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SequimBob2 On March - 14 - 2011


THE GREAT AMERICAN CON
Confessions of a Republican Con Man

Congratulations! You have been cast in the Republican remake of the classic movie, The Sting. We’ve entitled it, The Great American Con.

You remember the original movie, don’t you? Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Charles Durning. It was fantastic! And, of course, you recognized and loved the slick maneuvers pulled off by those wonderful con-men heroes. You saw all of the plot twists and turns and knew exactly how the movie was going to end… which is why you’ve been cast in the remake. You are perfect for the part. Let me run it down for you.

PLOT SUMMARY – The execution of the largest con job in American history. Forget Bernie Madoff and his puny billion dollar Ponzi scheme. We’re talking a multi-trillion dollar swindle. And here’s the best part — like all great cons, we’re going to convince 300 million Americans to simply give us their money.

I know what you’re thinking. We can’t reel in 300 million fish all at once. But we can… we just need a really big “hook” and all the elements of a classic con.

THE HOOK – The hook (or lure) in our con is that “The U.S. is broke.” Americans are always giving money to folks whom they believe are destitute. For this to work, however, we have to have a trustworthy pitchman. But since our scam is so large, we need several trusted pitchmen; such as John Boehner, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mitch McConnell — all declaring with the utmost sincerity that the country is broke, bankrupt, busted, penniless, destitute… ah, you get the picture. And, of course, all these guys have America’s confidence, so the “hook” is presented as a crisis in order to generate a sense of urgency and to appeal to Americans’ sense of selflessness.

The point of the hook is to seduce the entire population of the United States into believing that a country with a $14 trillion GDP is broke. We are going to have to be damn convincing. But that is not a problem. If David Copperfield can make the Great Wall of China disappear, then you and I, along with the high priests of the Republican Party and Right Wing radio, can surely convince Americans that the country is broke and no longer able to afford schools, roads, bridges, unions, collective bargaining and the like. Piece of cake!

In order to convince 300 million citizens that the country is broke, we will need to use a special tool from our con-man tool bag – a bright, shiny object for distraction.

THE DISTRACTION – Look over here. No, over here! Look closely at this bright shiny object… watch the object… focus on the object. You are getting sleepy, very… Nah, just kidding. Our “marks” aren’t sleepy at all… deceived, maybe, but not asleep. In fact, we need them awake and actually participating in the con so that we may relieve them of their money. The distraction is the National Debt: $14 trillion dollars and expanding like a pulsing, cancerous mass, threatening to consume everything in its path (think 1950’s SciFi B movie). Our goal is to make them afraid. Distract them. Make them ignore the fact that America has the largest economy in the world. Convince them that they must give us their money to save their children’s future.

THE PITCH – Here’s where you come in. Your job is to make the marks believe that the only way to save the country from the massive, out-of-control spending frenzy-induced debt, is by giving us their money. Our message to the marks is that only they can help us end the debt crisis in this country and they do this by ignoring their own self-interests in favor of those of corporate America.

GAINING THEIR TRUST – The key to the successful execution of any con is gaining the marks’ trust and confidence. To do this, we need someone trustworthy, someone whose ethics and motivations are beyond reproach. Now, we Republicans don’t have this exactly. But we do have Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate in the most powerful country in the world.

Note Mitch’s Mona Lisa-like smile, the cleverly concealed double-chin, the basset-hound- trusting eyes, the sturdy Capitol columns and the Washington Monument in the background. This guy wouldn’t lie to Americans, would he? No, of course not.

THE PLAYTEX STRATEGY – It’s not enough to convince the marks to give you their money. You must get them to convince other dumb boobs to give up their money, as well. How we do this is called the Playtex strategy. By “lifting up” the marks and making them feel special, part of an elite group, we are better able to “separate” them from their money. Thus, to ‘lift and separate’ 300 million folks from their hard-earned cash, we must first create an in-the-know group, with superior knowledge, understanding and acumen. Unfortunately, we don’t have one of these groups, either. Fortunately, the marks aren’t very smart, so we can probably get away with substituting the Tea Party.

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE – As previously mentioned, we must create a sense of urgency in our marks. We don’t want to give them time to think or reconsider the consequences of their actions. After all, we must make them believe THE U.S. HAS A BLOODY CRISIS on its hands. Doom approaches the longer we delay! We need them to give us their money NOW! Tick-tock.

THE THREAT WITHIN – The only thing better than an overwhelming threat (recall the pulsing, cancerous blob) is a threat from within, also known as “the others” or “those people.” You know who I’m talking about. Actually, you may not, because there are, after all, so many un-American groups these days – Democrats, teachers, American Muslims, Latinos, unions, minorities, people who don’t love liberty / freedom / the right to bear arms, and white people. Our message is: Quick! Give us your money before those lazy, Marxist, Socialist Commie “others” take it.

OK, that covers the con job and the political landscape backdrop. But since you are a cast member, you need to know what we are not telling people. It’s called, “The Truth.” You need to know what it is so you won’t tell it. It’s all in the script, so don’t worry. You’ll do fine.

THE TRUTH – Now, the truth is, there is no crisis… problems, yes, but no crisis. We call it a crisis because we don’t want to let the opportunity go to waste. The United States is the World’s largest economy. The Government is not broke. I know, I know, you’re wondering about THE DEBT. Well, the debt and deficit are real enough, but that’s the pure genius part of our plan. We Republicans created the debt, you see. We did it on purpose. Don’t believe me? Well, here. Let me show you the facts.

Ronald Reagan’s Term – $1.7 trillion increase in the Federal debt
George H.W. Bush’s Term – $1.6 trillion increase in the Federal debt
George W. Bush’s Terms – $4.9 trillion increase in the Federal debt

Over half of the current national debt, 8.2 trillion dollars, was created by us, the GOP. But here is the really cool part: we fixed it so Obama gets all the blame. (God, I swear I have the best job in the world – except for that short stint as a Defense contract interrogator at Abu Graib prison in Iraq. That was fun, too.)

So, we tell the marks that all the debt is caused by the Dems… AND THE DUMMIES EAT IT UP. They buy the whole package. Then, we tell them that they must reduce their own Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to give tax cuts to our corporate sponsors or all their precious jobs will go away. Boo!

The marks still buy the nonsense that tax hikes will kill jobs. Heck, we outsourced all the jobs years ago, but we’re still beating the Dems’ brains in with this issue. They say a sucker is born every minute, but truth be told, we’ve got suckers by the millions. We managed to keep wages low for decades by convincing Congress that an increase in the minimum wage would kill jobs. It was pure crap, but they bought it anyway and thus we were able to provide our corporate sponsors with cheap labor (the small amount we allowed to remain in this country). Our timing and execution of The Plan has been impeccable. Every time our marks turn around, we Republicans show them another left-wing conspiracy and take some more of their money. Republican campaign coffers will soon be filled the brim. It’s brilliant. The stupid marks just keep giving us their money.

Oh, right. I was going to tell you about the tax cuts. McConnell, Boehner and Cheney did a brilliant job setting the stage for the largest swindle in American history. The first thing we did was tell Americans they didn’t have to pay for the wars – that deficits didn’t matter. Next, we pushed through a massive Tax Cut package that dropped tax revenue to its lowest point in sixty years. Worked like a charm. Debt began to grow; we used it to rally the Republican base after GW got out of office and then successfully blamed the mess on the Dems. But let me show you this one chart. You gotta see it to appreciate our genius.

PRESIDENT……YEAR………GDP*……..Tax Rcpts*….% OF GDP………..DEBT*

Reagan……………1981……. 3126.8……..599.27………….19.17%………….3126.8
Reagan……………1982……..3253.2……..617.77………….18.99%………….3253.2
G.W. Bush……….2001…….10286.2…..1991.08………..19.36%…………10286.2
Obama…………….2009…….14258.2…..2104.99………..14.76%…………14258.2
Obama…………….2010……..14508.2…..2162.72………..14.91%…………14508.2

* in Billions

Tax receipts are the lowest in SIXTY years as a percent of GDP. Let me break it down for you. Our GDP is roughly $14.5 trillion. Not too shabby. We’ve effectively reduced tax receipts by 4%. Four percent of $14.5 trillion is almost $600 billion. That’s basically half the deficit! AND WE’RE JUST GETTING WARMED UP!

Where did all that money go? Glad you asked. Why, it went to the wealthy and corporations. See? I told you it was brilliant. But that was just Stage One of our con.

Next we are going to convince the marks to gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Then we will double our take easily. One trillion dollars – and that’s just in a single year. We’ll do it E V E R Y   S I N G L E   Y E A R!   The rich get richer. You and I get rich. And the marks? Well, they get what they deserve. After all, it’s a jungle out there.

Listen, gotta go. Just be on the movie set from tomorrow through the 2012 elections. After that, we can spend the rest of our days counting the money we fleeced from the American public. While they are busy arguing over whether to cut six or sixty billion from the budget, we’re going to relieve them of trillions. Dumb clucks!

See you at the casting party. Be sure to come. Everything is free for the taking.

Credits:  Money photo by Refracted Momenta

Written by SequimBob2

Retired guy. Southerner by birth. Pacific Northwesterner by choice. Political junkie. Fiscal conservative. Social liberal. Writer. Avid photographer.

50 Responses so far.

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  1. Mild Bill says:

    If I may, I would like to offer my concept of how America is run in this day and age.

    For your perusal:

    It’s a slow day in a small Florida town and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody is living on credit.

    A rich tourist drives through town, stops at the motel, and lays a $100 on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs to pick one for the night. As soon as he walks upstairs, the motel owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill to the Farmer’s Co-op. The guy at the Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local h00ker, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her “services” on credit. The h00ker rushes to the hotel and pays off her bill with the hotel owner. The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the rich traveler will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, picks up the $100 and leaves town.

    No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is out of debt and now looks toward the future with a lot more optimism.

    And that is how America conducts business today!

  2. LFer says:

    “The point of the hook is to seduce the entire population of the United States into believing that a country with a $14 trillion GDP is broke.”

    I just want to add a data point to this. $14T GDP divided by 230M adults in the US is about $60K for every person over 18 years. In my part of the country $60K is a pretty good job. Makes you wonder what happened to all that money.

    • SequimBob2 says:

      LFer — You raise a good point. When I was doing research for the post, one of the things that shocked me was just how little corporate America pays in taxes. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget

      $60K is certainly a lot of money for most folks. The US National Debt clock says each citizen owes ~$46K and counting. See: http://www.usdebtclock.org/ (They use 311M for citizen count.)

      As for what happened to the money, from my perspective it went to tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. Their answer would probably be that it went to fund entitlement spending.

      If you haven’t checked out the debt clock website, please do. It’s quite interesting.

  3. kellyk311 says:

    One of the best articles I have read recently.

  4. FerraKnows says:

    BRAVO!!

  5. NanaMex says:

    Brilliant! Bloody brilliant! When do we get the video???

  6. foxisms says:

    If America is broke, someone’s head should be on the block, not making a get away and having the lead of a block.
    Whether the guilty parties are currently in office or not, they should be held accountable by law for the negligence and malfeasance just as anyone (Madoff, Petters) would be.
    To allow the past or present stewards of this government unaccountability for the sale of this nation’s treasury to the international central banking cartel is to invite this nation’s erosion.
    Can it be called anything less than financial espionage and treason?
    Great piece SequimBob2! While given with a nod, nudge and a wink, the point is well driven home.

    • Abbyrose86 says:

      But the reality IS America the nations is NOT broke and neither is our government. THE majority of the AMERICAN people are broke. Their is a huge difference and unfortunately not enough coverage is giving to that fact and thus the argument is being framed disingenuously. By framing the argument fallaciously those in power can continue the con…it works in their favor…SO WE who understand the con have some serious work to do to try and stop the snake oil salesmen from continuing their game!

      • foxisms says:

        If this is truly “a nation of laws and not men” there will need to come a time of accounting for the falsehoods being perpetrated on this nation by it’s “stewards”.
        If this is no longer the keystone of our country and system, then it needs to be rebuilt and reestablished by these laws that have been diluted through fallacy and made mutant to the point of aberration.
        Failing this, or losing that keystone (as wistful as it may seem) whatever we have right now is but the best of what we might ever expect.
        [How’s it going, Abbyrose? Got that new computer, didn’t you?! Way to go!]

  7. SequimBob2 says:

    CORRECTION: The $4.9 trillion increase in the Federal debt under GWB was for BOTH terms. My apologies for the error.

  8. Abbyrose86 says:

    Great job. It certainly helps to impart some humor into all of these shenanigans.

    I for one am so tired of their game blaming and power grabs. It’s getting very old and irksome, and borders on evil.

    {sigh}

  9. KillgoreTrout says:

    Bravo SB2, Bravo! Very good reading and sadly, quite factual.

  10. Buddy McCue says:

    SequimBob2 -- It really is good satire… forgive me, but I just now got around to reading it.

    You sure do explain the situation in a clear and entertaining way!

    • SequimBob2 says:

      Buddy: Nothing to forgive. Quite the contrary, thanks for wading through the somewhat lengthy post.

      Also glad you found it entertaining. I used to do some teaching in a prior life. It’s depressing as hell to hear the hollow-thunking sound of heads hitting the desktop as unconciousness sets in. I do try to serve up opinion pieces sprinkled with bits of dark humor. My wife tells me I fail more frequently than I succeed. So I intend to use you as a reference. 😉

      • Buddy McCue says:

        That DOES sound depressing for a teacher.

        What did you teach, if you don’t mind my asking?

        • SequimBob2 says:

          I did instructing in the military. Many times your students are exhausted. Keeping them awake can be a real challenge.

          After the military, I completed an MBA program with Florida Tech at one of their extension sites. Since PM was what I did at the time, they asked me to stay on as an instructor upon graduation.

          What I learned from the experience is that preparing to teach a class is: (a) an incredible amount of work. On average, I spent 3 to 4 hours prepping for each hour at the podium… AND (b) the experience was extremely rewarding.

  11. Chernynkaya says:

    Sequim--thank you for a great post! We are absolutely NOT broke and I appreciate you telling it. The phrase is designed to create a sense of crisis that justifies rapid and radical actions that will decimate social programs and cripple economic recovery. The Repubs hate this country. They hate the government of and by the people, and they particularly hate President Obama--as they hate just about any Dem President. Frankly, they hate all I love.

    The hysteria they have ginned up about the deficit is--like all great lies--based on a nugget of truth about our debt. They continually, and successfully, use the analogy of the United States’ economy as that of a family planning their monthly budget around the kitchen table, which is pure inanity. And their goal in all this is not ideological, not about debt or spending or monetary policy. It is designed solely to hinder recovery and win in 2012.

    Their budget cutting will cost us 700,000 jobs, not to mention the pain to citizens (all but the top 2%). We have to push back against this, although for now, most Americans believe the myth that we’re broke. It will be hard to do--since most Americans ARE broke, they imagine the nation as a whole is to. As Paul Krugman said: “…fighting bad ideas is like flushing cockroaches down the toilet; they just come right back.”

    Thanks for the post! This is THE issue at the moment, from my POV. We the people are doing a great job exposing the Right’s agenda re:working people and unions. Now we need to do the same about the budget cuts. And STOP THEM.

    • Truth says:

      Cher, that rings very true, unfortunately.

    • SequimBob2 says:

      Cher: Thanks for the kind remarks. (And thanks for what you do. I enjoyed your column today. I appreciate what you do immensely.)

      I grew up in Mississippi. My wife and I got married at the end of our senior year in college. She came home crying one day during her student teaching period. She had a young student coming to school barefoot in the winter months. Angry, she got the child’s home address and drove to see the parents about the lack of shoes. When she arrived, she found them living in a converted chicken coop and too poor to buy shoes for all the kids. I know this sounds like a five-miles-to-school-in-the-snow story, but it’s a true one.

      Not everyone starts life’s race from the same starting position. When I hear stories about how important it is to cut social programs, my thoughts wander back to Mississippi and those who are less fortunate and never had the opportunities my wife and I were given.

      • jkkFL says:

        SB2- and it’s teachers like you and your wife- and many others who do all the unsung things no one ever knows about. I have seen my sister take a coat off her kid’s back, and tell them she had a kid that didn’t have one- they could wear their sister’s or brother’s old one.
        That unfortunately is the story all too often, and it’s getting worse.
        A POX on DC, and the rich..

    • Buddy McCue says:

      Chernynkaya -- Okay that’s now my favorite Krugman quote (as nasty an image as that is, it sure is appropriate.)

      Previously, I thought the best Krugman quote was: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

      And I agree with your idea about what is motivating the Right’s newfound deficit hysteria, “to hinder recovery and win in 2012.”

      I seem to remember that FDR was pressured by the conservatives of his day to cut government spending during the Depression… he tried that and it just made conditions worse, so he stopped doing it (I’m remembering that from a documentary I saw.)

      If that’s true, and the Republicans know it, then their present strategy would indeed hinder the recovery and is probably designed to do exactly that, as you say.

      • Mild Bill says:

        Ah, but what one does learn from reading Tolkien or Howard is how to win an argument. A valuable tool when dealing with rogues of the ‘eat or be eaten’ world of high finance! If you’re a barbarian, of course!

        “Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” -- Robert E. Howard

    • We would have no debt if the corporations which do not pay taxes would pay up.

      But that is why lawyers and accountants were invented.

      • SequimBob2 says:

        2CCP: That’s where the 4% reduction in tax revenue has gone… to corporations and wealthy. John Boehner, in response to a question about a loss of jobs resulting from tax cuts, said, “So be it.”

        Yet when President Obama suggested ending tax subsidies for the most profitable industry in the US — the oil industry, the Republicans said the subsidies were necessary to preserve jobs.

        The transfer of wealth that has taken place over the last two decades is simply incredible.

  12. boomer1949 says:

    There was a another movie awhile back (2006) and your approach to your article reminded of it.

    First, there’s The Pledge
    Next, there’s The Turn
    Finally, there’s The Prestige

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4gHCmTQDVI

    ***EDIT*** I just posted your article on my FB page! Great piece!

    • Khirad says:

      They’re like these guys from White Collar only less charming.

      [img][/img]

    • SequimBob2 says:

      Boomer: I’ve seen the Prestige. I rewatched the trailer and had forgotten about the intro. I see the similarity.

      I stumbled on an article about con men and their techniques which prompted me to do some more research. The result was the post I submitted. I’m glad you liked the piece well enough to include it on your FP page. Thanks!

  13. kesmarn says:

    SequimBob, I have to say I loved your article. I think you did an amazing job of presenting complex ideas in a way that even the “marks” should be able to comprehend. And it never hurts to have statistics on hand to support your case, even though sometimes the “marks” eyes glaze over when they see ’em.

    All we can do is keep speaking truth over and over again, hoping it will eventually sink in. One of the many signs the people held in Wisconsin read: “I Voted for Walker and I’m Sorry.” At least one person finally “got it.” Let’s hope many, many more join him.

    • SequimBob2 says:

      Kesmarn: Thank you very much. I appreciate your taking time to respond.

      I hope Wisconsin is a permanent wake-up call for the middle class. What is surprising to me is how little coverage the events in Wisconsin are getting in the MSM. I think the story is HUGE, yet it appears to draw a ho-hum reaction from the big 3 networks. Don’t understand that.

      It has been sadly amusing to watch McConnell and Boehner try and convince the President to take the lead on cutting entitlement programs.

      When the debate gets down to cutting Social Security and Medicare or giving more tax cuts to the wealthy, I suspect we’ll see more Wisconsins. One thing is for sure, I believe that day is rapidly approaching. We shall see.

      • oldpol2 says:

        I think realistically our socalled MSM is just another corporate tool.

        • Buddy McCue says:

          oldpol2 -- Considering that media consolidation has become so extreme, how could it be otherwise?

          General Electric, Walt Disney, News Corp., TimeWarner and Viacom control just about everything the mainstream viewer sees and hears in the media.

          That’s not a lot of players on the field.

        • foxisms says:

          Nailed it oldpol2.
          Control the information that is given to the public and you control the public.
          Control how history is written and you control the past. Control the past and you control the present.
          Control the present and you get first ‘dibs’ on controlling the future.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          You think correctly oldpol2. The majority of our media today is no longer the last line of defense against tyranny. They are participants in said tyranny.

      • kesmarn says:

        I agree on the media coverage, Sequim. As has been said elsewhere, if 100,000 people showed up for a Tea Bag rally FOX would be all over it 24/7. I live in Ohio and the rallies here have gotten minimal coverage as well.

        Social Security has been dubbed the “third rail” for a long time (and for good reason — touch it and you will die), so no wonder Boehner and McConnell would like someone else to do the dirty work for them, no? I’m sure that if SS/Medicare is the next target, Madison will look small and tame in comparison with the demos that would follow. You get a bunch of 100 pound, 80 year old ladies swinging their walkers and look out! 😉 And most policeman are a bit reluctant to taze their grammas.

  14. choicelady says:

    Sequim -- this is very helpful but won’t move anyone who has not already come on board. We need to show how this impacts Main Street while shoveling money into the pockets of Wall Street.

    You can’t convince anyone with statistics. I lobby social justice issues and even I had to stop and re-read your chart because I did not understand it.

    We need simple statements such as “We’re not broke!” “Chop from the top, Not Mom and Pop!”

    Just saying -- these insights are GREAT for policy folks who love data, but they won’t move the middle who are simply frightened. We need to come together on how we clarify these issues. Where is Thomas Nast when you need him?

    • foxisms says:

      I would think that there’s sample room for (if not a necessity for)both those people who cross the Ts and dot the i as there is for those who conceptualize.
      At this stage of the game the importance needs to be put on everyone simply speaking the same language and getting outside of the box together if anything constructive will ever be accomplished.
      “Don’t stop dreaming.Keep talking.”

    • SequimBob2 says:

      CL, sorry the piece doesn’t work for you. I confess to being a ‘numbers geek,’ but I hope you are wrong in your assessment that the great “middle” is too frightened or somehow unable to absorb the math. You may be correct. The news media certainly seems to think so, because they don’t go into the numbers, either.

      Humbly submitted, the desire for simple statements about complex issues is part of the ‘dumbing-down’ problem. Witness Sister Sarah who has become a millionaire by chanting the words, “freedom and liberty” to the Tea Party crowd. While the bumper-sticker approach may work, there is a cost for having the debate at this level.

      • foxisms says:

        Works for me, SB2.
        Besides, what we say that doesn’t quite work for some will go a long way toward giving the next person who gets it and tries to explain it, a whole lot more options than just their own to get the point(s) across.
        Speak the truth and you’ve done all that can possibly ever be expected of you.


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