A "Conversation" with Tommy Toles (2/17/11)

Here is where I shall vent my spleen on whatever political topic might cross my mind on a given day. Comments or responses may be posted to whatever forum might be appropriate to that particular topic.

A "Conversation" with Tommy Toles (2/17/11)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:55 am

The political cartoonist Tommy Toles is one of the last remaining vestiges of the former greatness of The Washington Post, which in recent years has devolved into a right-wing rag under the clueless editorial guidance of long-time Republican apologist Fred Hiatt, formerly of the now defunct Republican crib sheet, the Washington Evening Star. Many days he accompanies his political cartoon with a short editorial which is always quite astute and that reflects an appropriate degree of dismissiveness toward right-wing dogma and those who espouse it, and the usually vicious and childish styles they employ when espousing it.

Following is today's editorial:
Today Tommy Toles wrote:
Da Doo Ron Ron

Okay, I'm calling it. On the same authority that the Wizard of Oz cited, the Universitatus Committeeatum e pluribus unum, I'm officially declaring the Reagan Era at a close. I think we can all agree on the name. Republicans never tire of naming any stationary object after Mr. Morning, and the rest of us can acknowledge that his shadow fell across the period that began with empty smiles and ended in genuine tears. The 60's were the 60's, and the 70's were the 70's. Decades with a clear character or lack of one. The 80's were decidedly the 80's. But the 90's were really just more 80's, and the 00's were still more 80's.

The proximate marker that caused me to bracket this period and make this declaration was this graph that appeared in The Post showing Americans' savings rates. It shows a pretty straight-line decline from the early Reagan years until the Great W Recession. Yes, I'm naming that, too. The savings rate has now started going back up. It's just one indicator, but representative enough to seal the deal.

What was the defining characteristic of the Reagan Era? MAKE BELIEVE. Deficits described as Discipline. Recklessness dressed up as Rectitude. Ideology substituting for Information. Optimism as a cover for Opportunism. It seemed too good to be true, and it was. What comes next? Don't ask me just now. I've done enough here for one day. --Tom Toles

I responded:

Tommy, for much of my life, at least since the 1960s, every change with only few exceptions has been for the worse. The "failed liberal policies of the '60s" didn't actually fail -- they were working fantastically well and much more quickly to eliminate poverty and educate all of America's children than anticipated, and this progress continued until these programs were dismantled by the changes represented by the onslaught of the Nixon administration, sold through a "Secret Plan" to end the Vietnam War (the "Secret Plan" having been basically to bomb them into the stone age as a temper tantrum before surrendering).

Carter came in with great hope and great plans, but because those plans were thwarted by knee-jerk Republican and oil industry opposition not wholly dissimilar to what Obama faces today, his goals were not able to achieved until they used a contrived oil crisis and a highly suspicious hostage crisis to drive him from office.

Reagan was decidedly worse, but because Carter had succeeded in breaking up OPEC (what a BRILLIANT stroke!), we returned to prosperity, a prosperity that was misattributed to tax cuts as damaging as Bush's have been. Reagan ended the security provided to our middle class by the concept of the "career." Now we only have "jobs" sometimes, always insecure, often without benefits or retirement. This was the biggest change Reagan made to our country.

Clinton was a little better but not much, falling for the deregulation heresy that has caused our governments at all levels to abrogate their chief governing purpose and advancing free trade beyond any level that might reasonably be regarded as beneficial to the majority of American workers.

Then came Bush II, our worst president in history, and his tax cuts that have broken our Treasury, our currency, and our prosperity, along with his wars and his civil oppression. I could go on and on here (his abandonment of diplomacy, his politicization of the civil service, his reversals to civil rights, his attacks on education and the environment, etc., etc., etc.).

Obama came in with hope, but our hopes were almost immediately dashed when he took on the role of "The Great Capitulator," ready to meet Republicans more than halfway before any negotiations even began, on issue after issue after issue. This cost him the enthusiasm of his backers and dissipated the political support of his base, and the result was defeat in 2010.

But if we are now transitioning away from Reagan's "Era of Make Believe," we must ask ourselves what will be the era that follows it. I fear that it may be an era of a little bit too much reality, where America's stature declines rapidly and our society becomes increasingly dystopian and authoritarian as a result. Our willingness, now regrettably on the part of BOTH of our political parties, to ignore or attack our social responsibilities toward justice and knowledge cannot take us in any direction that a reasonable person could regard as good.
Republicans whine and Republicans bitch: "Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich."
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