The other day, my friend Ray called Obama a Nazi, a socialist, a danger to Western democracy, a man intent on bringing down the United States. He shied away from calling him the Antichrist.
I couldn't believe that a person I thought was an intelligent, rational, free-thinking person would make that preposterous statement. So, what led him to it? I conclude that the 'free-thinking' attribute was probably wrong. He was trumpeting the standard line spouted by Beck, Palin, the Tea Partiers, and other radical right types. (I do not claim that Beck, Palin, and every Tea Party member thinks the same thing. But if asked to take a stand for or against Ray's statement, I propose that they would be Ray-supporters. So I will continue to generalize.)
"Ray," I said, "think for a moment. You are just saying stuff other people say, without thinking about it."
"Look at the bank bailouts," he said.
The bailouts were started by Bush, not Obama. Did Obama allocate more funds? Yes. But why? Not to line the pockets of the filthy rich CEO's. Obama is as upset as everyone at those robber-barons getting multimillion-dollar salaries for incompetent management of assets. Many of those assets came from Main Street, and represent many honest Americans' pension plans and life savings. By keeping the banks afloat, the bailout safeguarded the financial futures of millions of ordinary people.
According to the NYTimes: Losses from the $700 billion financial rescue are expected to be much less than initially feared, according to a Treasury report and government audit late last year. Besides banks’ repayment of their bailout money with interest, the government also has made money by selling the bank warrants that it held as collateral for its loans to the institutions.
"What about healthcare?" Ray demanded. "That's socialism."
Well, so is using taxpayer's dollars for building roads. Everyone pays, even those who don't use the roads. (Of course, everyone benefits. The trucks bringing food to your grocery story use the roads, even if you don't.) And tax money funds schools. (Even if you have no children, presumably you want your doctor to have had a good education.) The idea of a decent universal healthcare system is that the country benefits as a whole from the good health of its citizens. Economy of scale considerations suggest that the total amount spent by the citizens of the country could go down. (I acknowledge that the two sides disagree on that point. Certainly, prevention costs less than cure, so if people see doctors early, before conditions worsen, every person who is spared a hospital stay helps save the system money.)
I guess what bothers me the most is that Ray echoes the people who shout the apple pie slogans: no taxation, no driver's licenses, no restrictions on guns, no restrictions on freedom, no government interference in anyone's lives, etc. etc.
No income tax? Right: who is going to build the roads? Who is going to pay for the navy that guards the shores? Does everyone then teach their kids at home? (Ray: "People can freely combine and pool their money for a community school." Me: "Give me a break! Would the US have gained prominence in so many areas if it hadn't had government-funded schools?")
Regarding government influence: Do you want no standards for quality of food? No standards for toxin-free paint or microbe-free water?
What I'd prefer is that you Tea Partiers, you local militia folk, you radical Right people just come out and say it. Be honest. You guys don't want a black president; you guys don't want to contribute to the common good of your country (except on your terms); and, basically, you want anyone who thinks differently from you to get the hell out of your country.
P.S. McCain said, regarding working with Democrats on other big items on Obama's agenda. "There will be no cooperation for the rest of this year." Although he softened the statement after receiving criticism, it speaks volumes about whether Republicans care about governing the country. The country can go to hell before any Republican will participate in honest government. Sabotaging the president is their highest priority.
P.P.S. Many in the Tea Party movement do not shy away from calling Obama the Antichrist.