May 13, 2021

Opposite Day Shouldn’t Be Everyday

By Glenn

Every once in a while, when they were young, my boys would play “Opposite Day.”  It was game about saying one thing, but meaning another.  For example, if you want to someone to “stay,” you would say “go.”  If you wanted the TV “on,” you would ask someone to turn it “off.” 

The game is actually pretty hard.  Most of us are brought up to tell the truth.  It takes effort to create a whole new vocabulary based on “opposites.”

As a historian, I have watched conservatives play a similar game since the 1970s.  Their ideas are so unpopular; they have to create words and phrases that mean the opposite of their intended results. For example, conservatives like Ronald Reagan hated Social Security and Medicare. 

The federal government had set up these programs to reduce poverty and increase the health of American seniors.   Unlike capitalism which benefits the investors, Social Security and Medicare benefit the general public.  That is right.  Social Security and Medicare are socialism.  The public funds these services through taxes.  No investor gets a dime of profit.  

Wall Street hates this fact.  They believe they are entitled to profit from every financial transaction.  They want to privatize Social Security and Medicare in the same way the Defense Department has privatized arms production. 

Reagan knew he couldn’t attack these programs head on.  When Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican nominee for President, ran his election on privatizing Social Security and leaving Civil Rights to the states, Lyndon Johnson trounced him with 61% of the popular vote.

In 1980 Reagan found three magic phrases to destroy popular programs: failed government, tax cuts, and deficits.  These three phrases allowed conservatives attack popular programs from Social Security to public schools.

Conservatives famously find small, outrageous issues and pretend they are representative of all.  Anyone remember $600 pentagon hammers or $10,000 toilet seats?  These are supposed to represent failed government, but 50% of federal spending supports Social Security and Medicare.

These outrageous stories are enough, however, to trigger tax cuts for “investors.” Reagan argued investors would generate more tax revenue and lower deficits.  Have you noticed this never happens? 

The deficits then trigger a whole new debate about cutting spending.  To save money conservatives then raise the retirement age, cut teacher salaries and reduce reimbursements to doctors and hospitals.

We have now had nearly 40 years of conservative opposite language.  They have raised our taxes and broken our public services.  Why do voters reward them?

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