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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/14/10

How the Reagan Revolution Succeeded: Strangling Government in a Bathtub and Destroying Public Services

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Message Mark Karlin

As President Obama pleads for a measly $50 billion to prevent teachers, firemen and women and police from being laid off, any frank analysis of trends in U.S. economic policy -- despite the stimulus packages -- would recognize that regardless of a Democratic Congress and President the snake venom of the "Reagan Revolution" is metastasizing like advanced lung cancer throughout society. Obama, in his abundant caution and admiration for and mollycoddling of entrenched wealth and the ruling elites, is no match for the long-term, ongoing impact of the Republicans "strangling and then drowning government" in a bathtub.

The latest "conventional wisdom" among elected officials in Washington, Wall Street, the corporate mainstream media, and corporate lobbyists and the wealthy that the deficit must be lowered is just an attempt to preserve wealth for the Reagan/Bush tax-cut rich, further shrink public services, and bankrupt state and local governments, not to mention help ruin public education by denying it much-needed funds and laying off public teachers and other public employees essential to the future of our nation.

The success of the right wing strategy known as the "Reagan Revolution" is like a toxic underground river that keeps gaining in strength and can only be seen from time to time as it emerges to the surface and grows in strength and power as it undermines the common good.

The ongoing and accelerating ruinous impact of creating a society with 1% or so of economic super rich and 99% of economic losers is clear in so many ways, including the economic tanking of our economy. It can most vividly be seen in the virtual bankruptcy of countless states in the U.S., including California, which used to symbolize the promise of America's future, but now is the national bellwether in economically going down the tubes. This is a direct result of redistributing income to the few who don't need it for anything more than greed and excess riches, while the rest of us pay increased fees for what used to be free services for the common good. This is because the reduced taxpayer revenue cannot pay for services that we used to regard as part of the public commons.

And there is no serious talk of increasing taxes on the super rich to prior levels to help balance the budget; no, Washington wants to cut the meat out of government services, make public education untenable and put college out of reach except for the children of the wealthy.

Forget for the moment that in laying off tens of thousands of teachers, the Reagan "make America into a Third World Country of the obscenely wealthy, a shrinking middle class, and a growing percentage of poor" Revolution is wildly succeeding in seeing its dream of privatizing government services -- including public transportation, toll roads, schools, and even our water supplies -- by governments at all levels to obtain much-needed one-time cash payments to help plug budgets on the verge of collapse. As a result, increased flat users fee to private companies become a flat tax,just under another name,that adversely affects all but the wealthy. Meanwhile, the assets that had previously been owned by the public are now being transferred to unreliable and greedy corporations that take their cues from the likes of BP: profit before the public good.

The acceleration of privatization is just one more means of transferring wealth from the shrinking middle class and poor to the wealthy. It is the kind of economic system most often seen in the third world. On a non-governmental level, it is best symbolized by a private company like Wal-Mart which makes its money off of inadequately paid workers who do minimum wage labor in a store patronized by other underpaid or unemployed Americans buying cheap goods made in China and other slave shops that the customers at Wal-Mart used to make themselves. Meanwhile, the Walton family -- the descendants of founder Sam Walton -- move up the ranks of the wealthiest people in the world, while most Americans move steadily downward.

In the "Reagan Revolution," government only exists to allow the wealthy to become wealthier or to allow cronyism and revolving door government regulators, politicians, lobbyists and corporate executives to make fortunes from the likes of the longest war in America's history -- Afghanistan -- and to use the taxes of the already downsized incomes, if they have one, of most Americans to fund industrial-military complex industries who rely on war to justify new weapons systems and deplete current military supplies so that they can make more money by replacing them. Of course, GIs, NATO forces, Afghani military members and police, and Afghani civilians get killed in the process. But there is money to be made in the death industry, plenty of it.

And then there are wars, like Iraq and Afghanistan, that are really fought for an empire's thirst for oil and natural resources, a trillion dollars worth curiously and allegedly just discovered in Afghanistan, according to the New York Times. But we pay for the private contractors to enrich themselves and their companies as GIs who couldn't find any other jobs fight on and die as essentially soldiers of economic need for the most part, ensuring the last days of America's rein as an empire.

It's up and down the government feeding chain: "users fees," college tuition increases, education and public services cutbacks, the creation of private entities for what used to be in the public commons, the radical cutbacks in subsidies for public institutions like museums and zoos (remember when they used to be free, not $15-$25 a shot?) are all part of the Reagan Revolution's cancerous success that far out paces any ability of Obama to expand the federal budget to try -- like the Dutch boy -- to plug the holes in the dike. Message to Obama, the dike has broken and the deluge is drowning what is left of American government, particularly at the state and local levels, and Grover Norquist is seeing his dream realized of seeing the public good breathe its last breath as its head is held under water until it breathes its last gasp.

And no one dares to speak the fiercely urgent truth. The inequitable and unjust gluttonous tax reductions on the wealthy need to be dramatically reduced with all due speed.

Otherwise, we are well on the way to becoming an over sized nation that more resembles the economic injustices and educational backwardness of the Confederacy than of a nation leading the world into a prosperous, environmentally sound, and healthy future.

But isn't that what the Reagan Revolution was about all along -- and no one in D.C. is even faintly addressing its growing and ruinous impact.

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Mark Karlin is founder, editor and publisher of, a website providing headlines, news and commentary to over five million people a month. He is a gun control activist with a focus on Illinois.
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