Lost in loonyland

Setting aside that Pat Buchanan is a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic anti-Semite, what wonderful news from New Hampshire! It's the nuts! It's the berries!

Yes, well, that is rather a large mound of manure there connected with his name, much of it justified, I'm afraid. There's even more: He defends old Nazis or something.

Since Buchanan has just sent the entire Republican Establishment and half the Democratic Establishment as well into a wall-eyed, blue-bellied snit, what can we do but rejoice?

The good news is that Pat Buchanan--aside from being a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic anti-Semite--is a fairly likable human being. I mean, you'd much rather have a beer with him than Bob Dole or Phil Gramm.

Ask good liberals like Barbara Carlson of Minnesota or Al Franken of the Comedy Channel: They'd rather not, but they like him; they can't help it, in fact.

Numero Two-o, being of the Irish persuasion, Pat Buchanan joys in a good fight, just loves biff-bam-pow, rejoices in a slugfest, gets off on a mudfight.

It's a good thing, since he's in one now. What'll be really fun is watching his fellow Republicans attack him for being a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic anti-Semite, which is not their native turf, as it were.

Somewhere in the Old Testament it says, "I would that mine enemy had written a book," and Pat Buchanan has. In it, he notes that his father's heroes were Francisco Franco and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, which is enough to frizz my hair right there.

On the other hand, I'd hate to have a lot of the stuff I wrote years ago taken out of context and twisted to represent my thinking; but Buchanan is in for it, so he might as well keep up his left.

As near as we can tell, Buchanan's victory in New Hampshire is a pretty-much pure win for economic populism. Neither the Christian Coalition nor the anti-abortion movement count for much there, especially compared to Iowa.

What's even more interesting is that the state is not in an economic recession. That vote is a direct reflection of just how worried people are about their future in this two-tier economy. There's what Bob Herbert calls "a cosmic disconnect" between what people are actually worrying about and what the Republicans are doing in Washington.

There are two problems with Buchanan as a populist.
One is all the divisive garbage he brings with him. It's exactly what has been used to destroy populist surges in the past: setting whites against blacks, natives against immigrants, men against women, straights against gays, Christians against Jews; divide, divide, divide--and lose. Look, Hispanic farm workers are not responsible for the savings-and-loan mess, blacks on welfare are not moving factories to Taiwan, lowering the tax on capital gains is not part of the "gay agenda," and Jews, having been historically discriminated against, by and large support raising the minimum wage.

The second problem is that Buchanan's economic populism is rudimentary. It's one thing to recognize that the gap between the rich and everybody else is growing like a cancer; it's another thing to come up with useful solutions. It's fine to jump on trade and economic globalization, but that's only part of the problem, and not a very big part at that.

Nor is git-tough jingoism the solution. Buchanan still favors trickle-down economics: He wants to cut inheritance taxes, the capital gains tax, and taxes on the rich.

The only people I see in public office trying to address what's wrong with this economy are Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Mass. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Reich has been valiantly struggling to get raising the minimum wage on his boss' agenda and coming up with one improvement and suggestion after another on worker training.

Kennedy came out with a multipronged plan earlier this month to attack what he calls "the quiet Depression," which contains a lot of carrots as well as sticks to get corporations to Do the Right Thing. (Someday even conservatives are going to notice that Ted Kennedy is the most effective senator in Washington: He has a wonderful habit of getting Republicans like Nancy Kassebaum and even Orrin Hatch to cosponsor good legislation.)

Kennedy's plan covers the Federal Reserve Board, proposes a two-tier corporate tax plan to favor those that treat workers well, closes lots of stinky corporate tax loopholes, puts brakes on mergers and acquisitions, helps small business, helps labor, helps secure pension plans, and more. Buchanan would do well to study it.

Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress are so lost in loonyland that they're now cutting off their nose to spite our face.

President Clinton nominated Felix Rohatyn, a guy so smart that Wall Street is in awe of him, to the Federal Reserve Board, where it was expected he would counter the right-wing monetarist Alan Greenspan. The Republicans wouldn't even let the nomination out of committee because it might reflect credit on Clinton.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Copyright 1996 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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