Click here to go to the Home Page GOP’s Starving of the "Beast" (Government) - Solidarity America - By John Funiciello - Columnist

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The Grand Old Party has come close to its goal of some several decades of �starving the beast� of government, with the country hanging on the brink of a financial meltdown as the Aug. 2 deadline approaches and the debt ceiling has not been raised.

BC Question: What will it take to bring Obama home?Negotiators for Republicans in Congress and President Obama�s White House have not been able to even come close to a deal to raise the debt ceiling, something that the two sides seem to agree is necessary if the federal government is to continue to function and continue to pay its bills.

Those on the �left� of the political spectrum (right now, these folks stand just to the right of center in American politics) want to see the government continue to pay Social Security benefits, Medicare bills, Medicaid payments to the states and elsewhere, pensions to public workers who spent their lives working for the people, payments to retired military, payments to the Veterans Administration medical system (America�s only socialist medical system), and all of the other bills that come due on a monthly basis.

Those who want to �starve the beast� of government at all levels have stated for two or three decades that they want the government to be shrunk to a size at which it can be �drowned in a bathtub.� That�s what Grover Norquist, head of the rabidly anti-tax organization, Americans for Tax Reform, has said over and over again, at least since the advent of Ronald Reagan, president of those who detest government, until they have eliminated enough funding for social programs so as to make them toothless, useless, or outright defunct.

It�s what Norquist and his buddies on the country�s right wing have been preaching for years, as they �starved the beast.� To do that, they had to continue to fight for defunding everything that the government has done to benefit the mass of people, the elderly, the young, the sick or handicapped, and veterans. They have done this through the tax cuts that have largely been a benefit to the rich. Tax cuts have been achieved for Corporate America and the rich on a continuing basis, until the U.S. has become the great global debtor nation with justified concern by the people about the debt ceiling problem and their continued participation in the programs that are vital to their well-being. For now, we will set aside the perspective that the world�s economic system is nothing but numbers on paper, floated by the central banks and global commercial banks and other financial institutions.

Never mind that President Clinton left office with a gift to the Bush-Cheney Administration of billions in a budget surplus. Bush, in his adherence to Norquist�s mantra of �tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts,� rammed through large tax cuts for the rich and corporations, even as he embarked on two or more wars that were not paid for out of current funds, but were �paid for� by borrowing. They were, and are, wars fought �off budget.� At that time, there was no complaint from the right about that profligate spending from Norquist or any other right-winger.

Thus, the American people in 2011 are faced with trillions of dollars in debt, directly caused by Republican administrations that continually have sought tax cuts for the rich and unsuccessfully tried to cut vital programs that benefit scores of millions of Americans to pay for that debt. The standoff continues in Washington. Republicans in the House want a large piece of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and they are poised to get their way.

All of this started with the administration of Reagan, who told his GOP base that government was the problem and that government would not solve any of the problems of the nation. The GOP, in turn, came to hate government and that enmity endures to this day, to the extent that any damage to government that is done by tax cuts and program cuts for the people is acceptable to them. No party or parts of a party can govern when it is government, itself, that is the object of their scorn and hatred. That�s where the matter stands as the deadline for the debt ceiling increase approaches, just days away.

For the proponents of �starving the beast,� the prospect of a government slow-down, if not an actual shutdown, doesn�t bother them a bit. It�s what the GOP has been working toward for decades. And, if you look closely at the proponents of a government shutdown, you see a legion of the privileged. Most of them are not unlike Norquist himself, who is the son of a vice president of Polaroid Corporation, with soft hands and slack muscles, never having done manual labor for more than a day or two in their lives, and never having had to wonder how his rent is to be paid. The exceptions might be those who spend time in their exclusive exercise clubs with their personal trainers.

Then, there are the corporate minions in the halls of Congress, like Rep. Eric Cantor, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senator Joe Lieberman, a so-called independent, who wish to become rich at the expense of the people and are doing their best to see that Corporate America comes out of all of this above the people. Although they may never reach their personal financial goals, they will do everything in their power to see that the status quo is maintained and the corporations continue to call the shots in all things social, economic, and political. In other parts of the world, that is called fascism.

No matter where one lives in the U.S., there is evidence of corporate control of the lives of citizens. They include control of the food system (with its genetically-manipulated and untested-on-humans �food� and monopoly control of food, itself), reduction or elimination of environmental regulation (through the gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency), privatization of education (through charter schools and tuition hikes in state university systems that put an education out of reach for children of wage workers), �mountaintop removal� coal mining which destroys water systems and leaves the mountains destroyed and the land poisoned, plunder of the oceans which are the source of life on the planet, a never-ending effort to keep incomes of all American workers in the low wage category, and the production-at-all-costs of the �energy industries,� along with other examples too numerous to mention.

This is a situation that has been a long time in the making. Corporations have been scheming to gain control of most of American life for nearly a century, starting with the �discovery� of public relations back in the early part of the 20th Century. Then came advertising and psychological (scientific) study of ways of manipulating public opinion. There are volumes written about this, but one has to look diligently for them, since they are not easily available to the average citizen or even to the average student of business or psychology or political science.

It�s pretty clear that such control of consumer impulses in a mass consumer society has been one of the driving forces in forging ways to control a population. Yet, Corporate America has done that. There are even political parties that are based on the principles that evolved in this new �science.� Those fringe parties have given cover to the Republican Party and its most extreme elements and that has had the effect of making Norquist and his ilk appear legitimate and mainstream.

As a result, the country has millions who have come to view government as the enemy and wish to shrink it, according to the vision of Norquist, who said, �Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.� He and his friends in Congress are rapidly coming to the point of forcing government into the tub. He is not likely to suffer much from a collapse of social programs, but many rank-and-file citizens, who live from paycheck to paycheck, yet continue to support the corporate-GOP agenda, have no idea how directly and how profoundly and how quickly they will be affected by a shut-down of government programs.

They have, in effect, wished for something they never intended to see come to pass, and they may get it. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union organizer. His union work started when he became a local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.

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July 21, 2011 - Issue 436
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