THE PROPHETS OF ME! MEET THE KEYSTONE KOPS
The far-fetched right never ceases to fascinate me, but then as a child the reptile house was my favorite
stop in the San Diego Zoo. Recently I went online to find information on the 30 or so criminal
convictions among members of the Reagan Administration. I found some information, but mostly I
found Reagan being reconstructed by the Prophets of Me! into a tower of moral virtue and the
savior of the economy.
That’s not the Reagan I remember. The Reagan I remember was the best documented and most
incorrigible liar ever to inhabit the Whitehouse. He took the economy from
inflation through recession and finally he handed his successor a depression, including the
greatest single day stock market crash in history. He lied for greed; he worked for greed; he
lived for greed; and the triumph of greed is the only monument he needs or merits. Let us celebrate
his place in history by putting
his picture on a U.S. banknote – perhaps a three-dollar bill.
Reagan’s policies enriched the wealthiest part of the population at the expense of the rest of
us who ended up under and after Reagan paying more taxes – the average person paid more in taxes
in 1985 than AT&T, Du Pont, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Dow Chemical, and Walt Disney paid
collectively from 1982 through 1985 -- with less money (From 1979 to 93 the bottom 60% of the
population lost from 15 to 3%, smoothly graded from poor to not so poor while those in the 60 to
80 percentiles gained 5% and the highest end gained 18%. Where do you fall?) In 1986 with
Iran/Contra in the air, over 2/3 of the American public believed Reagan was lying. These
statistics are well-known, from the lying to the stealing, and are so well-documented in so
many public sources that to deny them is simply perverse. The Reagan administration may qualify
as the most successful criminal conspiracy in recent history.
So how do right-wing extremists get that way? While there are legitimate spokesmen for conservatism, it
seems undeniable that belief in its simplistic tenets seduces the lazy into accepting easy
answers to tough questions. The resulting political correctness of scapegoating, jingoism,
self-serving xenophobia, and an all-pervading faith in the subservience of reality to the
wishes of the observer make it a convenient collecting point for the meaner airheads of the
world. Conservatism often becomes a catchall political and social philosophy for those who
lack the brains or the moral courage for actual philosophy. If something is wrong, it is the
fault of Jews or communists or blacks or gays or poor people or Them Over There
or -- pause to gasp in horror -- liberals. It can’t be because we took the easy way out of
tough decisions or because our leaders are greedy. Greed is good; opposing greed is subversive,
Conservatism’s bosses rely upon button-pushing, slogans (God and Country, communist, liberal), and
a frothing patriotism that is unconsidered, demagogic, jingoistic, and purely knee-jerk – and
that amounts to little but a stage magician’s slight of hand in distracting the public from
depredations at home, ala Orwell’s 1984.
The major characteristic of the Reagan Administration (other than its pocket-picking) was the
belief, starting with the Great Communicator himself, that facts have moral valences. Stated
another way, if it disagrees with the preconceptions of the speaker, it can’t be true.
Conversely, anything that supports those preconceptions must be true. (Welfare is bad;
therefore it must be the province of cheaters; therefore there MUST be some such person as
‘Chicago Nell’; therefore welfare is bad because it produces cheaters like Chicago Nell. Of
course, Chicago Nell was a fictitious character invented by Reagan to help him reform welfare
by turning it into his Toys for Trillionaires program -- which provides welfare only to the very
rich and is paid for by the rest of us.) The mentalities attracted to this brand of
conservatism short-circuit so completely that premise equals conclusion and nothing else exists
in the world. Welfare (except corporate welfare) is bad; therefore, welfare is bad.
The two most obvious examples of the ascendancy of doctrinal (or political) correctness over
external reality are the religious right and communism. I am not sure if the religious right
is really conservative – or really anything else except poll fodder for the button-pushers. To
those of light virtue it is very convenient to have shock troops that will do whatever they’re
told as long as you push the God button. (“It’s God’s will; you better go do it or He’ll punish
you by sending the liberals to grab up your children and carry them away to be devoured in
unspeakable Satanic rites in dark caverns under the earth.”) Of course, the left has its own
hen-brains, but at least most of them aren’t vicious hen-brains.
The fantasy world of the far-fetched right resembles in style that of the Soviets.
Remember economic systems based upon political correctness? And the hunger and chaos they
created? Remember the starvation and the brain-death of Soviet biological science brought on
by Lysenkoism? That particular idiocy was doctrinally correct, but totally unrelated to
external reality. Of course, since Truth is defined by doctrinal correctness, it need not be
validated against external reality. Just like Chicago Nell. Just like supply-side economics.
All of us are guilty of accepting political correctness over the inconvenience of the real world
from time to time, but most of us don’t have the gall to label it philosophy and be
self-righteous about it.
Most of the conservative coalition of whatever rung on the economic ladder is like the religious
right, simply poll fodder whose buttons are easily pushed and who get thrown an occasional bone.
Of the bones, Carville says:
“In November 1995, the Republicans passed a plan to cut Medicare by $270 billion – at the
same time they would cut taxes by $245 billion. The Republican plan means that seniors will pay
hundreds of dollars more in premiums and receive less care.
Doctors made out fine in the deal, though. The GOP threw in all kinds of expensive goodies to
the American Medical Association, just to get them on board.”
That is where the Prophets of Me! come in. Usually a rung or two below the wealthy elite among
the worshippers of self, these apologists form a jackel pack that follows after the big dogs
feeding off the leftovers from big-dog kills and off big-dog droppings. The errand-boys come in
all shapes and sizes, but one and all they hope to bloat themselves on enough carrion to become big
dogs themselves. Well, it’s working for Rush Limbaugh, isn’t it?
They write the articles and make the speeches and conduct the talk shows and write the
apologetics for tax cuts for the rich and for military adventurism and for the robbing of
pension and healthcare plans – and then they vote for them. These are the Republican Senators
and Members of Congress; these are the jackals. They are the hit men for the truly rich. Their
theme is one with the very rich: “Me! Me! Me! More for Me! The Prophets of Me!
OK, that’s the Prophets of Me! Now let’s hear about the Keystone Kops. Most people must
remember the old movies in which a gang of idiots in uniform chased bad guys, good guys, and
each other around the movie lot, bumping into each other and stumbling over their own feet, all
without accomplishing any least thing. The antics of the Democratic Party will remind old movie
buffs of this earlier gang of official incompetents.
Democrats may know right from wrong, but most recoil from taking a moral position and calling a
spade a spade, a liar a liar, and a thief a thief. That might be politically dangerous or even
force them to clean up their own acts. As a result we are treated to the sight of the
protectors of human dignity following along behind the jackal pack picking up their leavings
(Apparently there are things even jackals won’t touch.). The Reagans of the world steal
billions and trillions. The Limbaughs peddle disinformation for millions. The Jim Wrights
steal thousands. And the Jim Wrights do it so shamefacedly that they get caught.
The Washington Democrats would rather carp about Republican indecency than to fight for decency.
Their idea of achieving social justice is to yank the hubcaps off the republicans’ limousines
for the pawn value – which they split with the public – without bothering to tell that public
that the limos were stolen from it in the first place. Work for smaller tax-rip-offs for the
robber barons rather than for a hefty annual tax on wealth and a closing of corporate
tax-evasion loopholes and a national healthcare plan and pension fund protection and serious
jail for paper predators, and...
But still this doesn’t explain the revisionist whitewashing of the Great Prevaricator. Is it a
nostalgic look-back on the days when greed was god? No, hardly. The Toys for Trillionaires
program is still in full swing. The hardliners want to take everything in one bite with tax
breaks that will benefit only the ruling elite and the jackal pack following in their wake.
The moderates want to steal a little less each time. So the revisionism isn’t really about
rewriting the past; it is about rewriting the future.
But if we want a real look at the future, perhaps we should use the Soviet collapse as a model
of what happens when doctrinal correctness overrides reality in economics. But if you're worried
about the poor trillionaires, don't. Just read the papers and magazines such as FORBES to
find out about the escape hatches the wealthy have in place. Worry about yourself and your children.
Who is to blame? Is it the rich and greedy? The airheads? The jackals? The Democrat Kops?
All the above? Yup, and add two more people – you, and me. Most of the history of civilization
is one of a battle over wealth with idiots the tools of whoever leaves them enough droppings,
economic or philosophic. Yet we’ve ignored all this. Was it because we also have been
greedy – and stupid? Oh, and it is those same two people who will have to change the world if
it is going to get changed. You and me. So if you want to know who is really to blame for the
rule of greed – and who is the only one who can change it - look in the mirror.