07/15/03: Right-wing strategist Grover Norquist,
famous for his stated aim to shrink government so that he can drown it
in a bathtub, is en route to having his way.
Recently, and within a brief time span, observers in
many quarters have expressed their understanding that an unstated
strategy behind the huge Republican tax cut has been to bring the US
government to its financial knees, thereby making it unable to fund
the Right's hated social programs -- e.g., Social Security, Medicare,
Medicaid -- and the administration of our public domain.
Paul Krugman, in a May 27 article in the New York
Times titled "Stating the Obvious", wrote:
"the gimmicks used to make an
$800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320
billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large
that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other
promises; ... The people now running America aren't conservatives:
they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic
system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give
them the excuse they need."
Two days later, Peronet Despeignes, reporting in the
Financial Times of London, wrote:
"The Bush administration has shelved a report
commissioned by the Treasury that shows the US currently faces a
future of chronic federal budget deficits totaling at least $44,200
trillion [the deficit is currently at about six trillion dollars] in
current US dollars."
That's trillion with a "T". To put that
terrifying figure in perspective, Despeignes reported it to be the
rough equivalent of four years of US economic output or 94% of all US
household assets, and that "closing the gap would require the
equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 per cent across-the-board
income tax increase."
The next day, on his PBS show Now, Bill Moyers was
blunt. The Bush administration, he said, kept news of this impending
debt from the public "lest it throw the fear of God into Congress
and the financial markets and cost them the tax cut for the
rich." Moyers went on to say that "we are watching the
country's future slip deeper and deeper into a black hole of red
And two days after that, Noam Chomsky, in an
interview on C-SPAN televised on June 1, stated flatly that the tax
cut was calculated to lead to a "fiscal train wreck".
"At some point", Krugman wrote,
"Bond markets will balk -- they won't lend money to a
government, even that of the United States, if that government's
debt is growing faster than its revenues, and there is no plausible
story about how the budget will eventually come under control."
But that's the very point of massive tax cuts:
breaking the bank so as to kill social programs. It was a point made
very well by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer when pressed on
the issue. Congress, Fleischer said, would have to reform programs
accordingly. He didn't say "kill," which would have been
Corporate America has spent billions lobbying for
deregulation of its activities and for privatization of everything
from the health system to education to national parks and forests to
Social Security -- a situation that would lead to ownership and
control by the corporate sector and a tiny handful of the super rich
of virtually every aspect of society.
With no cash in the federal till -- due to massive
tax cuts along with huge deficits, and ultimate inability of the
government to borrow further -- there would no longer be much to argue
about. The corporate sector would win by default, so that everything
needed by the masses would have to be obtained through them at any
price they would want to charge.
As the deficit balloons, the rightist program to
privatize public lands is also moving right along. Free marketeer
Terry Anderson, whose published plan to give each citizen
"shares" of the public domain, said shares being sellable on
the open market to those with the wealth to scoop them up, has been
made President Bush's adviser on public lands issues.
Late last year, fellow free marketeer and Interior
Secretary, Gale Norton, a product of the anti-environmental "Wise
Use Movement", revealed plans to "outsource" to the
private sector 3,500 jobs in the US Park Service. This raised no
eyebrows, and by January 2003 the estimate had risen to more than
11,000 positions -- an eyebrow-raising 72%. Soon thereafter President
Bush revealed that as many as 850,000 positions, now federal, could
become privatized. It was a declaration of war on public ownership and
government by the people, framed as an argument for fiscal efficiency.
With country and culture in the hands of a very few,
democracy perishes. The great American Experiment would end not
through internal weakness, but via carefully crafted "neoconservative"
strategy from without, to be replaced by something resembling, more
than anything else, medieval feudalism, only set in a high tech world.
According to the plan now in place, "we the people" are to
be the new serfs. As Thom Hartmann noted: "We're entering a new
and unknown but hauntingly familiar era."
Mass media have been eager to keep ramifications of
the tax cut and the loss of federal programs and public domain off of
what they like to call their "radar screen". Simply look at
the power brokers of the private sector who are the owners: giants in
defense contracting, advertising, and industrial entertainment and
recreation. All of them stand to be big winners in a system controlled
Following 9/11, a mourning public and their
congressional representatives too quickly handed the keys to the
Kingdom to ideologues dedicated to killing government of, by, and for
the people. If we do not waken soon from our collective daze, our
descendants will surely feel a deep rage at our having given up their
birthright without a struggle.