Friday, January 23, 2015

Bad Comedy: Conservatives and Small Government

Here is one solid truth that you can take to the bank:  No one with a lick of sense really wants a big, bloated, inefficient government that has been overrun with useless bureaucracy.

Nobody wants that, not even the liberals.

So the basic idea of a small, efficient government is a good one.  The thing is, when conservatives talk about "small government," and how they want to create one, they're basically lying to you.  They don't want a smaller government at all.  No, what both corporate and social conservatives really want is a big, big, BIG government that has its hands all over your life.

It's true.

Even though most literate conservatives (about 38% of the total number of conservatives in the US) are very wary of Thomas Jefferson and his ideals of personal freedom and liberty and the right of an individual to steer his own course, the conservatives have latched on to one Jefferson quote above all others and, if you listen to their rhetoric, made it into a religion:  "The government that governs least governs best."  Of course, Jefferson said that decades before he became president, realized that the idea of a small government was unrealistic, and went out and bought the Louisiana Territory from France without bothering to send Congress a note saying, "Hey, I've had an idea..."  Technically, Jefferson didn't have the authority to buy Louisiana on his own lookout, but you know what?  It doubled the size of the country and maybe quintupled the natural resources available to the still-infant United States.  It was a power-grab the likes of which we have only seen in the actions of the George W. Bush administration after the September 11 attacks.  And it was accompanied by the first really noteworthy enlargement of the government ever.

That's right, Mr. "Government that Governs Least" nearly tripled the size of the federal government overnight.

That was two hundred-some-odd years ago.  To this day, you'd be hard pressed to find a single American who would say that the Louisiana Purchase was a bad thing.  Even back then, when America was only a few hundred miles wide, had less than seven million citizens, enjoyed an economy smaller than the one enjoyed by the city of Cleveland, Ohio today, when "state-of-the-art weaponry" meant cast-iron artillery pieces, there was never a single hope of the United States having a small government.  It just wasn't possible.  There were too many things that needed looked after and managed.

So why would anyone think that the modern United States, whose territory spans a third of the diameter of the globe, with 300 million citizens, an economy worth trillions of dollars that is the clearly most dominant economic force in the world, with tens of thousands of corporations getting into trouble around the globe, with a military numbering in the millions of persons with state-of-the-art weapons the likes of which would have been considered science fiction even 40 years ago, could possibly be managed by a small government?

Seriously, anyone who really, truly believes that needs to report back to High School to attend a remedial civics lesson.

Or maybe needs to report to the nearest psychiatry clinic.

Of course, the only people who would believe that are either social conservatives or libertarians.  Both liberals and corporate conservatives know full well that "small government" is just another form of conservative deceit, just like the idea of a "free market."

Once upon a time, the rich and powerful loved government.  Of course, this was back in the days of feudalism, when the king was the benefactor of the nobility, who were allowed free reign over the serfs and peasants living on their lands.  This was when government and Big Religion were permanently intertwined.  The combined behemoth of political/military power and religious authority controlled every facet of a person's life.  But then, all sudden-like, this new and radically different sort of government popped its head out of the grass, and this new form of government was all aboutWe the People... and all men created equal... and certain inalienable rights and other ideas that threatened to utterly demolish the whole wonderful system of the upper crust having its way and the commoners having to just suck it up and suffer in silence.

A just democratic government stands for the people -- all of the people, not just the rich and powerful.  It stands for the minority against the might of the majority.  It protects all of the people, not just the treasured few.  This ought to be self-evidence for anyone who has the slightest clue as to what America is all about, but surprisingly sometimes those people are really thin on the ground.  It turns out that some Americans really don't much like the whole "democracy" thing, and would like to hijack it if they could in order to bring us back to the days of the rich ruling having ultimate power over the poor.

We call those people "conservatives."

And here I mean both the wealthy, powerful corporate conservatives and the sometimes-loveable, sometimes-not mush-for-brains self-delusional idiots known as social conservatives, who somehow have convinced themselves that their corporate colleagues on the right actually give a shit about them.

These conservatives see the government as "being in their way."  And so is born the idea of shrinking the government.  As tax-dodging felon and conservative cult leader Grover Norquist once said, "I want a government so small we can drown it in the bathtub."  But just like the "free market" that corporate conservatives proffer as the savior of the economy is actually a rigged market, so too the "small government" that the conservatives envision is actually a dragon hiding its true nature by disguising itself as a rosy-cheeked child.

Here is the truth.

What the conservatives really want to do is simultaneously strip the government of its means to protect the common man against the predation of the rich and powerful, while simultaneously maximizing the government's ability to control and coerce the common man.

Think about this:  conservatives have never once supported a budget which reduced military spending by a single penny.  The United States of America spends more than the rest of the world's military forces combined every year.  There are billions and billions of dollars that could be saved simply by removing the bloat from the military budget.  We could make it all more efficient by simply streamlining the process by which military production contracts are handled, and by eliminating overly-expensive and needless boondoggles.  But the conseratives won't accept a single copper penny being cut from the military's budget.  In addition, the conservatives cheerfully advocate and support military adventurism all over the globe.  After all, we've got this gigantic military toybox, we might as well play with the toys, right?

On what planet is this "small government?"

I ask, because this is Earth, where such a system requires a bloated government.

The military-industrial gravy train rolls on, year after year, decade after decade.  In addition, most American military adventurism is nothing more than the promotion of US business interests by way of violent force.  Hiding behind the clarion call to defend America against the boogeyman of fascism, communism, terrorism, or whatever the latest "ism" happens to be is the conservative desire to utterly control and dominate the world economically.  In the cases of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the hatred of communism teamed up with a keen determination to protect and preserve American access to southeast Asian resources and trade markets.  American invasions of the Middle East are driven more by the desire to control the greatest single supply of petroleum in the world than it is the desire to "put a stop to terrorism."

Big business like this requires big government, if for no other reason than to settle the legal disputes the various corporations find themselves constantly engaged in with each other.  Beyond that, Big Business loves government regulations and red tape, because such things make it difficult for newcomers, small fry, and less-dexterous competitors to compete.  And of course, the more bloated and corrupt the government, the more Big Business is able to purchase people inside the government who will work toward the best interests of Big Business instead of the best interests of We the People...  

A small, lean government just wouldn't be able to serve these important functions at all.  A huge and complex governmental system crawling with paid lobbyists and bought politicians -- precisely what the average Joe would describe as "big government" - is absolutely ideal for corporate conservatives.  The average citizen has not a single lobbyist.  The oil industry alone employs thousands of them.

Meanwhile, some of the biggest schemes of the corporate conservatives involve the vast natural resources that are held in trust for We the People... by the federal government.  This land, this air, this water, these minerals, these trees, these animals, all belong to We the People... but Big Business wants and needs them.  A small, efficient government might effectively protect these precious resources.  A big, clumsy, corrupt government can hide all manner of shenanigans, allowing Big Business to get its claws on We the People's... property.  From Warren G. Harding's Teapot Dome scandal, to Ronald Reagan literally giving thousands of acres of old growth forest away to the lumber and paper industries for free, to George W. Bush's attempt to steal the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from We the People..., conservatives within the government are always looking for new, creative ways to steal natural resources from the public and transfer them to the hands of private corporations.

By the way, this includes the public airwaves that conservatives have used so effectively to dominate the media, as well as the internet, Medicade, and the Social Security fund.  They see these things as ripe fruit ready for picking.

So corporate conservatives want and need a big government in order to get away with robbing We the People... blind.  They need a pliant, easily manipulated and purchased government willing to follow directions.  When they wax eloquent about "small government," it's just code for wanting to dismantle all the elements of the government that stand in the way of their exploting the people and the natural resources of the United States.

The eventual goal of some of the more hardcore corporate conservatives is complete corporate control over society.  Anyone who has studied history knows there is a word for this goal.

That word is Fascism.

Pure and simple.  Fascism.  An end of government "of the people, for the people, and by the people" and a beginning of government "of the corporations, for the corporations, and by the corporations."  An end to America as we know it.  And while this seems far off, it really isn't.  Just take a good, long look at certain Supreme Court decisions.  You know, the ones that grant corporations status as a human being, and religious rights, and free speech rights.

Such a government isn't "coming."  Its already here.

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