Aug 22, 2012
Author’s note: Next week the Republicans will have their Presidential Convention, and if you listen to the Republican Politicians and the pundits, you can expect to hear a lot of talk about “Small Government”, “Limited Government”, “Low Taxes”, “Deficit Reduction” and the like. This is the first of a series that is intended to examine Radical Right Republican rhetoric vs reality, their talk versus their behavior. I believe the two are at polar opposites.
Ever since Ronald Reagan’s pronouncement that “Government is the Problem”, Republicans have been running against the government, and at the same time, they desperately want to run, or own the government.
I’d like to explore this dichotomy, and try to analyze why it exists, and try to determine if the Republican behavior matches their rhetoric. I suspect it won’t, but will provide my argument and you can decide for yourself.
It seems far more likely to me that Republicans, and radicalized far-right Republicans see maintaining their hold on the levers of government, with its unparalleled ability to organize capital at all levels through the taxing power, is a fine means to redistribute wealth from the general citizenry, you and me, to the wealthy and the power elites, from which they come. In case you’ve never seen President Reagan’s pronouncement, here it is:
When presidential candidate Barack Obama told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to “share the wealth”, and this was pounced upon by his opponents as proof that Obama was a socialist who wanted to redistribute taxes from the wealthy to the less wealthy, Republicans pounded this drum for the rest of the campaign and well into Obama’s presidency. However if we were to examine the back side of that coin we would discover that the Republican tax policy, since the time of President Reagan has been to use the tax policy, at both the state and national level, as a means to redistribute wealth from the less wealthy to the very wealthy, and the Republicans have been very successful at that activity. In fact, all tax policy is redistributive, and since 1980, Republicans have, with much success, managed to cause an upward redistribution of wealth that, because of the magic of interest on debt, will cause an upward redistribution of wealth that skips generations. While China and other foreign nations hold over a trillion dollars worth of our debt obligations, over 80 per cent of that debt is still held in domestic hands, primarily by institutional investors, bond funds, mutual funds and multinational investment banks, or pejoratively, Wall Street.
Some of that money is lent the government by the middle class and workers who have IRA and 401k accounts, but the vast majority of that interest income goes to the very wealthy, who have funds available to invest heavily in tax exempt bonds issued by our federal, state and local governments. So you get a generation-skipping upward redistribution of wealth, financed by government borrowing. It might be interesting to know which federal administrations actually borrowed the most money from all sources, and the answer may be surprising. Since the end of World War II, Republicans have held the White House for 36 of 64 years and have been responsible for most of the debt increase since the end of WWII. Note: The graph is in terms of per cent of GDP, not dollars.
Since Republicans have been running against government for 32 years, I would like to take a look at the massive infrastructure that Republicans have developed to take control of what they profess to hate so very much. At the end of the day, when you examine their behavior, not their rhetoric, you will conclude that they really, really like government, just so long as they are in full control of it, and the resources that only government has the power to command. In fact, I will try to show how Republican control of our government has created the biggest and best means to create private capital expansion in the history of the world. I will further make a case, that the real goal of Republicans is to use the taxing power of government to get, and keep them in power over the resources of our nation forever, with no regard for the crumbs that will trickle down from their table to the little people, which they see only as a source of capital and low wage labor.
I’ll make the case that Republicans hate government so much they want to be fully in charge of that thing they love to hate. I will examine the infrastructure of their false hatred of government, and how it is used by Republicans to ensconce themselves in a web of influence so they can control government in America at every level, and in all three branches.
The top dog in the formal Republican Party structure is the Republican National Committee, the overarching organization whose primary mission is to facilitate the election of Republicans to national offices. It has a counterpart in the Democratic National Committee, whose primary mission is to facilitate the election of Democrats to national offices. Under its aegis, it has the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (RCCC) and the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (RSCC), whose missions are to elect Republican Congressmen and Senators. Again the Democrats have counterpart organizations. And of course, both parties have organizational structures whose intent is to elect officeholders, from dog catcher to presidents, from their party.
All 50 states, and 3000 counties have similar organizations at the state and county levels. So far, the Republican infrastructure looks identical to the Democratic Party infrastructure, the formal structure. The similarity ends there. The Republicans and more generally, what is known as the Conservative Infrastructure has been a-building since the day after the massive defeat of Barry Goldwater in November, 1964 by Lyndon Johnson. That wipe-out election was a watershed event for the Republicans and the Conservative cause, because some backroom players in the movement decided that an infrastructure, fully independent of the formal Republican Party structure was needed to advance the conservative agenda over channels that operated in the background, out of the eye of the media, with operation and funding by true believers in the Republican/Conservative cause. The irony here is that from this Conservative Movement, a movement that was neither conservative nor truly Republican, emerged. What emerged was a Radical Republican Movement, that has very nearly taken control of all three branches of our government at the national, state and local level.
The primary instruments of this Radical Conservative Republican infrastructure are 1) Think Tanks, 2) Mass Media, 3) the Cultural War, and the rise of the Radical Religious Republican movement, 4) Money in Politics and the ability to aggregate massive funding to support candidates for public office at all levels of government, 5) and last, but not least, a massive professional political messaging operation that has permitted Radical Republicans, over a long period of time to control the political conversation and its framing in a manner that has the Radical Republicans continually playing offense, and its opponents continually playing defense, such that the act of winning the message war keeps the Radical Republicans in power or if not in power, they still have to ability to shape the message war such that the next time out, they are in a stronger position to treat the setbacks they may encounter as simply temporary, and not important in their long term view. To get a glimpse of their long term view, read Eric Heubeck’s Integration of Theory and Practice paper. Or another example of Radical Right’s long term thinking and planning, read Butler and Germanis’ 1983 paper on privatizing Social Security, where a definite long term strategy is laid out, with specifics. The Radical Right attempted to implement this strategy in 2005 after George W. Bush’s re-election. The attempt failed, but the plan used was this one, complete with splitting the population between those under and over 55 years old. The use of that wedge was first advocated in the 1983 document linked here, and its predecessor by one of the same authors in 1980. To see the marketing plan to implement this strategy, see the 2005 Republican Plan to Privatize Social Security. It failed, but the strategy to break the coalition supporting it into groups under and over 55 remains, and is being used in the latest Republican fight against Medicare.
Let’s talk about Radical Right Think Tanks first. Think tanks are important to the Radical Right propaganda efforts because it is possible for the Radicals to trot out an “expert” on any topic, able to testify in favor or, or against any piece of legislation in any legislature from Washington, DC to Washington state. They also have a battery of “experts” available to write Letters to the Editor of many newspapers around the country in support or against any piece of legislation, on any topic you can think of. Global Warming climate deniers. The Heartland Institute has you covered. Educational vouchers, The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and others have you covered. Minimum and Living Wage legislation, the Employment Policies Institute is ready, willing and able to put an “expert” on right wing radio, or they can carpet bomb newspapers with Op Eds and Letters to the Editor. Here is an example. Op Eds to go here.
To get a handle on how extensive this network of think tanks is, take a look at this interactive map. Click on your state and see which Radical Right think tank your legislature turns to when they need an “expert” to support some radical piece of legislation. The next time you read an op ed that supports a radical position, written by some “expert” who is a researcher for some “institute” or think tank, look up that organization to see just what their agenda is, and look up the “expert” to see what his/her agenda is. Does it support corporate or the public’s position on the issue in question. When you find out that agenda, fire off a Letter to the Editor that asks, in plain language, why the newspaper did not report the agenda of the person or organization in question.
In the literature of propaganda, there is a concept called “the authority of the messenger” that posits that someone is more likely to be believed if the speaker or writers holds some position that appears to be authoritative. The question that needs to be asked of that individual or organization (the think tank) is; if this think tank only thinks of one thing, or only presents one side of the argument, are they really a think tank or are they propaganda arm of some other organization or political movement? The bottom line, in my view is that these organizations need to be called out on their agenda, their biases, and the economic or political interests that they are intended to support, and their objectivity or lack of objectivity needs to be identified and called to account. For more on my examination of propaganda techniques, see How to Sell a War.
We need to ask the question; who funds this think tank? Does the funder have sway over the research direction and quality? Are opposite views quashed or hidden? Do researchers who publish views contrary to the prevailing opinion at the organization get pushed out the door or published? Is an organization so biased in their views that it makes their work immediately suspect? Some examples that come to mind are The Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, or the Pacific Policy Institute in California, or The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions in Ohio. How about the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation or the Center for Education Reform, or the American Legislative Exchange Council in Washington, DC? In my opinion, these organizations are all agenda-driven organizations with little or no care about providing either accurate or properly researched information that considers all sides of whatever issue is in question at the time. All of these organizations are a building block of a massive propaganda operation that forms a large part of the base upon which the Radical Right Wing works to take over the levers of government control. and particularly, the control of money, that forms the basis of why the Radical Right wishes to control, virtually own our government, while at the same time, operating a massive propaganda campaign to say they hate or disdain government, and want to shrink it out of existence. I contend that nothing is further from the truth. Otherwise, why build this infrastructure necessary to gain control of government? The behavior belies the rhetoric.
Now that we have taken a cursory look at the infrastructure, let’s take a more detailed look at it. I want to show the web of Radical Right policy houses something about their funding, something of how they are interconnected, how they use media to implement their strategic vision, and to lastly, make a close examination of their strategic vision, and it’s implementation. At the end of this decidedly short examination, because of space and time limitations of the blog format, I want to ask you the question ‘do your really think Radical Republicans Hate Government, or are they just spinning a line to you and everyone else. including their base which has uncritically, in my view, accepted their line?
Let’s take a look at the national network of right wing think tanks. An easy place to start is the directory of the State Policy Network. This page has an interactive map which identifies, in each state, their right wing “institutes” or “policy shop”. Many are famous (or infamous) like Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, or California’s Pacific Research Institute, or Arizona’s Goldwater Institute. Others are more obscure, like Massachusetts’ Beacon Hill Institute or Pioneer Institute, The Tuerck Foundation or a less intellectuallized “other member” Citizens for Limited Taxation whose goal appears to be to eliminate all taxation. That is all from one state.
A second resource for identifying the powerhouse right wing think tanks is this pdf Directory of SPN Members, complete with addresses and phone numbers.
To follow the money see this excellent article from SourceWatch. Click on links for each organization, and go down the list to see who their primary funders are. You can conclude for yourself if they are right wing funders or not. From that article, you can see that massive scope of the right wing power to influence public policy debates. Hector Solon has an article about Michigan’s Mackinac Center.
This says nothing about the Washington, DC right wing think tanks whose focus is to either destroy, shape or create programs and policies intended to benefit financial and corporate interests, both at the state and federal governments levels. At the state level, the prior to last year, nearly unknown American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is and has been the most effective writer and distributor of corporate legislation at the state level since 1973. The national think tanks of note include The Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the National Taxpayer’s Union and a host of others. Each of these organizations have, as core agendas, to find ways to control the passage of legislation which drives their economic interests at the expense of nearly everyone else, including many of their own supporters who have accepted the rhetorical and propaganda efforts of these organizations, and their media surrogates, radical right wing radio and cable TV outlets, a network of right wing newspapers in every state, who regularly trot out “experts” or “scholars” from these “institutes” and “think tanks” to advance their views into the popular culture, and make the previously unthinkable, first thinkable, then the norm, then law which supports their economic interests or helps solidify their position at or near the top of the heap of decision-making bodies in our states and nation. This process of unthinkable to radical . . . to Policy is also known as opening the Overton Window.
Institutionally trying to keep things off the ballot.
I intend to only briefly touch on this topic here, but it is worth saying here that if voters who stand in the way of the Radical Right takeover of our government and institutions can delay its implementation, then it is in the interest of the Radical Right to suppress that countervailing power. The Radical Right thrives on low oppositional voter turnout as a means to implement their heretofore quiet revolution. Here is Paul Weyrich, a founding father of the movement, in 1980, talking to a group of Christian political activists about the importance of suppressing the vote:
Here is a story about the Radical Right in Michigan using raw political power to prevent a ballot initiative to overturn the Michigan Emergency Manager law at the polls, which is clearly an attempt to impose appointed dictators over local governments, a person who has the legislated power to overrule elected officials, to cancel labor agreements and much more:
And of course, in my native Ohio, the Radical Right Secretary of State is working to expand early balloting opportunities in Republican areas, and suppress them in Democratic areas. Here he gains support for explicitly suppressing black voters from Franklin County (Columbus) Republican County Chair Doug Preisse. Similar comments have been made recently by Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Turzai. There are many, many articles identifying Radical Right efforts to suppress voter turnout, and I will go no further on that topic here.
So this leaves us to the question of how does the radical right implement its radical corporate-driven agenda? This brings us back to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In my opinion, ALEC exists as a clearing house for radical corporate interests to write, disseminate, distribute, test, revise and fully implement legislation in our 50 state capitols, out of sight of the public and media which are shut out of their deliberative process. I believe it is a violation of open records and open meeting laws of nearly all of our states for lobbyists, corporate executives, corporate lawyers and our elected legislators to write, debate, and vote on legislation which will be introduced and frequently passed, in our state legislatures, with no opportunity for PUBLIC debate, PUBLIC hearings, no opportunity for the legislatures to hear views from parties who may be damaged or aggrieved by this legislation that causes great harm to the PUBLIC.
Since thousands of articles detailing how ALEC circumvents our legislative process since April 29, 2011′s Spring Summit in Cincinnati, the first successful protest of an ALEC national event, I do not intend to discuss that process here. More information on that can be found here, here, here, and here. Again, I want to discuss the infrastructure of Radical Right Wing Republicanism, and how the long term creation of this infrastructure flatly goes 180 degrees away from the expressed Radical Republican agenda of being against big government, being against government deficits, and advocating freedom and federalism. My argument is that the Radical Republicans hate the government so much, they want to own it, lock, stock and barrel, not to mention the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches. More examples here, here, here, and here. There are thousands more examples, but one can get the idea.
This will conclude the first part of this series which is intended to compare Republican rhetoric to Republican behavior. My personal opinion is that Big Government is OK with Republicans as long as they are in control of the resources and how they are spent. It is quite clear to me that Republicans ARE in the business of picking winners and losers in our economy, and they want the winners to be those who contribute resources, time, money and media to their continuing effort to maintain a death grip on the levers of power, and control of where the money goes.
If you disagree with my conclusion, please comment below.
Cross posted from Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/21/1122705/-If-Republicans-hate-government-so-much-why-do-they-so-desperately-want-to-run-and-own-ours