Watching events unfold in this country and around the world highlight an interesting, but diametrically opposing, dynamic at play. Throughout the Middle East, people are rising against their dictatorial governments demanding democracy, or at least a voice, with regard to the self-determination of their countries and their individual economic freedom. The impulses driving this movement should be recognizable by most Americans – it was these same desires that drove this former colony to rebel against England in the 1700’s. One could make a case that in terms of economic and political development, the West is some 200 years ahead of our Middle East cousins.
In the United States we are witnessing similar demonstrations against governments – only these are at the state level. Tens of thousands protesters marched on the Wisconsin state capital Saturday in their own “Day of Rage” against Governor Scott Walker. Additional protests, albeit smaller, were punctuated throughout Mid-Western states as people protested their elected leaders for attempting to pursue an agenda that would ultimately destroy organized labor as a collective bargaining unit for wages and rights of workers.
What is happening at the state level is really a glimpse into the future of this country. More than anything else – any wedge issue you wish to burnish – this highlights the fundamental difference between republicans and democrats. Nearly every state in America is facing some form of fiscal crisis; however, the proposals for dealing with these fiscal crises are remarkably different. In Wisconsin, Governor Walker is not willing to take concessions from state union employees on pay and benefits – he wants to permanently remove their future right to collectively bargain on labor contracts with the state. In Florida, the Republican governor wants to further cut taxes and government services. In Connecticut, the Democrat governor wants to raise taxes to boost state revenues.
Here is the future of this country under uncontested conservative republican control – ask yourself if this is the country you want to live in:
- In Red America, homosexuality may be tolerated, but no “special rights” [i.e., those rights that are extended to all other “normal” Americans] will be granted.
- Abortion will be illegal.
- Prayer will be put back into school.
- The 10 Commandments will be prominently displayed in every courthouse in the country.
- Everyone will have a gun.
It doesn’t require a vivid imagination to see how this form of social conservatism could lead to an organized fascism. We have seen ample examples throughout history where playing to our base human fears and nationalistic pride can easily slip into fascist government. Look at the history of Germany between 1920-1936 and you have a decent playbook.
Fiscal conservatism. Here is gets a little trickery, because the Republican fiscal policy isn’t necessarily conservative, but it is nevertheless their plan.
- Lower taxes, especially on the wealthiest of Americans, in order to spur economic growth and investment, thereby promoting job growth and increasing the number of taxpayers and boosting tax revenue.
- Cut government spending and services, with emphasis on social programs designed to assist the neediest of Americans.
- Continue deregulation. The less government intervenes in a capitalist society and free market, the more creative businesses can be. Free innovation can only lead to greater job growth and new technology development that will best serve the country.
Here’s the thing I don’t understand. How is it that nearly half of America sees this playbook and agrees with it? I mean, if you’re in the upper one percent of income earners in this country, I completely get it. If I were a greedy, gay, atheist in the wealthiest tax bracket, I might be inclined to trade the social agenda pogrom for additional revenues in my bank account. But this is such a small number of individuals – the only way they control the means of controlling the government agenda is to buy it – either through advertising [influencing public opinion] or by buying the elected representatives [through political action committee donations and lobbying efforts]. But how is it that average Americans don’t recognize the evil that is being foisted upon them? My only conclusion is that they have been so co-opted by the religious social agenda that they trade this off for the financial rape – a trade off in values…
Deregulation, especially of the financial markets, has easily caused more damage to the average American than the criminal drug trade, prostitution, abortion, drunk driving, and gay marriage all rolled into one. As Matt Taibbi wrote in The Rolling Stone, Why Isn’t Wall Street In Jail?
“The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don’t feel real; you don’t see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They’re crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let’s steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They’re attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone’s claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.”
When corporations are allowed, unfettered, to play by their own rules, cook the books, defraud shareholders and employees whose life savings are invested into stock options that hold no value [see Enron], it highlights the facade of regulatory policing. This is essentially what happened on Wall Street this last decade – only in this case, no one went to jail – only minuscule fines were paid to a government that didn’t bother criminally investigating fraud that approached a trillion dollar fleecing of this country and its’ citizens.
We look appalled, when we read back over our history of the robber barons and the ways and means in which the Morgans, Carnegies, and Rockefellers were able to acquire their wealth but we are inclined to forgive their excesses based on their later philanthropies. This generation of robber barons are barely known; basking in their anonymity and ill-gotten wealth. Think about it – can you name one chairman of the top 10 oil companies in the world? How about the President and CEO of Bank of America? [without looking of course].
In this Republican version of our future – the one thing I agree with is get a gun – you’re going to need it. The future they envision will be a cross between a Capitalist Theocracy and the Wild, Wild West. In the end, it will be about every man and woman for themselves – except for the super wealthy living in gated communities and pulling the strings of Washington at your expense. Hopefully our Middle East cousins will have had enough experience with that sort of tyranny over the last 30-50 years and reject this possible outcome, but something tells me it is an evolutionary process societies grow through.
Post Script: Taibbi points out that Obama administration is as equally complicit in allowing this financial rape to occur with no sign of trying to rectify the root causes any time soon.
“As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff. “The betrayal that this represents by Obama to everybody is just — we’re not ready to believe it,” says Budde, a classmate of the president from their Columbia days. ‘He’s really fucking us over like that? Really? That’s really a JP Morgan guy, really?'”
Perhaps the problem is that Obama is not from the elite wealthy class. Former presidents that stood up to the excesses of Wall Street and big business came from inside the class system. What this country needs no more than ever is a Teddy Roosevelt/FDR-like president that can understand the level of greed that is taking place and bring it to a halt.
Then again, you can see from the comment below, there are plenty of middle class Americans that continue to buy in to this warped economic theory of prosperity.