Last night Biden offered a massive transformational vision of what he would like to accomplish for the country-- a combination of public benefits to move the country into the 21st Century in a serious way and higher taxes on the very rich to pay for it. He proposed spending another $4 trillion, for a total of $6 trillion-- the the pandemic rescue plan ($1.9 trillion), the infrastructure and jobs plan ($2.3 trillion) and the American Families Plan ($1.8 trillion). The Republicans are presenting no alternatives-- just knee-jerk obstructionism.
If Biden gets his way the anti-government mania of the Reagan era-- including trickle down economics and austerity-- the country will acknowledge that the approach had failed and that it's past time to leave it on the roadside and move on.
Earlier in the day, Washington Post columnist Max Boot noted that his old party and the whole right of the political spectrum is becoming completely untethered from reality. He wrote about the made up GOP attack that Biden is banning meat-- something we covered on Monday-- to fight climate change. Boot pointed out how the GOP, as a corporate entity, has spread the lie far and wide:
Republican politicians such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Idaho Gov. Brad Little and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley amplified the message. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-GA) even tweeted a picture of Biden with a hamburger to suggest that he was a hypocrite: “No burgers for thee, but just for me.”
On Monday, Fox News’s John Roberts apologized for a network graphic that had suggested that Biden had a plan to cut red meat consumption, admitting “that is not the case.” But how many on the right saw this correction?
By then the disinformation caravan had already moved on to the next pseudo-scandal: the claim that the government is distributing Vice President Harris’s children’s book, “Superheroes are Everywhere,” at shelters for migrant children. The New York Post-- which, like Fox News, is owned by the Murdoch family-- screamed in a front-page headline: “KAM ON IN: Solo kids at border welcomed with copy of veep’s book.” Once again Fox News and various prominent Republicans hyperventilated. (GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wondered if Harris is “profiting from Biden’s border crisis.”) Yet there was not a shred of truth to the claim.
The whole story was based on one photograph from a Long Beach, Calif., migrant shelter where some citizen had simply donated a copy of the book. The Washington Post fact-checker debunked this absurd claim. The New York Post reporter who wrote the original article quit the newspaper, saying she had been ordered to produce an “incorrect story.”
But, as with the red meat story, the damage had already been done. Even by debunking these stories, Democrats and the mainstream media elevate them. Whether or not most Republicans believe that Democrats are going to take away their hamburgers or force migrants to read Harris’s book, they are confirmed in their general impression that Biden is a left-wing radical who is up to no good.
These are small lies added to the larger foundation of falsehoods upon which the right-wing movement now rests. Far too many Republicans believe that Trump won the election (78 percent) and that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is innocent (46 percent). Far too few Republicans believe that global warming will pose a serious threat in our lifetimes (only 11 percent).
The Republican Party is increasingly catering to people who live in an alternative universe of false narratives spread by media outlets such as Fox News and Newsmax and on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google/YouTube. A major political movement becoming completely untethered from reality is terrifying to see-- and often accompanies the slide into authoritarianism.
The government can’t police speech, but Congress should take the advice of political scientist Francis Fukuyama and his Stanford colleagues to force Internet platforms to give users the ability to employ “middleware”-- "software that … can modify the presentation of underlying data”-- to filter their feeds for minimal levels of veracity. This is hardly a cure-all, but it is an important step to fight back against the falsehoods that threaten our democracy.
This morning, Jim Tankersley wrote that Biden's speech showed a president ready to bet the nation is ready to reinvent itself-- and so, apparently is Biden. He's promising in the years to come the government will offer "a long list of tangible improvements in Americans’ daily lives: smoother roads, cheaper child care, cleaner and more reliable electricity, more years of free schooling for toddlers and young adults, paid leave for workers whose lives are upended by illness and faster internet service in rural areas and elsewhere."
Conservatives-- on both sides of the aisle-- will fight to hold back progress... it's what conservatives do; it defines them. And at one time in his career in the Senate, one of those conservatives would have been joe Biden (D-DE). What Manchin and Sinema are today, Biden was in the '70s, '80s and '90s. He's surrounded himself with people who, by and large, at least somewhat more progressive than he ever was-- and not as hostile to progressivism. "Late last year," wrote Tanksersley, "Gallup recorded record high levels of Americans saying the government should do more to solve the country’s problems. Mr. Biden’s Covid relief bill earned two-thirds support nationwide. His infrastructure plans have polled nearly as strongly. 'This is what happens when government actually works for people: There’s no backlash,” said Jon Lieber, a managing director for the Eurasia Group in Washington who was a former aide to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. “The dynamic is so different now, because the response during the crisis was more populist, more people-focused.' Biden echoed that sentiment in his speech. 'Together, we passed the American Rescue Plan,' he said, 'one of the most consequential rescue packages in American history. We’re already seeing the results.'"
Romney may hate Trump but he's still and will always be a highly partisan, anti-worker, conservative shit-eater. Right after Biden's speech, he groused to CNN’s Ted Barrett, "Well $6 trillion and counting. I'm sure Bernie was happy. I think with the experience we've had with the $1.9 trillion, he would like Republicans to vote for his plan. But in terms of meeting in the middle, that hasn't been something the administration has shown yet." Maybe Romney was upset that Biden said the word "jobs" over 40 times.