By Tom Ehrich
I understand why right-wing politicians want to dismantle the federal government. They do so at the bidding of the ultra-wealthy set. The wealthy want that money for themselves, in the form of lower taxes, drilling rights, polluting rights, lax regulation of their enterprises, and lower pay for all but themselves.
It is a greedy hijacking of national wealth, and national and state politicians are making it happen it because these wealthy individuals contribute hundreds of millions to their campaigns.
But I don’t understand why anyone else goes along. I get it that many middle- and lower-income people are frustrated and frightened. But they consistently fail to hold accountable those who are actually making their lives miserable. They blame the government, when they should be blaming those who are seizing and crippling the government for greed-driven ends. They should blame enterprises like Wal Mart for driving down wages and benefits, industrialists who were too feckless to keep their industries healthy, banks for squandering trillions in pursuit of easy profits. Instead, they blame the Affordable Care Act, even though that act is working. They blame government safety-net programs, even though they are the primary beneficiaries of those programs. They blame immigrants, even though immigrants have virtually nothing to do with their economic insecurity.
What do they think will happen if the right-wing political agenda comes to pass? Their pay won’t go up. They won’t get called back to work. They won’t get any benefit from lower taxes on the rich. Their families won’t stand on firmer ground, for values are determined at home, not in Washington or Hollywood. The scourge of indebtedness won’t pass from their doors. Their drinking water will get worse, not better. Their schools will get worse, not better. Another GOP recession is all but guaranteed. If the right-wing agenda comes to pass, their suffering will deepen, that’s all.
Maybe their hatred of blacks and immigrants is so great that they will undermine their own lives to punish the nation for electing a black president. Maybe their hatred of homosexuals blinds them to the great American theme of tolerance and the reason our Founders kept religion at bay. Maybe they believe the nation can dial back to, say, 1957 when women were in their place, gays were in the closet, whites were the large majority, and families seemed to be stronger. Maybe they forget their own immigrant heritage.
But that is hardly the basis for a sustainable future. They are crippling their own fortunes in order to build the fortunes of people who loathe them. They are undoing the American narrative just to put anger and bigotry in the Oval Office. That is nonsense.
They claim to care about America. But the America I know was built on hard work, mutual accountability, innovation, risk-taking, tolerance, education, and values like freedom and shared sacrifice. The America they seem to envision simply hates the many and bows to the greed of the plutocracy.
We can do better than this. But only by being honest about what is wrong and what is right with America. And by having courage unite us, not fear divide us. We live in a volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous world. The simple slogans of bigotry, phony religion and phony patriotism don't equip us to deal with that world. They just make us easy pickings for the wealthy.