Dé hAoine, Eanáir 30, 2009

More Reaganism Post-Mortum

an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.
3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

Never mind those elitist dictionary writers who be tryin to tell us what English is an ain't. Here's a Real American definition of what capitalism and socialism be.

Capitalism.- Cutting taxes on anything is always good.

Socialism- Raising taxes on anything, in any economic situation, for any reason, ever.

"Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." So saith Lord Regan, and in so saying the man was able to build a political coalition of Great Deciders that lasted for twenty five years. "Not all conservatives are stupid people, but most stupid people are conservatives." So saith John Stuart Mill, and while I gladly admit to being intemperate at times, I must say this is rather a bit harsh, or at least oversimplified.

The most distinctive trait of being human is to seek and desire to know moral truth, and for many of us this desire becomes an all-consuming obsession. Such people typically become dogmatists. They convince themselves that they have discovered a great moral Truth that is as tangible and objective as physical truth, and that anyone who disagrees with THE TRUTH is either hopelessly ignorant or knowingly rebelling against the obvious TRUTH. For a select few not even this level of moral certainty is enough. Not only must there be an objective absolute TRUTH, but this TRUTH must be constantly in mortal peril. Even the most mundane decisions and wondering semi-conscious fancies exist only as tests to determine whether one truly accepts the TRUTH or not. Every firing synapse decides the philosophical foundation of one's life, over and over again.

In order to take one's desire for clarity to such lengths, it certainly helps to be stupid, but it's not absolutely necessary. An overdeveloped sense of romance will do. Nor does such an impulse necessarily lead to conservatism; but with its emphasis
on tradition, religion, institutions, and conveniently pre-determined social roles, it's easy to see why conservatism holds greater appeal for the TRUTH warriors. Apply the ideal of constantly endangered TRUTH to the subject of taxation, and what you end up with is "Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes."

Now imagine how the TRUTH warrior would react if we were to drop him into the late 20th century United States, a time when the paper-thin WASP social consensus was being slowly ground to dust. Oppressed ethnic groups were asserting their places at the table, Protestant notions of sexual morality were being more and more openly sneered at, immigrants from more and more corners of the globe were coming in at ever-accelerating rates. The idea that American national identity was based on the Renaissance Europe model: where common language, dress, cuisine, ritual etc., was the only thing to distinguish one feudal Christian state from the other, was being ever more undeniably exposed as the lie it has always been. Any TRUTH warrior living in such a time and place would understandably be confused, and right-wing commentators to this day are perfectly open in their belief that doubt and confusion are the worst things a person can possibly experience. Enter anger. Enter talk radio.

For no particular reason I had my radio tuned to KLIN this morning while Laura Ingraham interviewed former Reagan staff member Bruce Bartlett. Bartlett was there to answer for his apostasy that conservatives should learn to accept such programs as Social Security and Medicaid. To those of us who care more about correctly perceiving reality than knowing the TRUTH this is nothing but the wisdom of experience. Recall how W. first started to lose his monarchical grip of the country when he tried to touch SOS. For one thing his top priority for what to expend "political capital" on revealed that not even the White House truly believed that Al-Quida was a more dire threat than Hitler, and so must be the only thing the nation focuses on. On a more basic level the attempt to privatize Social Security failed because people like it, and as the population grows older and sicker, people are going to like both SOS and Medicaid even more.

Bartlett tried to explain how Regan's famous 1981 tax cuts were gradually trimmed in half over the course of his term, either to keep Social Security afloat or to meet some other government obligation. Why he had to explain this may seem strange to you. It may perfectly obvious to you that, while taxes can indeed be too high, society needs a government to provide for defense, roads, legal protection, some means of attaining and measuring private property etc, and said government needs to pay for itself somehow. You probably feel insulted by even reading this paragraph. I mean it's not as if this is some high falluting concept out of Plato's dialogues, this is second grade social studies. Surely there is no American political movement which claims that the best way to run a 21st century empire is to reject what was perfectly obvious to the Mesopotamians. Well fuck you buddy, you don't know The TRUTH.

Ingraham was of course apoplectic. When Bartlett tried to point out that people will not stand to see their parents and grandparents impoverished, Ingraham said something along the lines of 'I can't believe that you're using that old liberal scare tactic of Grandma eating dog food.' Never mind that this 'scare tactic' is based on real-life examples from the pre-New Deal depression. Cue Stephen Colbert.) A caller berated Bartlett with something like 'reducing taxes raises revenue, what do you not understand about that?' ( It is indeed an easy concept to understand. So blissfully, erotically easy to understand.) Bartlett asked if that logic should be extended to reducing tax rates to zero and called the statement 'idiotic.'(Just when Chuck Hagel retires and I thought I'd never hear an honest Republican again) this prompted Ingraham to manfully defend her caller and berate Bartlett some more.

If there is anything that has held the conservative movement together more than morbid obsession with the gayness, it is its hatred of taxation. The incoherent mixture of a constant need for authoritarian Great Fathers and hatred of "government". Ever since the passage of prop 13 in California,(Which required a 2/3 vote in both houses of the legislature to raise property taxes, thus making a tax hike officially more radical than impeaching the governor.) this knee-jerk against paying state bills revealed that the bitter stew that became Reaganism was not the tough-love conservatism of Edmund Burke or Cicero. Something darker was going on. There was a fundamental meanness to this, a proud childishness. This was the behavior of people who felt jilted. People who, by virtue of race or adherence to old mores or some other irrational reason, had been led to believe that American society was personally theirs and no one else's. Now their voices were being diminished for reasons they couldn't comprehend. They looked about them to find a country where so much was happening without their consent or approval. So they picked up their toys, marched off to their suburban corners, and refused to play with anyone else.

An entire generation who were happy to accept the prestige that came with being citizens of a great empire while angrily denouncing any suggestion that this came with responsibilities. The decline of great cities was blamed on the crimes of a few that lived there. Poverty excused with old wives tales about crack babies and Cadillac queens. My own birth into humanity at its zenith, and the promise that came with that, betrayed by those who claim to love this country more then I. The history books are already damning your truth, and whatever God there may be has already done so from the beginning.

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