Capital, It Fails Us Now

Thomas Frank has written a great book (The Wrecking Crew) that should help drive more nails into the coffin of the conservative movement. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that he doesn’t quite put the stake through the heart, which is really what we have to do with this monster.

The problem is that Tom still accepts too much conservative rhetoric at face value. Conservatives do not dislike government or want small government. They just dislike government policies that are designed to help the bulk of the population. They want the government to redistribute income upward and they are happy to have a government that is as big as necessary to accomplish this task. The stuff about small government and leaving things to the market is just pretty rhetoric they use to fool the kids (i.e. us).

It sounds much better to say, “I want to get the government off people’s backs” than “I want the government to make the rich even richer.” But the latter is the real story of conservatism.

Dean Baker, October 6, 2008, TPM Café Book Club (Talking Points Memo)

I have a more or less good memory of the night Reagan won the first time, in November 1980. The networks called the election early, after the East and Central Time Zone polls had closed, and we went to a club (in Austin, Texas) called Club Foot, to see the Gang of Four. “Sorry to hear about your president,” Jon King, the lead singer, said. It was a fantastic show.

We hated Reagan and the Republican Party. What I did not understand at all, then, was that the Reagan Administration and their Conservative followers would undermine just about everything we were counting on for the future we wanted. In the short run, they gutted the Social Security benefits my sister should have gotten after my Dad died in 1982. Their policies made college more expensive and grants more rare and guns more common. The long run was worse.

They made national health care impossible, set up Cod War struggles in South and Central America and Afghanistan; the latter would lead to the attacks on New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington in 2001. They established the ideology of deregulation that has twice now led to economy-threatening bank collapses, made the airline industry so dysfunctional, and is still disabling government at every level, particularly the public schools.

Baker suggests that the current political and economic mood is ripe for a decisive defeat for the conservative philosophies that have set back our country so far for so long. The Gang of Four has long ago broken up, produced a come back record or two, and then broken up again. It’s been nearly three decades. I hope this time we do really tramp this dirt down, decisively, if not once and for all.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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