8 Nightmare Scenarios That Would Come to Pass If GOP Presidential Speeches Became Reality
Some people say the American Dream and what made America great is slipping away. But what the GOP’s 2016 presidential contenders are proposing in recent speeches would be nightmarish for tens of millions of Americans, should they come to pass.
Ted Cruz, for example, wants you to believe that 2016 could be like 1776, a year for true patriots to newly pledge their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” for his version of God and country. Yet virtually all of his proposals would help the richest people and big business to keep pummeling and plundering everyday Americans—through cutting their taxes, rolling back public health and safety regulation, revoking national public school standards and gutting safety nets. That’s all in his speech announcing his candidacy last month. And he’s not alone.
It’s not just the same old GOP, which in the first 100 days of the current Congress tried to ban abortions after 20 weeks—elevating rapists over rape victims; tried to block funds to ease immigration prosecutions; voted to repeal Obamacare; cut Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicaid; and is leading efforts to sabotage a nuclear weapons deal with Iran.
Take Chris Christie’s big speech Tuesday in New Hampshire on cutting “entitlements,” which is the wrong word when it comes to Social Security because that’s your money the government is holding in trust. Not only would he ensure that annual cost-of-living increases didn’t reflect real life—by using a stingier index—he would raise the retirement age to get Social Security and Medicare, which doesn’t help minorities like blacks whose lifespans are shorter than whites. He would also have seniors pay $7,500 a year for Medicare.
Considering that tens of millions (including nearly 50 percent of elderly women) rely on Social Security for 90 percent of retirement income, which averages about $16,000 a year, and that pays for Medicare, Christie is proposing is a life sentence of worsening poverty. “This makes sense to me. It is simpler. It will save money. We should do it,” he said.
Christie, of course, claims the opposite. He said his ideas would keep people out of poverty, but they won’t. Take Medicaid, which is state-run healthcare for 72 million poor people. He would make it a state grant and impose “a fixed amount per enrollee” depending on category of recipient—such as elderly, disabled, children, etc. Christie doesn’t mention providers who bilk the system, or drug companies that push unnecessary costly meds, or how really ill people would cope. They would become casualties in a new era of rationed care. “This approach... would reduce the deficit by well over half a trillion dollars,” he said.
Let’s take a look at what else has been proposed in speeches announcing the presidential candidacies of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and by Scott Walker and Christie, who are running but haven’t officially announced. They would take to a new level what the GOP in Congress has been seeking to do. We can start by how they would pervert the First Amendment’s dictate of freedom of—and from—religion.
1. United States of Christian America. Every one of the candidates is anti-abortion and anti-LGBT, and would also seek to impose their religious beliefs on America. Never mind that what the Constitution says must stay in the private sphere, as New York University legal scholar Burt Neuborne eloquently details in his newest book. Cruz wants to enshrine bigotry by adopting new religious liberty laws, which would protect discrimination in public settings. “Today, roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting,” he said in his announcement. “Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.” In his speech, Rubio said he is guided by “faith in their God,” referring to his parents. “Their God,” not respect for other faiths.
2. Give Me Liberty and Nothing Else. That’s the cry—freedom and liberty forever—especially from Cruz. But what does that really mean? They all talk about reviving America’s promise and prominence, but almost never acknowledge the real barriers to prosperity have more to do with the power and clout of corporate monopolies than with the reach of government. Paul, for example, railed in his announcement against “special interests that are more concerned with their personal welfare than the general welfare,” yet he says the answer is “a government restrained by the Constitution.” That is freeing big business to be even more rapacious—me the capitalist versus we the people.
3. Cut Taxes and Demonize Needs. If you start to dismantle federal programs (except the Pentagon), you don’t need revenues, right? That’s what they are saying, that taxes for most other purposes are too high. Never mind that much of the federal tax code was written by and for corporate lobbyists. Cruz wants a flat income tax, which penalizes poorer people as what they end up paying hits them harder than richer people. Christie moans that Social Security—which is the most solvent federal program, but still must be expanded by 2033 to handle the Baby Boom generation’s surge—would mean “backbreaking tax increases on our middle class.” That’s ridiculous. People only pay Social Security taxes on the first $118,000 of their income. If that cap were lifted, that would generate many billions. Also, experts say that if people paid $1 a week more in payroll taxes it would greatly expand reserves. That’s “backbreaking?”
4. Repeal Government Regulations. You’ve heard this before, especially over pollution laws and many health and safety standards. Rubio, the son of poor immigrants, lionized America “at the turn of the 19th century, [when] a generation of Americans harnessed the power of the Industrial Age and transformed this country into the leading economy of the world.” You would think he would know that was when business as usual meant child labor, no minimum wage, filthy slaughterhouses, sweatshops filled with new immigrants, government-led military assaults on labor protests, and zero environmental regulations. He continued, “Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American century.”
5. Drill Baby, Drill. Forget about climate change. Every one of them—especially Texans Ted Cruz and Rick Perry—want to let the oil and gas industry drill anywhere they can find petroleum, especially on federal lands and the continental shelves. Climate change is not even mentioned in their speeches, nor are public investments in renewable sources or federal science and research to create next-generation energy options.
6. Shred Safety Nets. Christie thinks he’s being bold by giving a big speech on safety nets for the elderly and poor. “Democrats believe entitlements are a sacred cow that cannot be honestly discussed, perpetuating a dangerous fantasy to the American people,” he said. As noted above, Christie’s solutions are not honest as they would push millions into poverty. Like the others, he doesn’t touch fair tax increases to fortify social insurance programs or to address greed in the healthcare system. And that takes him to attacking Obamacare. “There is no question that America would be better off with a market-oriented, more flexible, more pro-consumer-choice healthcare system than the one that was jammed down our throats by this President,” he said. All of the GOP 2016 wannabees want to repeal it, on top of cutting safety net spending because of their obsession with the federal debt. None are asking what people need.
7. Widen Culture Wars. This isn’t just about imposing evangelical Christian morality on public policy, such as opposing abortion, reproductive options and LGBT rights. The candidates oppose gun controls, even though studies show that states with more gun controls have fewer domestic violence deaths. As Cruz said, “Imagine a federal government that protects the tight to keep and bear arms.” They want to privatize public education, even as Jeb Bush touts his record as Florida governor—omitting that some of his model charter schools have since closed. As Cruz said, “Imagine repealing every word of Common Core,” the newest federal public school standards. Or Scott Walker comparing teachers unions to Islamic terrorists, as he bragged about gutting collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. Or piling on undocumented immigrants and opposing immigration reform even if your parents—like Cruz and Rubio—got special treatment because they were Cuban refugees decades ago.
8. Expand U.S. Empire Abroad. This isn’t just putting more money into the military while cutting domestic spending, as Christie said toward the end of his New Hampshire speech—“our national defense has been hollowed out by years of underinvestment.” Rubio pledged “no longer being passive in the face of Chinese and Russian aggression” and slammed the Obama White House for “near total disregard for the erosion of democracy and human rights around the world.” All of them, including the formerly non-interventionist Paul, want to put America back as the top cop on a global beat. “The enemy is radical Islam and not only will I name the enemy, I will do whatever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind,” Paul said. They would rather throw billions at the Pentagon, posture and threaten on the world stage, never question Israeli policies or negotiate with Iran over nuclear weapons. They believe, as Cruz said, in “American exceptionalism” and that the U.S. is the “indispensible nation.”
GOP’s Emerging Platform
Taken together, these and extremist stances on other issues show where the GOP is heading as a party and would take the nation as the 2016 campaign gets underway. What is most striking about this collective vision is how it would make life more difficult for middle- and working-class Americans at home, and make the world even more volatile abroad. This crew of candidates would not try to make America’s safety nets stronger, they would cut them back. Nor would they ask the richest people and businesses to spread their wealth, they would let them keep accumulating wealth with less government oversight and public responsibilities.
Their bottom line is ripping up the domestic safety nets created by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. They imagine that the U.S. can bully its way to global supremacy like Teddy Roosevelt’s mythic big stick. If you think things are bad enough with the current Congress—trying to sabotage nuclear deals with Iran, block international agreements on climate change, repeal Obamacare, and again going after reproductive rights—imagine, as Cruz said, if he or any of these others were in the White House.