Who are the conservatives? Let's examine the conservative minds, the various types of conservative, how they think, and their legacy. We shall see that conservatives of different stripes all agree on one thing: they are right and the rest of the world is wrong!
(Woo-hoo! Get ready for a wild ride in this article. We are going to learn all about the different types of conservatives and see how they came to be. It's a long article. You don't have to read it all at once. Bookmark it, come back when you have more time, hang with it and you'll discover everything you really need to know about conservatives, what makes them tick... and how we got where we are today!)
The FauxCons: Moderate "Conservatives?"
"Conservatives" come in all shapes and stripes, sizes and styles. You may even think of yourself as a conservative. You may define conservative as being prudent, frugal, perhaps "All-American" or "middle-of-the-road." You may think "conservative" means believing in small government, low taxes, a strong defense and "traditional" values. If so, you are very confused about what a "conservative" really is.
Prudent. Frugal. Religious. Moderate. Middle-of-the-Road. All-American. These descriptions may well apply to the good-old-boy or gal out there in the populace, generally hard-working, meaning no harm, just trying to live their lives and allowing others to live theirs, and hoping to pass on a better life, and a better country, to their children.
There are tens of millions of these across America who might self-describe as "moderate conservative" or perhaps "socially liberal, fiscally conservative." They represent a very significant - perhaps even the largest - contingent of those who might think of themselves as "conservatives."
But the truth is, these folks really aren't as "conservative" as they, themselves, might imagine. Actually, these are the FauxCons, as in false, fake, inauthentic conservatives.
Being prudent, frugal, religious, moderate, middle-of-the-road, and/or "All-American" is not what makes a political conservative. Not in the least. Liberals can also be all of these things. These are common sense and virtuous ways of living. Liberals also want a small government and low taxes, the smallest and lowest we can have and still maintain a modern, fair and just society.
As for supporting "traditional" values, yes, liberals are up for that too... as long as they are real, universal values and not just hoary old customs or obsolete or unfair institutions. Liberals do not want to throw away "tradition" just for the hell of it. Liberals are just much, much better at discerning which "traditions" deserve to be "conserved," and which need to be swept into the dustbin of history. Just because something is old or a "tradition" doesn't make it good. Human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, the divine right of kings, the subjugation of women, slavery all were "traditions" at the very heart of many cultures. Most people on Earth today have perceived the gross error of these "traditions," and moved forward into a more civilized way of being. This progress was made in spite of the concerted efforts of conservatives all through history to "conserve" even these backward, ignorant and harmful practices... and there remain places where some of these "traditions" are still practiced... places we would likely describe as highly "conservative," certainly not "liberal."
More like liberals than conservatives, FauxCons actually take to heart true American values, including liberty, equality, justice and religious freedom. They also believe in real moral and religious values such as love, forgiveness, caring for the poor and downtrodden, the unity of all people, and trying to not be so damned judgmental. So unlike a true conservative, FauxCons are willing to dump old, unfair and often downright un-American "traditions," such as separate drinking fountains and restrooms for "colored people," you know, the segregation "tradition" that replaced the slavery "tradition." Conservatives loved both of these unfair, un-American and un-Christian "traditions," and threw a hissy-fit when actual American (and Christian) ideals were enforced by law.
FauxCons don't feel a strong need to impose their beliefs on others, or to stick their noses into someone else's life. They value public education, science and the arts. They try hard to match up their belief system with the real facts of the world, including the discoveries of science. They do not believe that the universe was created 6,000 years ago. They do not believe that the government is always the problem, but recognize it is sometimes the most effective - often only - solution to many problems. They want the government to help make sure their food and drugs are safe. They want the government to help enforce workplace safety. They want the government to lower the boom on polluters of our air and water. They want the government involved in promoting public health and supporting research to cure diseases. They want the government to take the lead in helping manage natural disasters. They want the government watching over the shenanigans that big banks, Wall Street and many big corporations are continually trying to perpetrate on the rest of us in their insatiable quest of ever-larger profits. They want the government to help protect consumers. The want the richest nation in the history of the world to help other countries when natural or manmade disasters strike. Most of them do not want to overturn Roe v Wade.
They love the Post Office, the Interstate Highway System, the National Parks, the space program, the National Weather Center. They are mighty proud of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, plus their local firemen and law officers. They wholly support and fully realize the importance of programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. To support all these things they like, they are even willing to pay their fair share in taxes. On the other hand, they don't support military escapades just because some party tells them to. They don't believe that corporations are people. They don't like it when very rich people get away without paying their fair share of taxes. They do not like corporations that ship American jobs overseas, or that have turned into bullies or pirates. Not for a New York second do they believe that capitalism can regulate itself.
Perhaps most importantly, they are not overly fearful of people who are different from them, and they are OK with cultural change. Such change may take some getting used to, but they realize that often it turns out for the better. They especially approve when such changes bring greater liberty, equality and justice to We the People, including those people who may be different from themselves.
So, for all these reasons, FauxCons are seriously at odds with the definition of a political conservative, which is: one who wishes to conserve traditional hierarchies, institutions and traditions.
So FauxCons are actually way more liberal than they are conservative.
They may feel a bit uncomfortable with that term: LIBERAL. That's completely understandable. The word LIBERAL has been intentionally demonized by professional conservatives over the past half century. This is truly a shame, and prime evidence of how the conservative movement manipulates and distorts the truth. Let's take this opportunity to tip our cap to the great conservative myth-making machinery. It is truly a marvel, and liberals have done a very bad job exposing it.
The word "liberal" actually has a far more profound and prouder heritage than the word "conservative." One can see the qualitative difference even in the origins of the two words: liberal is from the Latin liberalis, meaning "worthy of a free man;" conservative is from the Latin servare, meaning "keep, preserve." The ancient roots of the two words still ring true today in the fundamental principles and purpose of the separate ideologies. Liberals seek to expand rights and freedoms, and conservatives seek to conserve the old order. The march of progress, science and truth aren't kind to conservative ideology, which continually, desperately, attempts to "conserve" the old ways. So history tends to have a strongly liberal tilt, which can be summed up: Liberals shine, conservatives whine!
Throughout the ages, an education that was wide-ranging, comprehensive and promoted critical thinking has been called a "liberal" education. No one should want a "conservative" education. There are liberal arts colleges. A "conservative" arts college would be an oxymoron, for the true arts, not to mention the sciences, philosophy and the study of other religions, give conservatives the willies.
Throughout history, the greatest thinkers and innovators, including the principle American founding fathers, considered themselves "liberal," while those stubbornly trying to preserve older ways, that actually thwarted greater liberty, equality and justice, were "conservative." Do a little research and you'll see for yourself that there have been very few "conservative" heroes in American, or even world, history. The great individuals and movements that the entire world still reveres today are liberal in orientation, always trying to knock down established "traditions," that, in fact, were bad traditions. Conversely, it is the "conservative" ideology that sought to conserve those bad traditions.
Conservativism throughout history has been the opponent of not just progress... but liberty, equality and justice, as well.
One way to understand the vast chasm between liberal and conservative ideologies is to perceive the general world-view that each side holds. Liberals have evolved to believe that we are one human family, all in this together, most (but not all) of us are good-hearted, and we should try to love and help each other if we possibly can. For liberals, it's one for all, and all for one. Liberals really do believe in We the People.
Conservatives? Not so much. They are selfishly oriented, with a "we against the world" mentality. They believe that most of the people in the world are evil and out to get them, so they maintain strict barriers between themselves and all "others."
Once again, by this yardstick FauxCons line up not with conservatives, but with liberals.
It is because of the general support of both confirmed and proud liberals, true independents, as well as FauxCons that the arc of history over the past 300 years has tilted dramatically toward liberal ideology, pushing aside many age-old conservative traditions and institutions. America started off as a radical liberal experiment in governance, throwing off the yoke of bad tradition, and has become more liberal ever since... even despite the recent re-ascendency of economic conservatism ushered in by Ronald Reagan in 1980.
This website is written for both liberals who are seeking a fuller understanding and grounding of their own idelogy, and for FauxCons, who are generally open to rational truth. FauxCons are not only the largest contingent of people thinking of themselves as "conservative," they are the most important... simply because they are less rigid in their thinking than the other types of conservative. In a democratic governmental process, they can easily swing an election one way or the other.
It is true that FauxCons can be politically apathetic. Often they don't pay that much attention to politics and social issues; they're too busy leading their lives. They are not always as well informed as they should be on the issues (including, importantly, the real differences between liberals and conservatives). They are basically unaware of the horrid history of conservative ideology. And they, like anyone, are susceptible to having their emotional strings plucked by Machiavellian spinsters. These are the reasons they sometimes swallow the myths and distortions that the loud conservative machine spews out.
Yet they are not completely co-opted by true conservative ideology. When they vote, they may vote Republican or Democratic. In most elections, they determine who wins! These are the "conservatives" who helped elect Woodrow Wilson (twice) Franklin Roosevelt (three times), and put Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton (twice) and an interracial guy named Barack Hussein Obama (twice) in the White House. These facts, alone, obliterate the mythical notion that America is a conservative nation!
For those who have read this far and still cling to the word "conservative," consider this:
Social conservatives are the biggest losers in American history!
Really. It's completely true. They always eventually lose every argument, and their most cherished ideas are swept aside. Today they are busy trying to re-fight the contraception wars of the 1960s. They want to put women back in their places, and somehow put gays and lesbians back in the closet. Watch as they get clobbered again by the arc of history! Meanwhile, distracted as they are by "wedge issues," social conservatives have no clue how they are unwitting dupes and pawns of a powerful financial elite.
So social conservatives are stupid losers. Why on earth would anyone want to join up with that side?
Think about it FauxCons. Don't take our word for it. Open up a history book, a science book, a philosophy book. Unlike some true conservatives, you're fair-minded enough to figure it out for youself.
Meanwhile, follow us, as we take a closer look at the actual conservatives and see if we can figure out how their minds really work.
The SoCons: Living in Black and White
These are the social conservatives. Some are wealthy. Some are middle class. Some are poor. Some of them are the sweetest people. They'll invite you in for milk and cookies.
But they have some serious issues. They have a "fixed mind." They are rigid, inflexible, closed. They are adamant. They believe righteously in their rightness (though it is actually wrongness). They think they know exactly what God wants. So they won't compromise. They won't change their mind. It is set in cement. There is no "evolving" of viewpoint (even if they were to believe in evolution, which they don't). Their worldview is the same as it ever was... and the same as their mama and papa, and grandmama and grandpapa... all the way back to Adam and Eve. Even when they feel that queasy feeling in their gut that they just may be wrong, they won't admit or apologize. But many of them never even sense that queasy feeling anyway. They are that sure of themselves, and their beliefs.
They are utterly and irrevocably convinced they have the world figured out. Among the wisest people who ever lived, Socrates and Lao Tzu, both famously said, "all that I know is that I know nothing." SoCons are just the opposite. They think they know everything that needs to be known. After all, it's so simple. It's all black and white. Us vs. Them. Good and Evil. Right and Wrong. Up and Down. Male and Female. Heterosexual and well, anything else. Conservative and Liberal. The only question they have is, why doesn't everyone think the way they do? Ergo: those that don't must be crazy.
The poor dears are very confused. They are confused all the more because they don't even know they are confused. Unlike Socrates and Lao Tzu they have not a filament of humility or real openness to truth in their worldview. Like the denizens of Plato's cave, other viewpoints do not impress them. They see the shadows playing on the wall, and that's good enough for them. They think they know what they believe in, and they denigrate, or simply ignore, anything that challenges it.
SoCons are emotionally energetic, but intellectually very lazy. Part of this may have to do with innately lower intelligence of many SoCons. Echoing John Stuart Mill's proclamation that "all stupid people are conservative," psychological studies have proven that children with lower IQs are far more likely to develop socially conservative beliefs. As one professor explains, "People of low intelligence gravitate toward ideologies which feature structure, order and resistance to change, ideas that make it easier to understand a complicated world."
However, many social conservatives are clearly quite intelligent, just stunningly stunted in the breadth of their awareness and experience. They are uninformed, and they like it that way. Take Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann (please): these are obviously intelligent people, just stupendously ill-informed. And like other conservatives of their ilk, that's exactly the way they like it. You know the old saying, "Ignorance is bliss." Conservatives take this as a mandate. And they must... because broad learning quickly undermines social conservative ideology.
So SoCons conveniently avoid learning too much. Most social conservatives haven't thought deeply about their beliefs, except to go round and round inside the echo chamber of their own social circle. They prefer "bumper-sticker" and "sound bite" ideology. Although the universe, and the world, and human culture are all incredibly complex and nuanced, conservatives just can't deal with all that. It's too much bother. For them, the simpler, the better. If it fits with their rigid worldview and sounds good in just a few words, it must be true. They don't want to dig too deep on any particular issue because they sense (usually correctly) they will be very uncomfortable with what they might find. So they stick to the very narrow top layer of the most important issues of life, believing in the bumper-sticker, going along with the flow of the slice of society they belong to. Not without significant justification, these folks are known as "low information voters."
"The Bible said it! I believe it! That settles it!" pretty much sums up SoCon bumper-sticker ideology: simplistic, uncompromising, self-serving, mythological.
SoCons are often, but not always, very religious. The religious type regularly fall into the "fundamentalist," or "religious right" camp. "Fundamental" is a synonym for simple. Simple is a term for not too bright. Though they think of themselves as Christian, they actually prefer the strict and punitive Old Testament narrative of orthodox Judaism to the love and forgiveness and non-judgmental New Testament tenets of Christianity. As to the New Testament itself, they leap right past all that socialist, mushy, lovey-dovey stuff, and go right for the most intolerant and damning intonations of Paul, and the apocalyptic, fire and brimstone stuff of Revelations. They fully accept that humans are awash in sin, and that God has a "chosen people" who are trying to live according to God's law. Originally the "chosen people" were the Israelites, but now it's Americans (mainly defined as white, Anglo-Saxon-Protestant). Someday Jesus is going to come back and send all those un-chosen people - that is, eveyone else - to burn in hell forever.
Religious conservatives relish the idea of hell. This religious conceit allows them to separate themselves from the heathen rabble, and explains why they don't want anything to do with a "social contract" that binds them to such others. Of course, this is the exact opposite of what their lord and savior Jesus Christ had to say on the subject. But that doesn't faze them. Their religious ideology is as convoluted and contradictory as their political ideas.
Most religious SoCons develop their religious beliefs by doing nothing: it falls in their lap. They don't go out and learn about the world's other religions to find the one that brings them closest to God. They don't go on a personal spiritual quest. In general they are conformist clones and accept the religion that they are told to believe in by their parents, spouse or some other close influence. In this regard they are little different than most religious believers all around the world.
So one must wonder just how deep such a "belief" really is. When you haven't lifted a finger to see what all your choices of belief are... do you really even know what you are believing in, or are you just following the crowd, believing in believing?
As Huston Smith explained, "A nation can assume that the addition (in 1954) of the words "under God" to its pledge of allegiance gives evidence that its citizens actually believe in God whereas all it really proves is that they believe in "believing" in God."
It seems that if they really love God as much as they say they do, they would make a little more effort to learn as much as they can about God by understanding what others have to say about the subject. But no, they are satisfied to take the easy way out and just buy into what they have been told to believe and/or what everyone else around them believes. So they conveniently believe that they have found the one, true religion, which by mystical coincidence was waiting for them in their own family or home town. And then it pleases them to believe they believe in it, fundamentally, and some of them will go to great lengths to find the most fanatical (and most judgmental) parts of the Bible to base their worldview upon, leaving behind all that love and peace stuff (which are precisely the bits that liberal Christians and Jews tend to value).
Not all social conservatives are particularly serious about religion. Some are what might be called "social" Christians, not really too interested in the dogma, but willing to play along for the social benefits. Other social conservatives don't give a damn about religion at all. What unites them all in their social conservatism is the totality of their worldview, which in general supports conservation of those traditional "values," institutions and hierarchies.
The political orientation of SoCons is equally emotionally energetic and intellectually lazy. They'll get all wound up and wave the American flag like mad. They'll fly the flag from their porch and put a flag pin on their lapel. They think of themselves as the real patriots. That's actually an utter myth and sublime joke. They actually don't know a heck of a lot about what makes America America, nor do they really give a damn about America, except their tiny, myopic, WASPish sliver of it.
If they love this country so much, it seems they would have carefully studied American history and closely follow all of the nuances of the major political issues facing the country. If they think of themselves as conservative, shouldn't they have a pretty good clue of where conservative ideology came from, who it really favors, and how it has figured through American history? Nope!
Most of them never really studied and don't closely follow politics... or they puff themselves up with some assumed knowledge that is really just communal conservative disinformation, streaming from Fox News or a think-tank or bombastic conservative orator, based on nothing more than sheer mythology. SoCons never knew much about American history, or perhaps they've been immersed in a simplistic, jingoistic version of American history that was tailored by other SoCons just for their conservative sensibilities in the first place. Conservatives from the South and heartland of America are particularly vulnerable to this kind of indoctrination.
As good clones, SoCons follow the herd. As a loyal member of the herd, they hear all kinds of reasons why they should believe in their herd. They are constantly being told their herd is the best! The other herds are weird, flawed, deviant, possibly dangerous. Like most herd animals, they learn to be distrustful and fearful of members of any other herd. They look to authority figures and charismatic leaders - typically blustering, macho, alpha males (but sometimes blustering, macho, alpha females) - for guidance and protection, and thoroughly enjoy being whipped into a fake religious or patriotic froth, which serves to reinforce their belief in their belief.
Far from being the "rugged individual" of their own tall tales, conservatives actually love authority figures, at least those that affirm their prejudices. They easily buy into the cult of personality, as long as that figure reflects their sense of hierarchy and mythology. Alas, their ability to spot charlatans is not very keen, so buffoonish religious figures like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker (yeah, remember them?) hold them breathless, while political and or shock-jock cartoons like McCarthy, Agnew, Reagan, Bush the Lesser, Limbaugh, Beck, McCain, Palin, Paul, Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, Cain, etc. are expert at stirring their emotions.
Indeed, it's often the most outrageous, in-your-face, over the top leaders who easily win the loyalty of SoCons by seemingly belonging to their "herd," and then by exploiting three primal negative emotions: prejudice, fear and greed. Fox News and conservative talk radio are broadcast juggernauts built around the cult of outrageous, authoritative personality propagating fear, prejudice, greed and conservative mythology. Conservative viewers are drawn like flies to the message that affirms their emotional beliefs. So the more wacky and outrageous the broadcast, the bigger that audience becomes... and the more money the professional conservative talking heads and networks reap.
These professional conservatives are long-practiced in crafting simplistic messages, infused with emotional triggers, that hoodwink and capture the social conservative's mind.
Those that base their ideology on a bumper-sticker can be led by the nose to just about anywhere.
As Stephen Colbert regularly lampoons, SoCons mostly rely on their "gut instinct" about what is right and wrong, but that instinct is fostered largely by what everyone else around them seems to believe, and is very easily manipulated by peer and authority-figure pressure. And this turns out to be their great vulnerability, and why they are so easily snookered time and again to actually vote against their own best self-interests.
One of the strongest "gut instincts," of course, is fear. Conservatives are the most fearful people around. Scientists have discovered that conservatives have a larger amygdala, which is the part of the brain that processes primal emotions like fear. Conservatives are continually afraid of something - the entire world really - and the authoritarian figures they look up to know exactly how to manipulate that emotion to keep them divided from other people and ideas.
Psychologists speak of "in-groups" and "out-groups," but there's another phrase which defines this group psychology: "clan mentality." Clan mentality is a mindset and worldview of a group of people who share racial characteristics, heritage, religious beliefs, socio-economic conditions or other commonalities that set them apart from other groups of people who are in such ways different. Clan mentality is usually strongest in groups that seem to have an upper hand or perceived superiority over other groups, and the strong impulse is to maintain or expand that status quo by continual recognition and reinforcement of the differences between the groups. Thus comes "pride" in one's clan status! But this pride, if not mitigated by empathy and compassion for others (which by its nature a clan lacks), can become a tool of oppression.
At its heart, clan mentality seeks to conserve a specific group's separation and superiority... above all others.
In this way, systems of subjugation and domination have been established in cultures all around the world, and throughout history.
There was a time, long, long ago, when such a mentality may have been useful, actually logical and evolutionarily adaptive. But that time has long passed. Clan mentality is now an extremely dangerous relic, and clan "values" are warped and woefully out of date. We don't live in clans any longer; we live in nations of millions of people, and we are interconnected through modern communications, commerce and culture with billions of people around the globe. Setting yourself apart from others, thinking of oneself, or one's religion, or one's nation, as innately superior, and fearing or trying to subdue or exploit the rest of world is a dysfunctional mindset, and a pathway that can lead to catastrophe. Submitted as evidence: almost all of the great conflicts of human history, including the cataclysmic 20th Century experiments in clan mentality, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, both of which thought they were the greatest nation ever.
Many Americans perennially think dangerously similarly to such a clannish and selfish mindset. Those would be the conservatives.
Yet SoCons have no idea that the way they think and act is actually clan mentality. They think their worldview is just normal. After all, everyone around them thinks and acts the same way! They believe they are being good Christian people by believing and behaving as they do. They are completely blind to what truly atrocious Christians, and Americans, actually un-Christian and un-American, they often are.
SoCons say they support "traditional values." This is absolutely true. But what "traditional values?"
It turns out that the ideas that conservatives really believe in are not what the rest of us would consider a "value" at all. SoCons really believe in traditional clan values, not what might be considered true ethical, or universal, values. Because they are really confused, the SoCons themselves are unaware of which values they really believe in and which they only believe they believe in.
The "traditional values" of clan mentality go way, way back, tens or even hundreds of thousands of years, deep into the mists of time and human evolutionary history (and therefore far beyond what many SoCons believe is the age of the universe). These "values" are really primal negative emotions. Prejudice. Fear. Greed. Mix in a big gulp of Ignorance and reinforce by Conformity and Hierarchy, and there you go... you have a clan of social conservatives!
Primal positive emotions, of course, also go way back. Happiness, compassion, empathy, cooperation, curiosity, creativity are the primary impulses that higher civilization is built upon. Liberals tend to emphasize these emotions, while conservatives wallow on the negative side... in the very same way as they dote on the punitive parts of the Bible.
It is these more sophisticated moral and ethical values, including Christian and American values, that are offered up by the greatest teachers, philosophers, spiritual leaders and political ideas over the past several thousand years of human history. These values emphasize love for one another, including - especially - beyond your own clan... fairness and equality above self-serving emotions, togetherness rather than divisiveness, inclusion rather than exclusion, open mindedness rather than closed minds. These are higher intellectual and spiritual values, and in a progressive society they override the lower negative emotional values of clan mentality. Such values, in fact, are the precise opposite of clan mentality... they are values open to everyone... or universal values.
We can think of these as universal values because every individual wants these values for themselves, and they are now widely recognized as beneficial to societies and the entire human species. They are uniting values, good-hearted (empathetic) values, the values of democracy, and the shared values of most religions (minus the divisive dogma). Liberty. Equality. Justice. Peace. Love (even toward enemies or rivals). Forgiveness. Non-judgment. Unity.
SoCons say they believe in these values, too, but time and again we see that they really don't. Or rather, they are all for these values for themselves and members of their clan, but not so much for others. So in this important sense they don't believe in the core value in and of itself, but only when it applies to them... or their clan
A recent case in point is that of Ohio Republican senator Rob Portman. For decades he was staunchly opposed to gay rights, in fact, he was outright anti-gay... right up until his very own son came out of the closet. Then, bingo! Portman had an epiphany. He saw the light. Now he's a born-again gay rights supporter... claiming that his new-found appreciation for gays is entirely compatible with his "conservative" support for individual rights. Well, congratulations Senator Portman on finally dropping the scales from your eyes and perceiving the link between individual rights and gay rights... after all, gays and lesbians and transgender persons are individuals. But the clear implication is that he would never have had this virtuous epiphany without his own son's gayness, and so would have remained mired in conservative clan mentality: deaf, dumb, blind, antagonistic and hurtful toward the sons and daughters of millions of other Americans. There's a conservative for you.
Meanwhile, the remaining conservatives continue to persecute gays and attempt to withhold the individual rights that Portman - along with Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay - now believes are consistent with his conservative views. Actually, the only thing consistent here is the inconsistency of conservative thinking.
Of course, most SoCons vehemently disagree with Portman's new stand... because to them gays are "bad." SoCons believe that only they are the good and chosen clan, while the rest of humanity is awash in sin, SoCons feel the need to keep themselves apart from such sinners. Alas, almost every other individual or group outside their own clan also falls into the "bad" category. This is the root of their true beliefs... and troubles with the world.
None other than Glenn Beck, himself, has finally seen the light!
He nicely explains the SoCon drive
to conserve "traditional values" (in this case homophobia)
rather than universal values (i.e. liberty)...
and why they so often end up on the wrong side of history.
Let's take a look at some of the myths of the SoCons, and how clan mentality values clash with universal values.
SoCons profess to believe in freedom. But only for themselves. And even then, it is freedom to conform to the ways of the clan.
What they actually believe is that because they are members of the preferred clan, they have the right and the privilege to conform to the way their clan thinks and acts. That's clan mentality. When someone actually acts upon their freedom through non-conformity, even someone within the clan, it makes social conservatives very uncomfortable. The clan, the herd, is threatened by such behavior. To function smoothly, all members of the herd should look, think and act alike. The precept of freedom is not a clan value. That's why Senator Portman should not expect much understanding from his fellow conservatives; his son broke clan rules of conformity and therefore will be ostracized by the true believers in the clan... that is, until they, too, have a relative come out of the closet.
SoCons pay lip-service to equality. But this concept really ties them in logistical knots.
What they actually believe in is the traditional clan hierarchy, which is anything but equal. A fundamental conservative precept is that some people are just naturally superior to others. It's no longer politically correct to admit this as freely as conservatives used to quite forthrightly, but deep in their hearts SoCons believe it, corporate conservatives (CorpCons) even more so. As it turns out this is one of the few tenets SoCons and CorpCons actually share, and it goes a long, long, long way to explaining their unholy alliance.
In the usual schematic, white, male and wealthy represents the very pinnacle of the hierarchy. SoCons fully accept this idea, even though they realize that they, themselves, might not be at the top of this "traditional" hierarchy. But at least they are a member in good standing of the best herd, the best clan. From that comparatively lofty position they can look down upon all others: anyone different, including females, but also people of a different culture, religion, skin color, disability or sexual orientation. Such people are automatically inferior, not to be respected or trusted, and subject to oppression or exploitation. So, equality doesn't work as a value in a traditional hierarchical clan.
In the great tradition of the West, SoCons proclaim they are "rugged individualists". This an utter myth.
Conservatives are the farthest thing from rugged individualists. They are members of a herd. They are clones. Indeed, it is a basic axiom that the more conservative someone is, the more conformist and less of a "rugged individual" they really are, especially the males. This holds true from the Amish to the Mormons to the Hasidic Jews to the Taliban. They share the same dress, the same hair styles, the same beards (or lack thereof), the same customs, the same thought. The more conservative a person is, the less original, the less creative, the less truth-seeking. The word individualist is squandered on them. They are hyper conformists... true clones!
"And the Home of the Brave.....," SoCons sing it loudly because subconsciously they know it's not true. Back in the real world, conservatives are terrified of everything!
Fear is one of the great motivating factors for SoCons (usually propagated by CorpCons), though they twist themselves into pretzels to keep from admitting it. Encouraged by their macho leaders (who continuously exploit fear to keep themselves empowered), they bluster and posture and rant and rail against all those other herds and ideas that just keep coming at them (in never-ending and escalating waves). But deep inside they are petrified that the "other" is coming to get them, and they keenly sense their world is crumbling... which it is. Perhaps the irony is that they are right: the world is out to destroy them... at least their backwards mindset and threat to progress that actually helps people. Like cornered animals, they howl, growl, and sometimes bite, out of a desperate sense of disorientation and sheer fear. This is the force that leads some of them to the most horrendous behavior: prejudice, hate, bullying, lynchings, bombing. Most of the terrorists in the modern world are conservative!
Most SoCons claim to be Christians. It's another myth. Many don't seem to have the foggiest notion of what that term even means.
Jesus was a wild-eyed, radical liberal with a very complex message that is exceedingly hard to live up to... and the very early Christian church, headed by Peter and called "The Way" was an early example of a socialist commune. St. Paul continually urged his congregations, "Don't forget the poor." Bumper-sticker-thinking conservatives just can't get it. The overriding message of Jesus was the exact opposite of clan mentality. He professed love, forgiveness and not judging lest you be judged. "Love they neighbor as thyself." "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." "Take care of the poor." "Blessed are the peacemakers." "The meek will inherit the world." "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." This is an inclusive ideology, and an ideology for anyone... most particularly the the downtrodden and oppressed.
Meanwhile, clan mentality is pointedly and aggressively exclusive, and supports a hierarchy of superiority. Nothing could be less Christian.
The core Christian philosophy is effortlessly discarded by clannish sects in favor of a mentality that focuses on superiority, fear of and a willingness to exploit or subjugate "the other." Love and forgiveness outside the clan is heretical to clan mentality, and clan mentality is all about judging. Following the lead of their radically conservative leaders, SoCons cleave to the most punitive and divisive precepts of the Bible, cherry-picking and choosing their way around Jesus' central message of love for one another. This is why so many "Christians", including most SoCons, are about as un-Christian as it comes.
America is really just three things: land, people, ideals. And most SoCons don't care much for any of them.
As bad of Christians as they often make, social conservatives are equally lame Americans.
SoCons claim to love America. But they don't really understand what that means either. They think it means their clan, their own social group, or maybe their home town. That's just scratching the surface of what America means. They think it means their religious denomination. That's definitely not what America means.
To a real American patriot, the land is sacred. Our magnificent landscape is something to be revered and protected. SoCons don't claim much affinity for the land, except perhaps when they're rampaging through the back country on their snow machines, blasting at ducks, wandering in their RV, or mowing their five acres on their new John Deere. Except when their "Not In My Backyard" (NIMBY) hackles are raised, their philosophical, emotional and spiritual investment in the American landscape is basically nil.
Ironically and tellingly, conservation of the environment should be the one area where reasonable people should be able to agree that the "conservative" way is best! In this regard, liberals are all for holding true to the root of the word conservative: to protect, to preserve, to "conserve" a "traditional value:" in this case God's most wondrous creation: Mother Earth. But no, conservatives again show the self-serving flimsiness and inconsistency of their ideology by wanting nothing to do with this kind of conservatism.
What's up with that? Well, you see, their "traditional values" regarding the environment involve not protection, but exploitation. To them, land, Mother Earth itself, is not a precious jewel of the cosmos, the crowning creation of God, but just another commodity to be conquered, dominated, subjugated, bought and sold.
In the case of your "private property," you should be able do anything with it that you want. That's the sacrosanct conservative philosophical pillar of "property rights," which, of course, springs from the "traditional value" of greed. "This is mine; keep away from it!" SoCons will sit idly by, and willfully approve, as the natural resources, pristine beauty, grand diversity, livability and sustainability of our country (and the planet) is ravaged in order to propel ever more garish corporate profits and personal consumption. They don't give a whit.
Conservative values don't include fighting against, or even getting much perturbed at an American river being polluted, or a smokestack belching poison into American skies, or an American mountain-top being lopped off, or an American forest being clear-cut, or an American wilderness being punctured by oil wells or gouged by mines or criss-crossed with roads, or American native animals being pushed to extinction. Indeed, they thrilled at blasting every last Passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet out of the sky, and harbor not a whiff of remorse for the crime.
Their recent conservative mantra of "Drill, baby, drill," is a transparent window into a sick ideology of compliance with rampant, unregulated exploitation with absolutely zero regard for environmental concerns, a drunken addiction to fossil fuel-based gluttony, and not a scintilla of concern for the oil and gas needs of future generations.
When it comes to exploiting the environment, SoCons imagine that it's probably a member of their clan cashing in on these natural resources, and that's just fine. Hey, somedbay it might be them striking it rich with an oil well or coal mine! To such people America the Beautiful is just a tuneful ditty... not to be taken at all seriously.
In their lack of respect for the American environment and native wildlife, a shallow and ignorant and/or cruel and greedy side to their character is clearly revealed.
This blatant disregard for nature is yet another window into their true beliefs, or lack thereof. If they really loved God, wouldn't they be very motivated to protect the world that he created for us? Shouldn't those who believe literally in the Bible take some responsibliity for protecting the creatures that God commanded Noah to go to all that trouble to save? Nah!
Either conservatives just don't have that kind of common sense, or rather than God, or Jesus, what they really believe in is simply greedy selfishness. Conservative obedience to greed and clan hierarchy has turned them away from the most righteous, moral and sacred trust ever bequeathed to humankind: loving and protecting nature. As dupes of the CorpCons, social conservatives are partners-in-crime in the abuse and destruction of the very realm that most needs and deserves to be preserved - the biosphere: God's green earth and all its children.
Without doubt, willful, ignorant, selfish damage to the biosphere will be considered the most egregious of sins by their very own grandchildren... and all other generations to come. When it comes to defending the land of America, not to mention God's sacred creation of Earth, from its most dangerous threats, predatory corporatism and over-consumption, SoCons are stupidly and immorally AWOL.
Certainly their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will also resent the wanton and wasteful burning of fossil fuels - as fast as we could dig them up - cheered on by crazy conservatives and their corporate puppet-masters. Such fossil fuel gluttony is now powering global climate change that is already ravaging lives... and will only get worse as those future generations inherit the Earth. How do you like those crazy blizzards, searing summers, February tornadoes, hurricanes in New England, and historic droughts, those FrankenStorms and Snowmageddons, all across the country right now? Just wait 'til you see what's in store in the decades to come! Drill, baby, drill! Burn, baby, burn! Indeed.
As for America's people, well, SoCons aren't happy with them.
SoCons have little or no affinity whatsoever for a huge majority of real Americans: non-conformist Americans, alternative lifestyle Americans, feminist Americans, unemployed Americans, poor Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Catholic Americans, Jewish Americans, Islamic Americans, Hindu Americans, Buddhist Americans, Taoist Americans, Shinto Americans, Confucian Americans, agnostic Americans, atheist Americans, gay Americans, lesbian Americans, transgender Americans, Americans with disabilities, any recent immigrants (legal or not)... and certainly liberal Americans, who coddle and enable all the above.
The Statue of Liberty is a socialist plot!
America's people represent the melting pot of the world. The Statue of Liberty proclaims, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Such immigrants from around the world made America what it is... these people determined to make a better life for themselves and their children, and industrious enough, and creative enough to somehow make it to these shores. But that's not the way conservatives see it. Though Lady Liberty's message is all-American and entirely Christian, SoCons cringe... at least when her welcome is applied to anyone other than their own beloved immigrant ancestors. Clan mentality doesn't have any use for the tired, the poor or tempest-tost. Immigrants have long been one of the favorite whipping dogs of the SoCons, who forget that their heritage as well comes from just such people.
SoCons also trip over America's founding ideals.
As for the ideals of America, social conservatives are in a state of complete denial of their befuddlement. The ideals and founding principles of the United States of America are: "All Men are Created Equal," "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," "Justice for all," "We the People," "One person, one vote." SoCons know they are supposed to believe in these values, but they are always eager to embrace a leader who can provide ready loopholes.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Included are not only the dangerous words "We the People," but also the dirty words "union" and "welfare", plus the disagreeable, likely profit-reducing, mandate of responsibility toward "our posterity."
Again, all of this rigamarole is fine and dandy... as long as it is being applied strictly to clan members. But once women, blacks, gays, workers, immigrants - and any others lower on the hierarchy - start chirping about wanting these rights, that's where conservatives draw the line. "America is for me and mine," is their true belief, "and all you other weirdos can kiss my red-white-and-blue ass."
Such is the real commitment of conservatives to American values.
So we see that SoCons actually have a love-hate relationship to America. They love their tiny part of it, and hate everything else.
SoCons claim to love America, but buy right into their clan masters' ideology of hating the government, especially when it tries to live up to those original American ideals.
They "love" America but not enough to pay very much, if any, taxes to support it.
They "love" America, but willingly allow the desecration of its land.
They "love" America, but grow queasy when contemplating true American values.
They buy into the big conservative myth that government is not the solution to the problem but rather is the problem. They complain about people who "blame" America for its mistakes and sins, while they, the self-identified true patriots, are willing to ignore America's great sins and refuse to learn from her mistakes.
They "love" only Americans who look and think like them, and basically despise all other Americans.
They take full advantage of the American economic engine, the electical grid, highways, airports, the water supply, dams and bridges, the internet, the fireman and the policeman, the postman, Social Security, Medicare, retirement, the Space Program, the National Parks, plus, of course, the armed forces, but they hate and fear "socialism", which is pretty much what all of these things are.
Even though they don't show any inclination to actually put into practice the precepts of Jesus, SoCons still think America is a "Christian nation." It is not, nor has it ever has been. Yet American ideals are complimentary to the major tenets of Christian love, forgiveness and fairness to all. It is conservatives who are so confused they don't realize their clan mentality is opposed to both American and Christian ideals.
American and Christian principles emphasize the importance not of the clan, but of the wider community, the whole. Jews and Gentiles, even Samaritans. We the People. All of the people. All of your neighbors. Not just the white ones. Not just the rich ones. Not just the Protestant ones. Not just the straight ones. Not just the ones you like.
In fact, both American and Christian ideals stress, most importantly, the commonality and shared interests between you and those who are different, or "the other." Jesus, as well as Jefferson and Madison and Washington, attempted to break clan mentality. That's because they were all liberals.
The idea in both systems, American and Christian, is to be a good member of a greater whole. This is true at a deeply authentic level: to become our best human self we must break out of self-interest and enthusiastically accept our responsibility for one another... and for God's creation. This is our sacred duty. It's our highest human self. Let's take care of each other. Indeed, love one another. What a concept! We're all in this together. All for one, and one for all. Yes, be a rugged individualist (which, as stated, is nigh impossible for a conservative), but your rights end where the next person's rights begin, and your rights definitely come to an abrupt end where the community's rights begin. The most authentic and enlightened individuals embrace a drive to respect and protect the people and the commons. The community, the nation, the whole, is more important than you. "We the People" is the American way, not "it's my property, I'll do what I want" or "I've got mine, screw you."
For SoCons, clan-mentality trumps all. It is more important to them to conform to the herd than to think deeply about and embrace true Christian or American values. Their pseudo-Americanism and pseudo-Christianity are both a hodgepodge of self-serving, divisive, negative and punitive edicts which veer far away from the spirit of the real America and the truth of Christ's message. And so, they actually remain bad Americans and bad Christians, often actually downright un-American and un-Christian, all the while living with the psychotic delusion that they are the true standard bearers for both.
As a modern political (or religious) philosophy, conservatism is an absolute mess. It's Swiss cheese ideology. Pretzel logic. It only makes sense as clan-mentality.
Like all true conservatives, SoCons have bought into the notion of preserving, protecting, promoting, or in some cases working to restore, traditional values, systems and hierarchies. They may be basically good-hearted people, but they don't understand that it is these very "traditional" systems and hierarchies that are contrary to both real American values and real Christian values. And so conservatives find themselves in a situation of eternal conflict. It's their clan against all others. It's them against the world... a world that in their mind is going to hell.
So they withdraw to their bulwarks and batten down the hatches. They double-down on their clan values, their own perceived exceptionalism, superiority, righteousness, morality, their own brand of divisive religion. Feeling embattled, they stand fast and determined. They will not budge an inch. They will not compromise, and they hate change (which is the only constant in the universe). Prejudiciously, fearfully, greedily, they cling tightly to their own herd, and look to strong leaders to rally them and tell them what they want to hear, thence being led around by the nose, even to the point of voting against their own best interests.
It turns out low information can carry a high price and hard lessons. Their strategy has actually not worked well for them at all. We'll state it again: Social conservatives are the biggest losers in American history. They stand against change, and against facts, and this is a sure-fire losing strategy. Their most cherished beliefs are swept aside by the tide of culture and the arc of history.
A 2008 psychological study of over 22,000 self-professed conservatives discovered several variables that predicted their conservativism. It's not a pretty list: Death anxiety, system instability, dogmatism, intolerance of ambiguity, closed-mindedness, low tolerance of uncertainty, high needs for order, structure, and closure, low integrative complexity, fear of threat and loss, and low self-esteem.
Worst of all for the SoCons, they are deaf, dumb and blind to the clever tactics of the myth masters that keep them perpetually enslaved to an ideology that so often severely punishes them. The toxic alliance of SoCon and CorpCon has them believing it is patriotic to unquestionably support some of the most morally bankrupt individuals in the country, the very wealthy professional conservatives and corporations that laugh all the way to the bank after legally stealing their life savings, slashing their pensions, sending their jobs overseas, charging them 30 percent interest on their credit cards, denying their insurance claims, foreclosing on their house or farm, polluting their air and water, plying them with unhealthy meat and fat, antibiotic and hormone laden junk foodstuffs and sugar-poisoned drinks, conspiring to keep them satiated with mindless entertainment and dumb as a brick, sending their children to go fight stupid foreign wars that have nothing whatsoever to do with national security but everything to do with corporate profits, and then rigging the legal system to screw them over should they ever dare go to court to protest any of this injustice.
SoCon devotion to CorpCon leadership extends to utter blind faith in the CorpCon "trickle-down" economic scheme that has never worked for the Middle Class or poor... though it has been tried again and again and again for hundreds, if not thousands of years. This economic system leaves many SoCons in utter financial ruin. As well, SoCons gulp down the CorpCon KoolAid that debunks Global Warming and serves to the protect the villains behind it - the fossil fuel and meat industries - even as vast swaths of SoCon territory, livelihoods and lives are being devastated by wildfires, drought, rampaging tornadoes, hurricanes and other freakish weather events.
All of this... and SoCons beg for more. Despite all the evidence, they continue to stake their very lives on flimsy conservative mythology... propagated mainly by the myth-making CorpCons. Perhaps there should be some studies to determine if SoCons actually crave sadistic punishment.
It's actually a bit surprising that there are many SoCons any more. You would think that such folk would have figured all of this out by now. The fact that there are still millions of them tells us three things. 1) Clan mentality is a very deeply ingrained emotional characteristic, and easily invoked by tweaking self-serving emotional strings; 2) Professional conservative leaders have masterfully exploited their many nefarious advantages to "conserve" the viability of their own creed, most particularly in their almost flawless co-opting of the SoCon herd; 3) Even as they have dominated social evolution, liberals have recently done a very poor job of consistently holding conservatives accountable for their rational and moral transgressions (that changes here).
Probably there will always be SoCons. Conformist, emotionally charged, intellectually lazy, self-centered, being a SoCon is an easy thing to fall into. Yet, as always, the tide of history will work against them. They sense they are embattled, and so the continual angst. Someday, SoCons might just stop and reconsider their worldview, and realize how they have been duped. There's a better way out there for them and their children. It's called liberalism... or even moderation... anything but conservativism.
And now it is time to meet the guys at the top of the conservative hierarchy; the chiefs of the clan and manipulators of the herd.
The CorpCons: Masters of the Universe
So we come at last to the true keepers and shapers of conservative creed, the myth-makers, the leaders of the clan, the far smaller but infinitely more powerful group of professional conservatives who have thought about politics (if not ethics) very carefully and are the true masters of working it to their advantage. In fact, no one else comes close to their mastery of politics, mostly because no one has as much to win or lose, no one has their tactical and material advantages, and no one plays as dirty.
Today these are the corporate conservatives, the CorpCons, the true owners and operators of the Republican Party and conservative ideology, and the staunchest defenders of the socio-economic hierarchy, because they sit at the very tippy-top. And they have no intention of allowing that to change.
These professional conservatives, conservative power-mongers and myth-makers are a quantum leap apart from rank-and-file SoCons, and individually they usually do not share many social conservative beliefs (though they make a good effort at piously pretending to). They are not confused like the SoCons. They understand more of the world, and know how to work it to their advantage. CorpCons do not believe the myths and yarns they spin... because they know they made them up. And they are not so driven by fear and/or prejudice. As religion's hold on society continues to wane, most CorpCons - but certainly not all - have abandoned insistence on maintaining the "religious order" that their ideological forebears once held sacrosanct, leaving that mythological realm to fundamental SoCons and the CorpCons who control them (i.e. the religious professionals). The common denominator among all CorpCons is that their economic ideology is wholly self-serving (and logical to that degree), not self-defeating as for so many Barely Rich, Middle Class and poor SoCons and Libertarians.
CorpCons all agree in "conserving" the "traditional" socio-economic "hierarchy." So this is how they are thoroughly and consistently conservative. This is also their primary link to the SoCons. And, of course, this is where the emotion of greed comes fully into play. But whereas, for the SoCon, this hierarchy is but a piece of an overall cultural tapestry, that includes some semblance of ethics and morality, for the CorpCon the hierarchy itself, and specifically the rewards for its leaders, is the All and the Everything. Ethics and morality are just other aspects to be manipulated, or dispensed with altogether, to suit their ends. And so, anything goes in their quest for ever more power and wealth.
We might grant the benefit of the doubt of inner goodness to Mom and Pop social conservative. Not a chance for professional conservatives. When we talk about SoCon greed, we're talking nickles and dimes, a defensive mindset of "I've got mine, keep away from it." But with CorpCons we enter the realm of greed as ideal, as mantra, as obsession, as addiction, even a religion unto itself, an aggressively offensive perspective of "I've got mine, give me more, more, more!" And rather than the SoCon's flimsy sense of superiority and prejudice as, "Well, at least I'm better than that guy," we peer into the demented psychology of the corporate conservatives, corrupted by wealth and power, who come to consider themselves god-like; many would slit their own grandmother's throat for an extra million; they would sacrifice 100,000 American soldiers for an extra billion, and they would destroy America for an extra trillion... without even swallowing hard.
Now we say, rightly, that SoCons are the biggest losers in American history. Alas, we can't say that about CorpCons.
No matter how badly social conservatives are battered and bruised, mind-controlled, subjugated and exploited, their cherised "values" tossed out like yesterday's garbage, the CorpCons always win. Their only values are wealth and power, and somehow, through hook and crook, through boom and bust, they manage to come out of any tumult with hardly a scratch. Witness the latest Great Recession, which the greed of CorpCons directly caused but survived without sacrifice, leaving everyone else holding the bag of shit.
But the concept of "win" here is as hollow as it comes. They win physically, but lose psychically. They gain gold, and lose their soul. These people have no conscience; they have no principles; they have no honor. Though some are rich beyond description, they are beggars of the spirit, scavengers of virtue. They are hoarders, afflicted with a type of obsessive-compulsive malady that someday will be formally recognized, by all, for what it is: extreme narcissism and lack of social empathy or responsibility, pathological, a form of insanity.
These opportunistic thugs, pirates and parasites have plundered America's treaure, raped its landscape, attempted to keep huge swaths of the general public confused, ignorant and under their thumb, swindled and wrecked millions, deliberately set Americans against their government and Americans against Americans, sent us into ill-conceived wars (including the Civil War), and trampled, spit and pissed on the Constitution at will. They are the prime subjugators, exploiters, oppressors, abusers, deceivers, bedevilers, and flim-flam/shim-sham operators of American history. A slimy litany of abuses has been perpetrated upon the American people, and the Republic itself, by those of the CorpCon persuasion. Research the greatest scandals and abuses in American history, and on the scene you'll find some variety of CorpCon grinning like the Cheshire cat.
The most powerful CorpCons have been megalomaniacal, greed-serving, power-consolidating, exploitative and dangerous villains of the first order.
Read that sentence again. It sounds like over-the-top hyperbole, but it is the simple truth. Conservative politicians and corporate, religious and cultural mega-leaders have been among the most harmful individuals ever to walk the American landscape, or, for that matter, Planet Earth.
Have there been abuses by liberals? Of course. No one is immune to the temptations that await those awash in power and money. It may be thin hope as we witness today's Democratic Party up to its neck in corporate beholdenment, a "moderate Republican" Barack Obama as its titular head (who from their radicalized position in right-wing outer space looks like a socalist to today's conservatives). Yet a liberal must abandon their principles to engage in behavior that abuses the common people. Abusing the common people is built into the professional conservative ethos, and the Republican Party has been submerged fathoms below the surface of the oligarchic and corporate waves since not long after Abraham Lincoln led it as the more liberal party in the Union, coming up only a few times for a gulp of fresh air through the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Ike Eisenhower, who were truly "Republican in Name Only." Since Ronald Reagan, the Republicans have again gone down, apparently blissfully, into the abyss of corporate greed and folly, perhaps never again to see the light of day, common sense or fair play. Even the most corrupt liberals at least nod in the direction of adhering to rational facts, as well as to protecting the commons and the "general welfare" of "We the People" as the Constitution mandates. Whereas above all, the CorpCons worship only wealth and power, and will cheerfully do anything to get it, including lying, stealing, pillaging, killing.
You don't believe it? Let's take a closer look at the CorpCons. To understand the conservative political movement it is important to understand a little of the history of political conservativism. So here we will indulge in a little primer.
Defining Political Conservatism:
Those who believe that the liberal/conservative dynamic of the modern era is something new are actually quite mistaken. Conservatives and liberals have been fighting throughout history. The labels may have changed a bit, the parties may have renamed themselves, shifted their stance or realigned in composition, but the battle is as old as the hills, and nothing much has fundamentally changed.
Classically, conservatives strive to conserve, promote or attempt to restore "traditional" cultural, political and socio-economic customs, hierarchies, institutions and systems. These, of course, are the very "traditions" which produce social and economic advantages for such advocates (notably, the aristocratic, the powerful, the wealthy).
Liberals are not so enamored by hierarchy or tradition, but rather continually strive for a more free and egalitarian society. Often times the clashes between conservative and liberal come down to change: progress that seeks to unify, liberate, equalize, educate and help people, progress that provides wider opportunity, and progress that seeks to bring people of many different backgrounds and orientations together in more peaceful harmony. The liberals are for it; the conservatives are against it.
We see this dynamic working through the course of history. Socrates was a liberal; the Athenean court that convicted him of corrupting the minds of the youth with philosophy and truth (yes, liberals are always doing that) was conservative. Jesus was a liberal, bringing radical, new ideas that flew in the face of entrenched power; the Pharisees who could not tolerate his egalitarian message and demanded his crucifixion were conservative. Galileo and Copernicus, daring to uncover knowledge that would obliterate previous notions of reality, were merely following the liberal pathway of thoughtful inquiry; the Church that imprisoned them and demanded they rescind their scientific astronomical discoveries was dutifully adhering to conservative principles. The American founding fathers considered themselves "liberal," and were knowingly following precepts of liberality in their quest for wider freedom and equality; King George, the British government, and the American British loyalists, the Tories, that wished to preserve the status quo of kingly rule were conservative. Charles Darwin was a liberal scientist daring, as much as Copernicus, to refute traditional but erroneous biological belief; those (active even today) who would deny his seminal contribution to science, the theory of evolution, may easily be identified as conservatives. In each of these cases, someone dared to bring forth ideas that threatened entrenched socio-economic powers and "traditional" values.
The pattern repeats itself over and over again throughout history. It's actually very simple. Liberals seek liberty. Conservatives seek to conserve an older status quo, perfectly happy with restraints on liberty for those not in the ruling class. Liberals seek equality. Conservatives seek to conserve a hierarchy that by its very definition is unequal. Liberals seek truth and knowledge. Conservatives seek to conserve traditional mythologies. Liberals seek justice for all. Conservatives seek to conserve the tradition of justice skewed toward the wealthy. Liberals push forward. Conservatives pull backwards. This is the way it has always been. Nothing about this basic tension of beliefs has changed in the modern world.
The modern conservative movement dates back to the 18th Century's Age of Reason, also known as The Enlightenment. Of course, the conservatives were against it.
This was back when classes and castes were firmly established, including the institution of slavery, and it all worked out so wonderfully for those at the pinnacle of the hierarchy. And then came the liberals who screwed everything up with their high and mighty ideals about liberty and equality and justice for all, and, of all ridiculous things, pursuit of happiness. Certainly the conservatives were for all of these things. But only for themselves, definitely not for the common man! Such a state of affairs had never existed, as far as they knew. It was unthinkable. Pursuit of happiness... for the rabble? You cannot be serious, old chap. Who would tend and toil to our fancies? In the conservative mind there could be only one outcome to such a system of common freedom... anarchy.
An age of reason or enlightenment, or rationality, was a very dangerous thing according to the so-called "father of modern conservatism", Edmund Burke (1729-1797). Ironically (and tellingly), for his day Burke was rather liberal. Since the Magna Carta in 1215, England had been trending more and more liberal, but in stumbling fits and starts, and with continual and often quite effectual opposition from conservatives. Burke was a member of the Whigs, the more liberal political party. The conservatives in England were (and still are) the Tories. The conservatives of Burke's era, and their ideas, proved so out of touch with emerging modern sensibilities that no one claims them anymore, even today's Tories, who are themselves more liberal than even was Burke. So with a liberal as modern conservatism's "father," we can see that even conservatives have become more liberal than they used to be. That, of course, is the arc of history. With greater awareness, with greater liberty, with greater equality, the more liberal things tend to become... even conservatives. Why, it could be that 100 years from now conservatives will look just like the liberals of today, but probably still saying, "No" to the better ideas of that more advanced culture.
And so conservatives choose the liberally-evolving Edmund Burke as the start of modern conservativism, not wanting to delve any further back in fear of utter embarrassment at the conservatism they would encounter.
Burke's train of thought was on the right track, but he just wasn't too far out of the station and was loathe to lose sight of it. Unsurprisingly for his time, he just couldn't break out of the chains of either social or religious tradition. And so his philosophy is starkly at odds with true American sensibilities. He believed fully in clan-mentality and its defining hierarchy. He feared the liberal idea of democracy would break the traditional "chain of subordination" that he and all other conservatives felt held civil society together.
Burke represented the professional conservative's deep distrust of the common man. Instead, he believed that a monarchy and its attendant structure of aristocracy or oligarchy of wealthy and educated elites were the natural rulers of any land, that the nation-state was divinely ordained (and, indeed, must be explicitly conjoined with the church), that the momentum of tradition, custom and heritage should not be tampered with (or only when such change was slowly and gently ushered in by God alone), and that the common man should not attempt to reason, but rather should bow to higher intelligence and authority. This system was referred to as the "natural order," after all it was the society depicted in the Bible, in which the Israelites are the idealized clan. Burke's view is in effect an excellent summation of clan-mentality, whereby the herd follows stronger, superior leaders. In the conservative mind, this is the way it has always been, and should always remain. To this day this idea swirls through conservative thought and policy.
Don't think, conform! is the undergirding of conservative philosophy. At least as propagated by the clan leaders. They will do the thinking for you, and for everyone. They will hand down the myths. Your job is simply to believe and follow.
And so we see that a strict hierarchy, and its divisiveness, is inherent in conservative politics, extending to the very heart of its ideology and methodology. Within conservative systems there is a strict emphasis on "order" and "tradition" and "authority," which is the hierarchy and its "chain of subordination." Originally this very specifically included religious authority. God's will (as interpreted by the aristocratic rulers), the divine right of kings, and the tradition of a church-state superauthority were pillars of Burke's belief. Though arising from common Irish stock, Burke presumed himself and his wealthy and powerful friends (as well as the king and his bishops, of course) as the natural superiors within this scheme, while the little people, the subjects, would go about their lives without question and without say (tending and toiling to the things that maintained the status of the elite).
Today, SoCons have taken the place of Burke's serfs and little townspeople within the conservative political system. Being able to vote, they are not as controllable as serfs, but they still do a darn good job of conforming, idolizing and obeying their leaders, and not thinking very deeply, you betcha!
So a superior class, an elite, is first and foremost among conservative political ideals. Next come ways to preserve that hierarchy. And this is where the traditional clan "values" of prejudice, fear and greed come into play.
In Burke's day, traditions and custom were all skewed toward propping up the ruling class, the elite. Many of these traditions and customs involved ways in which the little people could participate in some activity that was seemingly meaningful, like a celebration or feast-day, or by indoctrination in certain political or religious beliefs, but really it was all intended to bind them to the clan, its hierarchy and leadership. It was very important for the serf or merchant to feel that they were full-fledged members of the clan, of the nation, of the empire. In this way they received a vicarious dose of self-esteem, and could feel themselves superior to someone... perhaps a female, or a poorer neighbor or an immigrant, certainly those of another country. So in clan mentality, and conservatism, prejudice is encouraged. Prejudice binds the follower to the clan and its leaders, while at the same time driving a wedge between the follower and all "others." The last thing the clan leaders want is the followers and the "others" to recognize their commonality and unite against their true oppressors, the clan leaders.
So prejudice works quite well for keeping the clan in order. As does fear.
A populace in fear turns to the clan and its leaders for protection, again solidifying the clan bond and creating that division with all "others." So it's always good to have a boogey-man, or boogey-country, always handy outside the gates or border. These don't have to be real; they can be entirely imaginary, the rabble doesn't know any better, though real ones do offer the advantage of facilitating military adventures and plunder. Even today, this is the twin rationale behind conservative hawkishness and warmongering: maintaining a fearful populace and control of foreign resources. Today's boogey-men are Islamic terrorists, and the not coincidental resource prize is Middle Eastern oil.
At the same time as making the little people feel part of and a need for the clan, the elite strives to keep them occupied and distracted. This wasn't entirely necessary in olden times; if need be, the aristocracy could just kill, without any fear of rebuke or retribution, any little people who dared confront them. But this can be very messy and unseemly, so it's best if the folk can be satiated with diversions and distractions. The best such device ever discovered is, of course, religion. This not only tamed the people by teaching them to stoically accept their sufferings and obey their masters while awaiting the promise of an after-life where all would be lovely, but also reinforced feelings of clanship amongst the believers. These days, professional conservatives still count on religion to pacify and control their constituencies, and go out of their way to encourage and pretend to share these religious beliefs (though few of them - Reagan, Bush, McCain, etc. - really do). Yet the modern CorpCons also benefit from other powerful tools that would have wowed Edmund Burke, principally electronic devices: television, the internet, including vacuous sports and entertainment shows, video games, plus their own cable news channel that does a wonderful job of keeping their followers completely bamboozled.
Greed is Good!
As for greed, well, what good is a clan that isn't out for some kind of bounty and booty? As with all clans, the leaders take the bulk of the spoils, and the scraps "trickle down" to the rest of the group. "Trickle-down" (formally known as "supply side economics") is another conservative "traditional value" that goes way back. Ronald Reagan didn't invent it; some Bronze Age warlord did! For the leaders of the clan, the entire world is given to them to dominate and exploit. All of creation is potentially their property. The little people, of course, share a wee bit in this majesterial prosperity, vicariously as the subjects of such illustrative overlords, but also by the occasional chicken, sheckles, tailoring contract or factory job that may dribble down to them. So, most certainly, in the conservative mind, "Greed is Good."
This was the milieu of Edmund Burke's philosophy. As he was recommending constraint of thought for the common man, Burke also pontificated extensively on the conservative's sense of entitlement. The concepts known as "property rights" and the "free market" established that a man (i.e. a wealthy man) should have unfettered control over his possessions, including goods for sale, regardless of how his control over those possessions may interfere with another man's rights... or even the common good. The wealthier a man was, the more "property rights" he could expect to accrue, even to the detriment of all of society. Where once the deer in the forest were a food source for the local peasants, now everything in the forest belonged to the local lord, and the punishment for encroachment upon his "property rights" could be as severe as death.
The peasants could not look to their government for fairness or protection. In Burke's England, the government was the tool of the wealthy: the government should not interfere or attempt regulation of such property rights or of the "free market," except in so far as a government might assist such a wealthy man, or collection of wealthy men, to even greater advantage over would-be competitors, particularly those from other nations.
And so emerged a toxic alliance between government, aristocracy and a relatively new kind of organism called the corporation. With almost supernatural powers - it was composed of potentially thousands of individuals, and could be many places at once - this corporation creation quickly proved its worth as a voracious feeder upon resources, and regurgitator of profits. To thrive it only needed a "free market," that is an environment where it was free to do whatever it wanted.
Edmund Burke, the patron saint of conservatives, was a shareholder in the world's first multinational corporation, the notorious British East India Company. This was rather a plaything of the British nobility, including King George, which went rampaging around the world, bullying, stealing, exploiting natural resources, abusing native peoples, and monopolizing trade wherever it could, with the full economic, legal and military backing of the British Empire. In this "free market," the East India Company established an early nadir for how truly vile capitalism and a corporation can be.
For a while, the British East India Company had the world by the throat, except for one problem area: the American colonies.
It seems the great corporation didn't set too well with the uppity Americans. They resisted. They grumbled and groused and boycotted and smuggled in defiant competition with the great company. When the British government passed the Tea Act in 1773, which effectively gave the East India Company a monopoly over the tea trade in the colonies, it all came to a head.
On the night of December 16, 1773, a bunch of very un-conservative Americans - completely disrespecting the sacrosanct conservative principles of strict obedience to tradition, hierarchy and property rights - boarded ships in Boston Harbor and surreptitiously unloaded their cargo of tea into the bay. The event came to be known as the Boston Tea Party, and was one of the precursors of the American Revolution.
And so, the fight for American independence actually begins in earnest with patriots vs. a corporation (which pointedly illuminates the incoherency of the modern "Tea Party" in its slavish loyalty to the rich and corporations. (To add to the irony: the British ship sent to put down the original Tea Party patriots was called the HMS Romney!)
Edmund Burke was against American independence. So too another so-called "father of conservatism," Samuel Johnson, a real Tory, who wrote that the revolution would end with "English superiority and American obedience." Those conservatives... always demanding obedience. Oh yes, and also always wrong.
The American patriots and the famous founding fathers had quite a different ideology than Burke and Johnson. That's because they were not conservative. For their time, they were radically liberal. In fact, that's precisely what the conservative loyalists called them: "radicals." They were also frequently called "terrorists." Hmmm, mull that over.
The American founding fathers were actually men of the Age of Reason, seeking greater liberty and equality... societal attributes that conservatism has ever resisted. The American patriots rejected the conservative religious belief that humans are innately sinful and incapable of self-rule. Unlike conservatives, they did respect the goodness and capabilities of the common man (well, at least a whole lot more than did the British hierarchy). Where Burke's more conservative philosophy feared the violation of ancient tradition and establishments (the king, the monolithic church, the aristocracy, the subjugation of women and poor people), the American patriots were determined to do exactly that: rip the establishment asunder; as an extended political movement it was the greatest afront to conservatism that the world had yet witnessed!
So, anyone claiming that the American Revolution or the famous founding fathers were conservative is engaging in extreme mythological conjuring.
Moreover, the East India Company had taught the founding fathers to be very wary of corporations. (Among other things, this wonderful corporate "person" would go on to instigate the "Opium Wars" in China where the Chinese were forced, against their will, to open up for commerce and to accept importation of and proliferation of addictive opium by the British company.) From its very birth the corporation has been the seat of abuse of personhood, nature and morality.
Anticipating the gathering power of business and corporations, even in his day, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
How prescient a warning for us today as predatory corporatism regains its strangle-hold on American economics, politics and culture, and how different a perspective from Edmund Burke and the conservatives.
Political conservatism has always been about the rich and powerful, who thrive on clannish hierarchy, and deeply distrust democracy. They also dislike the idea of liberty. They dislike the idea that just anyone, much less everyone, has the "inalienable" right to pursue happiness. They absolutely loathe the idea of equality. All of these ideals imply some sort of cultural balance. That is the last thing professional conservatives want. They don't want balance or liberty or equality, they want that chain of subordination, control of systems and people, and they want money, power and justice (the law) permanently tilted toward them and stacked in their favor, just like it had always been.
The American system of governance and its overarching ideals were immediately a threat to the political conservatism of Burke's day. The American Revolution was built upon a panopoly of liberal concepts that intentionally upset the old tradition and hierarchy. The original American ideals of equality, liberty, democracy, justice for all, respect for the common man who should be allowed to pursue happiness, flew in the face of conservative ideology which proclaimed the supremacy of the hierarchical clan and its tradition of subjugation of the common man.
Yet, as we can see through American history, these original ideals have been very difficult to put into full effect. Only little by little have these values gained strength over the past 230 years. And every inch of progress was fought tooth and nail by conservatives.
How Conservative Economic Ideology Trumped American Values:
The Lakota have a word that describes the greedy white man: wasichu. This word denotes someone who takes more than they need, someone who doesn't live in accord with nature, and who will step all over their neighbors to "conserve" a socio-economic hierarchy that keeps them empowered. It's as good a word as any for the state of mind of corporate conservatives. Despite America's stated principles, as well as those of all religions, the stench of wasichu has permeated American history.
Wasichu ideology - in the form of speculators, bankers, corporatists, industrialists, big planters, self-righteous settlers, all aided and abetted by local, state and federal officials - stole the Indians land from the Northeast all the way down the Appalachians to the deep South, and then out on to the plains and beyond to the Pacific Ocean. Treaty after treaty was signed, all promising to pay for the land the wasichu wanted, and that the Indians would thereafter be left in peace "for as long as the grass grows and the water flows." Every single treaty was quickly broken, some within days of being signed, and the Indians were pushed out or killed if they dared to try to stay where their tribe had lived for generations. This was conservativism in action, conserving the "traditional" values and hierarchy (at least of the invaders): clan mentality, prejudice, greed, might-makes-right, alive and well in the heart of a country that claimed the liberal values of liberty, equality, justice for all, pursuit of happiness, love for one another. All of these were denied the native peoples, who never were able to unite to fight their common enemy... and so eventually lost almost everything to wasichu greed.
A Pueblo chief explained, "The whites always have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think they are mad."
They were... mad with greed, encouraged by indignant righteousness, and put into force with superior numbers and weapons. The waves of white settlers and speculators swarming from East to West across the continent were not so much virtuous pioneers but pirates and plunderers. It was the gravest of injustice. It was the epitome of un-Americanism and un-Christianity. And, of course, other Americans - slaves, and women, and workers, immigrants and poor people - got their own full measure of wasichu treatment.
In all of these oppressions, subjugations and exploitations the very same "chain of subordination" was imposed by the stronger, "superior," members of the hierarchy. So sadly, much of American history involved the implementation not of the worldview of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine but of Edmund Burke: no longer called feudalism or aristrocracy as it had been in Europe; here in America it came to be called capitalism, or in conservative-speak, the "free market."
The Free Market: it sounds lovely, so much more refined than feudalism. Who wouldn't be for a "free market?" It combines that American value of freedom with a mental picture of a lively, colorful marketplace, full of happy vendors and customers, a place where people get what they want and need, and anybody can strike it rich. This is the utopian image that CorpCons like to put forth. But it's another very big conservative myth. There has never been that utopian "free" market, and never will be! First and foremost because the primary players certainly do not want the market to be free, or fair. They want to rig it for their own gain. And so they do, time and again. It's actually the farthest thing from "free." The "free market" is just a sales pitch, a marketing ploy, a catchy brand to con people into going along with the scam.
The vast majority of liberals support a capitalist economic system, but insist that it be controlled capitalism, fair capitalism, virtuous capitalism, capitalism that serves the community and the resource base... not that which exploits it for the benefit of a very few, leaving everyone else with the cost of removal of those resources. For CorpCons, this type of fair capitalism is an encroachment on their religion of greed, and is dangerously oriented to a semblance of equal opportunity. And equality just doesn't work for them. They are already prospering as the big fish in the pond, why would they want to support a system that allows for other fish to grow up to compete with them? Instead, they want unregulated capitalism, which is to say capitalism controlled from within, might-makes-right capitalism, predatory capitalism, capitalism that allows for easy usurping or crushing of little up and coming fish... capitalism that promotes the myth of a market free of governmental intervention - except when the marketeers need the government to protect them, or bail them out, or help them conquer foreign markets - capitalism that extracts and exploits and wrings the last dollar out of a resource, workers and customers.
Only two things stand between such vulture capitalists and their dream of unfettered wealth and power: the people and their government.
The CorpCons need only reflect back on their AristoCon heritage to know how to deal with this potential double trouble. The government problem has traditionally been easy: just buy off a critical number of the politicians and officials, who themselves are ever greedy and always eager to wiggle up close to the elite, if they don't come from the elite in the first place.
For the people, it's a little trickier, but the basic strategy is always some form of "divide and conquer." And for that, there has never been anything better than the good old divisive clan system. It works perfectly to separate American against American, appealing to the primal emotions of just enough of them to keep them prejudiced, fearful and greedy enough to support a professional conservative elite that is actually using them against their own best interests. You don't need to fool all of the people, just a bare majority of those who actually vote, which is usually less than half the eligible voters - the rest fully asleep - so only a little over a quarter of eligible voters will win many elections. For instance, both Ronald Reagan and George Bush the Bland were elected by just 27 percent of eligible voters.
The government's the problem!
In the face of a governmentmental system that enshrines notions of democracy, liberty, equality, justice for all, and helping the middle class and poor, professional conservatives have come up with a new wrinkle in their "divide and conquer" strategy. The CorpCons were the government back in the feudal days, so they didn't want the people hating authority. Back then they preached the "natural order," Burke's "chain of subordination," which required acquiesence by the public to the government and the church. But since 1776 they've never been able to wrest complete and total control of the government. Not often, but occasionally, government (representing We the People) rises up to smack them around. So their new subterfuge is to inculcate a deep distrust of government among the populace, most pointedly amongst the quarter of the population they need to win elections. "The government isn't the solution to the problem; the government is the problem," is the mythological maxim that conservatives love to regurgitate to one another. Dividing Americans from their very own government is another stroke of evil genius (just a hair short of treason) they have deployed, and it works best with those who don't know enough about history or government or truth to see right through the deception... and treachery.
So professional conservatives actively and aggressively risk promoting the disintegration of civil society itself by destroying the essential trust in government for millions of people. It's truly a vile and diabolical tactic... and it works like a charm.
But the treachery doesn't stop there...
When professional conservatives come into governmental power, they do everything they can to fulfill their own prophecy that government doesn't work by redirecting priorities, cutting budgets, and stacking agencies with cronies and foxes guarding the henhouse. Indeed, history clearly shows government often doesn't work...under conservative control... though government works much more effectively, and in support of the vast majority of citizens, when guided by liberal ideology. The entire George W. Bush presidency was a textbook example of this very dynamic: bungled domestic priorites, bungled foreign policy, bungled economy, bungled debt reduction, two bungled wars, bungled mortgage crisis, bungled hurricane response, bungled Great Recession, bungled bank bailout... all squeezed into eight years of conservative flimflammery.
And all of this mischief can be upstaged and hidden by the wedge issues.
Because they are focused laser-like on making money and consolidating power, most CorpCons don't give a damn about the social issues that are so important to the SoCons. But long ago they realized that God, guns, gays, blacks, the poor, immigrants, abortion, patriotism and war are the bait they can use for hooking a mess of half-stupid SoCons. These are the "wedge issues," that they employ to masterfully poke and prod the emotions of gullible, fearful and selfish people who are extremely dependable voters when they feel threatened by something.
Notice that the CorpCons never quite get around to solving any of these threats. Indeed, the threat just keeps geting worse and worse, and when the liberals win an utter victory, the CorpCons quickly shift to a new wedge. There's no shortage of things social conservatives are afraid of. When your defense of slavery has turned to ashes along with the Confederacy, turn instead to promoting and defending segregation. When the communist boogie-man and Cold War has flopped, start a war on "Terror." When inter-racial marriage is a lost cause, switch to gay marriage. Some wedges are like fashion styles... wait long enough and they may just come back. Today, social conservatives like Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan and Todd Akin want to refight the women's contraceptive battles of the 1960s. They'll get smacked down again... but it all plays well with the conservative base, and helps these guys get elected. SoCons are so confused they never seem to catch on to the parlor trick.
Beyond maintenance of the hierarchy, the other big issue that CorpCons and SoCons share is... taxes. As in complete aversion to them. Both want all the benefits that a modern, well-run nation provides, but neither wants to pay for it. Always being against taxes is the ace up the sleeves for CorpCons. It's their evergreen issue. It never goes out of style.
Nobody, liberal or conservative, loves paying taxes. Liberals are just less greedy, more educated, as well as more magnanimous in civic spirit (don't forget your synonyms for conservative and liberal), so they more easily realize their own benefits of paying their fair share of taxes. So they see the great upside to everyone paying their fair share of taxes. They can also more readliy visualize the downside to not paying taxes. When the lifeblood of a nation runs low... all of society becomes imperiled.
As we have noted, conservatives are afraid of everything.. and many are convinced that some kind of apocalypse is just over the horizon (thus their hoarding and prepping and stocking up on guns and ammo and ready-to-eat meals with a shelf-life of 100 years), but they seem to have no clue as to how their own stingy and selfish attitude toward taxes is itself one of the surest routes toward making such "End Times" come to pass. Or perhaps such a "death wish" for America is some kind of unconscious judgment they can levy on the great liberal experiment... in a similar manner as evangelicals blame Hurricane Katrina and American soldier deaths in Iraq on America's supposed support for the "homosexual agenda."
Conservatives can't picture the disastrous reality of not paying taxes primarily because, being inherently prone to the emotion of greed, they are fixated on sugar-plum illusions of the benefits of not paying taxes. "It's your money... not the government's," goes the conservative creed. The conservative idea of low-low, or better yet, no taxes, is as sweet-sounding to conservative ears as somebody whistling Dixie. They come running up slobbering and panting like mangy dogs to any politician promising to toss them the bone of lower taxes (which, even if delivered, almost always ends up hurting the SoCon).
So this is the basic pattern that the wasichu have used for over 200 years to maintain their hierarchy. Buy off the politicians and officials; bamboozle just enough voters - through fear and greed - to keep conservative politicians in office. Through American history the CorpCon Cheshire Cats have stoked the emotions of gullible people to get what they want: wealth and power... driving our democracy to the brink of ruin time after time.
Subterfuge and subversion and sabotage... the CorpCon legacy through American history!
CorpCons - on both sides - stampeded America into the Civil War. The southern planters chafed at northern industrial domination and, as always, were desperate to conserve their own peculiar hierarchy, which in this case centered around the institution of slavery. The northern industrialists, in turn, were not going to allow the products and markets of the south to just up and walk away without one hell of a fight. So in this instance it becomes clear that the oligarchy doesn't always act in concert. Sometimes they will go to war against each other. Or rather, they send others to go to war in their stead. Then as now, most wasichus are chicken-hawks.
The aristrocratic planters ginned up fear and prejudice in the South, dividing the poor whites from the enslaved blacks, and rebel vs. Yankee. They spewed forth patriotic drivel that still echoes today: states' rights (yes, the state's right to allow the owning of people) and the exceptionalism of dear old Dixie, riling up hundreds of thousands of poor farmers and townsmen who never owned a slave and didn't even understand what states' rights really meant. Much the same thing happened in the North as the drive to "preserve the Union" conscripted hundreds of thousands of reluctant citizens to fight for Honest Abe, the nation's first Republican president (back when the Republicans were the more liberal party). United in misery they marched, from the North and from the South, into the most horrible war in American history, the first "modern" war... assuring mass carnage.
This was not the first war, or the last, that CorpCons would spoil for and finagle America into. War is good business, and whipped-up patriotism a great way to quell domestic dissatisfation. The wasichu wanted to steal all of northern Mexico, and so they did. They wanted to dominate Cuba, so they did. They wanted a canal through Panama, so they rigged a way to get it. They wanted to grab Hawaii, Guam, Samoa and the Philippines, and so they did. None of this had much of anything to do with protecting America, but rather was very transparently about expanding American commercial markets.
These wasichu weren't rich enough. They wanted more, more, more. And it didn't bother them at all to go blustering around the world stealing, maiming, killing to further American "business." They felt left out of World War I, and so coaxed Americans to enter a conflagration that made even the Civil War seem quaint. The "Great War" turned out not to be the "war to end all wars," but rather just a set-up for an even larger global dust-up a few decades later. Through it all, CorpCons banged the drums of war. Deceit and propaganda was their constant currency, along with the blood of the native people and American soldiers, mostly poor working stiffs.
All of this was plain old American imperialism, disguised as "opening markets" and "spreading democracy," hardly different from the British East India Company bullying its way around the globe. All along, the conservative cry was, "Keep the government out of capitalism!" What a sham. This kind of capitalistic piracy wants, craves, government as its comely lover... with battleships. And the United States of America has been happy to go right along with its filthy rich suitors, including during our latest government-enabled corporate raids on Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines: still making the world profitable for conservative corporate cronies like Halliburton, KBR, CACI, Titan, Aegis, General Dynamics, General Electric, Exxon, Blackwater, and so on and so on.
Aside from their greed-salivating, blood-drenched warmongering, the other way the CorpCons were weaving their "free market" magic was by using the government as their bludgeon against workers.
A "free market" would imply that not just the owners of business, but the workers, too, would be "free" to affect the economic equation. So too the consumers, don't forget about them. In a truly "free market," workers could unite and bargain hard for their fair share of whatever profit is produced. Unions could be as big and rich as, say, EXXON. And there would be no arbitrary limits on how much consumers could wring out of a corporation's hide for providing shoddy, unsafe or fraudulent products. Now that would be a "free market."
But, oh no. The capitalists certainly don't want that kind of free market. Again, they want it rigged for their benefit only... workers and consumers are mere dupes and pawns in the money-making machine. Corporatists want and need the government wholly on their side, to break up strikes, and write laws that restrict unions, workers' rights, consumer legal protections and lawsuit awards. Thus, in the corporatist mind a "free market" is one where workers work basically for free, consumers are free to shut up and like it, and corporations are free to do as they please.
So when you hear CorpCons talking about the "free market," clearly understand this is quintessential conservative distortion; what they are really referring to is a fully "rigged market." (And guess who is so often the victim of this wicked scam: good old Christian SoCons!)
The last thing CorpCons want is We the People united. Why, that would be, gasp, a union! And, oh, what a terrible thing that is.
Corporations like being the big bully who can take on workers one at a time, when they are at their weakest, not all together whence they have strength in numbers. Through much of the 19th Century, workers were paid less than a dollar a day, often in company scrip, good only at the company store, working 12 to 16-hour days, seven days a week. Oh, and their wives and children were welcome to work, too, at lower pay, of course. Workplaces were hazardous, dark, freezing in the winter and broiling in the summer. If you got sick or injured, goodbye and good luck. Sick pay, or even time off without pay? Vacation? Retirement? Pension? Even a day of rest? Unheard of! Workers even had to supply their own tools. Sometimes they were forced to buy their tools and work clothes from the company! So too, many were forced to live in company tenements. The corporation was employer, supplier, grocer and landlord. Get uppity with the boss, and you'd not only lose your job, you and your family would be kicked out of your home... and you may well be blackballed from ever working in that industry again.
In those days it was too difficult to ship jobs overseas, so they shipped overseas workers here. The cheapest possible labor, that was the ticket. As late as 1890, railroad laborers, doing some of the most dangerous work in the country, were paid $124 a YEAR (while the railroad barons were pocketing millions based on land GIVEN to them by their very own Sugar Daddy... the federal government)! Now those were the days! For corporations it was Nirvana! Foreign labor also brought a very welcome side benefit: different cultures, different languages made it easy to keep the workders divided from each other. Falling right into the clan mentality their rich overlords hoped for, established American workers looked down on the Irish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Slavic and other nationalities flooding into the country. And so that venerable old tradition, the clan hierarchy, was conserved. Divide and conquer.
Industrial workers weren't the only ones unjustly treated. Small farmers who owned their own land faced much the same oppression as industrial workers. It was their toil, time, blood, sweat and tears that homesteaded, cleared, tilled, planted and harvested the crops, but then they faced a gantlet of predatory capitalists who gave the loans for land, seed and equipment, greedy grain elevator owners, and, of course, the railroads, always a monopoly in a given town, who could charge what they wanted for shipping the product. It was a rigged game where the small-time farmer was doomed to eventually lose. The wasichu could bide their time as the farmer went further and further into debt, until a few bad years sent him over the edge, his loans would be called in, the banker would take the farm and the farmer become a tenant, a renter, on land that he had cleared and cultivated, or worse, be thrown off his land altogether. This, also, was the "free market."
But those darned Americans - whether industrial worker, farmer, or recent immigrant - just seem to have this stubborn streak: they actually believe in a sense of fairness. And fairness is the very last thing that CorpCons want.
Poster of the International Workers of the World, circa 1911
Dating back to the Boston Tea Party, organizing to fight corporations is an American tradition if there ever was one!
Organizing unions and going out on strike quickly followed as an All-American strategy of the working class. Indeed, some of the first American "strikes" were by militia men and regulars in the Continental Army smack in the middle of fighting in the Revolutionary War when they didn't feel they were being treated fairly by the rich guys running Congress.
Many workers realized that the only way to defeat the "divide-and-conquer" strategy was to unite, and so they did, at least to some degree, white and black, American and Irishman, farmer and laborer, men and women. Throughout the century of the 1800s and well into the 1900s, labor struggles and strikes were popping off like fireworks across the American landscape, from the east coast to the west coast, from north to south. Farmers joined together, forming cooperatives to break the strangle-hold of greedy middle men and bankers. These were truly heroic struggles, the underdog taking on Goliath sometimes with little hope of winning and everything to lose.
Unfortunately, only rarely did the workers prevail, and earn an extra dime or two a day. Usually the CorpCons, far more wealthy and powerful, holding all the cards, beat them down or wore them out. To the wasichu the idea of bargaining or concessions with such common people, low-lifes in their estimation, was unseemgly, beneath them. Government officials either conveniently stepped out of the way, or if the CorpCons' own thugs couldn't control strikers, these "free-marketers" didn't hesitate to beg and cry for the government to help them out... in the form of local police, state militia or federal troops... and the government generally obliged.
So we see that predatory capitalism has two firm demands of government: 1) Get out of our way! and 2) Save us!
The struggle for workers' and farmers' rights in America is a story of hundreds of thousands of regular working people bloodied, bashed, maimed and killed as they simply stood up for economic fairness. Not economic equality, mind you, just fairness. They were not asking to be made rich; they were only asking to be treated like human beings, to get a decent wage for an honest day's work.
Even this pittance was too much for the CorpCons. Then as now, fairness is just too close to socialism or Communism for the wasichu. They accused the workers and farmers of being socialists and Communists. Most Americans saw through the demonization and sided with the workers and farmers, but the CorpCons had a paid-off government in their pocket. The "rigged market" would determine who got paid what.
But once in a blue moon, to the consternation of the wasichu, America remembers what it is supposed to stand for.
CorpCons are thwarted from their full objectives whenever We the People - i.e. a critical mass of voters (or a few very determined policitians... usually motivated by a critical mass of voters) - wake up to such true unfairness, and are unwilling to go along with the injustice and immorality any longer.
Riding such popular anger over the abuses of the ultra-rich and corporations, two presidents, in particular, threw a monkey-wrench into the CorpCons' slick set-up. They were both named Roosevelt.
One was a Democrat, and the other, quite shockingly, was a Republican. No one was more shocked and dismayed about either than the conservatives. One offered the "Square Deal," and the other presented the "New Deal." Both "deals" were meant to help the average citizen, particularly the working man or woman. Of course, CorpCons only want deals between the government and themselves. They were adamantly opposed to any fair or square deals between We the People and their own government, which tells you just about all you need to know about the wealthy and corporations, who prefer a government of, by and for the aristocracy and its corporate playthings (and usually get it).
Theodore Roosevelt was himself a rich rascal from New York City with a penchant for over-the-top bravado and glorification of war and foreign intrigue (including the Panama Canal adventure), but also at least something of a sense of fairness, as well as a love of nature, these two latter attributes quite rare characteristics in conservative circles. As the son of a wealthy businessman, Roosevelt naturally grativated toward the Republican Party, but the party quickly grew to suspect his real motives early on in his political career. They were only mildly amused by his exploits as a pseudo-cowboy in the Dakota Territory, and then as a quasi-commando during the war in Cuba. They became quite alarmed at how he conducted himself as governor of New York, pugnaciously attacking the Republican's own machine politics. To remove him from that powerful position they drafted him to run as Vice-President, generally a do-nothing, go-nowhere position, where he could cause little trouble. But then the very conservative President William McKinley was assassinated (by an unemployed immigrant) and CorpCons looked on dazed and in dread as "Teddy" became the most powerful person in the country. As president, Roosevelt sought "reforms" of economic unfairness. Republicans held their breath.
Teddy Roosevelt asked Congress to curb the power of the big corporations and set into motion policies that would bust some of the monopolists, then called "trusts." His sentiments leaned toward workers, unions and the middle class. He championed consumer protections, prompting enforcement of meat inspection and the production of safe foods and drugs. Roosevelt railed against the "representatives of predatory wealth accumulated by all forms of inequity, from the oppression of wage workers to unfair methods of crushing out competition." He reined in the railroads, giving price controls over to the federal Interstate Commerce Commission.
All of this flew in the face of the Republican Party. The wealthy elite were aghast. They were used to being free to do what they wanted, set their own prices, pay workers a pittance, gouge and mislead the public, sell anything they wanted, including products that didn't work or were completely unsafe... all completely legal in a "free market."
Teddy Roosevelt, a self-described "progressive," stood against such abuse of workers and consumers, and demanded instead a "fair" market, and a "Square Deal." Roosevelt also became the first real environmental president, creating the National Forest Service and using his authority to establish the first federal wildlife preserves, added great tracts to the national forests and national parks, and guided through a law which allows presidents to set aside historic places for protection. None of this was popular with conservatives.
Yet Theodore Roosevelt, Republican, was fully a capitalist. Much of what he did during his administration was in lock-step with the financiers. The difference between him and most of them is that he saw that rampant capitalism was not sustainable, and actually a threat to national security. Already in the 1890s and early 1900s there were rumblings of socialism and Communism around the world. Roosevelt saw that the greatest defense against Communism was a strong economy that bolstered the middle class, and gave the poor legitimate hope of soon joining it. Roosevelt astutely perceived that ruthless, predatory capitalism, far from being a bulwark protecting the American Way, was actually the surest way toward Communism or some other form of totalitarianism! It was just common sense... which, of course, means that many conservatives just don't get it. Here is a basic truism: capitalism desperately needs liberalism to save it from itself.
Theodore Roosevelt is enshrined along with Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington at Mt. Rushmore, but you rarely hear the Republicans claim him. They can't because he stood against so much that conservatives believe in. Nor are they warm and cozy with the original Republican, Mr. Lincoln, either, that betrayer of clan mentality and all-time antagonist of the South. Indeed, both were liberal Republicans, a rare bird even in those times of old, and presumed to be extinct today.
Roosevelt's spirit of reform or "progressivism" prevailed, in fits and starts, through the first two decades of the 20th Century. President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was the real successor of Teddy Roosevelt's legacy. Yet there were a few other Republican "progressives," like Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, who would later call for women's suffrage, greater power for unions, and nationalizing the railroads and electricity companies. Try to get your mind around a Republican clamoring for that! La Follette is another American hero that conservatives can't claim.
These progressives had realized that for decades the American economy had been one of boom and bust. Through the long lens of history it appears like a quick succession of bubbles, swelling then popping. Through the swelling of each bubble riches flowed (mainly to those already rich), yet each one of those busts was a devastating event to millions of people.
There were major busts in 1837, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1873, 1893 and 1896. Then came the Panic of 1907. Every single one of these was brought on by financial speculation and banking shenanigans.
In 1887 President Grover Cleveland had signed into law the Interstate Commerce Act, which created the Interstate Commerce Commission, the nation's first independent regulatory body... and the first to crack down on Big Business. But the Interstate Commerce Commission was primarily focused on the big railroads... and do did little to thwart Big Bankster abuse. The Panic of 1907 was one of the biggest yet, and provided the impetus for at least an attempt at strengthening governmental control of banks and the economy. President Wilson ushered in the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the income tax, the Federal Farm Loan Act and other measures as part of a tapestry to tame out-of-control capitalism. At the same time, he signed into law the Clayton Antitrust Act, which, along with the Sherman Antitrust Act, sought to protect consumers and smaller businesses from huge monopolies and cartels by regulating price discrimation and mergers and acquisitions. Wilson signed the Adamson Act, which established the 8-hour workday for railroad workers... soon to be emulated by other industries.
These measures showed that the federal government could actively intervene in "free market" business practices to improve the lot of workers and consumers. Union membership surged. Constraints were placed on the financiers. And not the least bit coincidently, a new middle class was rising.
Following World War I, Wilson tried to establish a League of Nations, an assembly of countries that could settle their differences and disputes in peace, rather than war. Wilson saw the League of Nations as the way forward for the United States and all countries, so that the armed conflict just concluded would truly be the "war to end all wars." For his efforts he was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. But he and the other world leaders who shared this vision were way ahead of their time. Conservatives in Congress refused to sign on, and the League of Nations never fully took wing. Over a quarter century later the United Nations would be born, vindicating Wilson's dream, but not before the world again clashed in awful violence. "We are citizens of the world," Wilson cried. Alas, America has never been ready to freely offer its own ideals of liberty, equality and justice to the rest of the nations and peoples of Planet Earth.
It is quite pertinent to note that throughout history much of the world, Europe in particular, was constantly at war. Then there were two world-wide wars within a few decades of each other in the 20th Century. Yet there have been no world wars since the formation of the United Nations following World War II. We are left to wonder if the League of Nations might have prevented that second great world war, itself. And, of course, we must - at all costs - decry and reject the conservative chant against U.S. participation in the United Nations... precisely the type of ignorant, selfish, greedy, fearful, jingoistic and xenophobic attitude that causes war in the first place!
The horrors of the "Great War," (World War I) shocked, dismayed and sapped the optimism of Americans. As millions of troops staggered home from Europe, Americans had no appetite for anything to do with the rest of the world. And at home things weren't exactly rosy: demobilization was chaotic, the economy hadn't revived from its war footing, farmers got whacked with the burst of yet another real estate bubble, and there were strikes and riots in major cities. At long last CorpCons sensed an opening, a way to thwart this wave of "progressivism," that had been dominant for nearly three decades. They disparaged Wilson and his "internationalism." They loathed his idea of a League of Nations (just as they now loathe the idea of the United Nations). Long before they hated Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton and Obama, conservatives hated Woodrow Wilson.
In the election of 1920, America turned back to Republicans, the so-called masters of business, and their ever-enchanting promise of economic prosperity.
So came the three Republican clowns: Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. It was back to business for America. Big Business. The bigger the better. The "free market" had returned.
Before he died in office, Harding managed to enable his cabinet to set the low mark for official bribery and corruption, including the notorious Teapot Dome scandal, the biggest scandal up until Watergate (yes, both Republican abuses of power). Wouldn't you know one of Republican politicians' favorite corporate sugar daddies, an oil company, was behind the corruption at Teapot Dome.
Silent Cal Coolidge took over for the dead Harding, and famously stated that "the business of America is business." The rich cheered. But really, how alien an idea from the founding fathers who thought the business of America was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! A true insight into the difference in philosophy is that liberals place a high value on happiness of the people, whereas CorpCons are obsessed with making money, and SoCons are focused mainly on conformity.
The "Roaring Twenties" were a time of great social and economic change. The country was continuing to modernize. Following the awful war, there was a determined quest for fun and gaiety, even in the face of yet another really bad conservative idea, Prohibition. But while much of America jitterbugged and swigged illegal liquor, professional conservatives were hard at work. The momentum of progressivism was stopped in its tracks as three straight Republican presidents and a conservative Congress happily rolled back the hard-won gains of unions, working people and consumers.
Leading up to the Depression, the corporate conservatives' double-mantra was put into full force: low, low taxes (especially for the rich) and deregulation of industry and the financial sector.
Taxes were halved. Business and banking regulations were loosened. The Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Reserve were given over to corporate cronies: the proverbial fox in the henhouse took charge. Regulators looked the other way. Corporate profits boomed. Unions were demonized and laws written that caused membership to plummet. Wages decreased, or barely increased even as prices rose. Workplace safety requirements were rescinded, resulting in hundreds of thousands of workers injured or killed. Immigration was severely curtailed, and a vicious racism and religious intolerance re-emerged. The Ku Klux Klan had four and a half million members nationwide by 1924. Wall Street speculation ran rampant. Banks gambled on specious loans and other complicated investment "instruments" that few understood. A housing bubble developed as land and home prices skyrocketed. Just by pushing paper around, people were getting rich overnight in both real estate and the stock market, even while working families across the country found it more and more difficult to survive, and a huge swath of the population was hungry and close to destitution. No matter, said the corporatists; there would always be the poor. If they couldn't save or invest in real estate or the stock market, it was their own fault. Here, again, was the vaunted "free market" of the conservatives, working as it will.
Does this all sound familiar? Then you can probably guess what happened next.
It was all a house of cards, based on blind faith in "trickle-down" mythology, and rife with moral corruption, even if it all was perfectly legal under the new rules of the "free market." As the first signs of imminent collapse emerged, many CorpCons got out of the stock market, but did not bother to warn everybody else. In October, 1929, the card stack fell, and kept on falling. The Great Depression had arrived.
Republican Hoover presided over the carnage (as his ideological descendent, George W. Bush, would do likewise seven decades later). In desperation and grasping at straws, he tried everything, including completely abandoning core conservative ideology and turning toward ideas that his own party labeled as "socialist." That, folks, is the measure of the veracity of conservative economic policy! Well, at least give Hoover credence for backpedaling, recognizing that something significantly different had to be tried... in stark contrast to the radical CorpCons of today who insist on doubling-down when their policies collapse in failure.
But it was too little, too late. Nothing seemed to improve, in fact things just got worse. The American people realized they had been "conned," had no confidence left in Hoover or the conservatives, and couldn't wait to throw them all out.
What they longed for now was a return to the "Fair Deal" and someone like Teddy Roosevelt, who would stand up to the banksters and financial sharks. They got it, and more.
In the 1932 elections, America turned to another governor of New York named Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, fifth cousin to Theodore. But this time it was a Democratic Roosevelt, a regular liberal. A wide coalition of Americans: northerners, southerners, white, black, poor, middle class, swept him into office, and broomed the Republicans out. Congress, likewise was transformed by the election. Out went the haggard conservatives whom almost everyone in the country blamed for the Depression. Since they had been in total control for over 12 years, who else could it be?
There are no quick and easy fixes for a bust or a recession, much less a depression. The conservatives had made such a colossal mess of the economy, it would take many years to dig back out. During the campaign Roosevelt had proclaimed, "I pledge you, I pledge myself to a New Deal for the American people... This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms!"
The economy had not quite hit rock bottom by the time Roosevelt took office. A bank panic occurred right around the time of his inauguration, and so came his famous line, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." How different from the continual warning of the conservatives, "Be afraid, be very afraid!"
Ah, but what America could do with a liberal like this leading us once again!
The New Deal involved programs that put Americans back to work immediately on projects like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that rebuilt America's infrastructure: roads and bridges, dams and parks that are still in use today. But among the other important New Deal changes was the Glass-Steagal act of 1933 that created the Federal Deposit Insurancy Corporation (FDIC), which insured deposits and thus virtually eliminated the "panics" that had plagued America for well over 100 years.
The Glass-Steagall act put a bridle firmly in the mouths of the banksters, separating commercial banks from investment banks, and preventing them from using customer savings and their own reserves for speculation. This law helped provide the stable economic environment that would allow for sustained growth of the middle class for the next 50 years. Glass-Steagall gave priority to the rights of bank customers and the public-at-large over bankster profits. In addition, Roosevelt ushered in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and expanded the powers of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), each designed to closely scrutinize and regulate business conduct.
The New Deal also created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The National Labor Relations Act gave the green light to unions across the country to organize, collectively bargain and go on strike. And in a landmark bill, Roosevelt and the New Deal liberals passed what is probably the most popular and uplifting law in American history: Social Security.
All told, the New Deal represented one of the most remarkable transformations of economic priorities in the history of the world: from a conservative ethos of allowing business to run wild to a liberal orientation favoring consumers and the middle class. Of course, CorpCons absolutely loathed every single bit of it!
The conservatives called the New Deal socialism. As usual, they were 180 degrees in error. It could more accurately be called "Liberals saving Capitalism."
The "free market" boom-and-bust cycle of economic chaos that conservatives had long championed had flowed to its logical conclusion, the wreckage of the Depression. With the New Deal, there was no longer any pretense of a "free market," which as we have seen was always just code-talk for a rigged market in which the capitalists could run amok. Now, at long last, the market was somewhat controlled... and took on at least a semblance of fairness.
Socialism was about the last thing it was. The capitalists were still firmly in control. The rich would still get richer. But it would take them longer to do it. And they had to play at least a little fair while they did it. Yet the poor would not get poorer. Indeed, they couldn't get much poorer than conservative ideology had made them in 1932. Slowly, they got back on their feet, and millions upon millions of them would join the burgeoning American middle class. The period from 1933 through the mid-1970s in America would become the largest expansion of an economic middle class in world history.
The CorpCons could barely stand it. Denied their full greed fix, they chafed. They carped. They cried. But few listened to them anymore. The Depression was too fresh. Everyone had heard their lies and distortions and distractions for too long, and knew them to be dead wrong.
Slowly, America pulled out of the Depression. Many economists, then and now, say the New Deal did not go far enough, that government stimulation, and deficit spending, was far short of what was truly needed to address the difficulties. Roosevelt himself was wary of deficits, and in 1936 allowed conservatives in Congress to convince him to pay down the deficit rather than continue to apply steady stimulative pressure in the face of stubborn unemployment. Yet again, conservatives were wrong. This move backfired, and threatened the recovery.
All of this history, these economic data and facts, are entirely ignored by the conservative call today to cut the deficit and shrink the government. As usual, the opposite of what they propose is the more likely route back to a strong economy. Further proving the fallacy of their contentions is what eventually did push America clear of the Depression: the biggest spate of deficit spending in American history... otherwise known as World War II.
So America went to war to save the world again. The nation also went deeply into debt to finance the war. In terms of the national debt as percentage of gross national product (GDP), the World War II decifit was almost double that of today.
As you might expect, conservatives howled and screeched, and prophesized doom. But they were drowned out by an overwhelming sense of patriotism. And that patriotism was put to a stern test. A lot was asked of almost every American citizen. Everybody was involved in the war, and everyone was expected to sacrifice. There was a draft, and 16 million, around 10 percent of the population, served in the Armed Forces. Rations were imposed on a variety of products, including oil, gasoline, rubber, sugar, meat. Taxes were raised, especially on the rich. Ordinary folks were encouraged to buy war bonds to help the cause. The government ordered factories converted to the production of planes, tanks, Jeeps, munitions, etc.
Now stop and think about this for a minute. A liberal Democrat was president. Taxes were sky high on the rich and corporations. Industry was ordered what to produce. And every American was expected to sacrifice for the collective, you could say "socialist," effort. Sounds like a conservative nightmare, right? Yet World War II represents the hey-day of the so-called "greatest generation," a period remembered with misty eyes as one of America's most glorious moments. And there was hardly anything conservative about it.
And all of this was diametrically opposed to the way the conservatives of the George W. Bush Administration ran their two wars of choice, actually lowering taxes (twice), especially on the rich, while dumping the whole load of these misadventures on the military and their families, and urging everybody else to "go shopping!"
The big lesson for the CorpCons following World War II was that they remembered how profitable war can be. It haa been over 20 years since the U.S. had been at war... just too long for CorpCon tastes. With the banks still in their New Deal bridles, the wasichu turned to an old friend, the military, for their greed fix. It was a rematch made in heaven for them both.
With the fascists in Germany, Italy and Japan defeated, the CorpCons needed a new boogie-man. And there was one ready to go... the Communists. The CorpCons sensed that this could be the best bad-guy ever! A new term was invented: "Cold War," a potentially cataclysmic war of nuclear proportions that was never to get too hot, never to be fought in earnest, yet ever prepared for, and waged in non-nuclear mini-bites here and there around the globe, well outside the boundaries of the two major players, the United States and the Soviet Union.
CorpCons rubbed their hands. Hey, this could go on forever! Permanent "Cold War" was a delicious dream for the CorpCons... without the messiness of a real war, perhaps, but with never-ending, ever-escalating military spending. Not only were great fortunes to be made, but all manner of clandestine political manipulations could be undertaken with a populace distracted by the ever-present danger and fear of war with a supposedly diabolical boogie-man. All that was needed was willing politicians and a gullible, fearful public to go along with it.
CorpCons and military types in America promoted a Communist hysteria (while in the USSR, their conservatives were promoting imperial-capitalist hysteria). On both sides a propaganda barrage emerged. There was a kernel of truth to it all; nuclear weapons are nothing to trifle with. Yet the degree of the nonsense that accompanied the hysteria was truly over the top, and in America veered well into anti-American behavior.
As usual, the bigtime CorpCons stayed well hidden from public view, but they had their stooges. Singular among these was Joseph McCarthy, a Republican, of course. McCarthy perceived communists lurking like ghosts in every corner of America, including inside the government. In 1950, shortly after China went Communist, McCarthy declared he had proof of Communists within the U.S. State Department, later pointed the finger at the U.S. Army, labeled the ACLU as doing the work of the Communist Party, and called the Democratic Party guilty of "twenty years of treason." His outrageous claims fueled rising fears of a Communist takeover of America. As is regularly the case with conservative outcry, nary a shred of it was true. Not a single actual Communist was ever discovered in the State Department, though hundreds of people with left-leaning sentiments, perfectly within their Constitutional rights, were demonized. McCarthy is truly one of the poster-boys of the conservative penchant for dangerous demagoguery. The hysteria he almost single-handedly whipped to a frenzy wrecked careers and lives and actually ended in the deaths of some of those he slandered.
When McCarthy turned his ire toward the Republicans, even the conservatives decided it was too much. He was censured by the House of Representatives, one of the few members ever to receive such a public rebuke. Yet the suspicions he helped enflame continued on in more subtle, though terrifically damaging means. Even many liberals bought fully into the new national pasttime of being terrified of Communism. Seemingly, especially liberals were susceptible, not wanting to be labeled as soft on defense. Truman, Kennedy and Johnson would fall right into the CorpCon trap of fomentation of a permanent war footing, allowing their better liberal angels to be pushed aside in favor of conservative warmongering against the ephemeral Communist threat. Even from the vantage point of four decades on, it's difficult to discern how much of the U.S. government's response to the "Communist threat" was based on sincere national security concerns, and what was deliberately manipulated to protect American corporate interests around the globe.
Only President Ike Eisenhower, formerly Allied Commander of World War II, warned against what was actually happening: the rise of a dangerous "military-industrial complex" that could threaten our very democracy. Ike was a RINO; he was courted by both parties after the war, and he actually turned out to be more liberal than conservative. He refused to lower taxes on the rich (they were at 91% maximum top personal bracket during his tenure... and it didn't curtail the "job creators" one bit), spent lavishly on the federal Interstate Highway System, in addition to critizing the military build-up and foreign adventures. Therefore, Ike was what today is known as a RINO (Republican in Name Only), yet another Republican that the modern party cannot claim as truly one of their own.
Alas, Ike's words of warning regarding the military-industrial complex fell on completely deaf ears. America would tell the military-industrial complex not to back down, but to put the pedal to the metal! Nothing rang sweeter to the ears of military contractors than an "arms race" with the Soviets. Oh, and throw in a "space race" to boot, involving many of the very same contractors. Keep that Communist hsyteria coming!
The "Communist threat" was always more myth than reality. America was never in any danger of being overrun by the Soviets, and eventually didn't really succeed anywhere it tried to prevent real Communist (not just socialist) revolutions from taking over. "Duck-and-cover" drills and bomb-shelter mania were outgrowths of mere mythology. We might as well have been building stables for unicorns. It would have been just as realistic, and a lot cheaper. On and on the "Cold War" went, for decades, costing untold billions of dollars, and much more importantly, tens of thousands of American lives, and millions of dead in the unfortunate proxy countries that were the actual killing fields of this irrational dualism.
Korea, then Vietnam, were the preliminary scenes of actual battle involving American troops. The "domino theory" proclaimed that if Communism was not stopped, one by one, countries would fall to the insidious ideology. Yet the West clearly had no interest in the people of these countries, only the commercial potential. Southeast Asia, in particular, was rich in natural resources, including rubber, tin and oil. 58,000 American soldiers would die in Vietnam, in vain, to prevent the people of that country from having the style of government that they supported, and to preserve the resources of this region for American corporate exploitation.
John F. Kennedy, a bonfide World War II hero (of PT-109 fame), and son of wealthy Masschusetts politico Joseph Kennedy, squeaked into the presidency in 1960, beating Richard Nixon with what conservatives cried were fake votes in heavily Democratic Cook County, Illinois, and South Texas, which tipped two of the biggest electoral prizes into Kennedy's column. Yet Kennedy's victory was more than a fluke. He was the youngest man ever elected President, but more importantly, the first Catholic. His win signaled that the old guard of Protestant domination of the American political system was changing. And they would soon change very drastically.
Being erstwhile liberals and not wanting to be depicted as soft on the Commies, Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson jumped right upon the Red-baiting bandwagon. A lean too far to the right caused Kennedy to sign off on the disastous Bay of Pigs invasion, a poorly planned attempt to oust Fidel Castro from power in Cuba. But later Kennedy would channel the steely courage that both Lincoln and Roosevelt displayed when he stared down Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviets in their attempt to place missiles in Cuba. This was the point where the Cold War almost turned hot. America stood resolute... with a liberal at the helm... and the Soviets backed down. Some historians claim this moment represents the beginning of the end of Soviet ascendancy, and reaffirmation of American governmental and military superiority.
Kennedy would initiate greater involvement in Vietnam, and Johnson would raise that bet considerably. How things might have evolved in Vietnam if Kennedy had not been assassinated has been fodder for enormous speculation since the Sixties. His defense secretary, Robert McNamara, later stated that Kennedy planned to withdraw from Vietnam following the 1964 election. But such was not the course of history.
In addition to jousting with the Communists conservative hardliners, Kennedy followed his true liberal intuition by taking on racial discrimination. To be sure, he was pushed by Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., but nevertheless might have successfully dodged the entire issue as other politicians had managed since the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education established that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional.
As part of his "New Frontier," Kennedy's vision was far reaching... to the moon, in fact. It was John F. Kennedy who set sending American astronauts to the moon and back as a national priority, to be accomplished within 10 years. This would directly lead to perhaps America's greatest achievement. But it would be Civil Rights where Kennedy would most make his mark upon the future of America. Kennedy eventually threw the weight of the U.S. federal government to assist an oppressed minority... a rare thing indeed. Only liberals do that. Conservatives never have, and never will. They love an unequal status quo - as long as they are on top!
Kennedy would not see his landmark Civil Rights legislation enacted. Alas, John F. Kennedy would be one of the great liberals who would be gunned down during the Sixties, along with King and Kennedy's younger brother Robert. America has never recovered from these crimes against the nation and the world. The country's liberal momentum was blunted, and it would be decades before someone appeared with anywhere close to the charisma, passion and sense of hope that these individuals brought to American politics.
The task of pushing the contentious Civil Rights laws through would fall to Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, who, as a Southerner, was an unlikely champion of black Americans. Though Johnson was at times anti-union, and allowed anti-Communist hysteria to get the best of him in handling the Vietnam War, on the domestic front he ranks as one of the great liberals of American history. His "Great Society" included the introduction of Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, increased spending on education, and, for the first time ever, turned the nation's attention to addressing urban decay in its largest cities. He initiated the "War on Poverty," which quickly cut in half the number of destitute Americans. He signed bills creating the Head Start and Work Study programs, and initiated both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Public Broadcasting System. And in the wake of the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., he also signed the Gun Control Act of 1968. Johnson added to the liberal legacy of protecting the America's natural heritage by signing the Wildnerness Act of 1964, which set aside over nine million acres of federal land to be preserved as wild. Johnson carried the torch for John Kennedy's dream of sending a man to the moon, supporting NASA through the dark days after the tragedy of Apollo 1. Kennedy's once dreamy quest would be fulfilled just six months after Johnson left office in January, 1969.
But at the core of Johnson's idea of a Great Society was a completely revamped orientation to race in America. Since the end of the Civil War, segregation was the de facto law of the land. The South, in particular, remained a hotbed of bigotry and discrmination. In a gallant and determined effort to smash the institutions of unfairness Johnson pushed for and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965; then in 1967 named Thurgood Marshall the first African American on the Supreme Court. Nobody knew better than Johnson, himself, that there would be political hell to pay for his transgressions against the "tradition values" of segregation.
President Johnson discusses the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The vast majority of his own political kind - southern Democrats were aghast. Now again, liberal ideology was remaking America. Once again, they faced the end of their world as they knew it. Remember, this was the era when most social conservatives, especially in the south, were Democrats... the co-called Dixiecrats. Upon signing the Civil Rights bills, Johnson is supposed to have predicted, "We have lost the South for a generation."
A generation? Try forever. In 1965 the Vietnam War still seemed little more than a trifle somewhere off in some foreign land no one had ever heard of, in defense of a people and culture that Americans had little in common with. But the Civil Rights upheaval would prove to be the political earthquake that would redraw the lines of the American two party system. The Civil Rights legislation of 1964 and 1965 would cleave both major parties, sending conservative white Democrats scrambling toward the Republican Party, and reassigning almost all black Americans, who had long been loyal Republicans (the Party of Lincoln), to the Democrats.
That truly was a different time. The nation, on the whole, including its politicians were far more liberal than is the case today. As Johnson states (video above), "an overwhelming majority" of both Democrats and Republicans voted FOR the Civil Rights legislation. That was the day of the "moderate Republican." In those days - in the midst of a very long and very successful run of liberal policies - even Republicans often went along with the progressive lean of the country. So who voted AGAINST the Civil Rights acts? Conservatives... both Republican and Democrat. Fortunately, there weren't so many of them back then... otherwise we might still have separate (and very unequal) drinking fountains, restrooms, restaurants, hotels... and opportunities for non-white Americans.
The election of 1964 emphasized the liberal mood of America when Johnson, fresh off the signing of the first Civil Rights legislation, obliterated the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, a tough-talking conservative's conservative. Goldwater won only six states, his brand of conservative politics deeply unpopular with the bulk of the country way back there in 1964. Goldwater won his home state of Arizona, however, the other five states were in the deep South, formerly strong Democrat territory. This was an early inkling that Johnson's prediction of the Democrats losing the South would come true.
Yes, the Times they were A'Changin'! For the better, for the most part. Old, worn-out "traditions" were falling, progress was on the march. The thing to remember about this time of great social upheaval is that the government did not invent or initially instigate any of these changes... each came organically from We the People. Politicians simply responded to the pressure coming from below. And the People weren't finished yet... in addition to Civil Rights, the War on Poverty and the Great Society, the Sixties and early Seventies would bring forth "revolutions" of women's liberation, the gay rights movement, handicapped rights, animal rights, environmentalism, anti-war and anti-nuclear protest, and more. It was, indeed, a cataclysmic era that pulled the plug on many of the sacred "traditions" of earlier America. For the most part, good riddance!
But in the new stew of political turmoil and change, even as they were getting their "traditional values" stuffed down their throats, Republican operatives saw a new/old way forward. The Democrats - with all their "equality" fixation - had given the conservatives exactly what they needed to eventually wrest power back from the liberals. Divide and Conquer would rise again.
By 1968 the Republicans felt they had their "Southern Strategy" well under way. This time they ran a much more moderate candidate than had been Goldwater, selecting Eisenhower's former VP Richard Nixon... the same guy who had lost to JFK in 1960. With the Democrats reeling in disarray, from Johnson's unpopularity due to the war, then the assassination of RFK, Republicans expected to sweep the South and win back the White House. But then a Democrat almost threw a monkey-wrench into their works. Ultra-conservative, vehemently segregationist, Alabama governor George Wallace - a Democrat - decided to run as a third party candidate. Wallace actually won 13.5 percent of the popular vote, and snagged five southern states that Nixon was counting on. In the end it didn't matter, as Nixon won enough other states, principally in the West and Midwest, to push him over the top (even though he only registered about half a million more votes than the Democratic candidate, Vice-President Hubert Humprhey... about the same number of votes that Al Gore scored over and above George W. Bush).
During the campaign Republican Nixon lied through his teeth in campaigning on a platform of ending the Vietnam War, even as he was double-crossing America by whispering to the North Vietnamese not to negotiate a truce with the Johnson administration. Nixon's "secret plan" to end the war helped get him elected, but four years later Americans were still dying in Southeast Asia. Vietnam was a complete debacle. Despite the blood and billions that American had spent, that "domino" eventually would fall to the Communists.
The Monsterization of American business and industry.
At this juncture, let's take a little break in the political narrative and see how our friends in Big Business were changing right along with the times.
From a conservative political perspective the worst case scenario in Vietnam had occurred. But lo and behold the world didn't end. Again, the conservatives were dead (literally) wrong! Just a few decades later, Vietnam is a great place to vacation, or move your factory to if you're a predatory capitalist "job creator." The Vietnam War screwed both Vietnam and America. But the CorpCons made money fighting the Viet Cong, and now they make even more money doing business with the Vietnamese. See how no matter what happens the CorpCons come out winners, even when conservative dogma is proven to be not based in reality whatsoever.
For the American military-industrial complex, Vietnam was not a debacle... in fact, it was just splendid. It allowed for the invention, testing and honing of a host of newer, deadlier products... and America emerged from the Vietnam War as arms dealer to the world. Step right up, and buy your guns, bombs, missiles, tanks, planes... and don't forget toxins! Anyone welcome... who isn't a Commie!
They had no shortage of takers. Over the years they would sell to Israel and to Israel's enemies. They would sell to nuclear antagonists India and Pakistan. They would sell to Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Basically any tinhorn dictator or warlord or "freedom fighter" with a bag o' cash was welcomed as a good customer, so long as they seemed anti-Communist. The Soviet military conservatives had the same gig going, only in reverse fashion, seeking out those thugs who were anti-U.S. The warmongers on both sides had found the "mean mean," a toxic equilibrium, an era of perpetual war footing and immense cash-influx, but without the oceans of blood and destruction of real world war that would sour and weary the citizenry against their craft and trade.
Just as the American military-industrial complex had morphed into a monster since the end of World War II, so too had other industries and business sectors discovered new and novel ways to supersize themselves and their profits.... becoming more and more ruthless and predatory with each passing quarter as their shareholders increasingly clambored for ever more inflated returns. And like the military-industrial complex, other sectors found that the domestic side of business was downright boring compared to the action outside of America. In terms of resources, materials, consumers... and, of course, workers and factories... a global strategy was becoming an imperative in the never-ending chase for increasing profit.
Of course, fueling, literally, the military-industrial complex is the oil industry. They love each other. The oil industry keeps the engines of war running, while the war engines slurp up the fuel as fast as they can. They lovingly dance in full embrace when they both seek to go after more oil in places where the people there don't particularly like us.
The most blatant "war for oil" would be the Iraq war, ginned up by oil men George W. Bush and Dick Cheney through a series of bald lies and outsourced to oil field crony-companies Halliburton and KBR, mostly through no-bid, sweetheart contracts. This wasichu orgy killed over 4,400 U.S. service personnel, as well as a low estimate of between 150,000 and one million Iraqis killed. Tens of thousands of troops have returned maimed, physically or psychically. Just as with the Vietnam conflict and Gulf War, the Veterans Administration expects hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to require public assistance for health and mental health issues for decades to come. The total cost to the U.S. taxpayers of the Iraq War is estimated to eventually top three TRILLION dollars! Billions of dollars just disappeared under the incompetent watch of the hack conservative operatives over in Iraq. Once again the people of both Iraq, Afghanistan and America got the shaft, while the CorpCons made billions dealing in shock and awe, death and destruction, deceit and deception.
For decades the large oil companies have engaged in relentless and reckless behavior around the globe, bullying and polluting at will, raking in obscene profits even as they are subsidized by the federal government. And the cherry on their cake is that they often find a way to pay zero federal taxes.
Major oil companies profits... ONE quarter (2012), mind you... and during a world-wide recession!
Clearly demonstrating their utter disinterest and disdain for protecting either the environment, other industries, or lives, official response plans previously drawn up by ALL of the major oil companies (and approved by George W. Bush Administration regulators) were inept, even nonsensical, including language that specified instructions for the protection of walrus in the case of a Gulf oil spill! Right, walrus, an arctic marine mammal, in the Gulf of Mexico! This kind of shoddy preparation reveals just how much this industry cares about our very planet itself. This is the only home we have, folks... and the oil companies and other extractive industries are determined to wreck it as fast as they possibly can... all in the name of P-R-O-F-I-T!
Two years later, researchers have discovered that the Deep Horizon well head is still leaking, and serious questions of just how much damage will eventually be wreaked by the oil still out there floating in the Gulf and spread out on the seabed, as well as the chemical dispersents (manufactured by the oil companies) used to break up the surface oil, which some claim may be more insidious than the oil itself. The Sierra Club ranks British Petroleum (BP) as the "bottom of the barrel" oil company. Not that the others are a whole lot better. If you are interested, here's an excellent snapshot of the oily practices of the oil industry.
Big Coal is another big polluter and, if you can believe it, even more careless and reckless with the lives of its employees than the oil industry. The routine working conditions of many mines would make even the most callous oil field supervisor squeamish. That the coal companies get away with this, year after year, death after coal miner death, is testament that the problem in this country is not too much regulation... there's not near enough.
Big Coal has recently engaged in a public relations blitz to convince gullible people that coal is "clean" energy. Actually, there is no such thing as "clean coal." There is dirty coal, and dirtier coal. There are types of coal that are cleaner-burning than others, but all coal is dirty. There are coal plants that have better pollution suppressing technology, but all coal plants are still dirty. Even the "cleanest" coal plants still spew carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury. And here we're simply talking about the burning of coal. There's also the extraction of coal. Rather than underground mines, the coal companies prefer Open Pit and Mountaintop Removal techniques. Why burrow through rock when you can just blow it to smithereens and pick up the pieces? Gouging gigantic holes into Mother Earth, and ripping away entire mountain tops, sometimes whole mountains, Big Coal has re-formed much of the Appalachians, and certainly not for the better. Not only do they leave behind gaping wounds in the body and soul of the locality, they also (conveniently for themselves) leave behind sludge, slag and toxic chemicals used in the extraction process dumped into the valleys, stream and river beds. Despite superficial "revegetation" upon completion, by the time the coal company has exhausted a particular location, only the most unspiritual person could look upon the scene and not grieve for the planet and the wicked soul of humanity. And just like with their murder of miners, the coal companies get away with this flagrant violation of American law and morality as well. Big Coal has already wrecked over 500 mountains. We can't do justice to the injustice here. For a better sense of what is going on please visit Mountaintop Removal in Central Appalachia
And if you think that's bad.... Though not nearly as pervasive as the filthy dirty, dangerous and corrupt oil and coal industries, even scarier is the nuclear power industry. Just about the farthest thing from a "free market" endeavor, every nuclear power plant in the world is highly subsidized by tax-payers. None of them would be remotely profitable on their own. Yet behind them sit CorpCons, somehow making fortunes out of public largess. This may not be anything new, but the risk inherent in these palaces of chaos waiting to happen certainly is. Aside from nuclear bombs, nuclear power is the most dangerous "product" on Earth. In fact, it's one of the most powerful and dangerous things in the entire universe. Stars are powered by it. So it would be better if we let the stars do the nuclear thing, and instead reap the bounty of their far safer convection heat.
But no. CorpCons shiver at the idea letting loose a process whereby any old dupe could set out some solar collectors and power their house. Better to keep things extremely controlled, complicated and expensive. In fact, the more complicated and expensive the better (that'll keep the riff-raff out)... no matter that it might destroy the habitability of the planet and ruin the life of every living thing.
It should make everyone queasy to think that CorpCons, people with the morals of Lucifer, ever seeking the highest profitability and lowest possible expenses, are playing around with nuclear fission.
The nuclear power industry is barely over 50 years old, and already there have been a raft of mishaps, accidents and near-misses, plus at least two actual, "localized" disasters: Chernobyl and Fukushima. Each of these "contained" (according to nuclear power proponents) catastrophies directly killed no one (as nuclear devotees love to point out), but spewed radioactive poisons far and wide (including the Pacific Ocean), assuring sickness, deformities and cancer among people and animals for years to come, and rendering wide areas "no-go" zones possibly for centuries to come.
Think about it! What a ridiculously horrid price to pay for an energy system that is not competitive even on its own and must be subsidized by the public, a system that trusts fat-cats inebriated by the whiff of profits with the most dangerous substance on earth, a system that is so complicated and sensitive that it practically begs for accidents. In fact, nuclear energy is a prime example of conservative ideological convolution and hypocrisy: solar power and electric cars have to figure out how to pay their own way and don't deserve any governmental assistance, yet nuclear energy is a great investment.
Really? The chances are astronomically high that someday one of these CorpCon-run boondoggles will go off in ways that will make Chernobyl and Fukushima seem like a burping high school science project. Where will that catastrophe take place? India? Czech Republic? Spain? Or perhaps Browns Ferry, Alabama? Palo Verdo, Arizona? Comanche Peak, Texas? Watts Bar, Tennessee? Diablo Canyon, California? Which community will follow Chernobyl and Fukufhima as the next nuclear dead zone?
Proponents like to boast that nuclear energy is "clean," with none of the pollutants involved with extracting and burning oil and coal. Please. It's the dirtiest energy imaginable. With oil and coal at least the worst effects should dissipate in a few hundred years. Not nuclear waste and radiation. No one has yet to figure out how or where to store the nuclear waste products that are produced by nuclear power plants, waste that is highly poisonous and won't be rendered harmless for hundreds of thousands of years. As you read these words, rusting barrels of highly toxic nuclear waste are leaking in Washington state and other places around the U.S. The more rational nations - like Japan and Germany - have announced they will phase out nuclear energy, and so get out of the dead zone lottery. Not so the CorpCon dominated United States. Even the moderate Republican Obama urges full-speed-ahead toward the Big Nuclear Disaster.
Accoring to a Yale study, the two most prevalent words
associated with nuclear power are "bad" and "disaster."
Closely allied to both the arms and the energy sectors is the chemical industry, which also boasts some of the top predatory companies of history. Among the most profitable chemicals are those that are the most dangerous, so toxic they are illegal for use in America... but not in foreign countries, or in wartime. DDT, dioxins, napalm, Agent Orange, Round-Up, and a wide variety of other chemical weapons, toxins, solvents, pesticides, herbicides and caustic agents are spread all around the world by U.S. based corporations. It's yet another way to make a fortune by spreading death and destruction.
Among the lowlights of this industry's pathetic legacy was the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India, when a shoddily-run (to save money, of course) plant owned by the American company Union Carbide accidently released toxic gasses that immediately killed 2,259 and eventually killed over 3,700, with another half million - that's right one-half million! - injured. There you go, folks... the "free market." Free to kill at will. The CorpCons at Union Carbide claimed "sabotage," even though a raft of unsafe practices and previous warnings were proven. Union Carbide slunk off after paying damages only amounting to about 1/10th of what they should have, then eventually sold off the company to Dow Chemical, which now claims no responsibility for the disaster at all.
Relative newcomers to the monster's banquet is the drug industry. Once a rather tawdry backwater of corporate involvement, in fact, more often dominated by rogue quacks and small-time entprepreneurs, over the past half century the makers of chemical-based pharmaceuticals have bloated to giant status, and become among the richest corporations in world history... to a degree that would make the old purveyors of "patent medicines" sick with envy. The efficacy and dangers of many of these modern products are still not fully understood, but no matter... they are insanely profitable. No doubt, some offer needed aid and comfort (even if their manufacturers don't exactly know how), but never doubt for a second that the motives behind their creation and propagation is not the health of the drug company. Indeed, for the company it's better if the product only kind of works. To maximize profit the drug should definitely not completely cure the patient! Meanwhile, these CorpCon pharmaceutical "patriots," whom professional conservatives continually scramble to protect and defend, show their loyalty by charging Americans up to 10 times what other countries demand they sell their products for.
The drug and medical hierarchies in America are commpletely dominated by wasichu mentality. Conservative CorpCons - including insurance companies, hospitals and doctors (some of whom can pull down a million dollars per year by showing up at work a couple of times a week) - have effectively prevented the United States from joining the rest of the civilized world in providing not-for-profit health care systems to their citizens. Offering the best health care in the world - to the rich - the American for-profit health care system is actually the laughing stock of the rest of nations. Per capita, America spends double the next closest nation for its health care costs, yet gets far less in return. There are a few words for that: unconscionable, thievery, suckers!
According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranks 37th overall in health care efficiency. America is 39th in life expectancy, 39th for infant mortality, 42nd for adult male mortality, 43rd for adult female mortality... and getting worse year by year, while almost all other health care systems are improving. This data, alone, renders a verdict of utter failure for the CorpCon sponsored, profit-oriented American health care system.
Of the civilized nations, only in America can you be financially ruined because you get sick or injured. The majority of bankruptices in America are health care related, almost all of them involving people who throught they had adequate medical insurance. Yep, the "Christian nation" (self proclaimed by SoCons) is the one and only country that has a health care system that would make Jesus angry.
Meanwhile, both the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors have actively sought to get their tentacles into the food industry. Following World War II, and in ever-increasing manner, the very food that sustains our life has been corporatized. And predictably it's insidious. The profit imperative insists that all manner of totally unnecessary, possibly harmful, but highly profitable crap is added to our essential food and drink. A regular apple is no longer enough; it must be an apple dusted with pesticide and polished with wax. In fact, unless you buy organic, it's almost a certainty that the fruits and vegetables you eat were basted in pesticides. As always, the long-term health effects of these products are unknown. We, good folks, are the guinea pigs for these rapacious profiteers. Meanwhile, milk and meat now come loaded with hormones, antibiotics and preservatives. This way the product is grown faster, larger, stores longer, and yields are greater. The farmer (less and less a family farmer, and more and more a giant corporation) makes more money; the wholesaler (more and more a giant corporation) makes more money; the retailer (more and more a giant corporation) makes more money. It's all a great deal for the suppliers of these products... not so much for the consumers.
Now Godzilla-like predators such as Monsanto (the fine, upstanding company that brought us DDT, PCBs, Aspartame, Bovine Growth Hormones and Agent Orange) are manipulating and patenting the genetic code of common food crops, such as corn, soybeans and cotton. Then they engage in the utterly un-American practice of forcing farmers to use only their seeds. It is surely one of the most diabolical campaigns ever waged by any company or industry to "open up markets." Just Google "Monsanto" for more on this insidious virus of a company.
Not only are we now eating synthesized, biochemical crap, we are encouraged to eat as much of it as we can stuff in our pie-holes. "Don't think. EAT!" is the corporate message. Or "DRINK!" as the case may be. In fact, "EAT and DRINK" as fast and as much as you can! And when you get sick, why some of those very same chemical and drug companies will be there with the remedy. "Buy this to relieve your bloat." "Buy this to lose weight." "Buy this to lower your blood pressure." "Buy this to cure erectile dysfunction." And if that's not enough... they'll be happy to provide lap-band surgery for you.
It all works perfectly well... for the giant corporations. For you, probably not so much. But don't worry your pretty head about it. Hey, look, the McRib is back at McDonald's!
The rapacious, consume-all-you-possibly-can, food industry of today has become a monster of unimaginable wealth, power... and horror. Industrialization, corporatization, and the mad dash for profits, has created a system not just of danger to the health of humans and extremely destructive to the environment... but also of unspeakable cruelty, immorality and irrationality when it comes to the world's animal life.
Turn your eyes away now hypocrites! There is a river of blood that empties right on to your kitchen table. Here are the sad and sickening statistics that YOU are fully and willfully (even if ignorantly, dispassionately and wholly unspiritually) responsible for:
Americans, alone, gobble down over 10 BILLION animals a YEAR! The average American engulfs 2450 chickens, 118 turkeys, 33 pigs and sheep, and 12 cows in a lifetime.
These are sentient, feeling creatures that are treated with utter disdain and disrespect during their short, suffering lives. One philosopher considers that there may be no sorrier life IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE than that of a human captive egg-laying hen, who has her beak cut off, then stuffed into a cage in which she cannot even turn around or spread her wings, forced to pump out eggs until she is spent, at which point she is ground up into pet food. Dairy cows are similarly used and abused, cyclically impregnated (raped), their calves immediately taken away from them and imprisoned in the veal cage, while the mother forlornly endures painful milking until she is spent, then she is "rendered" into pet food or fertilizer. And those are the "lucky" ones that actually get to live a few years. Countless "meat" animals endure shorter misery before they are marched, as virtual toddlers, to the filthy, blood-soaked abattoire where low-paid, laughing sadists shock, shoot and slit them, watching as they often writhe in horrible torment before expiring on the blood-soaked slab.
Meanwhile, corporate fishing empires are yanking everything out of the sea as fast as they possibly can. There is currently a race to see who will land the last bluefin tuna, which will surely be the most valuable fish ever killed. And all of this to provide ever-growing profit for corporations, and satiate the rampant consumerism of the unthinking, uncaring human, a type of primate that evolved to be mainly vegetarian! This is corporate sponsored gluttony, absurdity, immorality and insanity. But, boy is it profitable! Where in the stars or in any sacred text, or within our own ethical self, is it decreed that we have the moral right to do this? To exploit, despoil, torture and ravenously consume the divine Creation: if there is such a thing as sin in the Universe, our cruelty to the rest of nature is the absolute worst!
Paul McCartney discusses the despicable Meat Industry.
Through the 1970s business had never been better for the CorpCons in the military-industrial complex, the dirty energy (oil, gas and coal) companies, the even dirtier nuclear boondoggle, the poisonous chemical sector, for the legal drug lords and medical manipulators, the insurance rackets, and Big Food.
Yet as the 1970s came to a close, America was gloomy, disenchanted and dispirited. And why not? Everything seemed on edge. All of our buying and spending hadn't made us happy. Faster and cheaper food, non-wrinkle clothes, oversized stereos, electric typewriters, muscle cars, shiny gadgets and non-stop entertainment could not live up to their billing as stuff that would provide happiness. Just a few years after the pinnacle of American achievement, putting a man on the moon (another liberal vision), the hope and promise of the Sixties was six feet under with the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and not a few rock stars. Now even larger swaths of the American public were calling into question all forms of authority. Riots and protests accompanied new paradigms of thought, including the women's, gay/lesbian, and environmental movements as challenges to the injustices of the status-quo. America was facing up to the bitterness of a first-ever military defeat, not at the hands of a mighty industrial power like Germany or Japan, but from a tiny country of peasants. The war had divided the nation into fiercely partisan camps. The nadir of the decade may have been when the National Guard opened fire on protesting students at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine. Or was it at My Lai in Vietnam where our soldiers engaged in an orgy of indiscriminate killing of innocent villagers? Or was it the day that the President of the United States, a Republican, resigned in shame? Take your pick. The system was obviously rotten.
Nixon, still maintaining that he was not a crook, took a pardon and a huge pension with him, and all the other perpetrators of Watergate got off lightly or scot-free. A short time later Americans learned of the horrific lying and crimes of the Nixon adminstration, from the CIA's secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia and Laos to the FBI secretly and illegally spying on Americans. Then came an oil crisis and stubborn inflation, or "stagflation" as it was called. This stagflation had increased during the decade of the 70s, originally spurred in no small degree by Nixon's termination of the convertability of the dollar to gold in 1971. This action is referred to by economists as the "Nixon Shock," and it changed the balance of the entire world economy because the currency of almost all other countries was tied to the dollar. Suddenly, the dollar wasn't worth as much. Though the cause ran through Nixon, the Republicans would greatly profit.
Democrat Jimmy Carter, governor of Georgia, won the 1976 election, temporarily shortcircuiting the Republicans' "Southern Strategy" by carrying the entire South with him, as a native son. But he was granted a very short honeymoon, and no leeway at all by an increasingly unsettled populace. Carter was the unfortunate inheritor of almost a decade of American malaise, mismanagement and betrayal spanning the adminstrations of Johnson, Nixon and Gerald Ford. Weary of rising prices, which Carter had not seemed able to do much about, indeed, it worsened on his watch, and enraged at the taking of American hostages in Iran (by Iranians who were enraged at America meddling in their country), America turned to a B-rate actor proferring economic magic and promising to restore America's swagger... right along with a dawn of a new era of "free enterprise."
Ronald Reagan crushed Carter in the 1980 election, and a new ideology took hold in the USA... an ideology that even erstwhile liberals would get in bed with.
"Reaganomics" was coming. It would be the dawning, alright, the dawn of the great worsening of just about everything that ails us today! What was rotten in America was about to get rottener.
If business was doing quite well already, a new banquet was about to begin. Reagan came in braying that Americans could not trust their government, railing against his predecessor's profligate spending, and spouting the hoary old CorpCon double-mantra: low taxes and deregulation. Reagan wanted to completely remake America into "Trickle-Down" Town.
Reagan sang the old conservative song to an America that hadn't heard it for a long time. Low, low taxes on the rich, and deregulation for corporations would actually lead to more corporate profits, more jobs, and thus more tax revenue, her crooned. It was classic "supply-side" ideology. The idea is that tax policy is skewed toward the "suppliers," who are the corporations and their owners and officers. Then, as the suppliers reap higher profits, this money will trickle down to everyone else. Reagan's more moderate Republican challenger in the 1980 primaries, George H. W. Bush, labeled it "voodoo economics," which was dead-on accurate. Supply-side economics has never actually worked in history. It wouldn't again.
Reagan had castigated Carter's spending, but would make the former president look like a penny-pincher. Reagan would set the nation on the course of willfully digging itself into the hole of national debt we now find ourselves. Indeed, after the record deficit of World War II, the national debt (as a percentage of GDP) had been steadily declining... until Reagan. From George Washington through Jimmy Carter the nation had accumulated a debt of just under $1 Trillion. Reagan would triple it. Carter left the U.S. as the world's leading creditor; in eight short years Reagan would turn us into the world's biggest debtor.
Read those last few sentences again, and let it well soak in. And this is the guy Republicans think of as their one true hero.
Releasing the Kraken!
Since the end of World War II most industries had been doing pretty damn well. But not well enough, thought Reagan and the trickle-downers. And, in their minds, one industry in particular had been singularly and sorely mistreated by liberal ideology. Yes, the dear old banks.
Remember them? You know, the ones who brought us all those boom and busts, panics and the Great Depression? Yes, those guys. For 40 years New Deal rules and regulations had brought slow, steady growth, with only a few comparatively mild recessions, no real hyper-booms, no busts, no more depressions. But the banks had been chafing in their New Deal bridles, making solid profits, mind you, just not the astronomical haul they remembered from the Gilded Age. They saw other industries - the energy, chemical, drug and food sectors, not to mention the military-industrial complex - racking up record profits and were straining at the bit to be let loose... to run free! Reagan would be their dark knight. He would begin the severing of the tethers that would release the kraken.
First he untied the Savings & Loans. The New Deal had required Savings & Loans to keep their customers' money safe. That was no fun, and certainly a big crimp on profits. Customer-Schmustomer! Let's get this party going! As Reagan signed the bill that deregulated the Savings & Loans in 1982 he quipped, "This is the most important legislation for financial institutions in 50 years. I think we've hit the jackpot!" Indeed. As usual when a conservative makes a bold prediction, what actually happened was the exact opposite.
Well, again... we must differentiate between the CorpCons and We the People. With the deregulation of the S&Ls the public was about to get screwed. As always, the CorpCons would make a killing.
The deregulated S&L industry went wild, rushing to sever their state charters and become federally insured, meaning that the U.S. taxpayers would bail them out... regardless of their recklessness. Then they went on a frenzied real estate gambling and spending spree, setting up what would later be described as "Ponzi Schemes,' quickly building up a house of cards that was bound to collapse. It did, shockingly fast. Before the carnage was over 747 S&Ls would fail nationwide, leaving the American taxpayers with a bill for $90 BILLION (and that was back when a billion was still a big number). That amount, of course, went on the U.S. credit card. And we're still paying it off!
The cascade of the S&L "scandals" should have served as stern rebuke concerning the dangers of deregulation. But not for the conservative true-believers. They just ignore facts they don't like. Besides, the "trickle-downers" were just getting started.
Forget baseball or football, debt was now the national pasttime. Not just for the federal deficit, which under Reagan would triple, but also for families. Americans were saving less than ever, and slipping ever further into the black hole of debt. During the 1970s, Americans were saving an average of 10 percent of their income. That would "trickle down" to near zero under Reaganomics. This reversing of priorities from the more stable times of New Deal economics continues to plague us today.
"Greed is Good," was the mantra of Reaganomics, the idea that hyper capitalism would spawn robust economic growth, jobs and therefore more tax revenue even at substantially lower rates. It didn't work. Reagan tripled the national deficit in several ways. He slashed top marginal tax rates from 70 percent to 50 percent then to 28 percent, lower than they had been for 60 years, since right before the Great Depression (accurately foreshadowing bad things to come). The promised increase in revenue due to the reduced tax "burden" never materialized. Not even close. So the deficit ballooned.
Meanwhile, ominous new words and phrases were entering the American lexicon: predatory capitalism, merger-mania, out-sourcing, leveraged buyout. The primary goal of deregulation was to dismantle, piece by pioece, the New Deal protections. As this occurred, through a series of legislation and executive orders, ruthless economic forces were free to wreak havoc. A new economy was emerging alright, and it wouldn't be a pretty sight for the Middle Class.
Meanwhile, Reagan also re-instigated the conservative's love for punitive governance, bringing back the ideology of "let's get tough on crime" with mandated maximum punishments (the "Sentences Reform Act"), even for the smallest of offenses, kind of like back in the days of Prohibition. The percentage of incarcerated Americans skyrocketed, many in prison on simple marijuana possession charges. Court and prison costs added to the woes of the wobbling federal (and state) deficits. The conservatives didn't care; they were too busy pursuing their agenda.
Rather than bringing down the deficit and shrinking government, Reagan pumped up the government to unprecedented size. As the deficits mounted, conservatives grew quiet as a mouse on the subject. A few years later Dick Cheney famously quipped, "Deficits don't matter."
Reagan, himself, seemed to hold that theory when he tapped the American credit card in a big way by escalating the Cold War. He and his advisors were apparently completely unaware that the good, old Soviet Union, which peaked in energy and strength sometime shortly after Sputnik in 1957, had been slowly but surely unraveling for decades and only needed to peter out organically. Apparently unaware that the U.S. and the Soviets had become more friends than enemies (doing business with each other, and even coordinating space adventures together), Reagan ramped up faux-patriotism by calling out the "Evil Empire," and upped the ante with wild military spending, including billions on the "Strategic Defense Initiative," otherwise known as "Star Wars," which only those contractors reaping the financial windfall ever believed would work. It never did. Other military boondoggles included the Trident submarine, bristling with nuclear warheads and useless for anything other than adding some extra pyrotechnics to mutually-assured annihilation. In the Middle Eastern and "terrorism" wars to come these super subs would be as useless as boar tits.
The idea that Ronald Reagan "ended the Cold War" is yet another outrageous conservative myth, again the opposite of reality. The Soviet Union fell due to its own internal liberalization, which undermined its raison d'etre. If anything, the military blustering and spending of hard-line hawks in the West, from Truman on, but especially Reagan, only gave credence and impetus to the increasingly flagging Soviet hard-liners (yes the conservative Communists). The Soviet hard-liners' last hurrah was their invasion of Afghanistan (where we sided with the Mujahidin, which included a guy named Osama bin Laden). When that episode turned into their Vietnam, the die was cast. The people of the various Communist states, emboldened by liberalization, eventually took matters into their own hands and dismantled the "Evil Empire" with hardly a whimper from the once fearsome, now thoroughly discredited Communist conservatives.
According to a former American ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Keenan, "The general effect of Cold War extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook the Soviet Union by the end of the 1980s. We paid with 40 years of enormous and otherwise unnecessary military expenditures. We paid through the cultivation of nuclear weaponry to the point where the vast and useless nuclear arsenal became (and remains today) a danger to the very environment of the planet."
Trillions of dollars in Cold War spending as the Soviet system was winding down on its own, and all we got out of it was a bunch of rusting warheads filled with the most toxic substance known to man. Sweet! But while it lasted, Cold War sure was good for Reagan's friends in the military-industrial complex!
And, as he was spending like a madman on nothing of real or moral value, Reagan kept on slashing taxes. With ideological fervor, by 1988 he had finally whacked the top marginal down to 28 percent! It was like Christmas from January to December for the ultra-wealthy.
To their credit, Reagan and his financial advisors, among them David Stockman, reversed track on certain taxes and fees as, stunned and alarmed, they watched the deficit expand and expand. Supply-side wasn't working the way they promised it would. All told, Reagan would raise taxes 11 times, including raising Social Security taxes and the estate tax, and temporarily doubled the gas tax. And here's a factoid sure to drive conservatives crazy: Reagan's 1982 tax increase remains the largest tax increase (adjusted for inflation) in American history!
Reagan advisor Stockman makes an excellent point about the Reagan era tax increases: "That (Reagan raising taxes) puts the lie to the current arguments of Republicans that the economy is too weak to bear a tax increase because the next year 3.5 million jobs were created. When the Republicans rhetorically say now, ‘Who would raise taxes in a recession?’ the answer is Ronald Reagan."
(About that, Grover Norquist, head of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform (and the guy who forces Republicans sign that "No Taxes" pledge) retorts, "This is a different Republican Party you’re talking about. The modern Republican Party does not raise taxes." Right. The "modern" Republican extremists will not compromise, will not reason, will not serve the needs of the nation but rather are shackled by their beliefs, even as those beliefs have absolutely no basis in fact. Such silly, simplistic, selfish, regressive - and wrong - ideology is the very reason why they are unfit to govern.)
Coming into office, Reagan had promised to balance the budget. He not only never came close... he tripled the deficit. Reagan came into office vowing to shrink government spending and the size of government itself. He did the exact opposite, increased spending and created the largest federal government ever... by far. He promised the miracle of trickle-down would stimulate corporate investments and jobs, and thus provide more tax revenue. But the alchemical expectations of trickle-down never materalized. The economy under Reagan was uneven; in his first term he produced far fewer jobs than had Carter (putting the lie yet again to the myth that low taxes for the rich creates jobs), and only marginally more jobs than Carter during his second term... even with the tailwind of the personal computer revolution helping him along with an exciting and lucrative major new industry. Two years into his first term the unemployment rate was over 10 percent! Through it all, Reagan never raised the minimum wage. Meanwhile, the deficit exploded. Reagan backtracked on taxes, at least to a degree, but the hole he had blown in the country's revenue stream was never repaired - even to this day. Indeed, it has steadily worsened.
As Reagan went off into the sunset after eight long (and very dreary for us liberals) years, he had achieved nothing of tangible value for the United States of America. The malaise of the Seventies may have lifted; many citizens may have felt better than eight years earlier... but it was all a mirage. Most Americans were actually going backwards, though they didn't so much realize it at the time. Reagan's true legacy was that he had brought back to the halls of power as official economic creed the ideology of wasichu. Through low, low taxes for the rich and corporations, and by deregulation of consumer and environmental protections, he ushered in the reversal of the long trend in America of a great leveling of opportunity and equality within the economic system. With Reagan, the Gilded Age was returning. The rich would get richer, much richer, while the poor and Middle Class would increasingly struggle.
Reagan's Vice-President, George H.W. Bush campaigned for the Presidency in 1988 pledging in his convention speech, "Read my lips. No New Taxes!" even as he stared at a deficit that had tripled over just the past eight years. This was the guy who had presciently called Reaganomics "voodoo economics," but now was firmly in lockstep with trickle-down ideology. One of Bush's economic advisors, Richard Darman, urged the removal of the quip from Bush's speech, saying it was "stupid and dangerous." He was right, but other advisors, including Roger Ailes (now head of Fox News), insisted that the pledge remain. Coming from well behind in the polls, the strong "no-tax" pledge helped Bush win the election. Now he would have to live with it.
But first, there was a little matter of war. Seems like our old friend, dictator Saddam Hussein of Iraq, whom Reagan had coddled and armed as a Cold War ally, sent along some feelers to the Bush State Deparment. In so many words he asked, "What would you do if we were to, you know, invade Kuwait?" And the answer from April Glaspie, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was a muddled, "Meh. We don't want an economic war with Iraq." And so Saddam summarily invaded Kuwait in order to steal their oil fields in retaliation for their Kuwait's alleged slant-drilling stealing of Iraqi oil.
"Outrageous!" bellowed the conservative hawks. "We must go to the rescue of our dear ally, Kuwait." By mid-January 1991, the United States and a handful of allies had commenced "Operation Desert Storm," to oust Iraq from Kuwait. A ground assault began in late February. It was a quick war. The ground troops required just 100 hours to demolish the Iraqi forces and secure a cease fire. Saddam had been routed. Americans were jubilent, and George H. W. Bush's approval numbers were stratospheric. (You see, liberals can get behind a conservative president... it's just conservatives that cannot, under any circumstances, bring themselves to support - or even for a moment stop hating - a liberal/moderate president; thus their seething and sustained animosity toward Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.)
But it was to be the high point of Bush the Elder's presidency. Even as children in Kuwait were being named "George" and "Bush" after their "liberator," many American professional conservatives, though thrilled with the chance to get their rocks off with a spate of real war, were dissatisfied with how quickly the war fizzled out. They had been waiting for this since Vietnam... only to experience a premature ejaculation. They demanded to know why we didn't we go on to Baghdad. Why not take Saddam out for good?
Bush's Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney, had a ready answer: "How many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq."
The military brass almost unanimously agreed with Bush and Cheney. If only Cheney, and the military, had stuck to that reasoning 12 years later when Bush the Dumber insisted on invading Iraq in search of those mythical "Weapons of Mass Destruction."
In hindsight, the Gulf War wasn't the glorious victory it seemed at the time. Not only did it set the stage for continued strife with Iraq over the next decade, it provided a pretext for the next Republican-inspired invasion of that country in 2003, and was the original justification for establishing American military bases in Saudi Arabia. It would be precisely these bases, stupefyingly ignorant, arrogant and provocative, placed smack in the middle of the Islamic Holy Land, that Al Qaeda would cite as its primary motivation for the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. So it was actually Bush the Bland who unwittingly set the stage for the highjackers who, in retaliation for Muslim humiliation, would crash planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, thence ensnaring Bush the Worthless in a debacle like America had never seen before.
Meanwhile, back at home, tens of thousands of returning Gulf War veterans reported mysterious illnesses, believed caused by their battlefield exposures to such toxins as burning oil well fumes, chemical weapons, anthrax vaccines and depleted uranium which was used (unconscionably) in American bombs. As usual, the Republican administration downplayed the complaints of returning soldiers and stalled on any action or serious research into actual causes, symptoms and potential remedies. That stalling continues to this day.
By the time the election of 1992 rolled around, Bush the Bland's popularity numbers had cooled considerably. After all, he reneged on his pledge not to raise taxes. He had to. After Reagan tripled the federal deficit, Bush added another trillion dollars all his own. Voodoo economics, indeed! Trickle-down simply wasn't working at all. The reality, in fact, was the precise opposite of what the conservatives had promised... solid proof again of conservative "mythical theory." The only responsible thing to do was to raise taxes. And so he did what was right for the country in this case, and paid the political price. He was swept from office by an upstart young governor from Arkansas, Bill Clinton.
Conservatives were stunned. They never saw it coming. Over 12 years they had come to think of the White House as theirs. For some 30 years they had meticulously crafted their political strategies and messages, demonizing liberals and warning of Big Government at every turn. They had weathered the failure of the "Southern Strategy" to eventually topple Jimmy Carter, then elected Ronald Reagan, ushered in the age of trickle-down, low, low taxes for the rich, the deregulation of business and industry, and were chipping away at the New Deal. Everything seemed to be going their way. How in the world could a draft-dodging, pot-smoking, saxophone-playing Democrat from Arkansas, of all podunk places, beat out their sitting President, legitimate World War II hero, and veteran of just about every job in politics? It was all too painfully reminiscent of how their other sitting President and American hero, Gerald Ford, was whipped by the peanut farmer from Georgia in 1976. They seethed (they are always seething about something), declared Clinton illegitimate (as they had Carter), and plotted their revenge.
But Bill Clinton was no Jimmy Carter. For one thing, Carter may have been one of the most moral persons to every occupy the White House (and still the professional conservatives... who actually have little interest in morality themselves... hated him). Clinton? Well, let's just say he was almost as morally challenged as professional conservatives. Yet when he left office he had an approval rating of 68%. If nothing else, Clinton is a politician's politician. A master at manipulating and controlling public opinion, he wouldn't be as easily steamrolled by the conservative machine. He also was not anywhere close to being a bonafide liberal, as, arguably, Carter sometimes resembled. Clinton was determined to create a new Democratic Party, a more conservative party. Clinton was, in fact, a "bluedog" (conservative) Democrat, and over the next eight years he would willingly give the conservatives much that they craved.
And still they hated him.
Clinton came into office with a swagger, youthful energy (he was the third youngest president ever) and perhaps the keenest political acumen of any public figure in several generations. His reading of the political winds was that, since Reagan, the country had turned more conservative; even Democrats were going along with it. So continued drift toward the right for the Democratic Party was the assumed correct strategy for winning elections.
This rightward movement within the Democratic Party had its own organization, the Democratic Leadership Council, its own think-tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, and called themselves "New Democrats." The basic idea was that these "New Democrats" would continue to advocate for social equality but seek "innovative, market-based solutions." Hmmm... sounds suspiciously similar to the so-called "Classical Liberalism," doesn't it? Bill Clinton would become the "New Democrats" poster-child.
Clinton campaigned on ushering in a "New Beginning," but he really came into office willing to compromise, especially on conservative ideas about business, industry and finance. To his credit, he and First Lady Hillary tried to implement a campaign promise, universal health care, early in his first term, but the plan was thwarted by conservatives in Congress, including some of his own Blue Dog Democrats. Clinton accomplished some good liberal things in his eight years in office, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill which more strongly regulated handguns, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers, implemented "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a clunky interim status that was far from just, but at least ended military witch-hunts to ferret out gay and lesbian service members. Clinton had some worthwhile environmental achievements: strengthening the EPA, cleaning up over 500 SuperFund sites (more than three times as many as Reagan-Bush), permanently barring oil leasing in national marine sanctuaries, setting aside from development millions of acres of federal land, restoring the Everglades, and fighting off conservative efforts to drill for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.
Clinton lowered taxes on the Middle Class and small businesses, but raised taxes on the rich, from Bush the Bland's 31 percent to a modest 39.6 percent, still far lower than they had been from the 1930s through the 1970s, America's longest period of prosperity and actual good job creation. Conservatives howled like stuck pigs, prophesizing economic doom as their precious millionaire and billionaire "job creators" were punished by this wicked barbarian of a president. Not one Republican voted for Clinton's 1993 budget. Proving them dead wrong yet again (for the umpteenth time), the economy, directly in the face of these tax hikes on the rich, jumped to life. Aided in no small part by the energy of the internet boom, Clinton's eight years would create 23 million jobs, more than the 12 years Reagan/Bush combined. Compromises with the Republican Congress even led to annual budget surpluses the last four years of Clinton's presidency, the first surpluses since 1969.
But then there was Bill Clinton, the conservative. Egged on by Wall Stree insiders such as Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, Bluedog Clinton cheerily went right along with a slew of conservative ideas, and signed them into law. Though he raised taxes on the rich, Clinton allowed other components of trickle-down Reaganomics to continue unabated. The Republican war on drugs and demonizing of the poor marched on, as did deregulation. Indeed, Clinton became one of the lead chanters of the deregulation mantra. He signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and entangled the United States in the travesty that is the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Worst of all was Clinton's siging of the "Financial Services Modernization Act." Now who could be against such a common-sense law, right? Certainly not Republicans. They were salivating like weasles in the henhouse. This was the Big One... the change to America's economy that conservatives had been dreaming of for over 60 years. Now at long last it was in sight. Also called the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act for the three Republican weasels who penned it, this bill repealed the important parts of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Remember, the act that bottled up the banks, securities companies and insurance companies who had created the Great Depression? On November 12, 1999, Clinton signed the bill that allowed the conservatives to destroy what had been one of the jewels of the New Deal, Glass-Steagall, the strong chains that had restrained the kraken of Wall Street for 60 years! And now, thanks to Republican pirates -- and their good buddy (whom they wanted to impeach) Bill Clinton -- the kraken could take full flight!
Imagine a Democrat just giving away one of the most important protections of the New Deal, perhaps the signature accomplishment of the Democratic Party! But who knew? After all, 66 years was so long ago. The full name for Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the bill that brought the death knell to Glass-Steagall, was the "Financial Services Modernization Act." Who could be against "modernizing" the economy? Glass-Steagall? What the hell is that? Nobody remembered. Did even Clinton remember? And anyway, for nearly two decades the conservatives had been harping about the magic wonders of deregulation. Maybe it was time to go full bore. Perhaps such was the thinking of this "New Democrat" as well as, sadly, most of the Democrats in Congress. Only eight senators voted against the bill, seven loyal Democrats and one lone Republican with some common sense.
Gramm-Leach-Bliley removed some of the last safeguards to the public from a predatory financial sector. Now banks were virtually free to wheel and deal, to dabble in bank and savings accounts on one hand, while the other hand was playing fast and loose with investment shenanigans and trickery. At long last, conservatives had managed to fully set the table for another Depression!
Forget the Monica Lewinski scandal. The real scandal of Bill Clinton's presidency was his abdication of the fundamental role of the more liberal party to protect the citizenry and the commons from the robber-barons of Big Business. In this solemn duty he utterly failed.
YOU MUST WATCH THIS: This is Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat, North Dakota) railing against the Gramm-Leach-Briley Act in 1999... and the portents of the Great Recession nine short years later are uncanny!For all of his give-in to conservative ideology, including handing them last vestige of Glass-Steagall on a silver platter, Clinton got back not a shred of love from the Republicans (a fact Barack Obama seems to never have heard about). In fact, Republicans spent years and millions of dollars in tax-payers' money trying to impeach him. In December, 1998, the House of Representatives voted to impeach, but the Senate didn't follow through. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton became only the second president ever impeached (Republican Andrew Johnson was the other; he also was acquited by the Senate). In retrospect, perhaps the Republicans would have done us all a favor if they had gotten rid of Clinton in 1998. Then Al Gore would have become president, and perhaps defended, like a good Democrat, the Glass-Steagall component of the New Deal... and perhaps, as a sitting president, survived the challenge of the boy terror, George W. Bush.
Senator Dorgan recalls the Gramm-Leach-Briley Act with Rachel Maddow in 2009
More information on 'Who Killed Glass-Steagall?'
Senator Elizabeth Warren talks about reinstating Glass Steagall.
As the election of 2000 drew near, wasichu greed and arrogance was once again, for the first time since the 1920s, basically unfettered, and feeling its oats. Potentially standing in the way was Vice-President Al Gore, another "New Democrat," but with an unsettling (for conservatives) penchant for environmentalism. The last thing Big Finance and Big Business and Big Industry and Big Food wanted was a president who might muck up the works trying to protect consumers or the environment.
Gore was odds-on favorite to succeed Clinton, and keep the White House in Democratic hands. But he ran a lackluster campaign. Greatly irked at the Monica Lewinski scandal, Gore refused to allow the still very popular Clinton to campaign for him, anywhere, even in Arkansas, Clinton's home state. As it turned out, Gore won the nationwide popular vote by half a million votes, and if he had won one additional state: Arkansas, New Hampshire, his home state of Tennessee, or any other state, he would not have even needed to win Florida to become president. But he didn't win any of those, so it all came down to voting in the state of Florida.
Now imagine this bizarre scenario: What kind of ballistic conniption fit do you think conservatives would throw if a conservative candidate won the popular vote for president... BUT then it came down to the votes of just one state to determine the winner, and in that state the vote was razor close... BUT, without allowing a recount, the secretary of state of the key state (who was appointed by the governor of the state, who just happened to be the BROTHER of the liberal candidate) declared the liberal as the winner of the state... BUT the hue and cry went up from conservatives for a recount... so a LIMITED recount was reluctantly allowed by the secretary of state (remember, appointed by the BROTHER of the liberal candidate)... BUT the recount was disorganized and mangled, so ANOTHER recount was undertaken... BUT before that recount could be completed the liberals managed to get the Supreme Court of the United States, which happened to have TWO justices appointed by the liberal candidate's FATHER, to intervene and, by a 5-4 split decision (along party lines), and in complete defiance of their own sacrosanct ideology (state's rights), stopped the recount. Thus effectively, the liberalcandidate's BROTHER interfered with the key state's voting process, and then the liberalcandidate's FATHER's Supreme Court apppointments hijacked the democratic process and hand-picked the President of the United States.
Ha, ha, ha! That couldn't happen, right? Wrong! That's exactly what happened... except in reverse. And so conservative Republican George W. Bush became the first truly illegitimate president in U.S. history.
CorpCons all over America breathed a sigh of relief. They had their man, not a Democratic tree-hugger, back in the White House. The illegitimate presidency of Clinton was over, and a Bush was back in charge.
But this Bush was very different. George W. Bush claimed during the campaign to be a "compassionate conservative," and a "uniter not a divider." Add two more myths to the conservative ledger. In his eight years in office Bush Junior would rarely exhibit the slightest compassion for anyone - certainly including the American service personnel and innocent Afghans and Iraqis killed, wounded or displaced during his two misbegotten wars - and would become the most divisive president since the Civil War.
Bush was not only a fake candidate and president, he was fake at just about everything. He was a fake Texan, a fake oilman, a fake Christian, even a fake conservative. A spoiled, shallow, crass, back-slapping fratboy and baseball fanatic at heart, Bush had no core conviction, conservative or otherwise, other than to use his family's wealth, connections and privilege to score whatever gains he could, preferably with as little effort as possible on his part. That strategy worked like a charm as he was continually bailed out of real-life problems and propped up again in plum positions that no one else with his actual lack of talent would ever find themselves in.
After using his Harvard Masters in Business to bankrupt two oil companies, Bush Junior was rewarded by being handed the general managership of the Texas Rangers baseball club... prior experience in professional baseball: zero. Why can't we all get such jobs? There he immediately worked his black magic, maintaining the Rangers as one of the worst teams in the American League, trading away future home-run sensation Sammy Sosa, and casting the lone "No" vote on the expansion of the baseball playoffs... which became wildly popular and profitable for the sport and fans. Amongst real professional baseball people, Bush Junior was a joke.
But budding boy-genius Texas political consultant Karl Rove saw beyond Bush's innate ineptness. Rove figured Bush might be stupid, but he's got the right-sounding family name. So Rove wooed him to run for governor of Texas. Lo and behold, he won! Rove had been absolutely right: Bush may not have had the right stuff, but the name recognition was a winner. Post-election surveys established that thousands of Texas voters had thought they were voting for the more famous George Bush. After six years of messing with Texas, during which Bush turned the Lone Star state into the most polluted state in the union, Rove convinced the governor that he had a shot at the presidency. Even the Bush family itself was stunned at Georgie Junior's proposed run. "Jeb's the smart one," Poppy Bush, the former president quipped.
Whether Bush the Lesser really had the Freudian obssessions with besting his father oft attributed to him by armchair psychologists, he certainly acted like it. Coming into office, the one thing that Bush the Dumber knew upon assuming his Supreme Court awarded office in January of 2001 was that he wouldn't make the same mistakes his father had made. No matter what, he would never raise taxes. Other than that, this being president stuff should be a breeze... while he kicked back and watched baseball, his coterie: Rove, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of the NeoCons could figure things out.
NeoCons. Now there's a term we haven't explored yet. The neo-conservatives are more fully discussed in the MongrelCons section below, but they come into play most prominently during the Bush the Terrible reign, which for Bush's eight years was essentially managed by NeoCons and their ideology. They had coalesced into a coherent group, ideology and policy recommendations in the 1990s, at one point prodding Bill Clinton to invade Iraq. He didn't take the bait; Bush would. Their signature accomplishment of the 90s was to put together their manifesto, which they called "The Project for the New American Century."
The NeoCons bemoaned the "incoherent" Clinton foreign policy that flatly refused to go blustering around the world. They officially stated that their goal was "a new century favorable to American principles and interests," and urged the "need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in perserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity and our principles."
This rhetoric was all code for: America taking what it wanted under the guise of "spreading democracy." And with the gullible Bush in the White House, the first thing the NeoCons wanted, in particular, was the oil fields of Iraq.
But how to make that happen? How to "spread democracy" to the world's second largest pool of oil? Hmmm. Maybe we should look in that manifesto for an idea. Oh yes, here it is in Section V: "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor."
A "new Pearl Harbor." Yep, that's what the NeoCon Manifesto, written in 1998, was hoping for.
Bush's first months on the job as president were spent stumbling and bumbling. First off, he gave away the entire Clinton budget surplus on tax cuts to the rich. Four years of hard-won surpluses that put the country on course to eliminating the national debt (that Reagan and the first Bush had run up): voila, poof, gone! Conservatives rejoiced. Forget Clinton's surplus. The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think-tank predicted the tax cuts themselves would completely eliminate the U.S. national debt by 2010.
The Heritage Foundation, what a joke! Have they ever been right about anything? As usual (are you in the least surprised by now?), the conservatives were 180 degrees wrong. The first round of Bush tax cuts (yes, there would be a second round, as well) pushed the country deeper into the deficit hole, and there hasn't been a budget surplus since. Nowhere even close.
Then Bush went on vacation.
Then the conservatives got their "new Pearl Harbor."
Though the out-going Clinton administration warned the Bushies that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were the No. 1 terrorist threat, the Bush administration dawdled. Obsessed with the desire to attack Saddam Hussein, the Bush Administration had not yet convened serious security meetings on terrorism before Bush took off to Texas for a month-long vaction just seven months into the job. Perhaps dreaming of war in Iraq, doling out tax cuts for your buddies and playing baseball video games all day long in the bowels of the White House really tuckers out a feller.
While Bush was on vacation, the White House received a Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Still there was no sense of urgency. The administration considered this "old news."
Bush's National Security Advisor
Citizens United is just the start. A corporatist Supreme Court dreams of ever tightening the screws of the plutocracy upon the common American citizen. Corporations are now telling their employees how to vote, an ugly throwback to the days of the company store.
What would the founding fathers think about America today? Well, it depends on which founding fathers. The more conservative founders, rigid thinkers, mainly from the South, would be aghast that some of the issues they most cherished have been obliterated: the conservation of slavery and an aristocratic lean to governance and voting rights. The more liberal founders, you know, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, the much more flexible and creative thinkers, would have mixed emotions. Surely they would smile just at the knowledge that their creation had lasted this long
Conservatives will eventually lose the political, economic and cultural battles going on today, as well. Up until recently, they were on a winning roll. With his smiley face and perfect hair, Ronald Reagan conned the nation (and swaths of the rest of the world) into believing that it was "Morning in America". He claimed the nation's future depended upon the free market, free trade, deregulation, slashing taxes (particularly for the rich), corporate mergers, corporate welfare, corporate tax-evasion, union-busting, reliance on oil, and de-emphasis on environmental protections. Some called it "trickle-down" economics. Reagan's rival for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, George Bush, called it "VooDoo economics." After Reagan selected Bush to be his vice-president, we didn't hear any more about "VooDoo Economics." It was renamed "Reaganomics." But Bush was right. Like all conservative concepts, it didn't make sense.
What actually emerged from Reaganomics was a slow dismantling of much that had built up America. Whereas American prosperity had been built by the collective of We the People, now economic policy was intentionally skewed to "trickle down" from on high. The feudal lords and robber barons could come out of hiding, and now had a friend in the U.S. government. What arrived with Reagan was a return to full-tilt corporatism, the very evil that the Boston Tea Party had fought against. The result: the rich got richer; the poor got poorer; and the American middle class has been decimated by Reaganomics.
Ronald Reagan's eight years in office produced a frenzy of corporate takeovers, merger mania, savings & loan bail-outs, scandals, clandestine wars, escalation of the War on Drugs, propping up of ruthless dictators, arming Saddam Hussein, arming Osama bin Laden, running up record budget deficits, running up record national debt, running up record trade deficits, giving corporations tax breaks to move jobs, factories and headquarters to other countries, privatization, cut-backs in social services, cut-backs in infrastructure, and eternally battling a boogie-man (back then it was the Soviets; now it's the terrorists). In hindsight, we can clearly see how ALL of Reagan's policies that the conservatives told us were absolutely correct were absolutely wrong!
Bill Clinton did little to turn the tide in his first term in office, then was stymied by a Republican Congress later on, though he did manage to balance the budget by the time he left office, leaving his successor with a record budget surplus. By the time George W. Bush took office, conservatives had the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. It actually seemed possible that the conservatives might be able to pull off, by hook or crook, that elusive "permanent Republican majority" they had long dreamed of.
The permanent majority... the dream of Karl Rove and the neoconservatives! So close, but then they went too far. Politically, Cheney-Bush was Reagan on steroids. Who could have predicted how bad it would turn out? Only all of history. Only conservative greed exceeds conservative incompetence. Let's consider the damage (and note how many of these debacles date back to Reagan):
The legacy of George W. Bush is a complete and utter disgrace, and a permanent stain upon America. Now it is crystal clear that conservative policies are no better now than they were back in the 1920s when the conservatives led us directly into the Great Depression. So it was not surprising in 2008 when the American public did exactly what it did in the election of 1932 and kicked the bums out!
The damage and disgrace was so great that many pundits predicted the complete demise of the Republican Party. But like zombies, they cannot be killed. And now they are back. Now blaming Obama and Democrats for the conservative wars of choice, for the ravaged economy, for the immigration mess Republicans refused to deal with. And, once again, the professional conservatives are hoping you quickly forget what they really stand for, and what they really did.
Now you know the basics of conservatism. Now you know that anyone who says that "liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, they are all the same" is either stupid or conniving (hello, Ralph Nader). They are anything but the same; they are polar opposites on the serious issues. Liberals support the American values of equality, opportunity, liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness, while conservatives really, deep down inside, oppose these values for all but their closest kith and kin.
Of course, we know that you conservatives out there in the cornfields of Iowa, the oil patches of West Texas, on the fishing boats of Alaska, the maple trees of Vermont, the forests of the Old South, are not like this at all. You really do love America. OK. Not knowing you personally, we will take your word for it. But know this: your conservative leaders are scoundrels of the highest order; always have been and always will be. They are liars and crooks and thieves. It's in their DNA. They don't believe in freedom, they don't believe in equality, they don't believe in opportunity for all, they don't believe in reason, they don't believe in science, they don't believe in the pursuit of happiness. They don't believe in small government. They don't believe in your religion. They believe in money and power. Period. They think you are as dumb as a stump, and they do not have your best interests at heart... nor America's. They've been on the wrong side of every major issue in American history, from 1776 on through to today. Read your history, carefully, and follow the dollars... you will see who these "patriots" really are.
Post to a stupid Facebook conservative: Photo of Nixon (in reference to Benghazi terrorist killings of four Americans) said: "Nixon was impeached. Not for the crime, but for the cover-up. And nobody died at the Watergate Hotel." Well there you go again, conservatives... wrong about your own history. Nixon was never impeached. He just slunk out of town before it ever got that far, then was quickly pardoned... by another Republican... so he couldn't be IMPRISONED!! Imagine what a hissy-fit conservatives would throw if a the same situation ever happened with liberals! Or, imagine the conservative apoplexy if a liberal ever lost the popular vote but was appointed President by a Supreme Court that included TWO justices appointed by the the liberal candidate's FATHER and stopped the vote in a state governed by the liberal candidate's BROTHER! Or, imagine the conservative fire-breathing if they discovered that ALL the voting machines in the most important swing states were owned, programmed and votes counted by liberal corporations, including one partially owned by the liberal candidate's SON! Just imagine the terror that would be unleashed upon the land!! Meanwhile, we all are upset and concerned over the deaths of four Americans in Libya, but why the urgent angst and politicizing of the issue in such partisan terms when there was/is NARY A PEEP about the time back in 1983 when SIXTY TIMES that number of American service personnel were killed in Beirut under the orders of commander-in-chief, what was his name... oh yeah... RONALD REAGAN! Oh, and while Obama's strategy is now to put together an asembly of drone missiles with the names of each of Ambassador Stevens' killers, Reagan just cut and ran!
Occasionally, a seemingly new type of conservative will appear on the scene. But don't be confused. It's the same old game, just with the cards shuffled a bit. These are the MongrelCons, an entertaining and colorful gaggle of "thinkers" and/or "feelers" vainly striving to find a version of conservatism that actually makes sense. You gotta tip your hat to them for at least giving it a try, but in the end they turn out to be just as wrong-headed, as any other flavor of conservative.
LIBERTARIAN originally meant an ideology that valued a balance between individual liberty, the capitalist economic system, society, and government. The "best of all worlds," according to perhaps the most influential economist of all time, Adam Smith, would be one where these facets of culture would coexist in virtue, trust and harmony.
So libertarians of old were sort of like "classical liberals" of old. They meant well. They were trying to find that magic formula for a democratic society. Then reality dawned, and the name fell mostly out of use.
But it's back! And even gaining ground amongst millions of Americans... on both the right and the left. OK, mainly the right, because it the modern version plays right into some good, old-fashioned conservative myths.
Modern American "libertarians" are a product of the hate-the-government genie that Ronald Reagan uncorked back in the 1980s. These MongrelCons are a rabid blend of CorpCon and SoCon impulses, synthesized into an unsavory froth. They liked the name "libertarian," so they stole it, and have perverted the old term, discarding the societal and governmental balance bits altogether.
This new movement is one of the most visible of the MongrelCons, recently invigorated by the (perennial) presidential candidacy of Texas congressman Ron Paul, and now assisted by his son Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky. They consider themselves the ultimate "free-marketers," but are held in utter disdain by the actual owners of the "free market," the CorpCons. The big gun CorpCons fully understand that the utopian "free market" that the libertarians imagine is a childish myth, and that a "rigged market" with Big Government protecting it is where the action really is. The real CorpCons know that these remade libertarians would absolutely destroy the nation, and the economy along with it, and while CorpCons may be apathetic about the former, they just can't stand the thought of the latter.
Basically what these new libertarians have done is fixate on one of the Universal Values - liberty - and elevated it to the be-all/end-all of their ideology. Forget the other ideals. Equality? That's for losers. Pursuit of Happiness? Sure, for me... I don't give a damn about you. Justice for All? Not likely when equality is for losers. Love One Another? You've got to be kidding. Modern libertarianism is all about loving one's self, and maybe a few close others. It's not about "the other." It's all about what is mine... and I don't give a shit about anyone else.
To their credit, libertarians have broken out of clan mentality to a degree. They like to think of themselves as rugged individualists, and it's true that they are not the mindless sheep that most SoCons are. Unfortunately, their unconformity mainly consists of an independent greed rather than any socially viable virtue. They don't need no stinkin' charistmatic SoCon authority figure; they'll figure out their own way to defend what is theirs.
Some libertarian rhetoric is very appealing to even erstwhile liberals: No more crazy foreign wars. End the War on Drugs. Legalize pot, prostitution and same-sex marriage. But this is all incidental to their core ideology. When they say "liberty," what libertarians really mean is they want the liberty to do whatever they want to do, particularly in the way of managing their property rights. So, unlike SoCons, many of whom would like to install Old Testament-style thought police in every bedroom, libertarians don't give a shit what the rest of society does... just don't mess with my stuff!
Modern libertarians could be called CorpCon-lites. They just want to be left alone to do what they can in the capitalist system... which is not much, but it's all they've got. So they don't want anybody messing with them. My liberty is sacrosanct! Property rights rule! No damn regulations telling me what I can do with my farm. It's mine! If I want to rent it out as a nuclear waste dump, nobody - that means nobody - should be able to stop me! Oh yeah, and I don't want to be taxed either!
Libertarians love their property. They obsess over their property. They are not usually the rapacious, can't-get-enough, plunderers like the true professional CorpCons, but they cherish what they have, and are determined to protect it. In this sense they are diehard capitalists, and actually the purest materalists of the political spectrum... even more so than CorpCons. The professional corporatists do very much revel in the spoils of their conquests... but it is the very conquest, the continual accumulation, the exhilaration and power and glory, that is the CorpCon's real motivation... not the stuff, which they discard as soon as possible in their ever-upward mobility (you know, it's embarrassing to be seen in the same dress, the same diamonds, the same Mercedes, the same house, more than once).
Moreover, the CorpCons are rarely fearful; after all, they are the Masters of the Universe. Libertarians are more like SoCons in that regard, very fearful... but it's for different reasons. SoCons fear the end of their cherished "traditional values." Libertarians don't really have any values, aside from selfishness, but they greatly fear somebody messing with their stuff. They must remain ever vigilant, because they are very worried - indeed, over-the-top paranoid - that somebody is going to try to take it... probably the government, if not the government then the hungry rabble that will be left over after the government (and world economy) has collapsed, if not that, then perhaps zombies. And this paranoia is what drives their weaving, veering, inconsistent, incoherent, and wholly selfish, mindset.
As small-bore CorpCons, libertarians hate government and love what they imagine a "free market" would be like. They dream of somehow being able to actually transform America into a manifestation of this queasy duality. Alas, they can't point to a single example in all of world history where this was even seriously attempted, much less worked. Only libertarians are confused enough to believe that it could ever work. Clearly they don't really understand government or the free market. They are uniquely, and willfully, oblivious to the well-established fact that capitalism will devour itself if not carefully regulated by some outside force... which is generally defined as "government." And so their dream is actually a self-negating proposition.
When pushed, many libertarians will reluctantly acknowledge the need for some kind of governmental structure, but insist that it be as localized as possible, certainly not involving intrusion by the despised federal government. So they sometimes pander to "states' rights" to try to wiggle out of uncomfortable paradoxes and dichotomies that their vehemently anti-fed posture inevitably leads to. Of course, it's an utter contradition... something MUST be illegal if the feds do it, but if the states or localities do it, well that's OK. They don't ever go into too much detail about how this would actually work, either, and don't seem to realize how the message is clearly contradictory: they demand the smallest possible national government (one that could be "drowned in a bathtub"), but potentially BIG government on the state and local level. Of course, implicit in their position is the notion that local government is far easier to manipulate, bully, distort and control. The ONLY thing libertarians think the feds should be doing is "national defense" (and they aren't real clear on that, either).
So, goodbye ALL other national programs... Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, all federal welfare, food stamps, all federal grants, loans and scholarships, public schools and colleges, farm subsidies, the Federal Reserve, the SEC and all federal banking and security exchange oversight and regulation, all National Parks, the U.S. highway system, NASA, FEMA, the National Disease Control Center, education subsidies, the Transporation Department, FAA, Amtrak and all other federal transportation agencies and programs, the Food and Drug Administration and health inspections, the Forest Service, BLM and all other federal land management agencies, the EPA and all environmental and wildlife protections, federal courts, federal prisons, the FBI, CIA and all other federal law enforcement, funding for the arts and humanities, the federal Safety Commission, the Copyright and Trademark offices, Equal Opportunity Commmission, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service, the Smithsonian and all other federal historical museums and monuments, national flood insurance, National Labor Relations Board, NOAA and all federal weather programs, the National Science Foundation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Waste Review Board, OSHA, the Federal Safety Commission and all other industrial and commercial safety agencies and programs, the Peace Corps, the Post Office, the State Department, the U.S. Mint. That should get them started.
Obviously, there's a few items in that list that CorpCons might briefly salivate at eliminating, but, upon perhaps two seconds deep reflection, would quickly realize what a slippery slope to anarchy removing just one or two of these agencies and programs might be. Yet libertarians want to do away with ALL of these programs. NOW! Notice, they never go into too much detail about who or what would pick up the slack. Presumably your local churches will take care of all the welfare, food stamps, health care and housing of the poor. Your local Barney Fife can wrangle with all Indians, wild cowboys and outlaws in the county. And your local community college can take up where the feds left off in disease control, weather modeling, the arts and humanities. The rest of it? Why those programs should be sold off to the highest bidder. What do I hear for Yosemite?
Any rational person can see that what the libertarians dream of is actually a nightmare. It's basically anarchy.
Sometimes libertarians will say that they are "fiscally conservative and socially liberal." As we have seen, this doesn't even make sense. But what is interesting is that this concept would place libertarians almost diametically opposed to most social conservatives, who (often unbeknownst even to themselves) are actually socially conservative and fiscally liberal. SoCons love Social Security, Medicare, exorbitant spending on weapons systems and warmongering, as well as any federal pork projects coming to their community, not to mention the Big Government required to impose their theocratic beliefs on everyone else. However, this theoretical opposition is actualy invalid. Libertarians are not really socially "liberal" in any true sense. That would imply some kind of empathy or care for others, or for the commons, which requires a balance of the universal values... not taking one as the be-all/end-all. Liberals, of course, the original "libertarians," care about everyone's liberty, as well as the welfare of the entire community, state, nation. Libertarians don't give a damn about much of anything except their liberty to have and keep their stuff. They don't usually even give a damn about God, abortion, gays, immigrants, pot... the typical wedge issues so dear to SoCons. Libertarians want their liberty, and to hell with everyone else.
Libertarians do come together with SoCons in support of somebody's "liberty" to discriminate against someone else. They staunchly believe that the government shouldn't be in the business of preventing prejudice (forgetting that prejudice often crosses the line into injustice). Everyone should have the "liberty" to be prejudiced against anyone else. A shopkeeper, say, should be able to serve, or not serve, who they want; a club should be able to include, or exclude, anyone they want to. And then there are guns. Now we're back to talking about property! Don't mess with a libertarian's property. That includes their guns... and their cash. No one hates taxes more than libertarians. Well, maybe anarchists... which are just the next bus stop down from the libertarian station.
Let Good-old-Boy Dusty explain modern libertarianism. (Warning: explicit language)
The Tea Party, members in good standing or highly sympathetic with the modern Tea Party movement, are but a very slight varation on rank-and-file social conservatives. Teabaggers may be a little more energized to get out there and wear their silly hats and wave their incoherent signs, a pretty strong indication that they may be even a little more angry and uninformed than the average SoCon. The description that "never has anyone been more passionate about being wrong," isn't really true. That distinction would probably be shared by the conservatives of the Revolution and the Civil War eras. But the Teabaggers own the "passionately wrong" label contemporaneously. The fact that they are philosophically almost diametrically opposite to the original Boston Tea Partygoers (who dressed as Indians) and were fighting a corporation doesn't phase them. They keep waving their "Don't Tread On Me" flag unaware that their way of life, and their
NEOCONS are CorpCons through and through, but with a particularly venal compulsion toward international bullying. Neocons are ever eager for military adventures anywhere on the globe where there might be billions - or trillions - either in natural resources (AKA O-I-L) or sometimes just in the form of a pipeline that runs from the U.S. taxpayers off to some feckless foreign country and then directly into the coffers of like-minded corporations (AKA Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater, Raytheon, General Dynamics and hundreds of others)
One of the most fundamental areas of disagreement between the conservers of the old ways and the liberators into the new is the concept of personal responsibility vs. social responsibility. Conservatives have long held to the idea that an individual's welfare is his/her own responsibility... period. Liberals have long believed that society is ultimately responsible for the develeopment and welfare of individuals.
the viewpoints of both sides of the argument are right, yet incomplete.