The Republicans told us what they wanted to do in their "Pledge to America" last year: cut government, slash taxes, and shrink the national debt. But they didn't tell us how they were going to do it. Now they have.
Basically, it involves ripping the heart out of the future and burying it at the intersection of crumbling highways and a falling-down bridge to nowhere.
It's caviar and champagne for the lucky few, macaroni and cheese for the rest of us.
The plan -- unveiled in the Republican Study Committee's proposed Spending Reduction Act of 2011 -- calls for rolling back federal agency budgets to 2006 levels, reducing the federal workforce by 15 percent, and freezing federal workers' pay for five years.
Seeing other people's salaries cut, when we're the ones paying them, has some appeal I suppose.
But when you dig deeper into the implications of the GOP's numbers, you begin to get queasy. Democrats have pointed out that to achieve the cuts Republicans are pushing, 4,000 FBI agents, 1,500 DEA agents, and 5,700 correctional officers in the federal prison system would have to be fired. The government would also have to cut 3,000 food safety inspectors at the already understaffed FDA and sweep 389,000 children from the Head Start early-education program.
Department of Education? No more.
Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Goodbye.
U.S. Agency for International Development? Don't be silly.
They'd eliminate virtually all federal subsidies to our capital city, including funds to maintain its increasingly shabby subway system.
They would, in short, throw us back to a time when the "malefactors of great wealth" (they don't make phrases like that anymore) claimed the lion's share of the nation's resources as a matter of right. It would take us back to the Hoover administration.
Ah, the good old days.
There's nothing radical about the Republican plan. It's the way things have been trending for the past 30 years. To see it laid out so baldly, however, is chilling.
Some Republican leaders would exclude the Pentagon, along with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, from the budget cuts. Others want to cut everything.
They would slash aid to state governments already in dire financial circumstances, which would lead to additional draconian cuts in education, health care, research, and transportation.
They say the deficit is the greatest threat to our future. It isn't. The greatest threat is that we shall forsake the future in favor of a rancid, ideologically driven plan informed by greed and mean-spiritedness. The Republican plan is a virtual roadmap to disaster.
As President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address:
"To borrow an analogy, cutting the deficit by cutting investments in areas like education, areas like innovation -- that's like trying to reduce the weight of an overloaded aircraft by removing its engine."
That is so self-evident it hurts. The reason Republicans can't see it is because they are blinded, either by ideology or by their reliance on corporate sponsors whose eyes are on the next quarter rather than the next decade.
And they lie.
They lie a lot. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican point man on budget matters, delivered the biggest whopper of all following Obama's State of the Union address, when he said:
"Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked--and it won't work now."
That's only true if you don't count railroads, the Interstate highway system, the Internet, commercial air travel, the work of the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, the electrification of rural America, our postal system, and public universities that know no rival. Did I mention the polio vaccine and space exploration?
All those things are, to a greater or lesser degree, creatures of government action. They're products of "the bureaucracy" Republicans loathe so much.
Our precious country is in danger of falling into the hands of fools, charlatans, and mountebanks.
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. www.otherwords.org