Get Well, America! 

Recovering from the conservative plague

Pardon me if I'm jumping the gun here, but I don't think it's too early to start talking about all the wonderful things we're going to do with America once the Republicans are gone.

Oh, golly. Did I say "gone?" I don't mean gone gone. Obviously, there will always be plenty of Republicans around. Termites and house mold, hurricanes and the flu--crime and Republicans--they will always be with us, and the best we can hope for is to control the amount of damage they do.

I just mean after they lose the Senate, the House, and best of all, the Presidency. It won't happen all at once, of course--we're still three years shy of packing Bush off to a back shelf--but we have just passed the one-year-to-go-'til-the-midterm-elections mark. And come that happy day, there is good reason to think we will be bidding the boot to a Republican majority in Congress for at least another generation or two.

There are several separate elements contributing to this massive Republican collapse, and I'm sure you can name them as handily as I can. But when they're all boiled down to the essence, it's this: After five miserable years, finally, a clear majority of Americans have seen past the carefully managed facade of this administration to the ugly, warty truth below, and once you see it, there's no going back. It's like those novelty posters you stare at and stare at, just aching to see the spaceship or dinosaur or whatever, then all the sudden ... Shazaam! There it is, obvious as hell--just like it was all along, only hidden beneath the clever illusion.

But the confusion is over. A full 62 percent of Americans--plenty enough to win elections (assuming everyone's vote gets counted next time)--now disapprove of the mess Bush and his buddies have gotten us into. That leaves him with only 38 out of every 100 Americans, and even from his supporters, you can detect that rancid stench of cold panic sweat. I suspect even the slowest among them now fear that Bush's coattails have become lead weights.

So now more than ever, it is incumbent upon us oppositioners to offer a vision of how bright a future can be when conservatives are no longer in a position to screw it up. In a column last week, Molly Ivins--one of those rare bright spots to come out of Texas, by the way--began to compile a list of things to set to work on immediately once this curse is lifted, starting with mending our international relations and making health care a universal opportunity. My intention today is to add to Ms. Ivins' list with suggestions of my own. I'm not, like, married to these ideas, but I do believe each and every one of them is worth consideration.

What's more, this is just the first installment of what I'm calling the "Get Well, America!" series. I know ... sounds like something Oprah thought up, doesn't it? But my original title--"May Neo-Cons Snorkel In Their Own Vomit!"--did not go over well with the marketing focus group.

I also encourage all progressives to jump in and contribute ideas of their own. Don't be shy. The country needs to know what you're thinking, and besides, you couldn't possibly come up with something as embarrassingly bad as what we have now. Not even if you tried.

• Double the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. No! Triple it! There's simply no such thing as too much intelligent input, and after what we've been through with these NASCAR-swilling yahoos, we need a massive transfusion.

• Set the minimum wage based on an equation derived from minimum expenditures. Now, Gawd knows I ain't no mathematician. But what I envision would go something like this: MW (minimum wage) = G (the national median price for a gallon of gas) + H/740 ("H" being the average monthly rent/mortgage payments in a given area and 740 being the number of hours in a 30-day month) + F (one meal's worth of food) times K (number of dependent children). There you have it: MW = G + H/740 + (F x K). It may seem overly complicated at first glance, but remember, it's founded on a very simple principle: "People Gotta Live."

And as to the issue of illegal immigrants, we will set their minimum wage at double that of legal citizens. Then we'll see who gets hired, huh?

• Amend the Constitution to say, specifically and without even the hint of a loophole, that a woman is entirely in charge of her own reproductive decisions, period! And for those men who can't abide with that, we will fund research into how to give them all uteruses of their own. It can't be that hard--a little trans-gender transplant and a date with a Boston priest--and stand back! They'll have more than enough reproductive decisions of their own to make without having to stick their noses into other people's choices.

• Tax churches, oh yeah! Hey, we're long past that ridiculous notion that outfits like Falwell's and Pat Robertson's and Pope Whats'isname's aren't moneymaking concerns. These guys are collecting so much that the only way they can launder it all is to buy politicians. It's high time to acknowledge that freedom--even of religion--isn't free.

But just to show I'm not totally anti-Bible thumper, I say let's let them have prayer back in public school. Only this time, it has to come out of a vending machine just like the Doritos and Mountain Dew, and the schools get a cut.

• Give Texas back to Mexico. I know this sounds pretty radical, but let it roll around in your head a while. I believe it'll sound better to you every day Bush is in office.

• Rewrite the Endangered Species Act the Republicans have been busy rewriting. Only this time around, we will make it crystal clear that the survival of a species is indeed more important than another Wal-Mart or whatever some public-lands welfare rancher thinks of his divine dominion over the Earth.

• And last but possibly most important: Build, maintain and continually update national awareness of how awful things get when we allow right-wing fools to rule the roost. I'm not sure how to do it, exactly. A statue won't work because we can't reasonably expect a sculptor to put crippling debt, illegitimate war, environmental degradation, massive incompetence, massive corruption, massive stupidity, treason, election theft and the arrogance of power all into one hunk of bronze.

The point is, though, if we don't do something to remind coming Americans what a noxious catastrophe these thieving clowns are and will likely always be, they'll be back.

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