Maybe Not So Tinfoil Hat After All

by Roberto

Thomas Frank, author of 2004’s “What Is The Matter With Kansas: How
Conservatives Captured the Heart of America”, has a new book out titled
“Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule” (published by Metropolitan Books,
369 p.).  In it, he describes, in witty and well-sourced detail, what he
believes is the deliberate agenda of destruction on the part of the
Republican Party and the Conservative movement as a whole. The destruction
involved is that of the American Federal government itself.  The process
was begun under Reagan, with the undermining of, and overt taking apart of
those social programs most closely associated with LBJ’s Great Society.
It was then helped along, not always consciously, by some elements in Bill
Clinton’s domestic policy, and has been continued with great crudity and
no real attempt at disguise, under George W. Bush.  The American
government, as represented by its institutions, its budget, and the
reputations of individual agencies and departments, have been targeted for
demolition by the free-marketers and the right-wingers who are the heart
and soul of the Republican Party.  This policy of total war on the
structures which allow us to exist as a civil and secular society,
includes the grotesque misapplication and misuse of taxpayers’ money (in
order to empty the coffers and thereby impoverish any future Democratic
administration),  as well as a permanent green light on incompetence, in
order to so sully the credibility of America’s public institutions that no
trust will be possible between those governed and those responsible for
governing.
Frank appears to believe that this process became ‘deliberate’ due to a
collision between two principles. The worn-out cry of “small government”
running up against naked greed.
Once they found themselves in power, and with self-acknowledged thugs like
Tom Delay proudly elevated to the highest positions within their party,
Republicans deemed it easier to auction off, plunder, and/or trash the
government than to do the hard intellectual work required of anyone truly
desirous of responsible belt-tightening and good fiscal stewardship.  It
was of course on the promise of such responsible hard work that the
hapless dupes who voted Republican had sent these people to Washington in
the first place.
Frank’s body of evidence is enormous, and ranges over everything from
extravagantly expensive and sometimes obsolete weapon systems forced upon
a reluctant (believe it or not!) Pentagon to the bloated invoices from
no-bid contracts on work never done to the cascade of pallets of
shrink-wrapped cash unloaded at Baghdad Airport and Bagram Air Force Base
which promptly and regularly vanished into thin air.  Running parallel to
this sorry tale of robbery on a massive scale, we have also seen the modus
operandi of government agencies shifted to a constant and thorough-going
level of incompetence, neglect, and indifference, primarily effected
through cronyism.  Competent and hardworking professional civil servants
have been placed in the position of taking directives from
fresh-out-of-college know-nothings or no-show hacks whose sole credentials
are that they’ve voted Republican or are related (through blood or vice)
to members of the Administration.  The Justice, Interior, and Health and
Human Services Departments have been the ones hit the hardest but they
haven’t been the only ones. The corruption runs wide and deep.
I have to say that all my instincts tell me to reject the portion of
Frank’s thesis which argues that this 8-year epic of imbecility is either
deliberate or thought out. Gross human incompetence, the theory-driven
arrogance of neocons without a whit of real-life, real-world experience
these I can accept.  But to credit the darker side of Frank’s argument is
to come up against an irrationality and a hatred of civil society which
leaves me utterly baffled.
But then again, with so much at stake in the upcoming election, the wiser
course might be to believe the worst about the other side.
For years now, Grover Norquist has gotten laughs with this line: “I don’t
want to abolish government, I just want to shrink it down to a size where
I can drag it down the hall and drown it in the bathtub.”
The radical nihilism at the root of such a worldview offers nothing in the
way of common ground or room for compromise.  People like myself simply
don’t exist in Norquist’s vision of the ideal future. By contrast, my
vision of the ideal future would be one where folks like Norquist would be
few and far between, walking museum-pieces of bigotry and ignorance. In
the end America is big enough for both me and Grover, and in the next 8
years of Democratic-led hope and prosperity, he will be free to growl away
in darkness to his heart’s content.

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5 responses to “Maybe Not So Tinfoil Hat After All

  1. Hey! I guess the closest category would be ‘Election ’08’?? Maybe add one for ‘conservatives’ … ???

  2. This is really good. I do think that there is a group of people who don’t really take their superficial economic ideas to their logical conclusions. It’s the same people who don’t appreciate where the money to build and main our infrastructure comes from.

    Norquist doesn’t produce anything of value — his salary comes from people who think they will benefit from his advocacy — people who have income enough to give it to someone like him.

    While I’m worried about the financial future of the country, I think that Obama and many of the progressives in Congress are creative enough thinkers that we will find a way through this. It may take his entire first term, but I have confidence in him.

  3. Interesting review, Roberto. Does Frank address what the Norquist types want to repace the big federal government with? If you kill off the big government economic engine, what happens next? Do the (mostly red) states that depend on massive tax dollar infusions become poverty stricken backwaters? Do we give up on scientific research and food inspections? What about all the and held by the BLM – just sell it to the grazing lease-holders? Do these people believe that if we revert tpo an feudal type oligarchy they will come out big winners?

    I guess this is the problem I have with libertarians too. Maybe they never learned to share in kindergarten.

  4. No comment

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