By Robert Reich
Republican leaders have mastered the art of manufacturing crises to divert the public’s attention from the real crisis of our era — the siphoning off of income, wealth, and power by a small group at the top.
Consider the fake fears they’ve been whipping up:
1. “Woke.” Florida’s governor (and now Republican presidential candidate) Ron DeSantis has declared “war on woke.” Immediately after the mangled launch to his campaign on Wednesday, he claimed on Fox News that “the woke mind virus is basically a form of cultural Marxism.” But what is woke? Can anyone define it? It seems like an all-encompassing term for what we used to consider tolerance — an attribute that in a different age was considered positive.
2. “Trans people.” Former president Donald Trump says that one of his top priorities if he’s reelected in 2024 will be a “sweeping federal rollback of transgender rights.” But why have he and so many Republican lawmakers targeted transgender people as dangers to the public? There’s not a shred of evidence that trans people are threats to anyone. But they’re easy scapegoats.
3. “Critical race theory.” Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s “day one” executive order banned the teaching of critical race theory. DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have also banned it from the schools. Here again, though, there’s no evidence of a public threat. CRT simply teaches America’s history of racism, which students need to understand to be informed citizens. Banning it is a scare tactic to appeal to a largely white, culturally conservative voter base.
4. “Couch potatoes.” Ronald Reagan railed against so-called “welfare queens” who allegedly collected benefits without working. Today’s Republicans rage about “couch potatoes.” Both characterizations are cruel pretexts — and racial dog whistles — for imposing additional work requirements on public assistance for those in need, when the needy often have difficulty finding work that pays enough to live on.
5. “Out of control government spending.” Rubbish. In fact, discretionary spending has fallen more than 40 percent in the past 50 years as a percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product (from 11 percent to 6.3 percent). Lately, rising deficits have been driven by Social Security and Medicare (to be expected, as boomers retire), and by defense spending and George W. Bush’s and Donald Trump’s huge tax cuts that mostly benefited the wealthy and big corporations — and that will have added $8 trillion and $1.7 trillion, respectively, to the debt by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.
All five of these so-called crises have been manufactured by the GOP. They’re entirely made up.
Why? To deflect attention from the near record share of the nation’s income and wealth now going to the richest Americans.
As the super-wealthy and big corporations pour money into politics — especially into the GOP — they don’t want the rest of America to notice they’re rigging the economy for their own benefit, their unrestrained greed is worsening the climate crisis, and they’re also undermining democracy.
So the game of the Republican Party and their major donors is to deflect and distract — to use scapegoating, racism, and outright lies to disguise what’s really going on.
Friends, don’t let them get away with it.