Ye Olde Class War

Bush Administration

Yesterday I wrote that

American history since the Civil War can be read as a tug-of-war between progressivism and the “free market” fetishists. When people get tired of being ripped off and exploited by the malefactors of great wealth, they turn to government for help. But sooner or later they forget being ripped off and exploited and get taken in by “free market” hype again. Thus the Gilded Age was followed by the Progressive Era, which was followed by the Roaring 20s (also called the Republican Era), which was followed by the Great Depression and New Deal. And when memory of the Great Depression had sufficiently faded, we got Ronald Reagan.

Today’s Paul Krugman column expands on this theme.

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the White House, conservative ideas appealed to many, even most, Americans. At the time, we were truly a middle-class nation. To white voters, at least, the vast inequalities and social injustices of the past, which were what originally gave liberalism its appeal, seemed like ancient history. It was easy, in that nation, to convince many voters that Big Government was their enemy, that they were being taxed to provide social programs for other people.

Since then, however, we have once again become a deeply unequal society. Median income has risen only 17 percent since 1980, while the income of the richest 0.1 percent of the population has quadrupled. The gap between the rich and the middle class is as wide now as it was in the 1920s, when the political coalition that would eventually become the New Deal was taking shape.

For more on income inequality, see Bonddad at The Agonist.

Professor Krugman continues,

You know that perceptions of rising inequality have become a political issue when even President Bush admits, as he did in January, that “some of our citizens worry about the fact that our dynamic economy is leaving working people behind.”

But today’s Republicans can’t respond in any meaningful way to rising inequality, because their activists won’t let them. You could see the dilemma just this past Friday and Saturday, when almost all the G.O.P. presidential hopefuls traveled to Palm Beach to make obeisance to the Club for Growth, a supply-side pressure group dedicated to tax cuts and privatization.

The Republican Party’s adherence to an outdated ideology leaves it with big problems. It can’t offer domestic policies that respond to the public’s real needs. So how can it win elections?

Krugman goes on to explain his “unified theory” of Bush Administration scandals, which he describes as “a combination of distraction and disenfranchisement.” The “distraction” part amounts to stirring up fear and hysteria over Muslim terrorism. Rather than debate Democrats on the issues, the Republican Noise Machine painted Democrats as cartoon characters who are soft on terrorism.

The other part of the program was to keep poor people, especially poor black people, from voting. This appears to be the prime impetus behind the firing of U.S. Attorneys.

Several of the fired U.S. attorneys were under pressure to pursue allegations of voter fraud — a phrase that has become almost synonymous with “voting while black.” Former staff members of the Justice Department’s civil rights division say that they were repeatedly overruled when they objected to Republican actions, ranging from Georgia’s voter ID law to Tom DeLay’s Texas redistricting, that they believed would effectively disenfranchise African-American voters.

In other words, in order to keep the “free market” ideologues in power, Republicans undermined republican government itself. Just one more example of why the libertarian battle cry “free markets make free people” is a pile of bleep. “Free,” as in “unregulated,” markets inevitably result in plutocracy, and once you’ve got a plutocracy you’re just a step away from corporatism, which in extreme form becomes fascism.

And on that note, be sure to read “Your modern-day Republican Party” by Glenn Greenwald.

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  1. marijam  •  Apr 2, 2007 @6:30 pm

    “In other words, in order to keep the “free market” ideologues in power, Republicans undermined republican government itself. Just one more example of why the libertarian battle cry “free markets make free people” is a pile of bleep. “Free,” as in “unregulated,” markets inevitably result in plutocracy, and once you’ve got a plutocracy you’re just a step away from corporatism, which in extreme form becomes fascism.”

    Exactly right! Thank you for posting this.

  2. whig  •  Apr 2, 2007 @8:48 pm

    There is no such thing as a free people without a free press.

    We are the free press today.

  3. Swami  •  Apr 2, 2007 @10:04 pm

    “What kind of American isn’t just instinctively repulsed by the notion that the President has the power to imprison Americans with no charges? “

    They are not Americans.. they’re self indulgent dolts..slime, spineless slime, with no appreciation for the sacrifices of the great men and women who tried to elevate them above their own self absorbed being. F-ing cretins.. Scum..Vermin.!

  4. expat  •  Apr 4, 2007 @12:57 pm

    I quite fear that until an understanding of American History is taught and understood by all, there is little chance of getting a grasp of current problems and reasoning a solution.

    Actual, factual history has not been taught in schools available to most of the population starting sometime about the Spanish-American War where “history taught” became “apologetic” and diversionary to actual facts of that war being waged for economic hegemony over the western hemisphere by the US, the theft of major sugar production areas of the world, and the distruction of what remained of the Spanish Empire for US economic “gain”.

    What is reflected in US History books is a highly distorted, twisted, and illusionary mirror of where the country has actually been and has done, cloaked in flag and exceptionalism and outright lies, bought hook, line, and sinker by students who had no other fact to hold on to in finding a perspective other than the perceived “truth”. This situation is more than a century old now.
    Only a few scholars have any narrative that differs from the party line and their views are shared by few.

    Without an accurate picture of where the country has been, there is no conceivable way to know where the country is now, or what direction is is headed tomorrow. How can a course be steered without compass when all hazzard is hidden in a fog of ignorance and superstitous beliefs mascarading as reality? The waters the country is now traversing are beset with deadly schoals and reefs of facts, of economics, of law, of politics, of power, and the helm of state is in the hands of ignorant pathelogical madmen bent on a hidden agenda, headed for unseen cliffs where they are told there is treasure.

    There is an immediate constitutional crisis facing Americans at this moment. For fourty years a cabal has been active to usurp power and overthrow the constituted government. It has been a slow motion coup de e’tat, hardly noticable above the daily noises of trying to make a living.

    The last six years have provided the cabal and their enablers complete control of all branches of the government and an unhindered and unaccounted access to complete installing their followers into all key positions to provide cover and protection for their people and agenda. Theirs is a cancer so widespread and so deeply rooted, that the excision of the cancer will in all probibility leave the patient either dead or so greatly damaged as to be mortibund.

    Those whose position it is to keep lookout and warn of dangers have been themselves drugged on a fatal concoction of money and power and are not only silent to the dangers, but making revelry that hinders hearing crashing surf on the reefs ahead.

    All charts of the waters have long been lost and few retain any living memory of the waters and their navigation, and the ship is in peril.