Home Politics CPAC Conference: Armey Firing Blanks

CPAC Conference: Armey Firing Blanks


Dick Armey gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday. He walked in wearing a cowboy hat. He was ready to take aim and fire at the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, he was firing blanks.

Almost every word that came out of his mouth was a complete fabrication. Not only did he, frankly, lie about situations, but he turned situations completely on their heads. For example, the Democrats were the ones who would ruin the country with regulations on financial instruments. So his plan for the Republicans would be a return to the same policies that caused huge deficits and the recession. But he tried to characterize the Democrats as ideologues, wanting control of all aspects of government, just what Bush and Cheney did for 8 years. For example, Armey said this: “there is nothing so righteous as an income re-distributor” He was referring to Obama.

Of course, it is the Republicans who re-distributed income…upward. Obama has given tax cuts so far, not tax increases. So if he is “re-distributing” income it is working in everybody’s favor. Second, when Armey was entering Congress, Ronald Reagan, whom Armey supported, had just completed the biggest income re-distribution in the country’s history. He reduced the top marginal tax rate from 74% down to 28%. In other words, he doubled the income of the richest taxpayers. And those tax rates, with some modifications, some up by half a dozen points, but also down again, have existed since that time until today, under the Obama Administration.

In fact, there is no income tax re-distribution plan in the works that anyone in government has discussed, although there must be some discussions starting soon, because Armey and his pals, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II have left us with debt that is beginning to approach the magic number of 90% of GDP, at which point the country, actually any country, begins to decline.

But he made it sound as if Barack Obama is out to take away people’s incomes and create Socialism. It is absurd of course but that is the whole approach of this CPAC meeting. Each speaker gets up and says, one way or another, that President Obama is trying to take away our “freedoms.” But what does that mean? And who is he going to redistribute income to? We have all seen the federal government bail out Bush’s pals on Wall Street. And Obama has only produced jobs for the middle class, not changed their tax codes. The Republicans seem to want the jobs that the stimulus is producing but then they complain that it is redistributing wealth. None of what they say makes sense.

But Armey was funny. Not intentionally. He called the President “shallow,” “self-indulgent” and “the most incompetent President in our lifetime.” Now, if he had said, “in our history” we could have asked for a time-out and considered Van Buren or Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and so on. But he limited it to several people and the only matchups (remember it is just one year into office) would be George W. Bush and President Obama. Any votes for Bush as better than Obama, even after only one year? That’s right. None.

The “romantic” and “self indulgent” parts make no sense whatsoever. Is he romantic because he once took his wife out to dinner? Was it romantic to travel the world, including the Middle East in his first 30 days, patching up our shattered diplomatic relations? Is he self indulgent because he has admitted to smoking a cigarette now and then?

And who is Armey to make any comparisons. President Obama bootstrapped himself through Occidental College, Columbia University, was Editor of Law Review at Harvard Law School, then later a Senator and ultimately President. His academic credentials include two national best-selling books before he was even a Senator, and as Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. Not to mention the fact that the majority of the people of Illinois thought him substantial enough to elect him Senator and 54% of the American people, the largest total number of voters in history thought he was, and polls still show them to consider him very worthy of the Presidency.

Armey, from Cando, North Dakota, (approximately 354 families) attended a little Presbyterian college, Jamestown, in North Dakota, got a Masters from North Dakota State and a PhD from that bastion of economics (and football) the University of Oklahoma. He then went on to teach at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University (really), then was an Assistant Professor at Austin College. He has published two books, both on taxes, after he had gained national recognition in politics, as well as Armey’s Axioms, apparently some down home, pseudo wisdom, as if anyone cared.

It should also be pointed out in fairness, that while Armey was urging the impeachment of President Clinton he was himself being accused by former students of sexual harassment. He was later divorced and married one of his students.

But, to get back to the theme of the Conference and Armey’s attacks on the President, he went on to claim that the Administration’s principle goal was “control and re-distribution of income.” He gives no examples and there seem to be none. He says that the Administration is willing to sabotage the economy to get there?

What does that mean? Does it mean that creating a stimulus program, one third of which were ineffective tax cuts that the Republicans demanded as a gesture to become bi-partisan (a promise on which they later reneged) was control and income redistribution? It must be. The Republican Senate has blocked all other legislation, including health care reform, with 112 filibusters thus far, already double the highest number in one Congressional session in the history of the country. Is creating about a million and a half jobs re-distributing income?

Armey goes rambling on. When we “saw what we had in these ideologues” he knew that they were out to destroy America. So what is ideological about wanting to create a situation where private health care companies cannot raise rates, as Wellpoint did a few days ago in California, by 38% in one year? What is the ideology that is in favor of those higher rates and against a plan to make the health care companies, who are the most profitable companies in the world right now, even more profitable than EXXON, begin to control their costs? Is that what Armey does not want controlled…health care costs?

Remember, this is the same Dick Armey, who with Newt Gingrich, created the famous “Contract (on) America,” the ideology which Gingrich now concedes was just a ploy to get the Republicans elected, which it did. And they never again looked at health care reform, in the 1990s nor in the 2000s. And they could have. They had “control.”

What Armey refers to as “ideologues” are really quite sophisticated minds. They are people inside and outside the Administration, including several prominent Republicans from the Bush Administration, who are examining the future of our economy in great detail. At FreedomWorks, the tea party organizing group set up by the arch-conservative Koch Oil family foundation where Dick Armey now lobbies, they may have a few ideologues who jawbone about the economy while writing obscene comments on signs.

The economists such as Brad DeLong at the University of California at Berkeley, or at Princeton, Nobel Prize winner and regular New York Times contributor Paul Krugman, or Columbia University Nobel Laureate and considered the top economist in the United States, Joseph Stiglitz or even the top economist at the big university, the world-ranked university in Texas, the University of Texas, Dr. Jamie Galbraith are not “ideologues” but they are considerable intellects.

There may be many fine bought-and-paid-for minds at FreedomWorks. There may be some at North Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University, although it is pretty clear by now that most Americans do not see Richard Armey as having been one of them. He is an ill-educated, political hack; let’s be honest. The speakers at the conference were all the same old players, John Boehner, Dick Armey, Mit Romney…the same old people with the same old ideas that caused out catastrophe.

One relatively new name was the Congress woman from Minnesota, Michelle Bachmann. Not the brightest bulb in the firmament, Michelle Bachmann has referred to Smoot-Hawley as “Hoot Smalley” and numerous other spoonerisms. But her talk was sprinkled with any number of references to war, from the Revolutionary War where someone died to the Second World War, where four chaplains died. They all died…are you surprised…loving and praising their country. Given the fact that none of the speakers, Boehner, Cheney, Bachman, Armey (how’s that for irony) or virtually anyone in the Republican Party including George W. Bush ever went to war, they must all have been Democrats.

But near the end of her speech, Bachmann, in the climax of the Chaplain story, where a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, etc, went down with the ship, she said at the end, misquoting John 15:13, “greater man hath no love than this…” and realizing probably that she had it wrong, or could not figure out how it went in the first place, just ended it.

The final irony of this conference is that this woman, made another gaffe, the same woman who a few minutes before had said that two-thirds of Americans are against health care reform…the lies just go on and on. But Michelle Bachmann and Armey and many others had been making jokes about Obama’s using the teleprompter. Michelle Bachmann made the mistake….while using a teleprompter.

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