The powerhouses of Wall Street have tunneled directly into the cloistered backrooms of Washington deal making, extracting trillions of dollars worth of government bailouts, special tax breaks and regulatory favors every year. Yet, in a stupefying act of hypocrisy, they have also been the major force pushing policymakers to embrace extreme laissez-faire bunkum and to inflict the most austere budgetary minginess on the American people.
Through their lobbyists, front groups, economic shills, media hacks and the politicians they've purchased, these pampered princes of high finance have gained a stranglehold on policy, choking off the public investment that our country desperately needs. In a nonstop drone, their operatives chant: "America is broke. Fiscal doom looms. Government spending is the cause. Austerity policies are our only hope."
And Washington is buying this snake oil. As we've seen, food stamp funding was stripped from the farm bill; benefits for the long-term unemployed were allowed to expire; job training programs are being cut and Republicans are frantically trying to derail and defund Obamacare to keep millions of uninsured Americans from getting health coverage.
Seeing all of this, George Will, the GOP's high priest of the plutocratic order, is exultant. In an October Fox News appearance, he declared victory for the laissez-fairyites, noting that they have taken control of Washington's conversation on public spending: "We are now talking entirely on Republican terms, in Republican vocabulary. No taxes, how much is the spending going to be cut? The federal workforce is being cut."
No doubt the debate in Will's tiny circle is focused entirely on shrinking America into its dark vision of parsimonious plutocracy. But I find that most people, living way outside George's bubble of elites, have a far bigger vision of what America can be, and they're engaged in a less constipated conversation about ways to meet our country's budgetary needs.
If you review opinion polls, hear the results of door-to-door outreach campaigns, or just have a few real conversations at various chat-and-chew cafes, you'll tap into ordinary people's simmering anger at the Wall Street/Washington axis that's dictating a harsh normal of economic inequality, declining opportunity and diminished democratic control. The elites are constantly monkey-wrenching the public's ability to act together, thus limiting our nation's possibilities and causing America's present drift from world leader to mediocrity.
This undermining of the workaday Americans goes against the very essence of America, from our egalitarian ideals to our can-do spirit. We must create a politics that directly confronts the narcissistic nabobs who're knocking down our people and our country — and rally an increasingly restive workaday majority to come together in an expansive, aggressive effort to Re-fund America. For example:
» As the richest country in the history of the world, the USA ought to have the top public education system, not one of the worst among wealthy nations.
» Forget dismantling Obamacare. Improve it to Medicare-for-all.
» Let's re-establish our technological supremacy, from building the green economy of the future to reaching boldly again into outer space.
» Our priceless system of public parks should be flourishing and expanding, not firing park rangers and locking entry gates.
» Rather than succumbing to a bleak future of low-wage, part-time, temporary, no-security jobs, let's publicly invest in full employment, world-class skills and technology that works for workers.
» Restore democratic power with public financing of all election campaigns, enact labor law reforms so workers themselves can democratize the workplace and encourage the development of co-ops as an alternative to corporate control of the economy.
That's an America that is worthy of ALL of us — a society of historic democratic vision, genuine opportunity for all and a shared prosperity. Most people would feel good about bringing children into that world. That's the America we should strive to be.
— Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JimHightower, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.