Right wing billionaires have been spending for over forty years to affect the public discourse on the direction of the country. To be sure, this has been true of the left as well, but the right has been the escalating force in this arms race. See “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer for a full treatment of this subject. In their mind, the America of the early 1900s “Gilded Age” is the goal. Remember, that is also the America of child sweat shops. In that age “Captains of Industry” were close to all powerful. They called all the shots.
In the intervening years, the forces of liberalism pressed for income equality, social liberties, and collective bargaining. By the time of the late 1960s, the conservative agenda was largely absent from the public discourse, and the right-wing billionaires couldn’t even buy an election. The universities were “hot beds of liberal thought”. After their failure to buy elections, the right started pouring money into universities to fund conservative economics and policies. They funded think tanks, bought media outlets, and funded right wing radio. Later they funded right wing television and cable. For example, Sinclair Communications is taking over local broadcast news, and Fox News dominates conservative cable coverage.
This has provided legitimacy to the conservative and far right agenda. They have created the “government is evil…kill it” attitude. In order to achieve the numbers required to win elections, they have focused on local elections to create a majority of republican state legislatures and governors. This has led to the gerrymandering of districts which strengthened their ability to win elections with a minority of voters. They have also promoted the perception of voter fraud to justify policies that would result in voter suppression of traditionally democratic constituencies. Finally, they have courted the extreme or “alt-right” factions, including white supremacists and Nazis.
Having succeeded in electing their presidential candidate, they safeguarded their position by stacking the justice system. They confirmed a far-right justice to the Supreme Court, and put Jeff Sessions in as Attorney General of the United States. This insures minimal interference with their plans. As Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has been rolling back civil rights, and dismantling the progress of decades of liberal progress.
The republican House and Senate have been dedicated to gutting the social safety net. They do this in spite of the massive unpopularity of these policies with Americans. The legislators are not “crazy”. They are simply bought and paid for. Their donors have paid billions for control, and want their pay back. The 35% minority that consists of Trump’s base and the alt-right want to tear the system down, so they support the billionaire agenda because they think it destroys the government built by the “evil left”.
The reason the social safety net still stands is the dedication and activism of the American people against these forces of dissolution. However, those forces are clever and determined. Now they are using the budget and “tax reform” to achieve their goals. If they succeed, they will deplete the income sources of government. This will add tremendously to the national debt. This will ultimately provide the justification for dismantling the safety net, because “we can’t afford it”.
In 1937, Social Security was instituted as a way to make Americans save for retirement and to eliminate old age suffering. To be sure, the government wanted to benefit from holding all the extra money, but it was sold to the public as “enforced savings”. This changed as a result of the 1960 Flemming v Nestor case, where the Supreme Court decided that the Social Security Tax was simply another tax, and that the government had no responsibility to give any money back to the people. Since then, government has borrowed against this money, and used it for other purposes, depleting those funds. In fact, the only structural problem with Social Security is the baby-boomer generation passing through the system now. This issue has other solutions than disabling the system. Statistics show that over 50% of Americans over 50 have not saved anything for their retirement. Another 20% have saved less than $50,000. As they age, if there is no Social Security, what will happen? Will all the young alt-right want to have their aging parents living with them?
Medical care costs have been skyrocketing for years. Much data exists to show how preventative health care lowers costs over all. This is the premise of HMO plans. Disabling preventative care will only be more expensive in the long run. People who can’t afford insurance to get preventative care will still get sick, and will need more expensive immediate care. Until hospitals and doctors refuse care to those who can’t afford it, costs will rise. Medicaid and Medicare ultimately lower costs.
The GOP vision of our future will not only gut the social safety net, but it will put more power in the donor class. America will become even more of a playground of the super-rich. The world of the Mercers, the Kochs, the Devos’, the Green’s, the Anshutz’s, etc will look just like the world of the Morgan’s, the Hearst’s, the Durst’s, the Vanderbilt’s, etc. While I’m sure they loved it, it wasn’t a great age for most Americans.
As civil liberties are cut, and the social safety net is gutted, Americans’ only hope is to try and continue to stall GOP actions until the 2018 elections. Then all democrats must unite in local elections to flip the house. This is a daunting task. Most of the seats open are democratic seats. The few republican seats open must be won. The 46% of Americans that have ignored the elections in this country MUST vote. Relying on a stalling strategy beyond the 2018 elections has a very low percentage chance of success to save us from a dismal future.
Editor – Political Nation
Twitter – @RepairmanBill