Book Review: The Party is Over by Mike Lofgren

For who is so worthless or indolent as not to wish to know by what means and under what system of polity the Romans in less than fifty-three years have succeeded in subjecting nearly the whole inhabited world to their sole government, a thing unique in history? Or who again is there so passionately devoted to other spectacles or studies as to regard anything as of greater moment than the acquisition of this knowledge?

Polybius, The History of Rome

It seems that the United States has produced its own Polybius. His name is Mike Lofgren. Polybius wrote of the rise of ancient Rome. Lofgren writes in his book The Party is Over-How the Republians Went Crazy, the Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted, of the decline of our nation and its descent into dystopia.

Mike Lofgren has been in a unique position to observe the dacay of our political system over the past thirty years. He served as budget analyist for Republican congressman John Kasich, and later for Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

He began working in this capacity in the 1980s when the federal government still functioned reasonably well and there was normally some co-operation across party lines. During the past thirty years, he has seen inter-party co-operation virtually cease and the government descend into complete gridlock and impotence.

While Lofgren puts much of the blame on the Republicans, who have become a party of ideological extremes, he does not spare the Democrats who have failed to counter or even strongly oppose many of the Republican’s destructive policies. He says: “I was compelled to write this book because I became alarmed by the trends I was seeing. In particular, my own party, the Republican Party, began to scare me. After the 2008 election, Republican politicians became more and more intransigently dogmatic. They doubled down on advancing policies that transparently favored the top 1% of earners while obstructing measures such as the extension of unemployment insurance. They seemed to want to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted in the worst economic meltdown in eighty years.”

Lofgren addresses the nomenclature of politics. His fourth chapter is called A Devil’s Dictionary: How Republicans have mastered the art of communication with ordinary people in their own vernacular, while the Democrats remain tone-deaf and tongue-tied. Compare Obama’s “Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act,” which the Republicans succinctly renamed “Obamacare,” with the Bush administration’s “Patriot Act.” Why can’t the Democrats call a “Stimulus bill” simply a “jobs bill.”  Lofgren says “You know that Social Security and Medicare are are in jeopardy when even Democrats refer to them as ‘entitlements.’ Entitlement has a negative sound: Somebody who says he’s entitled selfishly claims something he doesn’t deserve. Why not call them ‘earned benefits’-which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them? It would never occur to a Democrat. Republicans don’t make that mistake; they are relentlessly on message. There is no ‘estate tax’–it is the ‘death tax.’”

Lofgren does not spare average Americans from blame for complicity in this situation. “It is a sad commentary on our society that a higher proportion of sodbusters in the 1880s had an accurate understanding of how banks, railroads and grain wholesalers worked than the average American today has of how his pension funds are being looted, how he subsidizes corporate jets, or how he–as one individual–should come to pay more ferderal taxes than the entire General Electric Company. It may be more diverting to watch a televised singing contest than to learn the complex arcana of how American Banks leased streetcar lines in Dusseldorf, Germany to dodge U.S. taxes, but being a fully informed citizen requires sustained intellectual effort.

“Owing to the lack of serious and informed popular interest in real issues, we have the current Republican menu of pseudo-issues: abortion, gay marriage, flag burning, prayer in schools, sharia law and so on. They are easy to grasp and well within the ambit of the average person who does not follow politics.”

Lofgren’s book is full of gems and is a must-read for anyone who wonders how the United States has accumulated such massive federal debt, gone into severe economic decline and become completely incapable of dealing with such problems as the collapse of infrastructure, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, environmental degradation, energy needs and failure of education. This book will provide all the insight you will ever need in explaining how the U.S. has become a failed state.

Polybius, the Greek historian

Polybius, the Greek Historian

 

 

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