For thirty years, now, Republicans have been
yammering about small government, deficits, the glories of the free market, and
the incompetence and wastefulness of government.
It’s all been a big lie, part of a well-funded
and cleverly executed coup d'etat, designed to enable the ultra-rich and
corporations to literally take power out of the hands of government and money
out of the pockets of individual citizens.
Sadly there are Democrats that have either actively participated in the coup or watched in near silence. The press has been passively playing the part of a mute stenographer. The basis of
this coup is simple – money has become the lingua franca of political power, eclipsing the vote.
They’ve just about pulled it off.
Hyperbole? Hardly. Let’s examine their
message against their actions.
Do Republicans Really Favor Small Government?
Nope! Republicans and their corporate over lords were never really concerned
with making government small. In fact,
the size of government exploded
under Reagan and Bush II, and we didn’t hear a peep out of Republicans. In the last thirty years, only Clinton
reduced the size of government significantly, and he did so while declaring
“the era of big government” to be over.
What they really wanted was a WEAK government!
Government is one of the only forces capable of
preventing the excesses of unconstrained markets, so step one of the
Plutocrat’s coup had to be to thoroughly discredit it. It began with Reagan’s famous quote,
“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem,” and
despite massive and growing evidence to the contrary, it’s been repeated so
often, that it is now accepted as revealed truth.
Sadly there are not enough staunch progressive
Democrats to set things straight, though. If Republicans are merely paid mouthpieces for corporate America, Blue
dog Democrats are wholly owned subsidiaries of it. As for the main stream
media? They are
Are Republicans Genuinely Worried about Deficits?
Not at all. Here again, deficits grew under Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. In
fact, Reagan and Bush II added more to the deficit than all previous Presidents
combined, and again, not a peep was heard. In recent times, only Clinton reduced it. If deficits were really an issue, we should
have heard protests well before Obama took office.
What the Republican Plutocracy has really been
doing is to “…starve the beast down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” That’s why Republicans increased the budget while decreasing revenue – not a good strategy for dealing with deficits, but a great way to create excuses for selectively shrinking key government programs.
In Wisconsin, for example, Walker gave away $140 billion in tax breaks to industry cronies just weeks before declaring the compelling need cut government workers’ salaries and eliminate their right to
conduct collective bargaining. The State’s Legislative Reference Bureau, the
equivalent of the federal government’s non-partisan Congressional Budget
Office, said that absent those tax cuts, Wisconsin would have run a
Talk about bait-and-switch!
The looming showdown in the House of Representatives
over deficits is similarly a self-inflicted hot foot. Simply eliminating the
Bush tax cuts for the rich, cutting back agricultural subsidies, closing a few
corporate tax loopholes (including the infamous off-shore tax provisions which
reward companies for moving jobs out of America), instituting a small financial trading tax (something that would have the added benefit of reducing market volatility) and reducing the defense budget to reasonable
levels would enable us to approach a balanced budget with relatively little
pain. And each of these are supported by the majority of Americans.
So, if there are politically popular, pain-free
strategies for balancing the budget that actually create jobs and help the
economy, why aren’t we even discussing them?
Because they don’t “starve the beast.”
The fact that Republicans are picking on the
miniscule portion of the budget devoted to the poor and middle class shows
they’re not serious. There simply isn’t enough there to make even a small dent
in the deficit. But a large pool of unemployed workers with no safety net
certainly helps the fat cats keep wages down.
How About the Notion that Unconstrained Markets Create Prosperity and Jobs?
Again, not at all. The fact is, laissez-faire, free market policies have failed miserably every time they’ve been tried. It turns out they have a nasty habit of consistently causing grotesque income inequalities, huge market volatility and severe financial collapses. In fact, the Great Recession we are now climbing out of should have been strike 3 for the Free Marketeers. Strike one was the Panic of 1893 and the depression which followed it. Strike two was the Great Depression of the 30’s. In all three cases, these collapses were preceded by conservative, laissez-faire policies featuring deregulation, low taxes and weak governments.
Three tries – each resulting in a catastrophic
economic meltdown. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this
strategy doesn’t work. But it does help
the Plutocrats continue their policy of plundering the nation’s wealth.
Is Government Really the Problem?
There was a time when people knew that government
was a critical contributor to our nation’s prosperity. Up until the 80’s many folks still remembered
how government had won two World Wars. They knew that it had been instrumental
in helping us out of a major Depression. They knew that it had built
world-class infrastructure that created wealth -- including dams, public
buildings, and the federal highway system. They’d watched as government R&D;
generated unprecedented prosperity and whole new industries, including the
agricultural revolution, the aerospace industry, nuclear energy, the Internet,
leadership in chip manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and many of the health
innovations we enjoy.
Until recently, people realized that government
regulation of corporations and the financial sector had assured a level playing
field, transparent markets, and international trust, creating the longest
sustained period of prosperity in US history – a prosperity that was shared by
Portraying the government as a collection of
bumbling bureaucrats who can’t do anything other than get in the private
sector’s way and waste our tax money serves three purposes in the Plutocrat’s
coup. First, it provides a scapegoat for
the increasing economic pain people will inevitably feel in a Plutocratic
world. Second, it reinforces the desire to cut taxes – to “starve the beast”. Why give
incompetent boobs and wastrels more money? And third, it prevents citizens from
looking at government as an effective solution to the problems created by a
The Press as Mute Stenographer: At one time, facts would have
been more important than slogans and the media would have given people those
facts, exposing The Big Lie as a steaming pile of elephant dung
in our collective national living room.
The fact that Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans
health programs have an overhead of 4% or less, and produce better outcomes
than private health insurance with it’s 30% overhead would have been known to
folks, and lies about death panels wouldn’t have survived.
The fact that Social Security is not in danger,
that it has nothing to do with current deficits and that it is far more
efficient – and less costly -- than privatized systems would have mattered. For
example, the US Social Security system has an overhead of less than 4% -- in
Chile, the fully privatized system (which has since been abandoned) had
administrative fees as high as 20%.
The fact that government programs are often cheaper and better run, than privatized
programs in everything from healthcare, to transportation to water supplies to
trash collection to prison administration to firefighting would have been more
important than baseless sound bites about government incompetence repeated
But facts no longer rule. Now, Plutocrats such as Rupert Murdoch control
much of the media and rather than exposing the elephant dung for what it is,
they shovel more into our national dialogue, piling it higher and deeper, obscuring the truth rather than
The End-Game is Near: The thirty-year Plutocratic plan to
take over America is reaching fruition. The Republicans have cleverly played a game of divide and conquer and
Blue dog Democrats have either been active participants or complicit in their
silence. The Plutocrats and their
Republican allies have taken away workers’ rights, reduced their compensation
and eliminated their benefits in the private sector, and now they’re coming
after the public sector, turning it into an all-purpose bogeyman, responsible
for all that ails us.
At a time when all workers are getting screwed,
the Republicans and the Plutocrats have managed to make them fight among
themselves over a rapidly dwindling share, rather than joining together to
demand their equitable share of the national wealth.
Here’s the deal. Worker productivity in the
private sector has been going steadily up for three decades. That means corporations are making more money
off of each hour worked. Yet wages have
stagnated over that time, and benefits have shrunk.
Where has the wealth from the increased
productivity gone? Straight into the
pockets of the Plutocrats. For example,
in 1966, CEOs made about 50 times the minimum wage. Today, they make more than 821 times minimum wage.
Now that government has been all but vanquished,
unions and public employees are the last bastion of individual political power
and equitable compensation, and there is a clear and concerted effort to break
them and discredit them, once and for all.
But rather than protest this economic rape by corporations, too many citizens have been duped or distracted. From flag burners, to immigrants, to gay marriage to abortions, to Technicolored terrorist alerts, to myths about incompetent fat-cat government workers, Republicans have been throwing up flack
and creating scapegoats. Public workers
are simply the latest distraction.
The takeover has been generously funded, cleverly
plotted, patiently played, and skillfully executed.
The real shame is those Democrats (not all of
them), once the Party of labor and the middle class have either actively
supported the Plutocratic coup, or stood idly by while it proceeded unopposed.
What Can We Do?
Citizens, we have a choice. We can confront this
Plutocratic coup, or we can draft an apology to our founders, beg the
forgiveness of the brave men and women who fought valiantly over the last two
centuries to defend the ideals of this country, and then kiss those ideals
At the end of the day, we have the three things that can trump money: truth, the vote and market power. If we insist on candid, transparent discussions on the issues of the day; refuse to vote for dirty-money or
mealy-mouthed candidates; and punish Plutocrats like Murdoch and Koch and Rove
who intentionally distort the truth in the one place where it hurts – the
market place – we can win this country back.
It will take commitment, organization, a
willingness to endure some hardship, and a passion for justice and fairness–
the kind of things that animated exploited workers back when facts mattered,
but it can be done.
The pieces of a resistance to the Plutocratic coup
are coming together.
Russ Feingold has established a PAC called Progressives United with a mission to reverse the
infamous Citizens United Decision and get the money out of politics.
Bill McKibben’s 350.org has announced a campaign called the US Chamber doesn't speak
Van Jones and progressive groups are creating a movement to restore the American Dream – the notion that government isn’t a punch line – it is a contract between we the people; a vehicle that enables us to come
together to accomplish that which must be done together; that which has, in
times past, made us a prosperous, just, and noble nation.
If we back these efforts, we can prevail. If we don’t, then the words of Edmund Burke should haunt our conscience as we slide inevitably into a well-deserved Plutocratic dystopia: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [and women] do nothing.”