Yesterday, entertainment personality Rush Limbaugh spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual conclave for the rightest of the rightwing in American politics. Specifically, Mr. Limbaugh sought to address negative reaction to his previous and emphatic statements that he hopes President Obama fails in his efforts to repair the calamitous damage wrought on the United States by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Instead, however, his attempts to justify himself only served to demonstrate how badly modern conservativism has lost its way.
After watching the clip above, it is clear from Mr. Limbaugh's Super Bowl analogy that he regards politics as a team sport, and that he is completely disconnected from the idea that policies have very real consequences for everyday people. Taking this analogy and his stated support for Pittsburgh to its logical conclusion, he would prefer to see both the Super Bowl and the NFL fail than the Cardinals triumph, just as he would apparently rather the United States lapse into depression and social upheaval than grow and succeed through policies he finds distasteful.
On the one hand, I - like many citizens - have serious concerns about the level of debt that the United States is taking on through the economic stimulus package and the budget blueprint unveiled last week. That said, there aren't really any levers left with which to kick-start the economy besides government spending, and it would be pretty hard to argue that the budget priorities of the last eight years have done much for the average citizen. Most Americans approve of Mr. Obama's performance to date, so, what precisely, is Rush Limbaugh against? Here are fifteen of the priorities outlined in the president's budget package:
- A $634 billion down payment on fixing health care that will lay the foundation for a more efficient and affordable health care system that covers every single American.
- Tax cuts for 95% of working Americans and no increase in taxes for any family making less than $250,000 a year.
- More than $100 billion invested in clean energy technology that will create millions of green jobs that can never be outsourced.
- Bringing our troops home from Iraq on an actual timetable, ending a war that never should have been fought, and freeing up almost ten billion dollars a month for domestic priorities.
- Allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire in order to help close the income gap and strengthen the middle class.
- Closing multi-billion-dollar tax loopholes for oil companies.
- The largest increase ever in funding for federal grants to help families pay for college.
- A plan to cut the deficit in half by 2013, despite the drastic measures required to address the enormous budget shortfall and economic damage inherited from President Bush.
- Dramatic increases to funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), - the agencies responsible for policing Wall Street.
- An end to off-the-books accounting measures designed to hide costs and the use of taxpayer money from the public.
- Elimination of unnecessary government subsidies to large banks, health insurance companies and big agribusinesses.
- Expansion of access to early childhood education and improvements to schools by investing in programs to produce qualified, high-performing teachers.
- Negotiation for lower prescription drug prices through the use of Medicaid's bargaining power.
- Increased access to family planning for low-income women.
- A cap-and-trade system to address pollution that causes global warming.
Of course, unlike Mr. Limbaugh, I don't regard American success as a zero-sum game or the failures of others as justification for amoral or thuggish behavior. Divisiveness and lies got us into our current mess, and it might just be me, but I fail to see how they can be expected to get us out. It's time to change direction, pull together, ignore the increasingly insane ranting of people like Rush Limbaugh and his groupies at CPAC, and get the country back on track.