In this present crisis, government is
not the solution to our problem;
government is the problem.
— Ronald Reagan
God forbid the mainstream news media should ever mention this, but there was once a time in America when citizens thought of government as their friend, and no one with any brains took the theory of free market capitalism as espoused by Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman very seriously. In fact, it was considered a ridiculous idea, and individuals who took it to heart, like Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater or William F. Buckley Jr., were considered laughable.
Of course, it was a different time in America then, a time when Keynesian economics was king, when most American families lived comfortably on one income, and when the rich and large corporations paid taxes at much higher rates.
In those days average Americans knew instinctively, if not intellectually, that a “free market” system that took power away from government and allowed Big Business to run the show was just a scam to screw the little guy; that unfettered capitalism without strong government checks and balances led to– at best– robber barons like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, and– at worst– fascist dictators like Hitler and Mussolini.
And they knew something else. Like our Founding Fathers, they knew the cornerstone of American democracy was the common man, not wealthy individuals or large corporations. And from World War II until 1980, this paradigm remained safe in the land of the free, if not always in practice, at least in principle.
But all that changed when Ronald Reagan became president. As a gift to his wealthy friends and corporate backers, he made free market capitalism an integral part of his administration. These so-called friends of his were the same wealthy and well-connected individuals who hated FDR and JFK and who had been plotting a takeover of the government ever since Goldwater’s embarrassing presidential defeat in 1964. And with Reagan as president, they finally had one of their own in office.
Thus began the dismantling of the New Deal and the ascendance of the view that government was the problem in America, not the solution. Naturally, the mainstream news media never pointed out the absurdity of Reagan’s argument, since in a democracy the people are the government– at least they’re supposed to be. But logic was never a factor during the Reagan era– propaganda was. And, boy, were “The Gipper” and his pals good at it! In a few short years they convinced a sizeable percentage of the public that “liberal” was a dirty word and “greed” was the highest of all values.
Thus a new Gilded Age was born, and with the “likeable dunce” selling their brand of free market capitalism, the captains of industry (as they were once called) would incrementally push the country deeper into corporate fascism while at the same time creating a cult of uninformed working-class and middle-class citizens who loved Reagan and hated government and liberals.
After Reagan left office, the free market scam continued with Bush Senior and Bill Clinton. Finally, it reached its ne plus ultra with George W. Bush, a man so deluded and corrupt, so entrenched in cronyism and corporate fascism, he doesn’t even realize the country is collapsing beneath his feet.
The good news is that George W. Bush’s popularity is at the lowest point of his presidency. The bad news, according to the latest poll, is that 22% of those polled still approve of Bush. Now think about that number. Even after two rigged elections, the disastrous war and occupation of Iraq, the flouting of the Constitution, the unabashed use of torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the tragic incompetence surrounding Hurricane Katrina, the lack of action on global warming, the scandal behind the housing foreclosure crisis, and the collapse of the dollar, over one-fifth of Americans still think Bush is doing a swell job.
Ethics aside, we expect the corporate elite and the upper one per cent of the population (who own over 40% of the country’s wealth) to root for Bush. After all, he has enriched them beyond their wildest dreams. But why in God’s name would the other 21% still support him?
That’s where the mainstream news media and neo-fascist loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly come in. They tap into the nostalgia and cult worship of Ronald Reagan, and as a result, are able to convince working-class and middle-class Americans to vote against their own economic interests in favor of free market capitalism, even though these same people are currently losing their jobs, their homes, and their civil liberties.
Ironically, they don’t blame Bush for their losses or hard times, since Bush is the logical extension of Reagan, their free market hero. Therefore, if they are having a problem, it must be the liberals who are at fault, the “left-wing radicals” who criticize the free market and want to raise taxes on the rich. After all, the free market is like God; it’s infallible.
And like God, what the free market giveth, it taketh away. So for those of you who once had steady jobs with good health care benefits– move back in with your parents and don’t get sick! For those of you who were counting on the equity in your house for retirement– move in with your kids and don’t be a pain in the ass! And for those of you who were hoping to enjoy the great outdoors in the future, get your gas masks and underwater gear ready because global warming is going to get progressively worse in the coming decades and really wreck havoc on the environment.
To borrow a phrase from Barack Obama’s old pal, Rev. Jeremiah Wright– the chickens of the free market are coming home to roost! And it ain’t pretty! After 28 years of cutting government regulations and allowing corporate America to run wild, our country has become a polluted, ecological disaster, a second-rate debtor nation perpetually at war. In addition, we have devolved into a two-class society where average citizens are left with diminished standards of living while the super rich live extravagant, yet isolated lives in high-tech security mansions.
This is the true legacy of the free market– a few winners and a whole bunch of losers. Of course, in the end, even the winners will be losers, because if enough people can’t afford the necessities of life or go broke, even the high-tech security mansions of the super rich won’t be able to protect them from the angry mob.
People in Third World countries are already fighting over food. And unless we make some serious changes in our country, how long will it be before average Americans are doing the same?