Thursday, July 03, 2008


Political Mayhem Thursday: No One Is Happy (Except the Very Very Rich)

The year is 1991. Nirvana's Nevermind just came out, we're all wearing flannel shirts, and it is a presidential election year. I want you to consider two voters at that point in time:

1) Donald is a conservative. He believes in a small government, a strong military, and is against both abortion and gay rights. He also believes in isolating and defeating communist regimes, because they oppress freedom.

2) Susan is a liberal. She believes in environmental protection, civil rights, a more even distribution of income, decent welfare benefits, and hopes for a system of universal (or at least more affordable) health care.

Now, fast forward 16 years, to 2009. We have now lived through 16 years of the Clinton and Bush administrations. Each got at least some time to run the government while Congress was in the hands of their parties. When running for election, Bush articulated the same principles Donald holds, while Clinton advocated for the same causes Susan was for.

Now here's the rub: On each of the issues both Donald and Susan care about, things have not only gotten better, but gotten worse:

1) Small government is the ideal that perhaps suffered the worst. Government is much larger than ever, criminal law has been federalized, and huge new federal agencies have been created. The federal deficit is at an all-time high.

2) The military may be large, but it doesn't seem particularly strong. Recruitment standards are much lower, corruption scandals are commonplace, and in Iraq the road has been much harder than we were led to expect. Donald Rumsfeld created discord within the military that will take years to heal.

3) Abortion is still legal, and gays are getting married. In eight years, President Bush and his allies never even tried to introduce a constitutional amendment against abortion.

4) America is in some respects, such as manufacturing, being eclipsed by a communist regime, China. Though China is no longer strictly communist in its economy, it is thoroughly communist in its governmental structure and oppression of freedom, which is what Donald cared about.

5) While some areas of the environment have improved (clean air), environmentalists are very discouraged by where things stand, due to failings under both Clinton and Bush.

6) Civil rights have been sacrificed generally as the response to terrorism has developed. While this may be seen as a necessary sacrifice, there is no doubt that it has not been a golden era for civil rights.

7) As for income distribution, welfare benefits, and universal healthcare... well, no lengthy discussion is necessary.

Somehow, both the conservative and liberal agendas have not only failed, but lost ground at the same time. How could this have happened? Whose agenda is winning, then?

I welcome your thoughts.

How about corporate agendas for a start?
Anonymous has it right... both the Dems and Reps are slaves to the corporations and the immense money they use to fuel the government. The end result of a capitalist economy is... an unfree market. Just as soon as corporations realize that it's much easier to win in the halls of Congress than it is to win in the marketplace, government becomes for sale, with laws to the highest bidder.

Unfortunately, as long as we rely on heavily-finance multimedia juggernauts to elect people to office, only the ultra-rich or ultra-corrupt will have that ability. That means more of the same privileged power-hungry tools in our government, and they're not about to tear the system down.

The only hope at this point is a populist-but-peaceful revolution. The people must stand up and remember that government serves them; not the other way around.
capitalism won.
Not only have both parties been slaves to the corporate interests that fund them, neither party has been willing to compromise on just about any major reforms. Any time some legislation comes through which offers the promise of actually moving something in the right direction, the partisan politics rear their ugly heads and divisive members of both parties and the media bring out the talking points, driving a wedge into any chance of real progress. Why both compromising and solving problems when you can just spout the same tired partisan babble and just sit back and watch as things get worse?
You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Osler, and I won't have it!! Is that clear?!
Campaign financing is free speech. Do you have a problem with free speech?
Hedonists have done well.
What about lower taxes? We have that.
Blah, blah, blah....corporations are so very, very bad aren't they. I mean, it is not like they provide all those JOBS or anything.

How about this, the middle won. The independents. The undecideds. The clueless ignorant masses that clamor for a candidate that will be all things to all people. They won.

Why didn't Clinton advance gay rights further in the 90s?? Because he appeased the heartland with "don't ask don't tell." (by the way if anyone can tell me the corporate interest in gay rights I would be fascinated, and it can't involve black helicopters and such).

Why did Bush fail to pass a gay marriage ban or some such tomfoolery?? Because he couldn't afford to offend the middle in this country.

Why did Clinton spend his time reforming welfare instead of making sure universal health care existed?? Because he had to work to the middle.

Why did Bush cut taxes but also spend excessive amounts of money on eduction, prescription drugs, etc.?? Because he had to work to the middle.

The middle has won. Those people with no discernable ideology and no commitment to a movement on either the right or the left. We have a random collection of laws and a random collection of programs in this country becuae those programs were designed to satisfy individual interest groups and not to serve some overall ideological position.

Or, maybe it is true that GM, Pfizer, Haliburton, and Enron all got together in 1992 and said, "we just aren't going to allow these 'gays' to get all out of control. And I really feel like we need to spend more on education. And lets take away some of those civil rights, just out of spite. Ahh, and make sure that China begins to outpace us in growth and manufacturing. And federalize criminial law, because while it doesn't affect us in any way I always hated those pesky states....."

Seriously, nobody is out to get you. GE doesn't have its own militia. Corporations are not always the answer when the question is, "what is wrong in this country?" Put down your George Soros readers and go outside. It is going to be OK.....

While I agree that corporations are not (always) the evil bastions of treachery that they're made out to be, the fact is that they have a bottom line and it's money. Whenever there's a big government policy being considered (like universal health care), you can look to who is going to benefit from it and who it's going to cost. In that case, it would cost insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies tons of money. So of course they're going to speak out against it. Corporations have an interest in protecting their bottom line, and as a result they shape public policy. The will of the people can go a long way, but not as far as fast as a campaign check.
Since you did us the favor of laying out specific points, let's examine them one by one:

1) Small government and the deficit.

So far as I can tell, there have only ever been a small number of politicians at the national level who are serious about small government, as distinguished from eliminating this or that program that they personally oppose, or mere lip service.

As for the deficit, that ironically declined under Susan's favored President, then went totally out of control again under Donald's. A major factor in this was the choice to invade and occupy Iraq.

2) Decline of the military.

Everything mentioned under this item springs directly from the decision to invade and occupy Iraq made by Donald's President.

3) Abortion is still legal, and gays are getting married.

This one pretty much explains itself - the President opposed to these things didn't try very hard to stop them, other than by appointing Supremes.

4) China ascendant.

Not surprising, and not much I would expect either President to be able to do much about, apart from reducing the deficit and thus our debt to Chinese bond-holders. See #1

5) Discouraged environmentalists.

Corporations are the 'winner', here. Mountains of corporate money have been spent to convince the government (lobbying) and public (advertising) that environmental protection laws are misguided, too economically risky, and driven by pointy-headed ivory tower types whose fancy-pants 'scientific findings' are best ignored.

6) Civil rights have been sacrificed.

I could go off on an extensive rant, here, especially with the current FISA debacle keeping my ire hot. I'll just say that authoritarians, their fans are the winners, here.

7) As for income distribution, welfare benefits, and universal healthcare... well, no lengthy discussion is necessary.

Indeed. Those who have more than enough wealth, and wish to have sole control over how that wealth may be used to benefit others, have clearly won this one.

To sum up: I'd say that the lack of progress is pretty easy to explain as a combination of powerful entrenched interests, apathy on the part of politicians, a largely compliant and complicit media, and the war in Iraq. Who 'won'? Ask who is happy with the outcomes: advocates of lower-taxes-no-matter-what, and of unrestrained government authority; Military contractors; Oil companies.
"I'd say that the lack of progress is pretty easy to explain as a combination of powerful entrenched interests, apathy on the part of politicians, a largely compliant and complicit media, and the war in Iraq. Who 'won'? Ask who is happy with the outcomes: advocates of lower-taxes-no-matter-what, and of unrestrained government authority; Military contractors; Oil companies."

Alright, a couple of questions...

1. What is 'progress' as you define it?

2. When you say, "lower-taxes-no-matter-what" what is the "no-matter-what?" Oh, and the "lower-taxes-no-matter-what" crowd is not happy. Trust me, I'm one of them, and my taxes are far too high...

3. Are there any limits on civil liberties you find tolerable? If so, where do you draw the line? And do you honestly believe that domestic intelligence gathering, abbreviated legal procedures for enemy combatants, and harsh interrogation all began under this president?

4. Why are "oil companies" and "military contractors" inherently bad? You will probably answer this by saying that you don't think they are, but you certainly imply as much.


The laws passed and enforced by the State effect corporations. They're subject to taxes, criminal penalties, extensive regulations, etc. So, why shouldn't they lobby their government? Why is it a bad thing for those with the most to gain/lose from certain legislation to try to have a hand in drafting that legislation? Do corporations not have a right to defend themselves and attempt to shape policy? Does freedom not include the freedom to incorporate and lobby your government? Isn't that one of the amendments? (I know they're all vague, but I'm pretty sure it is in there....if not, I'm sure Justice Kennedy can find it in the 'umbrella' of rights).
And obviously by freedom to incorporate I'm talking about the freedom of association. Distinction without a difference.
RRL: 1. I was using "progress" as a shorthand for "advancement of the conservative and liberal agendas", in reference to Prof. Osler's closing question. Sorry for the ambiguity.

2. I am referring to those for whom "lower taxes" is the answer, no matter what the question is. I certainly hope that you're not one of them; neither "spend and borrow" nor "cut government services to the bone" are positions that I can respect. I support "tax and spend" in the rational, cost/benefit, paying my dues sense, not the caricature that has been made of the phrase.

3. I find limits on civil liberties tolerable precisely to the extent that they can be shown to be constitutional and justified, in that order. No, I don't believe that any of the things that you mention began under this President, nor do I care. I oppose them, and I do care that this President has pushed them far beyond where any prior administration dared to go.

4. As you predicted, I do not consider "oil companies" and "military contractors" to be inherently bad. This seems to be something of a sore point with you, as witness your responses to other posters. Corporations are amoral. They are run to maximize shareholder revenue, and their officers can be fired or sued for failing to do so. They are useful tools for organizing and controlling economic risk and liability - as such, and contra your last post, "freedom to incorporate" has very little to do with "freedom of association". My point remains: regardless of the moral quality of oil corporations and military contractors, or their causal relationship (or lack of same) to current events, they have benefited financially. They are among those whose "agenda is winning," that Prof. Osler asked about.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?