In Rolling Stone
, Tim Dickinson relates how the GOP became the party of the rich
Taken together, the Bush years exposed the bankruptcy behind the theory that tax cuts for the rich will spur economic growth. "Let the rich get richer and everybody will benefit?" says Stiglitz. "That, empirically, is wrong. It's a philosophy of trickle-down economics that's belied by the facts." Bush and Cheney proved once and for all that tax cuts for the wealthy produce only two things: "lower growth and greater inequality."
The GOP's frenzied handouts to the rich during the Bush era coincided with the weakest economic expansion since World War II – and the only one in modern American history in which the wages of working families actually fell and poverty increased. And what little expansion there was under Bush culminated in the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. "The wreckage was left by Dick Cheney, Grover Norquist and the gang," says [Lincoln] Chafee. "This was their doing."
The article goes on at great length reiterating the litany of GOP actions, from the Bush years onward, that had no purpose other than to grant tax boons to wealthy Americans and the largest corporations. It is an infuriating list, and demonstrates the acts to be the central, perhaps only obsession of the modern GOP, but what it doesn't do much of is exploring the why of it: why on earth continue to take such actions, even after they have been clearly demonstrated to fail in all their supposed rationales? Dickinson does cite the adaptation of Shock Doctrine ideology to the Cheney/Norquist wing of the party, but that still seems to me to be only a partial explanation. The GOP obsession with tax cuts for the rich is a constant, throughout the last fifteen years, whereas any supposed attempts at "small government" are considerably more spotty.
There still seems to be little evidence against what many (whether they be political analysts, historians, or protesters on the street) suspect: the political agenda is geared towards serving the needs of the largest American corporations and the wealthiest fraction of citizens simply because those are the groups that have the most cash to bend towards elections and lobbyists. There seems no rational reason for a Republican senator to suddenly declare, out of the blue, that protecting tax breaks for hedge fund managers are an important hill to die on, but it makes considerably more sense if you suppose that "hedge fund managers" are the ones paying the checks to set that agenda. Not just in the usual manner of American political corruption, mind you, in which companies are free to wage cash warfare on any politicians, local, state, or national, that dare inconvenience them, but because an organized, lobbied attempt to create law is largely the only thing the legislative and executive branches of our government are ever exposed to.
When you have a small army of operatives that do everything from waiting in line in front of congressional offices, to writing the laws, to funding the "studies" on what their favored laws might do, to hosting the dinner parties legislators go to, to giving "awards" to those legislators, to funding their campaigns, it is to be expected that the concerns of less connected classes of the citizenry, and the true issue experts in and out of government, will be hard pressed to get their voices heard in equal amounts. Heaven knows congressmen do not regularly associate with economists, or environmental regulators, or social workers, or poor people—perish the thought. The entirety of the Washington establishment (the Village, we often call it) consists of an extraordinarily small and socially inbred group of politicians, mega-businessmen, and scattered pundits. The three groups don't just mingle: switching between the three professions is commonplace, and expected.
Yes, if you pick the leaders of government policy from the executive offices of Goldman Sachs, you are invariably going to produce policy that is beneficial to the sort of people who might rise to the executive offices of Goldman Sachs. Yes, if your energy policy is guided by lobbyists from the oil and gas industries, the resulting framework will almost certainly benefit those precise groups. It is not even corruption, at this point, only ideological homogeneity. The political, financial, and megacorporate spheres are so inbred that contrary ideas simply cannot surface. The few that do are not simply dismissed, but mocked outright.
You can say that the Republicans are obsessed with greed, but it is not quite that, because they are only benefiting directly. They are in thrall to the greed of others, which is a rather more difficult state to maintain, unless there is something in it for you. But if you presume that the top one percent of the nation are really the only people that our highest levels of government interacts with, self-selects from, or even deems to have legitimate notions of governance, it makes a bit more sense. Both parties suffer from that particular affliction.
The current difference is one of severity. We have quite literally gotten to the point where day-to-day government functions are put in jeopardy with regularity, all so that demanded handouts to the uppermost classes can continue. The prime duty of government—to effectively govern—is considered anathema, and the GOP in particular competes within itself to see who can best disrupt it. Not because of deficits (which ballooned, under GOP rule) or small government (government got no smaller, during the years they controlled it) but because it is now presumed that the only legitimate question government may contemplate is just how well it can cater to the desires of the richest of the rich.
Those are the people that pay for the elections, and those are the people that pay for the agenda. Every politician claims they are not influenced by either seeking/receiving corporate campaign contributions or by lobbyist-feuled agendas. A more salient question would be: how many hours of your day are truly spent in the absence of either?
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