Webster’s says it’s a figure of speech for “a misrepresented, fraudulent, or defective item.”
What brings the subject to mind is the quantity of campaign brochures that have come through our mail slot in the past several weeks.
Stack them all up and I’d say the pile of ads would be nearly as tall as me. Which is not saying a lot, but still.
They share a common theme: obviously, the election is a contest to prove which candidate (1) is the most Conservative of all, and (2) can say the ugliest things about those hated Liberals.
The arguments are so fierce that they serve to distract us from a central question that even the Neutrals and Independents should be asking: What are the Conservatives conserving?
— Not natural resources. In Teddy Roosevelt’s day, Conservatives fervently believed in conserving our natural resources and public spaces.
Nowadays the opposite is the case, with the GOP supporting legislation to sell off national-park lands to the highest-bidding mine companies.
And the infamous XL Alaska pipeline project could ruin more acres of natural land than all of our national parks put together.
—Not our vanishing supply of fossil fuels. Tea Party members actually brag about using as much gasoline and electricity as possible, “just to aggravate the Liberals.”
And the GOP refuses to even pay lip service to developing the alternative energy sources (and creating jobs in the process) that our children and grandchildren will increasingly depend on to maintain their standard of living.
Not to mention the toll, perhaps fatal, that fossil fuels are taking on the world’s environment.
—They’re not conserving money. Perhaps the biggest “bill of goods” that Americans have bought is that Liberals are “tax and spend” and Conservatives are belt-tightening money-savers.
As it turns out, Conservatives are “don’t tax but spend anyway.” For a burst of enlightenment, look at a bar chart of government spending for the past 50 years under Republican and Democratic administrations, and you’ll see that Republicans do the most deficit spending by large margins.
And the only modern president to create a surplus in the national budget was...a Democrat.
—They’re not conserving our schools. The appealing prescription “Cut taxes!” “Cut taxes!” “Cut taxes!” can be followed for years without affecting any particular voter.
But when troubling events like hazardous old bridges, inadequate food inspection, and a wave of local school closings happen, it’s only the mindless “Cut taxes!” mantra reaching its natural conclusion.
Or as my grandfather used to say, “The chickens are coming home to roost.”
—They’re not conserving the lives of our soldiers. Years after two disastrous foreign wars that have been increasingly shown to be unnecessary and avoidable, GOP voices still ring out occasionally in Congress calling for invading yet some other country, if only to prove “Nobody can mess with the U.S.A.!”
Meanwhile the Veterans Administration reneges on its obligation for basic care to the surviving wounded of Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of the reasons for this outrage, we’re told, is...you guessed it. Tax cuts.
Clearly, “Conservative” is a term that has long outgrown its meaning. But we continue to buy the bill of goods anyway.
And in the current contest to see who can be the biggest, baddest Conservative of all—while not really conserving anything—what if the winners are actually the losers? As are we all.
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, books, photos, and radio features are available on his website, http://carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 and is archived afterward on his website.