Let me tell you a little secret about things like universal health insurance, increased funding for education and renewed spending on infrastructure: they take money, lots of money. If the government has no money to spend, you’re going to be fairly limited in your ability to pursue a progressive agenda.
Conservatives call this starving the beast: and they’re damn good at it.
It worked like a charm during the Reagan Administration. Saint Ronnie was able to buy massive popularity by cutting taxes (mostly for the rich) while spending public money like a drunken sailor. Later, when the country turned to the left, if ever so briefly, electing Bill Clinton, the time had come to pay the piper. So, instead of pursuing a broad-ranging liberal agenda, the Clinton years became all about balancing the budget. As Clinton himself once said, Democrats had become Eisenhower Republicans.
Hey, somebody had to do it, right?
And, sure enough, Clinton did balance the budget, even creating a surplus, though he lost control of Congress to the Republicans for his trouble.
What did this great fiscal accomplishment do for long term progressive goals? We ended up with another Republican President who, once again, set to work starving the beast. He did it through ill-advised tax giveaways to the rich, an unnecessary war in Iraq, corruption and crony capitalism and so much more.
But it turns out that all of this was merely the warm-up act: enter now the feature presentation — the bailout of all bailouts (and the rip-off of all rip-offs). Its simplicity is a thing of beauty. Just take 700 billion dollars of taxpayer money (and probably a lot more), much of it coming from working stiffs, and give it with few if any strings attached to a group of huge financial corporations. We accomplish this by having our government take over their worthless assets, giving them good money in return.
As I’ve said before, now that’s socialism even a robber baron could love.
Talk about starving the beast! And sure enough, Barack Obama himself is already noting that if this bailout is adopted, proposed social spending may have to be delayed. But then who could argue with the virtue of denying health insurance to poor kids so you can shovel loads of money into the coffers of large corporations to protect them from their own bad investment decisions.
I mean, Jesus, a country has to have priorities, doesn’t it?
Bottom line: if this bailout goes through as proposed — at least without extensive modifications — liberalism will be effectively dead in this nation for years to come. Forget about change. Forget about big ideas. No, instead, we’ll once again get to play the role of the parents forced to clean up the mess left behind by our irresponsible (right wing) children.
And then, after a few years, when the public gets tired of making sacrifices that bring them nothing tangible in return, we can repeat the whole process over again.
Now, doesn’t that just sound keen?