James Crotty, Guest Blogger
Washington has been riveted by the sequester debacle. But rather than the terrible failure of government as portrayed in the media, in fact sequestration is a major victory for right wing forces in their long war to destroy the US version of social democracy. The New Deal was started in the 1930s and improved on through the mid-1970s, after which reactionary forces s began to have success in their efforts to initially weaken it and eventually destroy it. Their goal is nothing less than a return to the political and economic regime of the 1920s, when corporations and the rich paid little if any taxes, inequality was very high, Congress was bought and paid for by the rich, the trade union movement had been broken, and there was little if any regulation of business. Republican presidents since Reagan have been most energetic in pursuit of these objectives, but Democratic presidents since Jimmy have moved in the same direction though more slowly than the Republicans. President Obama is no exception to this trend.
Under the Budget Control Act passed last year with the President’s cooperation, discretionary non-defense government spending (on everything but Social security, Medicare and Medicaid) as a percentage of GDP was scheduled to hit its low point since the early 1950s in ten years. (Obama had also offered to make significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare last year, but the Republicans would not do it because his offer also raised taxes on the super-rich) To get some idea about how deeply the immediate and longer term cuts under Sequestration will be, see http://www.offthechartsblog.org/sequestrations-impact-its-real/.
This budget “emergency” or “disaster” is a major victory for the right wing because it will sustain their onslaught against domestic government spending. For them, this is not some big problem, but a dream come true. Moreover, most of the media coverage has been so lame in its explanation of the causes of this “crisis” that some polls show that an equal percentage of voters blame each party, so Republicans may not even be hurt politically by the outcomes.
Meanwhile, the highly organized and lavishly financed right wing campaign to use state and local governments to fight their battles continues to succeed. Many have read about the successful campaigns against unions in states governed by Republicans. But Republicans have also managed to enact laws that allow the Governor to take over any cities or towns that have financial difficulties by throwing out all democratically elected officials – mayors, city councils and so forth – and appointing what usually amounts to a crony of the governor as, for all intents and purposes, the dictator of these places. This dictator can then undo local laws, abrogate union contracts – including pensions, close schools, fire teachers, break unions, sell off pubic assets to their cronies at fire sale prices, and so forth.
This just happened in Detroit Michigan, the largest city yet to have democracy annulled and right wing dictatorship imposed. Surprise : the state government has been cutting financial assistance to Detroit to help push it into financial duress. You can read about this at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/02/us/michigan-appoints-emergency-manager-for-detroit.html?hp&pagewanted=print For an analysis that understands this for what it is, see the short piece at: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/03/01-5
A powerful right-wing vehicle for conquering state and local governments and making them vehicles for implementing reactionary agendas is an organization called ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council. This well-funded group brings together right wing intellectuals, activists and policy technicians with conservative legislators at the state and local government levels, and trains them in ways to get right-wing legislation passed. For example, ALEC has crafted bills in support of all its objectives ready to be submitted as is to state and local government bodies. This has made it quick and easy to pass a high volume of conservative legislation quickly. And of course ALEC and its funders can provide resources needed to help gain support for that legislation. The recent takeover of Detroit by the governor of Michigan is just their most recent and greatest success. To learn more about ALEC, see: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/9/27/the_united_states_of_alec_bill
You can watch an excellent video about the nefarious doings of ALEC at http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/alec-the-voice-of-corporate-special-interests-state-legislatures. It is from the Bill Moyers show on Public Television. Moyers is one of the great progressive media figures of this era.
These are perilous times indeed. Democracy itself is under attack. We have seen how ALEC works at the state and local government levels. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been firing away at the democratic process at the Federal level. Voter suppression activity continues unabated. Partisan gerrymandering has increased the number of Republican representatives in the House. Republican state legislatures are trying to rewrite the Presidential election rules so that in states that typically vote Republican, the winner takes all votes, whereas in states that usually vote Democratic in Presidential elections, electoral votes will be distributed proportionately. The goal of all these political machinations is to strengthen the power of right wing forces in pursuit of final victory against social democracy and the ideals of the New Deal in the US, and the return to the political economy of the 1920s.
James R. Crotty is a Professor Emeritus of Economics and Sheridan Scholar at University of Massachusetts. His writings have appeared in such diverse journals as the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Cambridge Journal of Economics, the Review of Radical Economics, Monthly Review, the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, and the Journal of Economic Issues.
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