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January 23, 2013

Greg Kesich: Conservative critics are looking for commies under the bed

Scared yet? You probably haven't been reading enough right-wing media.

You find President Obama an inspiring figure? Try con man.

You think the economy is starting to turn around?

Sure, if by turning around you mean circling the drain.

Was Monday's inauguration a celebration of democracy?

Don't be naive. It was the exact moment that America's decline and fall became inevitable.

Losing an election and facing the future with a party that is out of step and likely to get more so as demographic trends proceed is not going to make anyone cheerful. But what is remarkable about how pessimistic conservatives are these days is the things they are pessimistic about.

Here we sit, having survived the hottest year in history, setting heat records in nine of 16 Maine counties, and having watched our coastal neighbors to the south get deluged by a storm surge. So are we scared about climate change?

Nah.

The science is controversial, they tell us. It's a natural variation overplayed by a gullible media -- a hoax fed by people who want to ruin our economy because they don't like oil.

Every year, somewhere around 30,000 Americans die from gun violence. Are conservatives afraid of guns? No!

Guns don't kill people. The real problem is too many violent movies and video games. They want to make it easier to lock up mentally ill people, not make guns harder to get.

Conservatives are tremendously brave about things that actually exist, but are shaking in their boots over things they think just might happen.

The oddest monster under the bed is the idea that our Harvard Law School-educated president and his hospital administrator wife -- both self-made millionaires -- are against capitalism.

This argument is not only made by conspiracy-minded Obama-haters ("But why can't they produce his Kenyan birth certificate?") but mainstream business types, too.

In his Forbes magazine op-ed, contributor Peter Ferrara asks: "Is President Obama Really A Socialist?" (Spoiler alert: This guy thinks he really is.)

He points out that federal tax code requires rich people pay more than poor people and some people don't pay any income tax at all. Yet Obama still refers to the system as unfair, causing Ferrara to conclude:

"To President Obama this is still not fair because he is a Marxist. So it is not fair unless more is taken from the top 1 percent until they are left only with what they 'need,' as in any true communist system."

Wow. It's really amazing to think that the communists have lost Russia, but managed to sneak one of their moles into the Oval Office. And to keep his cover he must have decided to keep Clinton-era financial deregulators such as Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner around to make things look good.

For National Review contributor William Voegeli, it's not creeping Soviet-style communism he fears but the "Swedenization of America." Sweden, he says, is a country where government spending makes up more than half the economy, and government regulations control the rest. If we go that way, look out.

But who says that's going to happen? The American health-care overhaul, called socialized medicine by its opponents, is not even close to a Swedish model. The Affordable Care Act keeps private insurance companies alive and the government helps people pay their exorbitant premiums. The main cost controls to keep care "affordable" are market forces unleashed by selling insurance in a competitive marketplace. I forget where that approach was laid out in "The Communist Manifesto."

The ultimate ghost story is the deficit, which we are constantly told will pass a crushing debt onto our children unless we cut the programs that take care of current retirees.

This would be true if these bills ever came due, but that's never the way it works.

No one ever told the so-called "Greatest Generation" that it was wasting its grandchildren's future by selfishly winning the Second World War.

We came into 1946 with a bigger debt as a percentage of GDP than it is now, and somehow those bills got paid in the '50s and '60s without burdening middle-class Americans with intolerable debt.

We should be more afraid of slow economic growth than we are of a government that fights poverty and invests in education and research, even if those things add to the deficit in the short term.

Five years after the start of the Great Recession there is plenty for Americans to be afraid of, but most of them, like climate change, gun violence and slow economic growth, are here already.

We don't need to get all worked up over things that will never happen.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at: gkesich@pressherald.com

CORRECTION: This story was updated Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2012 to reflect that William Voegeli was a contributor for the National Review.





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