Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Regressivism: Defunding Democracy through Class Warfare

For the past 30 years, the notion that a healthy democracy is based on the free exchange of ideas and that citizens should be able to freely organize to influence public policy has been under aggressive and institutionalized attack. When Republicans controlled the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives and an increasing number of state governments, conservative activists seized the opportunity to undermine democracy by restricting who qualified for tax-exempt status (thereby undermining government and foundation funding sources for non-profits), public trust, and restricting the attention that civil disobedience protests received from the mainstream media.

The dominance of the Republican Party over this time period and an increasingly assertive conservative movement created a broad intolerance for dissenting voices and lack of access to public funding for liberal organizations. Funded by foundations and corporations, the conservative movement's objective was to silence its contemporary critics on the one hand and any future dissent on the other by defunding education and other "liberal" domains.

What started as a plan to 'defund the left' in the United States inspired conservatives around the world to adopt the same strategy. The consequences of this regressive Republican strategy in the United States was aptly articulated by Rick Kepler:
I am an American worker, and you are damn right I want the wealth to be shared and spread. I am talking about the wealth my hard work helped to create, but was taken from me by George Bush's base, the very rich, or as I know them, my corporate bosses. For the past eight years I have watched W.'s and McCain's (Country Club First) base grab the largest share of our country's wealth. Where did they take it from? They took it from my family's pocketbook, and my co-workers' families' pocketbooks. They stole the wealth that I was trying to build for me and my family when they stripped my pension plan from me and told me to invest in a 401k. Then they stole most of that 401k and other workers' 401k savings with this economic meltdown. This was a massive transfer of wealth from the workers' pockets into the already stuffed pockets of the rich. My retirement savings and my co-workers' savings all across America have been looted by the corporate bosses, who just got bailed out while we got left out. Again! [Rick Kepler, The American Worker, 21 November 2008]
Workers are finally "getting it." Most Americans, however, are still in the dark as the current majority Democratic Congress is not aggressively investigating the government abuses that the Left has catalogued on blogs for more than five years. More recently, citizens in Argentina and, currently, in Iceland has shown the world what an appropriate public response should be to put conservatism on the defensive. Yet, in the United States a New Era democratic president is attempting reconciliation rather than retribution or criminal enforcement of the US legal code. His actions could set back a global movement that in the end could result in more violent revolt against entrenched neo-con governments everywhere.

The inaction of Congress and the Obama administration may further exacerbate the capacity of citizens seeking a more expansive democracy to solve their problems and improve the quality of their lives. It's a strategy that empowers Republicans as revealed in the recent debates in the US Congress. To overcome this New Era politic the progressive movement in the United States must rise to the challenge and confront the Democrats in the streets. A dialogue will not occur until the American people engages its government at the seat of power. Many individuals are doing just this.

In a recent TruthOut perspective, 'Ending the Hidden Agenda Behind Tax Cuts,' Joe Brewer, has published an analytical framework that the public can use to better understand the regressive strategy that was used to inculcate Americans to act against their long-term interests by appealing to their immediate short-term self-interests. One of the key components of this strategy is tax cuts. Brewer writes: "It's time to tell the truth about tax cuts. This phrase dominates political discourse and is coughed out every time a conservative public figure opens his mouth. It is treated like the basis of sound reasoning, yet no one points out what should be obvious - that 'tax relief' and 'tax cuts' are just code words for destroying the capacity of government to serve the public."

So well we know. This is why an even larger stimulus plan will be necessary. The public sector that serves the needs of citizens is running on fumes as Republicans continue to stonewall in social spending in favor cuts. This class war is far from over and the stakes are very high for all Americans.

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