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When Ronald Reagan took office many conservative operatives like Norquist thought he was pretty weak, but worked hard to starve the beast of money so that Democratic policies that helped working families would eventually be destroyed. I learned a lot about the history of Conservative politics as I researched our book, Over The Cliff. I watched Lawrence O'Donnell's segment last night and he did a great job of giving viewers a refresher course that's so badly needed.
I'll let Digby explain:
I don't know who the Democrats who voted for the Bush tax cuts and are now fighting to save Medicare are, but I have my doubts about the latter. I think those who voted for the Bush tax cuts are either standard corporate lackeys or political hacks who don't care one way or the other about government programs, they just wear the blue jersey because it's convenient. At this point we have to count on sheer political opportunism to make the Democrats fight to save Medicare --- Ryan handed them a potent weapon if they choose to use it.
But the rest of O'Donnell's piece is correct and it's worth listening to his recitation of the historical moments leading up to this to understand exactly how their plan worked. These deficits grew because the Republicans and their Democratic enablers cut taxes and destroyed the economy. Now they finally have their moment to enact their long sought spending cuts. Making Democrats do their dirty work for them is just frosting on the cake.
I don't think taxes have to be off the table. Bush Sr raised them in 1990 and Bill Clinton raised them in 1993. But it's hard and it will take a piece of political hide out of the President and congress that does it. I had expected that the newly elected Democratic president with his historic mandate and Democratic congress would have immediately taken action to ensure that the tax cuts for the wealthy under Bush would expire. That could have been fairly easily done by extending the middle class tax cuts under the Stimulus Plan. (It didn't happen, I suspect, because there were delusions of a Grand Bargain.)
At any rate, he's right that the current problem is the result of 30 years of relentless, demagogic, anti-tax rhetoric. You can call them crazy if you want but this has to be one of the most successful, long term conservative movement projects in history. Of course, head anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is the guy who greatly admired Lenin's tactics, (as did the CATO and Heritage institutes) so they understood exactly what it was going to take.
No matter how many times you tell Democrats about this Conservative strategy they for the most part look at you and give you a blank stare. It's taken the Conservative movement over fifty years to enact their plans like starving the beast and it also needed a massive media machine to do it too. (Hint, hint, Fox News.) Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed were considered the Tea Party of the eighties and now what they believe is Conservative dogma of today. When will the Democratic Party finally understand this?