Remember when people called the Republican Party "the party of ideas"?! It never was, really, (list 5 important "ideas" the Republicans have generated in since 1995 when Newt Gingrich, the "big thinker" took over - go ahead, I dare you) but through much of the last 10 or 15 years it was a great marketing slogan. Branding, I think they call it.
Still, it is stunning that in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression that the Congressional Republicans have only one thing to say. Like that weird section of the Beatles' "Revolution #9" which just keeps repeating "#9," Republicans keep whining: tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.
This isn't only a measure of the complete poverty of ideas that the Republican Bund suffers, though it certainly is that. Instead, it is an honest reminder of what economic policy means for Republicans. Most of us, I suspect, think of economic policy as a way to pursue the common good - we might debate what that means and how best to achieve it, but we probably agree that economic policy should be shaped to foster those goals.
The goal for Republicans since 1981 has been single-minded: transfer money from the middle class to the rich. Contrary to what you hear from the Cato Institute and other right-wing assisted living centers, Republicans aren't interested in small government, or even free markets. Not when big government and manipulated markets have proven so much more effective at shifting wealth to the top.
And the fastest, easiest, most politically successful way to do that is through tax cuts of the sort that Reagan and Bush II enacted. (That so many Joe-the-Plumbers, who would have done better personally under Democratic tax plans, went along for the ride measures poverty of a different sort).
Go back to those bygone days of 2000. Remember the balanced budget? Remember the budget surplus? As a candidate, Bush sold his big "soak the middle class" tax cuts as a moral imperative: the government shouldn't keep a budget surplus - we had to give it back! As president, when the dot com bubble burst and the nation slipped into the first Bush recession, he announced that those very same tax cuts were the only thing that would stimulate the economy.
So no matter what the economic climate, no matter what the social problem, tax cuts are the solution to everything. Don't have health care? How about a tax cut! Schools are failing - cut taxes! Got male-pattern baldness - you need a tax cut!
In fairness, Republican tax cuts have been successful at making the rich richer. But speaking about the Great Depression - which resulted from Republican economic policies that look awfully familiar - Roosevelt was right in 1936 when he called Republicans "economic royalists." The only question worth asking, as Bob Herbert did in his Times column yesterday, is: why should we bother listening to Republicans who can only say #9, #9, #9, #9. . .