Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Norquist's fantasy world

The other day I listened to Grover Norquist being interviewed by KOMO radio’s extreme right commentator John Carlson (who gets his jollies telling paranoid listeners “what happened while you were asleep”). Norquist talked about the tenets of his “leave me alone” theory of governance, which can be summed-up by this quote: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” In a nutshell, this means no taxes, no government, no regulation (well, except a teeny-tiny amount to go fight wars against the terrorists, and protect the rich from the poor). This, he says, is supposed to create jobs—a lot of jobs, so many jobs that everyone will have one. Everyone will have a good-paying job that enables them to afford decent health insurance, and be able to save enough money in order to retire at a still ambulatory age. No need for Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, welfare etc., etc. Bridges would never fall down, and roads would never crack. It will be a utopian world where no one will have a care to worry about. No need even to worry about getting an education; in the state I reside in, thirty years ago 75 percent of public higher education costs were covered by the state; twenty years ago, it was 50 percent. Today it is 20 percent. Will it be 5 percent in another decade? Perhaps by then only the children of the rich will need “worry” about the “privilege” of higher education.

The problem with Norquist’s theories, of course, is that we live in a much different world than the one he fantasizes in. We don’t live in a world where the agrarian economy predominates, and “self-sufficiency” shibboleth, if ever true, is not the mechanism in which economies or jobs grow. We don’t live in a world where there are sufficient jobs found in one locality, or where families all live together and have sufficient resources to care for their aged. We no longer live in a world where a nation has natural resources in sufficient quantities where it is not dependent on another. We don’t live in a world where a nation produces all its own goods and services. We don’t live in a nation where multi-billion dollar corporations have the national interest in mind. What we do live in is a nation where the national interest is subverted into more and more profits, most of which line the pockets of the richest. We live in “global economy” where corporations see the entire planet as sources of employment and consumerism. Creating a job or consumer in China or India is just as profitable—or more profitable—than creating one in the U.S. In order to create “full employment” in this country (in theory) and off-set this tendency means that wages must fall to “market clearing levels,” meaning the point where supply and demand are equal. Note that wages must “fall”—not rise. This makes sense to a certain extent—people can only buy so much of what they need, but it doesn’t take into account other factors, like continuously skyrocketing health care costs that eat into spendable cash, of which the Norquists of the world continuously fail to offer intelligible ideas to fix.

The Norquists of the world would tell us that we have to trust corporate America, the financial industry, and the insurance industry to play good Americans, and do what is in the interest of the nation, not for their own greedy selves. As we have seen especially in the past decade of Republican control, left to their own devices, the hoarders of wealth and financial gamblers in this country will leave average Americans in the ditch without a second thought. They will complain of allegedly high taxes preventing them from creating new jobs, except that the massive Bush tax cuts didn’t create jobs even one-tenth the level during the Clinton years. Instead of investing money in new growth and employment opportunities, they off-shored it, they gambled in unregulated financial casinos—anything to make certain that their pocketbooks became more and more bloated. They didn’t care about the condition of the nation or the path it was taking. Well, maybe they “cared” a little, but only in as much as they were creating jobs in other countries; I just read a story from the Washington post about high tech jobs going overseas. In Bangalore, India, engineers are designing lighter, more aerodynamic wings for Boeing jets, while a nearby call center handles U.S. credit card and banking customer service. Silicon Valley is losing high tech jobs to India and other countries. India has been pressed to reciprocate with investment in this country, but they complain of onerous work visa issues—that is to say, they want to employ Indian nationals, not Americans. Meanwhile, Boeing’s new 787 is now three years late on deliveries, and will be delayed still further after a recent electrical fire in a test plane. This and many, many other problems with production of this plane could have been avoided if Boeing had chosen to build the aircraft whole in this country and keep jobs and quality control local; instead of saving money building parts of the plane all over the globe like it thought it would, Boeing likely has cost itself billions of dollars in cost over-runs and lost orders. Stupidity and greed were never better bedfellows.

Someone has to pay for the fantasies of the Norquists, the libertarians, the right-wing media demagogues and the right-wing extremists of the Tea Party movement who carry the water for corporate America. These fanatics think that they can just wall themselves up like Prince Prospero while the rest of the country is mired in uncertainty, poverty and despair. But like for Prince Prospero, these people cannot escape from the reckoning. It will take time, given the stupidity displayed in the 2010 mid-term elections. Hopefully, it will only entail these deceivers losing favor with the public becoming wise to their game, that will only lead to one result: an uncivil society the nature of which none of us should wish to contemplate.

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