In our always-on, always-connected, high-speed world, 16 days is a lifetime, and the lifetime of the federal shutdown gave politicians across the state the opportunity to make some grand statement about it. Among the last, but certainly not the least, was an editorial written by three of South Carolina’s top Republican legislators: Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, and Brian White, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.
You would think that an editorial penned by these great leaders would be enough to bring the shutdown to a grinding halt — and perhaps even reverse the years of fiscal waste in Washington — but alas, the op-ed these three men handed over to Evening Post Industries (the development company that runs The Post and Courier and several other local papers in South Carolina) mostly exists as an exercise in wealthy, out-of-touch politicians pandering to an audience of equally out-of-touch constituents.
The GOP’s Greek chorus of Harrell, Bannister, and White covers all the usual right-wing fare in the piece: balanced budgets (complete nonsense), how families and small businesses operate “within their means” (they don’t), and how cutting services and jobs actually increases the health of the state (it doesn’t). Amid all of this, the GOP think-tankers manage to confuse unfunded federal programs (two wars and a Medicare boondoggle cooked up by their former hero George W. Bush and his neoconservative operators), the 2008 stimulus package, the national debt, and the “bloated” federal budget. Of course, when you’re writing an opinion piece for a right-wing audience, all you need is the correct number of search engine-optimized key words and little else, and you’ve got them on your side.
What I have often wondered is exactly when these politicians who love to talk about how the government should operate more like families and live within its means are going to begin showing us some families who actually do this. The thing is, most don’t.
Unless you’re in the 1 percent, you probably didn’t pay cash for your house or car. You owe someone else a payment on a loan you took out for that property. And in a fun way, you don’t even “own” that house until you’ve paid back that loan.
Similarly, lots of small business owners don’t live within their means either. The 2008 economic collapse produced more than a few stories about companies who had to lay off their workers because the banks froze the lines of credit they were using to pay their staff.
You see, the sad irony about the Republican Party’s talk about deficits and debt and budgets is the fact that debt drives the economy. If more Americans actually lived within their means, stopped spending money on what they didn’t need, the entire house of cards that is our economy would collapse. After all, it already partially collapsed when people stopped paying their mortgages. Did millions of Americans go into default for some lofty political ideology? No, they went into default because living outside of our means is the American Way.
And that system worked nicely for decades until a certain class of people began finding ways to take more and more money out of the system. The wealthy pay less and less in taxes — which is exactly what Harrell and company’s editorial lauds South Carolina for — and the poor and working class are paid smaller and smaller wages. The result is a top-heavy economy that cannot do much more than collapse, regardless of whatever low-tax Kool-Aid the right-wing economists want you to drink.