When Russia was known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), it was a secular, liberal paradise in all its extremes. It was the definition of big government with its socialized medicine, education system and economy. Conservatives hated the “Evil Empire” as Reagan called them. The Soviet Union was the complete opposite of what conservatives valued. My, how things change.
As Jason Jones pointed out a couple weeks ago, the red scare has become a red state. After the IMF encouraged Russia’s economic shock therapy of the 90’s, Republicans have unknowingly found a model American conservatives can look up to. Thanks to a black president in the White House, they’re also praising Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin.
Every Republican dreams of a balanced budget (at least until they get into office). Odd, seeing as no Republican President has balanced the budget since Eisenhower back in 1957. Still, while Republicans have talked the talk, Russia has walked the walk.
From 2001 up until the financial crisis of 2008, Russia had a balanced budget. The country is expected to re-balance the book either this year or the next.
Low taxes – the Republican raison d’être. It is the basis for the existence of the Tea Party and the main focus of Republican policy since cowboy Ronnie came to town. Well, Sarah Palin must be drooling with jealousy when she looks at Russia from her house.
President Vladimir Putin introduced a flat tax on income of 13 percent (including capital gains) – the lowest rate in Europe. Taxes on corporate profits in the country are at 20 percent, nearly half that of the United States (without all the loopholes).
Russia now has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world. A mere 110 Russian citizens now control 35 percent of the total household wealth across the vast country. Most of the billionaires in Russia owe their fortune to the privatization of the natural-resources sector during the oligarch era of the nineties.
When the IMF moved in after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it failed to put in significant safeguards to ensure the privatization of government assets got distributed more fairly. These days, the oil and gas barons of Russia work hand in hand with the Russian government. Landing contracts and influencing government policy. Sound familiar?
You’d be hard pressed to find a Republican who admits to admiring inequality (maybe some Libertarians.) but their policies say different. Low taxes, little regulation and a government keen on giving out corporate welfare have all become Republican trademarks and Russia has it all.
If you asked most conservatives or Republicans about the separation of church and state, they would likely say they’d want Jesus’ spokesperson in the oval office. Again, Republicans must be in awe of the borderline theocracy that exists in Russia.
In a land where religion was banned outside of home and church not too long ago, it may surprise you that religion, particularly Orthodox Christians, now rule the land. Between 1991 and 2008, the share of Russian adults identifying as Orthodox Christian rose from 31% to 72%.
Vladimir Putin has used the Russian Orthodox Church to his advantage through his close relationship with Patriarch Kirill. Each’s hand scratches the back of the other. 165 million Russians now identify as Orthodox. In other words, there are 165 million people that are easily controlled.
Patriarch Kirill endorsed Putin for a third term as President guaranteeing his re-election. In return Putin passed the law banning the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. The law basically bans the practice of being openly gay in public (kissing, gay pride, etc.)
Last year, in response to Pussy Riot, Putin signed a bill imposing jail terms and fines for insulting people’s religious feelings. It is now against the law to mock someone’s faith. Religious freedom indeed.
Add all this up and what you have is ultra-nationalist religious, political conservatism. Eat your heart out Republicans.
Praise for Putin
I have to believe for the sake of sanity that Republicans are praising Vladimir Putin simply to try and make Barack Obama look bad. Then again, having read all that I’ve previously mentioned, you never know.
It’s hilarious to see conservative politicians and pundits call Obama a socialist dictator while praising Putin’s leadership.
Even before the events in Ukraine, Pat Buchanan praised the Russian leader’s opposition to same-sex marriage and asked “Is Putin one of us?” Whether he is or not, since the intervention in Crimea, Republicans of all stripes have praised Putin’s leadership:
“People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil; they look at our President as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.” – Sarah Palin.
“It’s like they want Obama to seem weak to the Russian people, that they don’t respect weakness. … There you got Putin, big, strong, muscular, on a horse.” – Sean Hannity.
“Russia has a real leader. … And our President just is… he’s incapable and unwilling to lead.” – Ralph Peters.
“In a way, you gotta hand it to Putin. He knows the West is weak.” – Bill O’Reilly.
Well, there you have it. Russia is no longer the evil empire… Unless you consider yourself a liberal. At least now when a conservative friend starts to complain about the progressiveness of America, you can tell them if they don’t like it, they can move to Russia.