by Joseph O’Shaughnessy
We spend a lot of time in this country identifying people and things, like fads and trends. It is not difficult to do because a.) they’re usually pretty insignificant and b.) they last until the next big news event and are forgotten. We are the ultimate “disposable” society. We have very few permanent assumptions and those that we do, are flawed. I’ll give you an example.
For most of the last 35 or so years, our government has run on the economic principle that by lowering taxes, we will increase business activity and therefore increase government revenues in the long run. The majority of American voters accepted this as truth. But it is not. Tax cuts of themselves do not generate greater economic activity leading to greater government revenues. In fact, exactly the opposite happens.
Over the last 35 years, we have gone from an $800 billion national debt to a $19 trillion national debt. This happened even though we cut government spending several times, including about 9 percent across all of government starting in 2013.
The problem with our government and our national debt is that the rich pay less in taxes than any time since the early days of the 20th Century when the robber barons simply plundered society for their own affluence. This time, it started with Ronald Reagan. A good President in some ways, he was unfortunately the tool of major corporate interests and Conservative millionaires and billionaires. In addition, his wife was their very strong advocate.
Not everyone was fooled. George H W. Bush, an intelligent and well educated man, but crushed in the 1980 Republican campaign by the Reagan propaganda machine, tried to get the facts out to the voters. But they were in the grasp of the Reagan charisma and believed the Reagan fairy tale (which perhaps he also believed.) Listen carefully to what George H. W. Bush says in this one-on-one debate against Reagan.
What George Bush said was extremely significant but lost in the gibberish and sloganeering in Reagan’s response, which the people applauded. What Bush was saying was this: Kennedy cut taxes from a top rate of 97% down to 74%. It was a good idea at the time, and cut taxes by $11 billion on the rich. But the net loss in revenue was about $4 billion not an increase. When Kennedy did it the rich were paying too much, and importantly there was no deficit. But at the time that Reagan was proposing it, the budget deficits were just beginning to grow. That meant that Reagan’s plan, which Bush had earlier called “voodoo economics” far from increasing revenues, would cost government $25 billion per year and even more over time.
And it did. At the end of Reagan’s term the deficits had reached staggering proportions. They had tripled the national debt and gone into the trillions to well over $2 trillion dollars. But more significantly, the wealthy and the huge corporations had gotten a taste of real, enormous wealth and they were not about to give it back.
To George H.W. Bush’s everlasting shame (beyond that of having sired George W.) he became Reagan’s Vice President, went along with all Reagan’s plans and programs. By the time he became President, annual deficits were so large, hundreds of billions, that he had to do something, despite his pledge during the campaign, “Read my lips: No new taxes!” He had made that pledge because that is what the big money boys wanted, the financial supporters who had been enriched by Reagan. When he did raise taxes, they dropped him. Some Republicans supported Ross Perot. The result was that Bush lost and Bill Clinton was elected, thank God. He raised taxes and by 1998 had produced one of the longest periods of prosperity in the country’s history and balanced the budget.
Reagan was considered a Populist President. His speeches were all about “morning in America” and “the shining city on the hill” and the restoration of American prestige. The fact is that the only problem with America at the time was inflation. Jimmy Carter had finally done something about that by installing a tough guy, Paul Volcker, at the Fed. Over several years, after Carter, who told Americans the truth, had been voted out, his interest policies finally brought down inflation and Reagan became a hero. But even then, with the deficits, the economy responded basically by borrowing from government, because tax rates were too low. And they still are.
Reagan wasn’t a Populist. He fought unions. He cut social programs, cut funding for mental health. He eliminated the Fairness Doctrine, which said that Right Wing propaganda on radio would necessarily have to be followed by an opposing position. That resulted in Rush Limbaugh and the hundreds of corporate-paid Right Wing scum that now lie to people every day on radio throughout the country and cause many of our current social programs…including partial responsibility for the election of Donald Trump.
So, what is the difference between a Populist and a Fascist?
Theodore Roosevelt campaigned to end the power of big industrialists who were buying up all the corporations in their fields, enabling them to control and endlessly raise prices on steel and oil. When he came to office, he pushed through the Sherman Anti-Trust Act that broke up the big cartels. This produced many smaller companies, more competition, lower prices and more jobs. He was a Populist. He campaign on programs that would benefit the people and he delivered them.
Adolf Hitler was the other extreme. He was a Fascist. Fascists promise good things for the people and then do things that benefit their friends. And who are their friends? They are the Right Wing rich, (sometimes called the the “reactionary rich”) the giant corporate interests, including military contractors, the established church, and very often people who are motivated by the goals of the Fascist leader….which may be false or exaggerated patriotism, ridicule of those who are different in race or religion, or simply the opposition, often representing a large segment of the population. In Hitler’s extreme case, his goal was to destroy one ethnic group, the Jews, whom he hated, and to use military power to satisfy his own megalomania. Not all Fascists are so distorted.
But the principle of Fascism is always the same. Lie to the people to make them think that you are a Populist. Let them think that you have their best interests at heart. After you are elected, deliver on your promises to those who supported you financially. As genially and often kind a man as Reagan seemed, he was, in the end no Populist. And he was no Fascist.
What about our current President? During the campaign, he said that he would make America great again. He said that he would provide legislation that would make health care better and affordable for all. But what did he do? He supported a Republican plan that would have removed 20 million more Americans, 30 million in all, from access to health care. Then, he proposed simply repealing Obamacare without any new proposals at all…an even greater disaster for the people.
Next, after what you have just learned about taxes from the above, consider this. Trump has proposed to cut the top rate on income taxes and the estate taxes again. We are already running annual deficits of something like $400 billion. These two tax cuts alone will increase the national debt by another $5 trillion. But what does that mean to you, the average citizen? It means that you are going to suffer real personal losses, ones that will begin to affect your lives and those of your relatives and friends.
Many corporations and their owners, thanks to the policies of Republican Presidents and Congresses have become hugely wealthy, making untold amounts of money from outsourcing manufacturing to Asia, from offshoring their headquarters in the Bahamas or someplace outside the United States or from making enormous profits abroad and merely holding that money legally outside the United States. The men who run those corporations and their wealthy counterparts on Wall Street and Banking want current policies to continue.
By paying a lot of money in taxes, but a very small percentage compared to the enormous amounts they can keep, these individuals can continue to use these excess funds to control a political party and keep it in power. That party, the Republican Party has consistently voted to cut government services, deny health care to workers, tried to cut Social Security and Medicare, reduced the number of people who can access Medicaid in some states by millions, and is now trying to cut health care completely to children of poor working families.
So, who is the Populist and who is the Neo-Fascist…the new version of the old one-party, one-rule, rigged, controlled, dictator run society.
Was Obama a dictator, a Fascist? Does providing health care and trying to give everyone their individual rights sound like a Fascist?
How about Bill Clinton…creating more jobs, better wages, balancing a budget, establishing an anti-terrorist department even before 9/11?
How about George W. Bush? Lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Not listening to warnings about possible terrorists attacks? Cutting taxes on the rich, twice which meant that the rest of us had to pay for the increased cost of government from two wars. Encouraging the sale of fraudulent securities that crashed the stock market and caused a Depression? Writing laws that let corporations go overseas and looking the other way when ENRON tried to bankrupt California, causing havoc and huge numbers of bankruptcies? Does that sound like a Populist?
Or Donald Trump. A cabinet that consist of billionaires, some of whom have very sketchy backgrounds. An education secretary who wants to privatize education, thus allowing the rich kids to go to their subsidized better private schools while your kids go to schools funded with whatever money is left over. A Treasury Secretary who cheated millions of Americans out of their homes and then used the money to fund motion pictures and now wants to give the rich millions more in tax breaks. A Secretary of the EPA who cannot count to three, backed by the oil and gas industry, who said in his own failed campaign for the Presidency that he wanted to do away with environmental protections.
Does our current President sound like a Populist, a man working for the people? Or does he sound like the new kind of Fascist, a Neo-Fascist, who uses media and propaganda to lie to the people and then, when elected, turns on them?
The facts are clear. Bernie Sanders, who has been advocating and supporting legislation for more health care, better retirement security and less money spent on wasteful military programs for years…is a legitimate Populist. Trump is a liar and the clearest example of that new danger to Democracy, the American Neo-Fascist.
Here is why we need to overthrow Congress in 2018, which will not be easy, and elect a Democratic President and Democratic Governors in 2020. The average person is actually making less than they did in 1980. The top 1% percent now makes more than 25% of all income and that is huge. Four hundred households own as much as half of the people in the country own. The top ten percent own about 70% of everything…stocks, bonds, real estate.
What all this shift means is that few people today can make and keep enough money to have enough to live on when they retire. The Republicans want to raise taxes…and Paul Ryan in his latest budget already wants to start cutting Social Security and Medicare. They are trying to phase out Medicaid, health care for the poorest, roughly 40 million Americans completely.
One characteristic of Fascism that exists in current Neo-Fascism is the principle of the “big lie.” Tell people something in a way that they will believe, but keep telling it to them over and over again until they accept it. When Reagan sold the American people on the idea that he could cut tax revenues in half and government could go on, our debt began to pile up. And because every President but Clinton since then (and Obama, who actually did raise taxes before he left and cut the deficits somewhat) have told the same old line, then cut taxes and spent more and raised the national debt. Now they have left you the bill.
We must either raise taxes…not cut taxes… on the rich…to 45%, perhaps 50% at the top rate to balance the budget and bring down the debt. It is a national emergency. If it is not, then we are a different country. We are willing to work for 50 years and then go into poverty. We are willing to live without security or health care. We are willing to spend more on defense than on the society that a defense would protect.
The rich can afford a ten percent tax increase…believe me. And if we had a Populist President, he would agree with that. But we do not . We have a rich Right Wing ultra-conservative President who supports those Neo-Fascists who want to help the powerful over individual citizens.
Even Hillary Clinton could not be characterized as a complete Populist. But she would have been an excellent President, one who would have protected the rights of citizens as best she could. What we need now is to toss out as many Republicans, the Neo-Fascists who support the powerful and corporations over average American families. then we need to elect a Democratic President.
We can only go out and work as hard as possible. Nothing is more important. And then, even then, hope that we are not too late.