Thursday, June 9, 2011

The real terrorists

One thing I get really, really sick of is projection. It is cloying in its ubiquity: if a man on TV starts ranting about how bad teh gayz are, you know it's only a matter of time before he's outed. Don't any of these people own a mirror?

The Republican party seems particularly infected with this disease. For some time now they have been railing about the wickedness of the Left, and how it wants to destroy the American way of life. To that end they're fighting the terrible socialism of teacher's unions and Medicare to stop us from turning into Commies.

But here's the thing: the Right is the one destroying the American way. Republicans aren't shy about admitting that they don't want to just repeal Medicare and Social Security, they want to repeal the whole New Deal. But for the last three score and ten, the New Deal has been the face of American society. There are hardly any people alive today who were adults before the New Deal. So these culture warriors, these people hell-bent on "taking their country back," are in fact struggling to destroy everything we recognize as American in favor of something none of us actually know.

Nothing could demonstrate that more than the current budget fiasco. The Republicans, allegedly the party of fiscal responsibility, are forcing America into default. Never mind the havoc this will have on the global economy; any businessman worth a nickel has to understand that even the threat of default lowers your credit rating, which means you pay more for credit. Their shenanigans will actually raise the deficit, by raising the interest we have to pay. Given that knowledge, it is obvious that the fight over the debt limit is not about the deficit. They have taken the nation's credit rating hostage, and they will do more damage in the long run than Osama bin Laden ever could.

Health care is no better. You cannot possibly imagine how befuddling it is for me to listen to Republicans assert that twin claims that America cannot afford socialized medicine and that socializing medicine would destroy it. Having now experienced a socialized health care system, I know from personal experience that they are simply wrong. The Australian government spends less on public health care than the American government. The Australian people (everyone I know has private insurance, and Sara and I will be signing up for it soon) spend less on private health care than the American people. Yet everyone in Australia is covered, people like me can get private insurance (pre-existing conditions are only excluded for the first year) for $200 a month, and the quality of care is every bit as good as anything I got in America.

And even the classic response - that the American system generates all the discoveries and everybody else just follows - doesn't fly. Monash University, just down the road from here, invented IVF.

The Republicans love to extoll American Exceptionalism; but they seem oblivious to the fact that every other first-world nation on Earth can manage a universal health care system for half the cost. Are Republicans simply unaware of what goes on in the rest of the world? Yes, the French have unemployment that is as bad or worse as America, but they still manage to have universal health care. And their country isn't about to go into default!

The facts don't matter here. The realities about cost and care levels, the financial details about bond markets and interest rates, are simply not important. The Republican goal is not to reduce the deficit; it is to reduce the government and unravel the New Deal. For years they have warned us of Manchurian candidates who secretly work for shadowy powers that want to destroy the soul of America. And they were right. But it's not Muslims or the the Gay Agenda; it's billionaires calling the shots. The socialist threat was never real, but the fascist threat of a society where corporations are unregulated and politically dominant while individual rights are curtailed and constrained is becoming the reality. Even their libertarianism is a shell for fascism: Rand Paul claims to be for less government regulation, but he wants to regulate uteruses; he doesn't think the government should intrude on the contracts of private businesses to force them to serve minorities, but he does think the government should ban private marriage contracts between gays. The rush to block Sharia law is carried out hand-in-hand with the desire to tear down the wall between church and state, as long as the church is Christian, without even the slightest shred of irony.

We have met the enemy, and they are not new. They have been announcing themselves for years. For a while they pretended to preach the gospel of prosperity, but now even that veil has been dropped. They simply want to make sure that those who already have, keep, and... well, really, that's the entire limit of their ideology.

What they don't understand is that by trying to keep it all for themselves, they will inevitably lose it all for everyone. America became the greatest nation on Earth by being united. One for all and all for one. E pluribus unum. But in this overwhelming fear of the other, in this contempt for the weak and the different in our society, in the explicit rejection of social duty so pithily expressed in the phrase "taxes are theft," the Republicans have turned against the very essence of the American ideal.

(See Paul Krugman's great essay on the Rentier economy here)


  1. Great post. I forwarded this to my facebook....

  2. The Republicans do indeed have a mindlessly simplistic message. Well, actually a number of them. This surprises you? We have a society trained by decades of TV viewing to expect every aspect of public discourse to be reduced to simple, black-and-white, slogans. Try to make objective, reasoned arguments to the average citizen (oops, I mean "consumer") and he or she will get bored at best and offended at worst. You get more followers with empty rhetoric that baits people's existing sentiments and emotion. You are obviously aware of this already though. How else could you cough up such rhetorical gems as:

    "For years they have warned us of Manchurian candidates who secretly work for shadowy powers that want to destroy the soul of America. And they were right. But it's not Muslims or the the Gay Agenda; it's billionaires calling the shots."

    Or better still:

    "America became the greatest nation on Earth by being united. One for all and all for one. E pluribus unum."

    I know enough U.S. history to know that the last quotation is laughable. What's the goal there? A little cross-over patriotism? Add a flag graphic; it will make it more effective.

  3. There's a difference between empty rhetoric and rhetoric. My flights of fancy have a point behind them: that a certain sense of communal obligation is the de facto American way as established by the New Deal and other government policies since then; and that the current libertarian assault is not on any specific program, but on the entire obligation. This attack is being financed by a meld of libertarian and religious forces who see common cause in reducing the power of centralized government.

    As for the greatest nation on Earth, this is not hyperbole. America's commercial empire exceeds anything ever seen before; her unquestioned military supremacy is equivalent to the peak of Roman power (who also dealt with Chinese power by simply ignoring it); the hegemony of American culture is unparalleled. Notice I didn't say "best," just "greatest." And in large part that power stems from the unification of the American people and their constant expanding of the political franchise. Freeing the blacks saved us in the Civil War; freeing women saved us in WWII.

    I do realize that American politics have always been rabidly partisan; the "yellow journals" of the 19th century make Fox News look like amateurs. But the Republican party of today is not the Republican party it used to be.

    All I am saying is that I miss Nixon.