"We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals-and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship."--Grover Norquist, stating a political modus operandi that's lost its effectiveness among rednecks.
Washington D.C.--Mission accomplished. Yet the GOP slithered into the White House and Congress saying (yep, especially when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House): "Government is bad. Government isn't the answer to our problems--it is the problem. " Except that it isn't, the business community is the real problem.
Then, there's this extremist wacko named Grover Norquist, who said we should shrink government "to the size that we [the business and financial sectors] can drown it in the bathtub," and that tax cuts are an absolute, even if it means we cannot fund things. Congratulations, Mr. Norquist, the mess you always wanted to create is here, and it's about to bite you and your ilk in-the-ass.
The market is crashing thanks to runaway financial deregulation that the GOP and her backers wanted and there was nary a Democrat in Congress to effectively oppose it. You're correct--GOP--this shouldn't be a partisan issue since both major parties are to blame for the current mess:
"This is a pivotal moment for America's economy," Bush said in his most extensive remarks this week on the crisis. He said that a financial contagion that began with low-quality home mortgages had "spread throughout our financial system" and frozen many financial transactions.
The president said the federal government should interfere in the marketplace "only when necessary," and that this is one of those times. "Given the precarious state of today's financial markets, and their vital importance to the daily lives of the American people, government intervention is not only warranted, it is essential," he said. ("Bush says government role essential to ease crisis," AP, 09.19.2008)
You want fries with that? Now he and the rest of the parrots in the GOP are going to start backtracking by saying, "We only meant there are a few cases where government intervention in the economy is necessary," which is just going to exacerbate the public's anger at them. This is because everyone knows that it's their fault, their mess, and we're bailing them out of it. It's the death of conservatism.
Who got bailed-out? Why, the crooked financial institutions and major shareholders, that's who. Not homeowners, not the unemployed--not anywhere that it's going to create a long-term fix of the economy, to stabilize it and to make it sustainable. All they've done in Washington D.C. and the right wing think-tanks is to buy some more time before the elections. Too late. But sustaining the situation until the elections are over is exactly what both parties have in mind.
Talk, talk, talk, and almost no walk for the public at all. That was always part of the plan for the so-called "neoconservatives" and the rest of the holders of "conventional wisdom" regarding the economy--a group more closely-related to extremist Libertarianism than anybody wants to admit. Their goal has been to keep the government from providing any social services or relief to the working-class, relegating it to servicing defense contractors, the corporations and the banks, and little else. John McCain tows this line, and regardless of what he might contend, he will have to raise taxes. He's also not going to be ending Roe v. Wade anytime soon either, but that's another fish to fry for another time.
It's a twilight moment for the followers of the Mystery Cult of Grover (sexy name, no?) Norquist: they've gotten what they wanted all along, but now the political-costs are mounting in ways they never imagined. Their only way out of their current catastrophe of objective-reality colliding with their Alice in Wonderland economic, antisocial, and political philosophies which have hit that wall that was always waiting for them at the end is to lie and to hide.
You see, here's the problem for anyone who would give Norquist and his "leave us alone" coalition any credence: if you want social services after a natural disaster, if you want bail-outs of your financial institutions run on hokum and paradox, your wars, money for schools, municipal-spending, roads, airports, highways, drinkable water, breathable air, police, a National Guard, a competetive workforce, a future and an actual society--you have to pay taxes, and taxes naturally rise over time. There is no solution to this problem except progressive taxation, namely taxing the wealthiest and making them pay their share as part of social responsibility in a civilized nation.
This peculiarly American idea that "you don't have to pay taxes" is utterly wacko in its scope and conviction, and is not only self-serving rubbish, but has no objective merit whatsoever. This is why we're seeing the bailouts under one of its greatest presidential-adherents. If it was true at all, we wouldn't see these bailouts.
Oh yes, John McCain is going to keep saying "we shouldn't be doing this," and most Americans will agree, though they actually mean it.
But what do you suggest as an alternative? Norquist doesn't have one, though some Keynesian Democrats are already suggesting New Deal style progressive taxation of the rich. Conversely, Norquist and his ilk still want to defund all government at all levels, and while he's getting his wish, it's clear that he and the other adherents of their ridiculous pseudo-ideology intuitively understand that the fallout from a public that expects government services isn't going to tolerate the kind of world they want. Ugly confrontations are coming soon.
If you go to Norquist's site, "Americans for Tax Relief," you'll see that there isn't one article, link, or comment directly addressing the recent bailouts of IndyMac, AIG, the demise of Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan's buyout of Bear Stearns, the nationalization (that's Socialism, folks, the kind that Libertarians and so-called "conservatives" think is alright) of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Bank of America buyout of Merrill-Lynch, or any of the other lending institutions that were allowed to take things this far over the cliff. If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have proven anything at all it's that privatization doesn't work, especially when it's unregulated by government agencies with real oversight powers.
But that's what regulations are for, so we won't mention the obvious fact that they--neoconservatives and wackos like Grover Norquist--birthed this unprecedented crash by creating the proper preconditions for it, actually demanding it for years. It couldn't have happened without incredibly powerful backers, however.
In 1997, Reason magazine fawned over Norquist in an interview that makes plain his Libertarian credentials:
... Reason: You have worked with the Libertarian Party in the past. When and why?
Norquist: In the 1978, '79, and '80 races I ran a group called the Tax Action Coalition. Ed Clark [the 1980 L.P. presidential nominee] was the chairman. I've found that Libertarian Party activists make the best tax activists because they never get involved in the silly questions about which tax is preferable. They understand that the total tax burden is the total amount of freedom taken away from you, and it needs to be reduced as quickly and as completely as is humanly possible.... ("Happy Warrior: Republican AgitatorGrover Norquist on building a 'leave-us-alone' coalition," Reason, Feb., 1997)
No questions here, but the Libertarians have to be loving the presidency and Congress of George W. Bush right now, since he's hitting all of their notes. But hey, they want to legalize pot...and vigilantism, more runaway deregulation where corporations can poison and exploit you with impunity (and not pay taxes at all), where children shoot their parents with easily-available assault rifles, and where we're left with a nation where basically no law and order exists anymore. Sounds great, right? I didn't think so either.
Segments of the public will swallow some of this out of fear and stupidity, but in the end, the New Deal programs and protections are holding-strong. But what's Norquist's reaction to all of these bailouts? We don't know. As expected, he's going to have to do a lot of back-peddling, flip-flopping, and being cagey, common traits of this era of the elevation of the little man coming to power politics (and the predictable abuse of the term "genius" when the economy is running "strong").
Grover Norquist was the designer and architect of the Bush tax-cuts that came in 2001, a rollback of the New Deal's progressive taxation that kept our economy reasonably stable for over five decades--the same amout of time that the GOP couldn't achieve concurrent majorities in Congress.
That should tell you something: as the WWII generation has died-off, the lessons that they learned over 70 years ago have been going with them. "Victory" leaves Norquist in a strange place that he never expected--what to do next.
As anyone could have predicted, wacked-out little men like Grover Norquist will have to take their brand of snake oil to the state and local levels where the tax-crunch is being felt the strongest. Their chances at making any real inroads are very poor. The public also expects social services at these levels, yet another byproduct of the New Deal policies that continued their expansion into the Johnson years. The expectation of social services being provided by the federal goverment have become engrained into the public mind and aren't going-away.
But it's always 1928 to the GOP and her allies on the far-right, and that's saying something in one of the more right wing nations of the developed world, the red-haired stepchild called America. And so Norquist and others have decided to keep below the radar down at the state level as their handiwork explodes at the national level.
Isn't it great to agree with oneself? Yes it is, so the Big business-backed right wing has created the Caesar Rodney Institute in Delaware.
Norquist was their for the birth:
"What we're really stressing is policies that give people the ability to exercise individual initiative and to take personal responsibility for it," said Bergh, a Brandywine Hundred mathematician and economist, who is an information technology consultant. "Those are the kind of things that will lead a government that is very open and appropriately limited. We want government to be outcome-focused."
He said the organization wants to build bridges between the political parties.
Norquist said Delaware was in need of an independent research and education think tank like the Pioneer Institute in Boston, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Mich., and the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, Ariz. Mackinac pushes individual choice and free markets, said Michael Jahr, spokesman for Mackinac.
"Ideas communicated with other people that are dramatized and explained can change the world. That's why the Caesar Rodney Institute is important," Norquist said. "You can change the world from Delaware." ("Free-market advocates open for business," Delaware Online, 09.17.2008)
We'll be sure to keep it isolated to places like Delaware, but thanks for the warning. Their rhetoric all sounds reasonable until you realize that they don't actually mean it when they speak about accountability for all. If they did, they'd be out defending their past-arguments on how the economy should be run (no regulation by the "mean old government" with their inconvenient "laws" and "regulations").
Freaks like Norquist aren't doing any defending, and it's a telling admission of defeat--not that any journalists are going to be confronting them on it anytime soon, just another byproduct of a dying pseudo-ideology and economy.
The fixes aren't going to have a long-lasting impact without--say it--greater regulation of the financial and business sectors of the economy, and more laws to do so if required. Taxes are also going to be raised, especially for the wealthiest. It's coming. Without this logical rise in tax- revenues, the entire American--and "global"--economy will go into total insolvency. Some pundits and supporters of Norquist have crowed over the years that this is exactly what the plan was: bankrupt the government to get them off-the-backs of the average American, namely wealthy businessmen and bankers. Toronto writer Jeff Berg notes:
Another winner in this battle of ideas over very big money are those like Grover Norquist whose self-professed goal over the last two decades has been to “shrink it down to a size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” It being the U.S. government. The only way to do this of course is to bankrupt it first. Reagan had a good go at it but his “legacy” has been left in shade by the outsized profligacy and recklessness of Bush and Cheney. As he has so very often Gore Vidal turned the most memorable phrase about this tickets unerring abilities: “Everything Bush touches turns to poo like King Midas in reverse.” ("the Banks Get Their Presidential Pardon-You and I Bail Out Wall Street," GNN.tv, 09.18.2008)The problem with Berg's argument is that all of this undescores the failures of the current conservative ideology and its application. What next? Where's all the crowing over their "great victory"? There is none, because there is no "great victory," only an underscoring that their so-called "ideology" doesn't work in the real world. What they want and have gotten only leads us towards another crash, another bank failing and having to be bailed-out--then what? What next?
Then the banks and business and tech sectors have everything...and the global economy collapses, and all of that capital they've hoarded is now worthless. Perhaps we can assume they advocate a police state after that, since it's the only thing that would save them and the remnants of their wealth and power. "Conspiracy"? Hardly, this was all a mainstream deal, policy.
Granted that there is no other choice in nationalizing these private lenders and brokers, but remember that the bailouts and the resultant debts and social spending will all have to be serviced through a pronounced progressive taxation and a solvent government. These extremist elements aren't going to get their way in this area, and many of them don't genuinely want to. Without those preconditions, none of the current economic order works or is possible at all, what with its predictable and cyclical excesses.
Of course, there will be a lot of grumbling over the inevitable rise in taxes. None of it will matter.
But what could we expect if taxes weren't raised on the wealthy? A crash that would eclipse 1987's, and would likely compete with 1929. Nobody knows, ultimately, but it won't be good. And so now you know why extremists on the right want to pretend it's 1928 forever: They're nuts. They have no clue, and neither do those who stupidly believe a word they write or say.
Most of this mindless insanity begins with the Reagan administration (under which Norquist served as an adviser), but its cultural and political-roots go far back to the asinine resistance to the New Deal back in the 1930s. Soon, very soon, people will begin a decades-long cursing of Norquist, Rove, Bush, and all the rest, just as they did with the impotent and inactive Herbert Hoover. Frankly, I'm enjoying the show and all of the scrambling--and I haven't even mentioned the mounting-debt from the wars in the Middle East.
"Free-market advocates open for business," Delaware Online, 09.17.2008: http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080917/BUSINESS/809170353/1003
"Happy Warrior: Republican AgitatorGrover Norquist on building a 'leave-us-alone' coalition," Reason, February, 1997: http://www.reason.com/news/show/30147.html
The utterly wacko Fifth columnist "Americans for Tax Reform": http://www.atr.org/
"Bush says government role essential to ease crisis," AP, 09.19.2008: http://enews.earthlink.net/article/top?guid=20080919/48d323c0_3ca6_15526200809191995788214