care and the food stamps that many of them, making minimum wage, need to keep from starving.

I feel quite sure they will not succeed.  How could they?

But it’s crazy.

The Crazy Party

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Early this year, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, made headlines by telling his fellow Republicans that they needed to stop being the “stupid party.” Unfortunately, Mr. Jindal failed to offer any constructive suggestions about how they might do that. And, in the months that followed, he himself proceeded to say and do a number of things that were, shall we say, not especially smart.

Nonetheless, Republicans did follow his advice. In recent months, the G.O.P. seems to have transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party.

I know, I’m being shrill. But as it grows increasingly hard to see how, in the face of Republican hysteria over health reform, we can avoid a government shutdown — and maybe the even more frightening prospect of a debt default — the time for euphemism is past.

It helps, I think, to understand just how unprecedented today’s political climate really is.

Divided government in itself isn’t unusual and is, in fact, more common than not. Since World War II, there have been 35 Congresses, and in only 13 of those cases did the president’s party fully control the legislature.

Nonetheless, the United States government continued to function. Most of the time divided government led to compromise; sometimes to stalemate. Nobody even considered the possibility that a party might try to achieve its agenda, not through the constitutional process, but through blackmail — by threatening to bring the federal government, and maybe the whole economy, to its knees unless its demands were met.

True, there was the government shutdown of 1995. But this was widely recognized after the fact as both an outrage and a mistake. And that confrontation came just after a sweeping Republican victory in the midterm elections, allowing the G.O.P. to make the case that it had a popular mandate to challenge what it imagined to be a crippled, lame-duck president.

Today, by contrast, Republicans are coming off an election in which they failed to retake the presidency despite a weak economy, failed to retake the Senate even though far more Democratic than Republican seats were at risk, and held the House only through a combination of gerrymandering and the vagaries of districting. Democrats actually won the popular ballot for the House by 1.4 million votes. This is not a party that, by any conceivable standard of legitimacy, has the right to make extreme demands on the president.

Yet, at the moment, it seems highly likely that the Republican Party will refuse to fund the government, forcing a shutdown at the beginning of next month, unless President Obama dismantles the health reform that is the signature achievement of his presidency. Republican leaders realize that this is a bad idea, but, until recently, their notion of preaching moderation was to urge party radicals not to hold America hostage over the federal budget so they could wait a few weeks and hold it hostage over the debt ceiling instead. Now they’ve given up even on that delaying tactic. The latest news is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, has abandoned his efforts to craft a face-saving climbdown on the budget, which means that we’re all set for shutdown, possibly followed by debt crisis.

How did we get here?

Some pundits insist, even now, that this is somehow Mr. Obama’s fault. Why can’t he sit down with Mr. Boehner the way Ronald Reagan used to sit down with Tip O’Neill? But O’Neill didn’t lead a party whose base demanded that he shut down the government unless Reagan revoked his tax cuts, and O’Neill didn’t face a caucus prepared to depose him as speaker at the first hint of compromise.

No, this story is all about the G.O.P. First came the southern strategy, in which the Republican elite cynically exploited racial backlash to promote economic goals, mainly low taxes for rich people and deregulation. Over time, this gradually morphed into what we might call the crazy strategy, in which the elite turned to exploiting the paranoia that has always been a factor in American politics — Hillary killed Vince Foster! Obama was born in Kenya! Death panels! — to promote the same goals.

But now we’re in a third stage, where the elite has lost control of the Frankenstein-like monster it created.

So now we get to witness the hilarious spectacle of Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal, pleading with Republicans to recognize the reality that Obamacare can’t be defunded. Why hilarious? Because Mr. Rove and his colleagues have spent decades trying to ensure that the Republican base lives in an alternate reality defined by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Can we say “hoist with their own petard”?

Of course, the coming confrontations are likely to damage America as a whole, not just the Republican brand. But, you know, this political moment of truth was going to happen sooner or later. We might as well have it now.

* And, with his Clinton Global Initiative, in session right now, continues to do tremendous, constructive things.

 

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