By Joseph O’Shaughnessy
The Republican agenda is deeply unpopular. Trump is unpopular. Why then, could a man who is so unpopular now have been elected seven or eight months ago, November of 2016? There is a good reason.
He has often been called a Populist. The fact that he is still called that by many journalists only shows how poor our educational system has become. Trump is no Populist. A Populist would be a man like Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin, a Senator who fought against railroads to help poor farmers, or Theodore Roosevelt, who crushed giant corporate mergers that would have allowed them to raise prices through the roof on consumers ( a little like our current cable companies) and oppressed workers even further
Trump is nothing like them. Although we hate to use these names, he is like Hitler or Mussolini, who promised all kinds of good things for the People but then, when in office, joined with industrialists and the military to create a nightmare for everyone. That is not Populism; that is Fascism. We now know for certain that Trump, because of his lies, because of whom he supports, is not a Populist, but a Fascist. He has become the leading Neo-Fascist and–he is PRESIDENT!
If you remember nothing else, remember this. Trump is a fake-populist liar. That makes him a Fascist. Fascists are the opposite of Populists. There is NOTHING Populist about Fascism. It is exactly the opposite. It supports the interests of the rich and powerful in running a country through one political party that dominates, eventually becoming a virtual or real dictatorship. It controls through propaganda, spread in media, often owned or friendly media in which it can control the message. That message, which pretends to the truth and to help the people is always the opposite of what they are planning and doing. The people will eventually discover the truth, as we have about Trump, about what is or is not propaganda. But by then, as now, it is often too late and the tyrant is elected and begins to tighten control.
Now, let’s take the Republican plans, one by one. A full 84% of Americans are against the Republican health care plans. That shouldn’t be surprising. The Republican plan has not changed since the 2010 plan that they announced immediately after Obamacare was signed.
Their plan was so simple and so callous that we need to remind ourselves how bad it really was. It had none of the protections in Obamacare, namely, lifetime guarantee of insurance coverage at some rate at least; guaranteed coverage…cannot be turned down for any reason; subsidized insurance for those too poor to pay premiums and finally, Medicaid, run by the states, for all those who are below poverty levels. In other words full coverage of some kind for everyone no matter what their status. They only need be citizens.
After removing all those protections, the Republican plan in 2010 did the following…and this is all. It protected doctors from high settlements when they kill or maim someone. The same for hospitals. They protected the health insurance company rates. It removed all taxes on medical equipment or devices. And it created health savings plans. That was it. It did nothing to improve health care for individual citizens.
In 2017, because the people, even wealthy individuals, now see health care costs slowing as a result of more care options, and because hospitals are thriving and because health care is actually looking like a good career, and because voters are telling this to elected officials, most of whom are Republican, these Republican congress members are running scared. They have created a mongrel of a bill that protects the health insurance industry while pretending to help the people. But the media, also needing health care, have reported the facts and the Republicans are in trouble.
The Republicans will undoubtedly, being Neo-Fascists, use the old Fascist trick of blaming someone else. In today’s world, in this country, the favorite person to attack is the illegal immigrant or even the refugee immigrant, who, in addition to being portrayed as a drag on the economy by Republicans, is also called a highly likely terrorist.
The fact is that under the current system, illegal immigrants have access to some community health clinics, university medical clinics and private charity clinics. None of these, by the way, are adequate to cover illegal aliens. They do see some private doctors who will accept new patients but they must pay for it themselves, without insurance, which is usually prohibitively expensive. Children of illegal aliens are covered in some few states and illegal immigrants attending college generally have the same coverage as other students. In spite of all those different systems available, the shortfall costs the U.S. taxpayer billions of dollars a year. It could be done better and much more cost effectively if we were not so randomly biased and foolish politically.
Next, the Republicans want to cut taxes. That would be OK if they were talking about the poor and middle class who could use a break, who haven’t had a real pay raise above the cost of living for about ten years or more…some say 30 years. But the Republicans want to raise taxes on the poor and middle class by putting more money in the hands of the rich. This means less money for government, which will mean cutbacks which will mean higher costs for Medicare and Medicaid and probably reduced Social Security payments.
Social Security and Medicare are payroll deductions that we all pay for 45 or 55 years to get an annual stipend that, for many people, simply maintains life. It does not create wealthy individuals living off the state. It does not even maintain a Middle Class lifestyle, as it does for the retired in Europe. Social Security was and is a separate fund. It is not supposed to be used to help balance the U.S. budget. Nor does it borrow from the U.S.. government because it does not need to (nor can it, legally) because it has a large surplus, that is, the money that has been borrowed.
And why was the Social Security trust fund surplus borrowed? To pay for government when tax cuts, mainly for the rich, and wars, mainly for rich, created government deficits. The only administration to halt the deficits and start earning surpluses, resulting in the longest period of peacetime prosperity in our history, was Bill Clinton’s. And he raised taxes on the rich.
At this point, we need to discuss why tax cuts are not only not necessary but what tax increases are necessary. There has always been a great disparity between the 1% and the 99%. But, if you look at a chart, the disparity really began in 1980 and the chart begins to look like a jet airplane taking off and never leveling off. It is still climbing. And so, what happened to change things in 1980? Ronald Reagan was elected and cut taxes in half for the wealthiest Americans, which meant enormous tax cuts for the very rich, the top point-one percent (.1%).
If you look at the distribution of income after the costs of the Depression and World War II had been absorbed, through the 1950s up to the late 1970s, income distribution saw the top one percent getting about 5% of total income, more or less, then the top 10% getting another 35-40% and the rest, about 60-65% of all income going to the bottown 90%. Now this was distributed unevenly, some upper middle class and some lower and some poor. But it was a big enough share of income to allow 9 out of 10 people to live pretty well. Today, after 35 years of steady deficit-producing tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy, plus other tax benefits, like very high incomes produced from stock options and non-taxable carried interest, the entire equation has been turned on its head. Now, the top 1% get about 65% of total income, the top 10% get 40% and the bottom 90% get almost nothing.
Whatever you were making in 1979 is what you are making now. Today, we have about 60 million people, one-fifth of our society who cannot come close to living on the minimum wage…but make very little more than that. The gap has widened and the elastic is about to snap.
When taxes were cut from 74% on top incomes to about 35%, people who, theoretically, would have been taxed $74,000 on anything over a certain amount (the highest tax bracket) were saved at least, $37,000. On the very rich, who didn’t need that extra $37,000 anyway, and had other huge tax breaks, the bank accounts and investment accounts began to fill up very rapidly. But average Americans were not benefitting from what we were told would be more revenues flowing to government. It never happened. Never. That is why we have a $19 trillion national debt. So—far, far from more tax cuts, we need tax increases on the top 1% and tax increases on corporations who now pay 1% of GDP whereas before Reagan a much larger U.S. manufacturing base and corporate base…shrunk in favor of virtual business….i.e., Wall Street…paid 7% of GDP. We need to cut down unnecessary, useless, excessive, exorbitant incomes that have no purpose in life and absolutely none at all in economics.
Education could help a little. But Republicans—despite mouthing the right words—do not like public education. Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education, a billionaire heiress, has made the dismantling of public education one of her goals. Described by several news organizations as the most “anti-public education person ever to lead the Department of Education,” DeVos considers public schools a failed enterprise. Rather than strengthening them, as Rahm Emmanuel has done in Chicago, she opted to let people with money opt out of the “bad” public system by creating a school voucher plan.
Her plans to privatize Michigan schools failed with the public, who understand that what we need is a continually better system for all kids. Like that of Finland, which, the Fins say, was modeled on the original U.S. system generations ago. Finland has the best elementary school system in the world. DeVos, rich, opted to buy up state legislators who then entered voucher systems all over the state. The result was that those vouchered schools not only did not succeed but they became some of the worst in the country.
Let’s take one second to see why we think Betsy DeVos is one ot the Neo-Fascists. For one example, she is intolerant of minorities and those outside the norm in social acceptability, which includes poor blacks, which, these days, to our shame, is almost an oxymoron. There are many poor, uneducated blacks in Detroit and its environs, which…it is clear to me…is why DeVos wanted to privatize the school system for her fellow “well off” Republican friends.
These days you can tell if a person is a Neo-Fascist if, as DeVos does about education, that person refers to improvements and changes in terms of greater “freedom” and “choice.” You have the ‘freedom” to leave the system that the majority of the people can afford, while making it poorer and therefore less valuable to the students who remain. You have the “choice” to go to school with only upper-middle class or higher white students, preferably Christian fundamentalists.
When billionaire Right Wing, Neo-Fascist Betsey DeVos says that the government’s programs are “top-down,’ “dictatorial,” “one-size-fits-all” and “government controlled” what she really means that, while they cost her, as a big taxpayer, a lot of money, they don’t protect her rich white friends from having their kids attend school with minorities. She has said, point blank in speeches: “Government really sucks.” That is her attitude, and that is the billionaire and corporate Neo-Fascist, one-party-rule attitude. But the fact is that we still live in a Democracy, so we need to make it better.
Look, some of the best astronauts and scientists and medical researchers and artists and writers we have ever known have come from the public education systems of places like Massachusetts and Nebraska and Maryland and Utah and many other states. Public education works if you invest in it and if you do it right. Where property taxes are the highest, incomes are highest, families often hold education highest, and often those schools do the best. To repeat, in Finland…all the schools get the same investment and all kids do well….statistically about 17 times better than our kids. It is an entirely government controlled program. That doesn’t suck, Betsey.
The environment is a target of the new Republican Neo-Fascist agenda. Scott Pruitt, the Republicans’ and Trump’s new Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency is anything but protective of the environment. As the Attorney General of Oklahoma, he filed more cases against the government’s protection of the environment than any other state Attorney General. Not just racially based, given a Black President and the Neo-Fascists’ clear racism, as seen in Charlottesville, but because of the backing of oil and gas interests.
Pruitt has described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Now, if by “agenda” he means keeping water safe for children to drink or even bathe in, or if it means keeping air clean enough to prevent kids with asthma from dying on a playground…then yes…it is an “activist” agenda. If it means eating into the enormous profits of the heaviest polluting industries, then the answer is also yes. Last year, just 22 sites accounted for the majority of all air pollution in the U.S. The companies that owned those sites made a collective $58 billion in profits. Among those were EXXON Corporation, NRG, Conemaugh Energy, PSEG and, among others, SRP’s Arizona coal facility.
Before he became Vice President, Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana, one of the worst polluted states in the country, did his best to block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan implementation in that state. This plan would reduce emissions from greenhouse gas emissions from electric utility companies. Another 27 states also filed to allow greenhouse gas emissions to stay higher. There are about 31 Republican governors I believe.
Now in power, the Republican Neo-Fascist flunkies make no excuses for deleting any mention of climate change and reducing the number of people in government responsible for monitoring or researching global warming. Polluters, like oil and chemical companies and Dick Cheney’s pals in the fracking business are ecstatic. They can make hundreds of millions and walk away, leaving toxic waste water on farms and in small communities and, without government protection, those communities are helpless to find the millions of dollars it takes to restore water and soil to acceptable levels. .
The military is happy. Of course they are. Tyrants always want a strong military. Like Mussolini attacking Ethiopia on the slightest pretext or like George W. Bush attacking Iraq based on lies, these evil men have only one purpose…to satisfy their own egos while taking lives, in the tens of thousands or more, on both sides. The Republican military General Staff has eagerly and greedily and with broad smiles accepted the ten percent increase in a military budget that is already larger than the military budgets of all the rest of the countries in the world combined…which, to be clear, includes China, Russia, Great Britain, France, Australia, and all other countries who have as much as a soldier with a rifle. We need to protect our country. We are not safe. We need a military General Staff who will stop running from their responsibilities into military contractor jobs and start thinking about being true patriots, not military contractors. One are one lunatic action from a disaster that could kill millions of Americans.
In one of the worst acts of Neo-Fascism, which includes the obstruction of over 400 filibusters on important legislation, the Republicans held up the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice for one whole year. This was done on a lie, by changing Congressional rules that have been in place for generations and done, I think, as a personal racist affront to a Black President by a racist Senate Majority Leader, one of the most evil men in our country. That appointee, Neil Gorsuch, the son of a notorious Right Wing activist, and an heir to her hate-filled political philosophy, will now become the deciding vote on the Supreme Court. To give you one example, in one of his court decisions, this man favored a corporation over a driver who was fired because he left a semi-trailer truck that would not start in a snowstorm in below-zero conditions to find life-saving shelter.
So what do we do against Fascists? It is pretty clear. This is a Democracy. We fight. More Americans than ever are joining with Democrats to vote out the one-party rule that has dominated our country since the “Koch Brothers Revolution.” The Koch brothers, for those who don’t know, are the Right Wing Neo-Fascist sons of Fred Koch, the billionaire, Hitler-loving founder of Koch Industries and of the John Birch Society, whose function, while pretending to rid the country of Communists (which the government was already doing) was actually to rid the country of Liberals and Moderates while advancing an American brand of Fascism. He was conservative intellectually, socially and racially bigoted. His sons took up the mantle and with $20 billion apiece as their funding, founded the Neo-Fascist Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, Heritage Foudaation, Cato Institute, dozens of other Right Wing “institutes” and “think tanks” designed only to hide their Neo-Fascist intent.
Now, Trump’s open and outrageous activities have brought into daylight what has heretofore been kept partially secret. Billionaires like Trump and his Cabinet are all part of, yes, a vast Right Wing Conspiracy, no longer hidden, of many organizations, backed by hundreds of paid, Right Wing radio commentators and thousands of local, state and national government officials, from state legislators to Senators in our nation’s capital. Fascists are not born; they are purchased. Our jobs, and we must accept it, is to throw these petty crooks out of office and elect others who will be responsible to the People and to do important work for the People.