When Dimes Fly
If bad apples were dimes, then beggars would fly…and not ride the bus.
All it takes are a couple of bad apples. In his new book The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, author Thomas Frank describes how a ruling coalition of conservatives has turned public policy into a private sector bidding war. Instead of enacting policies to reduce big government, which is the calling card of conservative ideology, it has instead simply sold it off -- deregulating some industries and defunding others. Frank’s new book highlights how our “misgovernment” has been brought to you by ideology, not incompetence.
Yours truly has written extensively on the hubris and arrogance that has defined American ruling class elites and wannabes across industries and government, particularly the gross bedfellows of sociopathic high tech “leaders” and the entertainment industry where in Silicon Valley, since 1992, venture capitalist backed technology start-ups got a leg up from Washington (oh, there’s gotta be at least one big, fat insufferable bad apple who made a killing in tech stock with family ties to the White House) as the floodgates of cheap foreign labor opened up courtesy H-1b visa legislation, resulting in millions of lost jobs for white collar Americans. In his book, Frank describes how the philosophy of such hubris minded frat-boys under the banner of entrepreneurship has “made a cult of outsourcing” in our government and how privatization has literally wrecked established federal operations. As these financial, entrepreneurial, and political elites personally amassed enormous wealth, Washington’s politicians and lobbyists took a cue from these corporate hucksters. Frank explains that this has been no accident:
“They deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Washington itself has been remade into a golden landscape of super-wealthy suburbs and gleaming lobbyist headquarters—the wages of government-by-entrepreneurship practiced so outrageously by figures such as Jack Abramoff. It is no coincidence, Frank argues, that the same politicians who guffaw at the idea of effective government have installed a regime in which incompetence is the rule. Nor will the country easily shake off the consequences of deliberate misgovernment through the usual election remedies. Obsessed with achieving a lasting victory, conservatives have taken pains to enshrine the free market as the permanent creed of state.”
The common misconception for many, particularly during this election season -- is that Democrats are somehow immune from the hubris disease and fail to look at how bipartisan pleas from both major candidates are indistinguishable sales pitches for more expanded government meant to benefit the ruling class:
“Democrats, for their part, have tried to explain the flood of misgovernment as part of a "culture of corruption," a phrase at once obviously true and yet so amorphous as to be quite worthless. Republicans have an even simpler answer: government failed, they tell us, because it is the nature of government enterprises to fail. As for the great corruption cases of recent years, they cluck, each is merely a one-of-a-kind moral lapse unconnected to any particular ideology -- an individual bad apple with no effect on the larger barrel.”
Frank describes the children’s story We Are the Government, about the tale of a smiling dime whose wanderings were meant to introduce everyone to the government and all that it does for us: the miner who digs the ore for the dime has his "health and safety" supervised by one branch of the government; the bank in which the dime is stored enjoys the protection of a different branch, which "sees that banks are safe places for people to keep their money"; the dime gets paid in tax on a gasoline sale; it then lands in the pocket of a Coast Guard lieutenant, who takes it overseas and spends it on a parrot, which is "quarantined for ninety days" when the lieutenant brings it home. All of which is related with the blithest innocence, as though taxes on gasoline and quarantines on parrots were so obviously beneficial that they required little further explanation.
But will we follow the dime as it wends its way through our present-day, crumbling capital? The dime story now is actually the reverse of what it was in 1945:
“That old dime was all about service, about the things government could do for us. But the new dime is about profit -- about the superiority of private enterprise, about the huge sums that can be squeezed out of federal operations. Instead of symbolizing good government, the dime now shows us the wrecking crew in full swing.”
Where our government was once the Star of the Sea as American citizens took pride in knowing we once upon a time had built a “vast machinery” designed to protect our interests, safety and welfare, now we cringe at this retooled government vehicle, that has been “reengineered into a device for our exploitation.” Beware of the wolf in bipartisan clothing, one that wears green when the dress code calls for basic black. As Chris Hedges speculates below, the murky logic behind our corporate run, bipartisan government declaring a war on Iran would indeed hurt Americans:
“There are huge corporations that make obscene profits from human misery. They run our health care industry. They run our oil and gas companies. They run our bloated weapons industry. They run Wall Street and the major investment firms. They run our manufacturing firms. They also, ominously, run our government.”
Meanwhile, citizens here, curiously on the Left – are riding along on this broken down highway, waving past the wrecking ball where everyone wants to be king, and nobody wants to fix the car. As smart and brave candidates like Ralph Nader continue to ask all the right questions but get shut out of National debates by the Democratic candidate, Senator "I'll drill to that" Obama, a few of us are left to wonder,
…and who will help me make the bread?