$1.5 Trillion for the Drug War? 5 Outrageous Areas of Gov't Spending That Should be Cut Instead of Social Services
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4. Limiting agriculture subsidies: The conservative Heritage Foundation criticizes them as “America’s largest corporate welfare program.” Liberal Robert Reich derides them for “go(ing) mostly to big agribusinesses that hardly need them.” I’m talking, of course, about agriculture subsidies, which are projected to cost taxpayers at least $46 billion in the next decade. Not only that, they serve to subsidize unhealthy processed foods, which contribute to an obesity crisis that is driving up health care costs in myriad ways. To Republicans interested in reforming entitlements in the name of “small government,” Democrats can hold up agriculture subsidies as an agribusiness entitlement program that should be first on the chopping block.
5. Ending ongoing bank bailouts: Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and other economic observers have expertly documented how an alphabet soup of obscure Federal Reserve programs and so-called Quantitative Easing comprises an ongoing taxpayer bailout of the biggest financial institutions. Though many voted for these bailouts, Republicans nonetheless love talking about how their (supposedly) “small government” ideals (supposedly) makes them hate bailouts. With a few shrewd amendments forcing some floor votes in Congress, Democrats could pretty easily expose whether that’s actually true.
When I appeared on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes this weekend, the assembled panel discussed the consequences of using conservative austerity arguments for progressive objectives. There are certainly upsides to the tactic – after all, there is persuasive power in appropriating an opponent’s argument for one’s own goals. However, there are also downsides – namely, appropriating the GOP’s “small government” argument not-so-subtly affirms the destructive idea that “small government” is always a laudable objective, when it often is not.
Regardless of whether you think the tactical upsides outweigh the downsides, the fact that the “small government” argument could right now be deployed so powerfully for progressive goals means that the next four years aren’t necessarily a bust. On the contrary, in light of the five aforementioned possibilities, the current posture of the Republican Party, unto itself, does not mean nothing can get done in the next four years. Democrats could make real progress – if they choose to make a progressive case in such a shrewd fashion.
That, though, assumes they want to make that progress in the first place – which is anything but a safe assumption. After all, many Democrats have loyally voted for the drug war, bigger Pentagon budgets, expanded tax expenditures, huge ag subsidies and massive bank bailouts. But if a few more of them stopped casting those kind of votes, now might be a moment of convergence – a unique moment where the GOP’s “small government” desperation combines with progressive movement activism to bring about some much-needed change.