Friday, September 30, 2005

The Neocon War Against Government

The Bush regime has two aims, two courses of action, regarding the federal government while in office. They intend to pillage the regulatory agencies, having placed their own people in the key spots and turned the agencies inside-out. That is, they have turned the agencies toward furthering corporate (Bush political base) goals through softening and corrupting of regulations, quick approval of pharmaceuticals and food additives and, of course, massive contracts for public works to cronies. While they are doing this, they very well understand that it is destructive. Their overall intent is to thoroughly discredit government agencies and, when inevitably they are voted out of office, the Democrats will have to deal with a whole population that no longer trusts government ... and for good reason. It will seem simpler to just scrap these corrupt agencies.

This is a pretty devilish idea, when you think of it. It has Rovean ironies and Neocon ruthlessness. What they are doing is pitting government against itself, jiu jitzu-like, using federal funds to line their own pockets, the process itself intended to bring about both financial and moral collapse of the very idea of federal government!

All conservative Republicans and all states' rights advocates want to destroy the federal government as it came to exist after WWII. They came to this conclusion just about the same time they gave up on democracy, which of course was the overdue and immanent impeachment of Richard M. Nixon.

They believe they will be able to create a federal government to their liking while the old liberal government is corrupted and loses the support even of those who created it. And maybe they are right! Would you want to clean up EPA, FDA, or FEMA right now? They are all cesspools of cronyism and incompetence.

The only piece of the federal government they want to keep is the military, because, of course, it is half of the military-industrial complex, their political base! It is a never-ending source of federal funds to local economies and a seemingly bottomless well of invention (for gun-runners).

Part B of the Plan is this: These very same conservatives hate the Sixteenth Amendment worse than anything, because it deprives states of revenues that each might use in their own regionally ideosyncratic ways. The main reason, though, is that they believe the income tax provides virtually endless money to Congress and the Civil Service and leads to an ever-expanding federal presence in all areas of American life. (Apparently none of them understands deficit, particularly George.) They are attacking the Sixteenth Amendment through a ruse so threadbare that it just might work: the so-called FairTax idea.

They have a bill before Congress now (once again), HR 25, which would repeal the federal income tax, payroll tax, medicare, and social security taxes. Replacing these would be a single 30% federal sales tax. This bill is supported by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Speaker Dennis Hastert and 52 others, so far. The proponents claim that the tax rate is ONLY 23%, but this is how they arrive at that number.

A television set costs $1,000; the 30% sales tax is $300; the total is $1,300. The proponents will try to tell you that $300 is only 23% of $1,300, which it is, but that is not the rate of tax, it is just the ratio of the total to the tax; it is definitely not the ratio of the tax to the product, which obviously is the only meaningful mathematics! Proponents are using a term call "tax inclusive" rate to confuse those of you who are not thrilled with arithmetic to begin with.

The prevarications and misleading rate structure aside, the real problem is that you cannot run the federal government on either a 30% tax rate or a 23% "tax inclusive" rate; the Congressional committee that looked this over four years ago said then that the tax rate would have to be 57%, a "tax inclusive" rate of 36%. So, what is going on here?

Obviously, the plan must be to reduce government! The plan is to remove various "social engineering" incentives from the tax structure and they do not just mean welfare, they mean the deduction that millions of families have for their home mortgage, for medical expenses, for business expenses, etc. You simply cannot make deductions for these kinds of programs at the cash register at WalMart ... or at Nieman Marcus.

But eliminating "social engineering" is not the only major goal. They want to put Social Security and Medicare out of business entirely. There are two ideas behind this, of course. The radical conservative notion is that, one, both Social Security and Medicare are properly expenses to be born by the individual people and families themselves, and two, they should be carried out by individuals and families negotiating with Wall Street and private medical enterprise.

There is a heartlessness in this aspect of the FairTax/Neocon program that almost defies imagination. It is nevertheless real. In their heart of hearts (such as that might be) these people believe there would be fewer poor people if there were no visible safety net for them, that is, poor people would learn to procreate less if they were unable to feed, clothe, or attend to their inevitable illnesses. Somehow these neocon geniuses have forgotten that poor people need extra helping hands, and the world over they procreate to obtain them.

Starkly, the heartlessness goes well beyond this to an out-and-out "survival of the richest" regime wherein a very large working class of formerly lower- and middle-middle class persons will join the present-day lower classes and toil at subsistence wages, paying less tax when they are below the poverty line and full taxes as soon as they creep into solvency, thus hovering perpetually at the break-even point, effectively removed from the competition for upward mobility opportunities. The upper-middle class, trapped in its current cirumstances short of wealth and political clout, becomes the entire middle class, a shrinking number, teased and cajoled by the economic elite to vote Republican against their own better interests and against that impossible day when they become truly wealthy. Half of one percent of the upper-middle class will. Half of one percent!

Meanwhile, of course, globalized corporations no longer fully accountable to any government, no longer have to shop for tax incentives from localities and can cherry-pick the lowest wage rates anywhere on the planet. Those people who do not win jobs can enlist in the Army, which, you can be absolutely sure, will be richly fed and constantly employed protecting corporate interests and natural resources abroad ... and probably at home, too. The rest can just, well, die off for all the new order cares.

There are lots of internet sites devoted in one way or another to the FairTax proposal. Here is one that seems to be fairly responsible in its approach. If you are going to read the FairTax stuff, you should read this one, too.

Since George Bush and his friends seem to have another three+ years in office, there might be time for them to implement such a thing over the protests of the minority Democrats. You will notice from a look at a Google search on "FairTax" that there are volunteer FairTax organizations all over the place, some with their own websites. They are serious about this, and it amounts to nothing less than a total revolution. While I am not averse to revolutions in general, one that catapults us back into the nineteenth century is not my idea of a good time. The so-called Gilded Age (1865-1915) of robber baron industrialists might seem like Valhalla to a handful of today's corporate plutocrats, for the vast majority of Americans it was back-breakingly awful and will be again for the vast majority of Americans if we let them do it. Remember, George, fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.

Also remember, only when the middle class is large and prosperous have things been even close to acceptable. The government of and by the middle classes will serve all Americans. It will provide various safety nets and restraints. It will promote general prosperity and assure than no one is without food, shelter, or necessary medical care.

This bogus, so-called FairTax is the wake-up call we have been lying around restlessly to hear. When you hear about it in your neighborhoods, ask the proponents how they are going to pay for hurricane relief, national defense, health care for everyone, environmental clean-up and protection. Ask them what their real agenda is.

James Richard Brett