Complacency And Panic
One of my favorite conservative contradictions is how they are so skilled at fearmongering (“OMG the terrorists will kill us all! You must surrender your civil liberties at once!” “OMG the deficit will kill us all! You must surrender your paychecks/pensions/collective bargaining/Social Security/Medicare at once!”), yet when faced with actual threats, they either deny that there’s a problem, or insist that the only solution is to make the problem bigger.
Consider all of the earnest right-wing columns and batty Alan Simpson rants we’ve been exposed to for the past year or so, about how America is heading for a debt crisis or a Social Security crisis, and we must take drastic action right away or we’re all doomed, DOOOOMED.
Yes, some House leaders have suggested cutting spending to 2008 levels. But getting back to a balanced budget would mean a return to at least 2003 spending levels—and would still leave us with the problem of paying off our enormous debts.
Now substitute, say, “carbon emissions” for “spending,” and “slowing climate change” for “getting back to a balanced budget.” Oh, and “hardly anyone” for “some House leaders,” and “mass extinctions and our coastlines slowly sinking underwater” for “paying off our enormous debts.”
Or take this paragraph here and substitute “most of the scientific community” for the CBO, “the CIA and the Pentagon” for Bernanke, “global temperatures” for interest, “emissions” for “spending,” and, well, “me and all my energy industry friends” for “the White House”:
The Congressional Budget Office has warned that the interest on our federal debt is “poised to skyrocket.” Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is sounding alarms. Yet the White House insists that substantial spending cuts would hurt the economy and increase unemployment.
My point is that the fundamental structure of the argument is correct: We have a deep and urgent problem, and chickenshit politicians don’t want to make tough choices or ask their constituents to make sacrifices. That’s all true; it’s the choice of topic that’s garbage. The right’s phony debt crisis pales in comparison to the prospect of runaway warming and melting icecaps, and the constituents that the politicians fear are obscenely wealthy corporations, not “special interest groups” like retirees and non-gazillionaires.
Needless to say, this misplaced urgency doesn’t just apply to climate change – unemployment, health care, infrastructure, education, finance, and gun violence are all much more pressing problems than the national debt, yet the right can’t be bothered to take an interest in any of them except as excuses to pursue their agenda of more tax cuts, more spending cuts, more deregulation, and more guns. Republicans should take a good long look in the mirror before they accuse anyone of making our problems worse.