The following is a cautionary tale. The Democrats won the election but you wouldn’t know it by how the House Republicans are acting. Although the American public voted against their agenda, and quite frankly, polls have shown overwhelming opposition to their attempts to cut social spending while refusing to raise taxes on the very rich, the ‘Tea Party’ wing of the Party refuses to make the smallest compromise with the President. There is no doubt that we are about to go over the ‘fiscal cliff’ and no doubt at whom we should be pointing our fingers. It seems absolutely nuts. These conservatives remain so adamant about cutting government spending and regulations and reducing government income that they would permit, yea even encourage, the US economy to crash again apparently just to prove a point, a point, BTW, based on class ideology, not fact. John Boehner is embarrassed and powerless in what is rapidly becoming a GOP civil war and might well lose his position as Speaker. It seems beyond the comprehension of reasonable people until you understand that their actions and opinions can only be understood in the context of the contest for the control of a nation’s resources that has existed between the very rich and and the rest of us since the industrial age reached maturity in Europe and the US in the 1880’s. To put it in its simplest terms, the corporate Moguls believe government should exist only to assist them to get wealthier and otherwise get out of the way. Taxes are anathema and those who aren’t rich are either stupid or slackers. Government should never be involved in assisting the poor, disadvantaged, or elderly as that is a waste of taxpayers’ (read THEIR) money. Romney’s contempt for the middle and laboring classes was hard to conceal and the attitude runs through the entire leadership of the Tea Party. Paul Ryan has stated many times that he wants to see the end of both social security and Medicare. Perhaps the most extreme position was that of Ron and Rand Paul who would have voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it would have interfered with private property owners’ freedom to do what they want with their property. They were referring to the refusal of Woolworth’s to serve African Americans and the Pauls were OK with that because, in their mind and the mind of their class, property rights trump Constitutional rights. James Madison and the other Founding Fathers would be appalled.
If this sounds like the battles of Capital against Labor of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that is because it remains precisely the same battle. The late 19th century Moguls, Astor, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Fields, et al, made their money and then promptly bought government officials, got laws passed, and generally used governmental power to help them consolidate and expand their fortunes. The Socialist movement grew out of the tenements filled with pitifully paid laborers on whose backs the Moguls made their millions. They and the Liberals, who represented the growing middle classes, had this funny notion that government exists not as an extension of the wealthy classes, but to serve its constituents by providing services and, quite frankly, protecting us against the exploitation and abuses of the Moguls who would pay ten cents an hour if they could get away with it. Socialists, Liberals, and trade unionists wrested such concessions out of Capital as the 8 hour work day, an end to child labor, and some workplace safety laws. But it wasn’t that long ago that the national guard, police forces, and private detectives fired on strikers and worker demonstrations in defense of the Moguls.
The Socialist movement was never that strong in the US, and in Europe, it was blasted apart by World War I and the accession to power of Totalitarian Communism. But the power of US Moguls was finally challenged by the combination of the recklessness of Wall Street investors and the agricultural crisis of the 1920’s. It took the Depression with its massive unemployment and bread lines to finally create the New Deal of FDR. And it was FDR who created government designed to help all the people and constructed the safety net that has helped create the strong middle class in this country. The Progressive movement has, from 1932 until 1980, created a nexus of laws that promoted safety in the workplace, the minimum wage, social security, Medicare, environmental protections, student loans, etc. that has allowed the majority of Americans to share in the immense wealth and resources this country has to offer. We’ve grown accustomed to this safety net and other insurance programs and protections, but they are under attack and if we don’t fight back, we’ll lose them. The reelection of President Obama hasn’t stopped the assault, for the assault is taking place on both the local and national levels.
The Moguls haven’t gone away nor changed their cultural mindset. They were beaten back in the 1930’s by the tide of national disaster, but they hate FDR and have consciously plotted a comeback to destroy the power of labor and dismantle the social programs and economic protections of the New Deal. It is no coincidence that teachers, public employees, and unions are the target of the Republican Party. Nor that Medicare, work place safety, and Obamacare are under attack. The CEO’s of companies such as Pizza Hut and Red Lobster have already threatened to fire employees or hire part time workers rather than comply with the law. Heaven forbid employees should have health insurance. Right to work laws are nothing more than a technique to break the power of the unions so employers can decrease wages and benefits for workers.
Funded by the Koch brothers, and the super PACS of Rove, et al, they have sought in the last 30 years to do three things. First, to convince Americans of a series of myths about government, liberty, and wealth creation that would win electoral victories for the right wing. Second, to win allies amongst white males and evangelicals by pushing issues such as abortion, gay rights, guns, immigration, and religion, even though these issues are not important or central to the Moguls behind the PACs. And third, to deliberately work on the local and national level to dismantle governmental programs, lower taxes as much as possible so as to prevent their reestablishment (literally starve government), and bring about an end to environmental, work safety, and other regulations that force them to spend money on anything but making more money.
Despite Obama’s election and the Wall Street/Bush recession, the Moguls have been succeeding in their quest. A huge percentage of Americans now believe that government is injurious to freedom, especially the freedom to make money. The ‘self made’ myth has been molded to become the basis of the greatness of America. The producers and job creators as opposed to the ‘dependent victims’, as Romney called us, need to be freed from government interference or else the economy will crash. Never mind the ‘job creators’ are sitting on 3 trillion dollars rather than create jobs thanks to the Bush tax cuts. Self interest, they proclaim, drives the greatness of American society, which is a far cry from the Founders’ who emphasized their governmental experiment as one to promote the general welfare.
Many Americans further believe, against all studies, that privatizing governmental services somehow makes them more efficient, when in fact, the reverse is true, since private companies are there to make money, not service the public. Medicare vouchers, for example, would not only cut benefits but end up costing the government much more than the Affordable Health Care Act or a single payer health care system. The Moguls have very successfully sold the myth that government is incompetent, even dangerous, when there is no evidence that the private sector does any better. The truth is that many of the current Moguls couldn’t have succeeded without government help and subsidies, including the Koch brothers. Which leads to the final myth that the government punishes success and that the successful pay for all those freeloaders. Thus Romney’s 47% remark. The truth, folks, is that state and local taxes hit the low and middle income working families at a much higher rate than the wealthy and tax loopholes in the income tax system allow the Moguls to duck most taxes. You and I pay a higher rate of our income then they do, as Warren Buffet pointed out. And, the real job creator is consumer demand, which is fast disappearing as the wealth of America is transferred into the hands of the top 2%.
So, my point in this very long blog? That it is not time to rest on the laurels of November’s victories. The GOP ideologues are controlled by outside money and the Koch’s and their friends have no intention of backing down on their strategy. The action of the GOP House Caucus clearly illustrates this. To quote Winston Churchill,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender
This must be the Progressive imperative. From Michigan Right to Work Laws to the Tea Party’s refusal to raise taxes on anyone, we must be vigilant, strong, and be willing to fight to save America from those who want to impoverish the rest of us for their own greed. Democrats who falter, including the President, must be pushed to fight. This will not be a short battle, but it must be won if we wish to preserve the American dream.