• Do Conservatives Ever Think They're Being Had?

    Whenever I think about the various conservative movements, such as the Tea Party and others throughout the years, I can't help but notice how the interests of the so-called "small town America" conservatives seem to dovetail neatly with those of corporate America. Lower taxes, looser (or nonexistent) regulation, greater military involvement, less government welfare and the ability to dictate social morality and enforce religious doctrine on a national scale (except when it inconveniences the Powers That Be™). Okay, so the last two aren't exactly things you'd see corporate America cosigning to, but stranger things have happened.

    I hate it when small business stand behind their larger corporate brethren, thinking those lowered taxes are going to benefit them instead of allowing Wal-Mart and others to either run them out of business or buy them out. Ditto for small town Americans who think the entire country can be run on the same shoestring budget faced by their own small municipalities. These same taxpayers shit themselves when their "hard-earned taxpayer dollars" go to help the homeless, but have absolutely nothing to say when those same dollars are poured into law enforcement or military expenditures. When it comes to government functions that specialize in beating, maiming or killing undesirables as a matter of policy, you'll either hear cheers or crickets. The aforementioned social morality issues serve as distractions from the issue of consolidated and concentrated wealth.

    It doesn't surprise me the least to see Tea Swillers stand up for the same things that corporate America want. Lower sales and corporate taxes equal higher profits and larger bonuses. Larger budgets for law enforcement insure a standing force better equipped to enforce the laws that largely apply to the "little people" and not the "job creators." The push to get rid of welfare and other "entitlements" gives the self-righteous another social windmill to tilt it, while freeing up federal and state funds for kickbacks and other pet projects. The death of Social Security in exchange for a "stock market-based free market solution" for pensions and retirement provides financial markets with more taxpayer capital to gamble away on Wall Street. The whole self-reliance bit is meant to invoke the country's past as a nation full of rugged individualism, but in reality, it subconsciously prepares Americans for a period of time where the only service available to ordinary Americans is the ghost of Dick Cheney telling you to "go fuck yourself."

    Yesterday, Robert Reich posted a straightforward piece outlining the true motives of those behind the general conservative movement, including where conservatives and corporate America want the nation to regress to.

    They’d like to return to the 1920s — before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage, Medicare and Medicaid, worker safety laws, the Environmental Protection Act, the Glass-Steagall Act, the Securities and Exchange Act, and the Voting Rights Act.

    In the 1920s Wall Street was unfettered, the rich grew far richer and everyone else went deep into debt, and the nation closed its doors to immigrants.

    In truth, if they had their way we’d be back in the late nineteenth century — before the federal income tax, antitrust laws, the pure food and drug act, and the Federal Reserve. A time when robber barons — railroad, financial, and oil titans — ran the country. A time of wrenching squalor for the many and mind-numbing wealth for the few.

    Very few people have a working memory of what life was like before Social Security, worker's rights, minimum wage and other protections were put into place. Ordinary Americans who genuinely believe the nation could do without these things have no idea what it would be like for them if the nation did just that.

    Rather than conserve the economy, these regressives want to resurrect the classical economics of the 1920s — the view that economic downturns are best addressed by doing nothing until the “rot” is purged out of the system (as Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, so decorously put it).

    The only people who'd benefit from "doing nothing" about economic downturns are those who stand to benefit greatly from said economic downturns. The Carnegies, Mellons and Morgans of the world benefited from low tax rates and economic policies that allowed them to not just hold the vast majority of the nation's wealth, but also make even greater fortunes through interest payments and other forms of rent seeking, while extracting the maximum amount of labor from average Americans for the least amount of money possible. The end result is an impoverished nation that works for pennies while the moneyed men and women profit from their deeply discounted sweat equity. Their successors currently have over 42% of the nation's financial wealth and 34.6% of the nation's net worth.

    Latent filial piety among small town Americans and their employers and the idea that ordinary Americans will someday be the next Andrew Carnegie through sweat equity are the only explanations I can come up with as to why conservatives like to line themselves up with the Carnegies and the like. The former is something I've seen in the Deep South -- essentially, if you do right by the company, then the company will do right by you. This could explain part of why unions aren't particularly welcome in these parts -- if you piss off the company, the company will take a good, long piss on you. This works, in the reference of small-to-medium-size companies where the bosses know the workforce, but at huge, multinational corporations, the idea of filial piety towards an employer becomes something of a joke. These huge companies couldn't give a good fig about you or yours.

    The latter implies that with enough hard work, you too could be up there with the big boys. Or at least have a very comfortable lifestyle. Once upon a time, this was possible to pull off, with decent wages and low barriers to entry when it came to starting your own businesses or just methodically saving your money (with interest, even). Today, most of those avenues are closed, and unless you hit a huge lottery jackpot, you're not going to have much chance of being up there with the big boys.* Yet some conservatives hold on to this hope. Others fancy themselves to already being in the comfortable 1%, when they're really just a couple of bad days and bad decisions away from falling from grace.

    Then there are those who genuinely believe that if they keep rewarding the wealthy by giving them everything they want, they themselves will be rewarded with "a seat at the table," or at least a few crumbs thrown their way. Social Darwinist doctrine offers this while tapping into America's "inner asshole":

    Listen carefully to today’s Republican right and you hear the same Social Darwinism Americans were fed more than a century ago to justify the brazen inequality of the Gilded Age: Survival of the fittest. Don’t help the poor or unemployed or anyone who’s fallen on bad times, they say, because this only encourages laziness. America will be strong only if we reward the rich and punish the needy.

    Have you ever felt the urge to be an asshole to someone just because? Or better still, be an asshole to someone perceived as beneath your own social standing in order to reaffirm and validate said standing? This is what Social Darwinism essentially offers. It exploits the average person's base desire to not want to appear weak or accommodate what could be perceived as weakness. The wealthy represent the strong, talented and successful, while the poor are derided as being weak, stupid and generally worthless. These beliefs benefit the wealthy, as there are a few challenges to their wealth and nothing but a public outpouring of support by the masses who are enamored and even somewhat jealous of their wealth and power. It encourages Americans to become sycophants who curry favor with and avoid doing any sort of harm to the most powerful and successful among them, while showing great disdain to those seen as weak and useless.

    Apparently, that's the America conservatives want, whether they say so outright or not. That America runs counter to the general principles of the America envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

    Corporate America has little to no interest in helping conservatives usher the "small government America" they've envisioned unless it is to the financial benefit. Conservatives will be disappointed to see the "job creators" strip everything of profit away from them after they've gleefully helped corporate America do the same to liberals and others outside of the conservative ideology.

    The Carnegie Corporation and other similar foundations came about only because those people felt they were duty-bound to give something back to the American people. Can anyone say the same for the latest batch of CEOs and CFOs?

    *Even the lottery winners are hit hard with federal and state taxes, not to mention the winners' own spending habits. Unless you're careful in how you manage and invest your money, chances are your dreams of being with the 0.5% won't come true any time soon.