Our long national nightmare has just begun
By Lucian K. Truscott IV
December 17, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - I had a nightmare some years ago. I had moved from Los Angeles to a southern state that had gone from marginally purple to bright red in the last election. The Republicans held the governorship and both houses of the legislature for the first time in generations, and every day you could pick up the paper and watch them go to work. They didn’t have a state income tax, and most of the state revenue was raised by sales taxes, and a weak economy had caused those to come up short recently, so what did they do? They raised the state sales tax on groceries. That’s right, they raised taxes on food. While they were at it, they raised taxes on drugs. So poor and middle class people in the state would pay more taxes to feed their children and to keep them healthy. But they weren’t finished. They cut funding for education, they cut funding for infrastructure repair, they cut funding for health care, and when Obamacare passed, they refused the funding it offered that would have increased enrollment in the state Medicaid program, causing funding to be cut to hospitals all over the state, and at least seven rural hospitals to close.
There came a night when I woke up sweating from a nightmare. It came to me in a dream that there was a plan behind all of this, an overall design to actually harm the lives of a certain number of citizens in the state. In my nightmare, there was a room where a bunch of men sat around and talked about this stuff. They knew what they were doing. They knew what the results would be. They planned out the bills and the votes, and they passed the laws, and then they carried them out.
I asked him, could my nightmare be true? Absolutely, he said. He began describing the county where he lived. He had been on the school board for many years, one of three Democrats on board controlled by a Republican majority. This was a wealthy suburban county with a healthy tax base and a school budget that was in excellent shape every year. What could be wrong with that? Well, the county had enough money that they could fund a study of the problems their schools faced and come up with a program to fix stuff like graduation rates and reading and math scores. Their data in past studies was good enough that had tried funding some solutions, and they worked. If they spent this much, they could increase graduation rates by ten points. If they spent that much, they could increase reading scores at fourth and eighth grade levels.
Then the Republicans reached their limit. They knew that spending another few hundred per student per year would yield specific improvements in graduation rates, the numbers of students who would qualify for college, and so forth. But businesses needed a certain number of high school drop-outs to fill minimum wage jobs. They needed a population with a certain percentage that hadn’t gone to a four year college and would take low-wage jobs. They needed, in short, an underclass, and spending more on education wouldn’t yield one that was large enough. So there they stood with identifiable and achievable goals in front of them.
My friend told me that privately Republicans would admit what they were doing. But they never talked about it publicly. They didn’t for office stating their goals. They came up with other stuff to motivate their voters, “values” issues, “education” issues like school choice and charter schools and vouchers, attacks on the teachers’ union. Behind the scenes, however, they were voting to keep a certain number of their fellow citizens undereducated. They were using their votes to maintain a class of people whose labor would help to make the people who they served rich. It wasn’t cynical. It was purposeful.
Never Miss Another Story
Meanwhile, their gimlet-eyed death ferret speaker of the house just announced plans last week to lay waste to “entitlements.” You remember “entitlements,” don’t you? Those are the programs you actually pay for with your payroll taxes, Social Security and Medicare, which aren’t entitlements at all, but rather the federally established insurance policies that protect the elderly against poverty and disease.
This article was originally published by Salon -
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