Newt Gingrich is a born again loser.
After having stepped away from the political spotlight for nearly a decade-and-a-half, Newt’s not-so-glorious return on Meet the Press as he announced his presidential candidacy last Sunday was more embarrassing than anything else. His comments were symbolic of a corrupt, narcissistic, and hedonistic right-wing political culture that clings to brain dead ideas like the zombies in a George Romero film.
Some reflections below from Gingrich’s interview with David Gregory:
Obama’s “Socialism”: Gingrich has nothing to offer in terms of challenging shop-worn right-wing clich?s about Obama’s “radical left-wing values,” which he claims are destroying America. Such alarmist rhetoric is nothing short of breathtaking in its incompetence, in light of Obama’s slavish commitment to corporate power and profits. One would think conservative corporate worshippers would be on their knees kissing Obama’s hands in light of his deep commitment to business elites, whether expressed through his support for the auto bailout, the 2008 bank bailout, and corporate-friendly health care reform, or through his tepid support for “reforms” on Wall Street. Obama is the most openly pro-business Democrat since Clinton, although one would hardly know this after listening to moral degenerates like Gingrich who drone on about Obama socialism.
“The Food Stamp President”: Gingrich’s attack on Obama as “the most successful food stamp president in modern American history” represents a classic red herring. Efforts to scapegoat the poor and blame them for Americans’ contemporary ills are a shining example of the moral degeneracy that drives American politics. Those even remotely familiar with the food stamp program know that it accounts for less than one percent of federal budget spending. The program’s stinginess is legendary, as I learned firsthand (after being laid off due to state budget cuts from my university position), although this reality doesn’t fit the Republican narrative that obsesses over the “greedy” food stamp recipients who arrogantly drive around in their taxpayer funded Cadillacs, while refusing to work or contribute to the economy in any meaningful way.
Gingrich’s efforts to demonize Obama as somehow responsible for expanding the list of those reliant on food stamps is disingenuous at best. Thirty years of neoliberalism ? embraced by both parties ? is the primary cause for the growth of American desperation and poverty. The current unemployment problem is a direct result of the deregulation of Wall Street, which was a major cause of the 2008 economic collapse and the subsequent meteoric rise in unemployment and underemployment. The bi-partisan commitment to tax cuts for the rich and endless increases in military spending, accompanied alongside attacks on the welfare state (including Social Security, Medicare, and other lesser funded programs) is largely to blame for the poverty epidemic we suffer under today, although one wouldn’t know this from listening to Gingrich and other Republicans.
Tax Cuts for the Rich: I can’t say I was surprised to hear that Gingrich’s magic solution to the economic crisis is cutting (yet again) estate and capital gains taxes for the rich. Such proposals are the bread and butter of the Republican Party, but are a major part of the reason why the budget is in the sorry shape it’s in today. Massive tax cuts, accompanied by major increases in military spending under Reagan and Bush demonstrate the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party, which screams and moans about deficits and unsustainable spending, while contributing the greatest increases in the deficit and debt whenever they gain control of government. The complete failure of tax cuts for the rich to stimulate economic growth is perhaps most evident with Bush’s cuts, which were rear-loaded to grant the largest cuts to the rich in their finals years in the late 2000s. Those cuts, along with the extension of the cuts by Obama last year, have done next to nothing to restore healthy economic growth. Again, one wouldn’t know this after listening to Gingrich, who doesn’t have any interest in the facts. Republican tax cuts are a boon for the rich, and further reinforce the neoliberal notion that the wealthy have no commitment to any greater social good. They may not do anything to promote growth, but then again, that was never what the goal.
Gingrich the Birther: Most embarrassing in his interview was Gingrich’s embrace of the paranoid kook conspiracy theories on the right framing Obama as a non-citizen, dangerous other. Gingrich’s reference to Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior” and his attacks on the Muslim community center to be constructed near ground zero demonstrate just how racist the Republican Party has become (Gingrich referred to the building of the community center as the equivalent of placing a Nazi sign alongside the Holocaust Museum). Blanket generalizations framing all Muslims as a national security threat reveal more about the paranoia and racist fanaticism of those on the right than they do about the realities defining Muslims living in America today. Then again, accurate depictions of reality have never really been the goal of Republicans like Gingrich. Racism, prejudice, and xenophobia play well with the Republican base, as House Republican Majority Leader John Boehner recently conceded when he explained that it wasn’t his responsibility to correct erroneous birther theories as expressed by the Republican Right. Gingrich’s recent comments demonstrate that even Republican Presidential candidates can embrace such conspiracies without fear of being called out as bigots on national television. Disturbingly, promoting oneself as a racist is a safe strategy in a party where two-thirds of self-identified Republicans openly embrace the birther conspiracy.
The Return of the Laffer Curve: Gingrich isn’t beyond coddling supply-siders whose mathematically challenged theories brought us the bogus claim that massive reductions in corporate and income taxes for the rich will lead to increase in government tax revenues. These predictions, directly derived from the “Laffer Curve” theory of economics, never worked out in reality, but that hasn’t stopped Gingrich and other Republicans from clinging to them as if they are serious policy prescriptions. No political leaders in the Republican Party can seriously believe any longer that cutting taxes on the rich will reduce deficits and lead to increased revenues, although again, this isn’t the point. Republicans have been more than happy for decades to explode the budget deficit and debt if it means guaranteeing a free ride for corporate America. Don’t expect Gingrich to acknowledge even this basic fact as he campaigns in the 2012 Republican primary. Strangely, the revelation that more than two-thirds of American corporations do not pay income taxes is cited by Gingrich as proof that we need to further lower taxes. Skeptics will reasonably point out that one can’t lower taxes any further for those who don’t bother to pay them in the first place, although this hasn’t stopped companies like GE from convincing the government to pay them to do business in the U.S.
I have little reason to think that Gingrich is going to be considered a serious candidate for the Republican Presidential primary. He is polling well below a number of other presidential frontrunners, including Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney. That Gingrich can’t even find his way toward outpolling two Republicans who are no longer even running (Huckabee and Trump), and another who is functionally illiterate (Palin) doesn’t bode well for his candidacy.
Gingrich is a symbol for everything that’s wrong with American politics today. That he can get away with making the absurd claims that he does on national television and still be the talk of the town after this Sunday’s Meet the Press, suggests just how far the entire political system has degenerated. The Democratic Party is just as much to blame as Republicans for this deterioration. Democrats’ embrace of tax cuts for the rich, and their attack on what’s left of the social welfare state, has further empowered Republicans in disseminating their vulgar anti-worker, pro-business propaganda.
Whoever emerges as the Republican nominee for 2012 may not make much difference at a time when the Democratic Party has completely abdicated its responsibility for protecting the masses of Americans. Gingrich can at least take solace in this reality as his candidacy goes down in flames in the coming months.
Anthony DiMaggio is the co-author (with Paul Street) of the forthcoming “Crashing the Tea Party” (Paradigm Publishers) due out in May 2011. He is also the author of When Media Goes to War (2010) and Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008). He has taught U.S. and Global Politics at Illinois State University, and can be reached at: email@example.com