The Charge of the Light Brigade
Half a league, half a league,
After reading some responses to recent political posts there is some misapprehension about my position on debt: I am against it. The referenced debt is debt already incurred by past legislation, not an authorization to incur new debt.
The real devil in the details is the intent of tea-partiers AND conservative republicans generally. Today, Grover Norquist is arguably one of the most influential in America to day whose stated goal is “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
What happens when you ingloriously destroy a government that is the product of years of experience, negotiation, and fine tuning? One possibility is chaos. Edmund Burke, a noted conservative of the 17th century justified his conservatism, in part, because the society we have is the product of generations of evolutionary growth. Traditions informs us about what has been successful in the past and we ignore these lessons at our peril. He didn’t like the French revolution for its excesses.
The Republican strategy taken up by the Tea Party is to starve the beast of government by depriving it of revenue. Bush gave us a war and paid for it by cutting taxes. He gave us the Medication Modification Act and didn’t fund it. If there is no revenue, government programs will wither and die and the country will return to an earlier, simpler time before there was security for our parents as they age, before there was unemployment insurance, before expensive cancers could be treated under Medicare, before Medicaid would pay for nursing care for your mother if you had lost your job and had your house foreclosed upon. This is close to the “State of Nature” or life as savages lived.
This is a form of Social Darwinism, which posits that Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest where those who are not competitive rightly fall by the wayside in the interest of improving human stock. Human, Biological Darwinism, has had its impact in America in pre-WWII America under the name of eugenics.
Under the aegis of racial improvement people considered “deficient” were sterilized and including the poor, mentally ill, blind, deaf, developmentally disabled, promiscuous women, homosexuals, and entire racial groups — such as the Roma and Jews — as “degenerate” or “unfit.” Of course, the Nazi implementation of eugenics ruined it for everyone.
The people who benefited from Medicare and Social Security are my mother and probably yours. It protected her from having to go bankrupt to pay for end of life care. It allowed her to die happy in home hospice rather than listening to a respirator among strangers.
I have a a third cousin once removed who, though mildly retarded, lives on waterfront property down in the bed of the Ventura River (except in the winter when it rains). It includes my brother who suffered from an untreated madness and hung himself in a four-foot crawl space when he was 27.
It might include your grandmother if she was imprudent enough to age without holding on to the AT&T stock that got you through the last semester of college. It might include you.
In the rage and confusion after 9/11 the Bush-Cheney administration, bolstered by the somewhat shadowy neoconservatives in the administration, launched the “Global War on Terror,” which included the notion of pre-emptive war.”
Little note was made of the economic costs of the war which was characterized by planeloads of $100 bills transported on pallets to pay off cooperative Iraqis for information on the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction. Civilian contractors were hired in numbers equal or greater than uniformed troops to perform duties previously done by lower cost troops – like cooking. To make it appear that we had fewer troops we paid twice as much for Halliburton cooks. So it goes…
Some sources attribute the inclusion of “liberal” democracy as an objective. This is the “Classical Liberalism” of John Locke (1632-1704), not to be confused with what we consider “social liberalism” today.
Bill Clinton made heroic efforts to resolve the debt despite the vigorous efforts to discredit him.
The real villains in society are those who converted the money saved by Clinton into profits to war profiteers. Those who accumulate wealth believing that they are wealthy because they belong to an aristocracy of humanity. A breed endowed by their creator to rule over men, dogs and the beasts of the field. Men who think that what they have is due solely to their own industry, like Angelo Mozilo.
Men who, a century ago, put children to work because they were cheaper and less likely to strike. Who, today, lobby to dilute reforms that would benefit and protect workers too involved with putting food on the table to read the fine print. The villains are those who see that wealth percolates upward, while real wages and the quality of the middle class life seeps ever downward.
For example, when I was a child I lived in a suburb of New York where, if a mother and father both worked it was a topic for whispered conversation among the mothers whose views on life I was privileged to overhear. A respectable lower-middle class family had a tract home in Levittown with a Ford in the driveway and three kids who needed their mother at home.
Today it is a matter of pride to have both parents working for individual, personal enrichment. The fact is that the standard of living has declined by half: two people work for the same standard of living.
There are heroes among those who have the organizational talent, the vision, and the agency to accumulate great wealth. People who see in mankind brothers and sisters and themselves, who, but fortune, might be among the least. There are those, recognizing life’s inequities, fund foundations with the major part of their fortunes (in consultation with their CPA, of course).
The government (you and I, basically) recognizes that postal services are useful, as are paved highways, air traffic controllers, the FDA (to keep melamine out of the milk), the SEC (to keep all but the best thieves at bay), police and fire services (who keep us from a “…war … of every man against every man.” Medical care, a constitutional right in many countries, environmental protection, which keeps the air clean (sort of) and water pure (unless polluted by open pit mining).
There are many things that government rightly does FOR us and many things vested interests (like industrial farmers, oil and mining companies do TO us through self-interested lobbying efforts.
Someone once told me that life is an adversary experience, that we are charged to debate the relative benefits of everything, that if there were not that tension we would be dead.
I vote for a world where the wealth extracted from the world returns, proportionately, to betterment of humanity. We all deserve dignity and the pursuit of happiness. Those who would beggar government to line their pockets should be ashamed. Those who carry their water are fools. – carlos