The Serialization of The 15% Solution: How the Repub. Religious Right Took Control of the US: 1981-2022, Section 1: Setting the Stage. Chap. 1: The United States in 1995: Setting the Stage for Fascism
A note from the actual author (that is Steven Jonas, MD, MPH): Please note that this chapter was actually written in 1994-95. The similarities between the politics of the Republicans and of the Democrats then and in recent times are NOT purely coincidental.
In fact, the policies of the Democratic Party in the 1990s very much facilitated the eventual Right-Wing Republican takeover described in the book.A Note from the "Author" of the balance of this text (that is "Jonathan Westminster")
A Note from the "Author" of the balance of the text (that is "Jonathan Westminster")
The story of fascism in the old United States in my view begins with the accession to the Presidency of Carnathon Pine, The Last Re pub li can, in the year 2001. And thus the drama as we will see it in some detail begins in earnest in the next Chap ter, constructed around that personage's Inau gu ral Address. However, before dramas can pro ceed, the stage must be set.
For this book, I have chosen to do that with an essay written by our friend Dino Louis in 1995. As you can see, Louis was never short on opinion and interpretation of facts. The bare facts he occasionally cites throughout the essay were taken primarily from a feature article that ap peared in the then leading weekly printed newsmagazine Time early in that year (Hull, et al). I hope, dear reader, that you will find this essay help ful in understanding from whence fascism arose in our na tional ancestor.
Is the Stage Being Set for Fascism?
by Dino Louis, 1995
A spectre is haunting the United States of America. But it is not the spectre of communism. It is the spectre of fascism.
Elections '94. The Republicans win. The message is clear. Grinchism, developed by Newt Gingrich and his fellows as a meaner, harsher version of Reaganite"'Bushism, is triumphant. The people have spoken. They and the Grinchites have clearly identified what's wrong with the country: government is too big, taxes are too high, the "unde serv ing poor" are "stealing bread from our table," people "different from us" have set out to destroy "our nation."
And on the "moral" side? Well, that slasher of national domestic spending Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, tells us (Nelson):
"The American people in their guts, mothers and fathers across this country, know that over the last couple of decades we have removed the speed limits from the highways, the lines on the highways, the yes and the no, the black and the white and the rights and the wrongs. And Americans are beginning to say that . . . culture has slipped and it's time once more to assert that Judeo-Christian tradition of rights and wrongs and values that guides our nation in the 21st Century."
The proposed solutions to these problems? Shrink government. Cut taxes. Slash government spending, especially on the poor. End toler ance, reinvigo rate prejudice. On the "moral" side? Follow the Chris tian Coali tion (Nelson) and outlaw freedom"'of"'choice in the outcome of pregnancy, require voluntary school prayer, make divorce more diffi cult (except for the leading Republican Presidential candidates), prohibit pornography (ex cept for aspiring Republican Supreme Court nominees), ban sex education and contraception. And oh yes, above all free the "free market."
The "mainstream" Democratic response, enunciated by the Demo cratic Leadership Council and more or less followed along by the Presi dent? "Yes, for the most part, on the economic side, at least, you're right. Although we may disagree on some details of both problem anal ysis and program prescrip tion, you are basically right. And we can be even more Republican than the Republicans. Just let us show you how."
But pause for a moment. Did "the people" as a whole really speak in the 1994 election? Well, no. The message of Reaction was support ed by less than 20% of the eligible electorate. Not voting in droves were those who potential ly benefit most from government intervention in the econo my, and government protection of their rights in the soci ety. It seems safe to assume that they did n't vote because even the Clinton Administration, with its emphasis on deficit cutting not growth stimulation, on being liked not aggressively protect ing rights, did not seem to give them anything much to vote for in either interven tion or protection.
And then consider, have the Grinchites identified the real problems the country faces? Well, no. Since Clinton was elected in 1992 the basic problem list has remained unchanged (Thurow): a declining in dus trial base; the export of manufacturing jobs, to be replaced, if at all, by lower paying service jobs; a continually deteriorating national infra struc ture; serious problems in health services, education, and environ mental protection and preservation; the ever-increasing gap between the have"'a"'lots and everyone else.
It is these problems, not some sudden changes in "Americans' mo rali ty," that are putting tremendous pressure on the Ameri can family, as Thurow has pointed out (1995):
"Falling real wages have put the traditional American family into play, as the one"'earner middle"'class family becomes ex tinct. . . . Thirty"'two percent of all men between 25 and 34 years of age earn less than the amount necessary to keep a fam i ly of four above the poverty line. Mothers have to work lon ger hours if the family is to have its old standard of living.
"Children exist, but no one takes care of them. Parents are spend ing 40 percent less time with their children than they did 30 years ago. More than two million children under the age of 13 have no adult supervision before or after school. Paying for day care would use up all or most of a mother's wages.
" . . . Men have a strong economic incentive to bail out of fami ly responsibilities since when they do so their real stan dard of living rises 73 percent--although that of the family left be hind falls 42 per cent."
Added to these real economic and economy"'based family pressures are resurgent racism and homophobia, the atmosphere of hate fed by a talk radio culture dominated by the Right Wing, and the new national chauvin ism reflect ed in California's "Proposition 187."
Will the DLC"'lead me"'tooism effectively respond to this crisis? Well, no. It won't win elections. That was proven in 1994, when almost every me"'too Democrat running in a closely contested election lost. As [post"'World War II President] Harry Truman once said, when someone wants to vote for a Repub lican, he'll pick the real thing over a pale imita tion every time. But even more importantly, the DLC/Grinchite program simply cannot solve the basic prob lems the country faces because it doesn't face them. It deals with side issues like term limits and "shrinking gov ern ment." It is an agenda of distraction, not focus.
Big problems require big solutions. It's not the size of government that's the problem. It's what government does with its size. It's not the num ber of terms of office that lead to a "non"'responsive Congress," "de voted to the 'Special Interests'." It's corporate campaign financing and the hidden system of lobbying. It's not the tax burden (one of the lowest in the industrial ized world) that's the problem. It's what the tax reve nues are spent on. It's not the poor that are dragging the country down. AFDC could be eliminated to mor row and the total Federal sav ing would amount to less than 10% of the current deficit, less than 1% of the Federal budget. It's the declining industrial base, declining per capita income, and increasing true unemployment.
And the whole so"'called "moral" agenda, the fake "Contract on the Ameri can Family" of the Christian Coalition, could be enacted tomor row and the economic problems that are the real factors making life ever"'tougher for ever more Americans would remain absolutely un touched. Much less personal freedom. No fewer, actually more, per sonal and fami ly problems.
Atomization is Taking Over
The country thus seems to be falling apart. But at a time when people really need to pull together, under a constant barrage of Repub li can propa gan da about "individual responsibility" and the ability of the "free market" to solve every conceivable problem, the people are pull ing apart too. "Many Americans have stocked up on guns and walled in their communi ties," Time tells us in it's own "State of the Union" mes sage (Hull, et al). "More than 700,000 children are educated at home." "Self"'reliance" is spreading, and "in many cases Americans are acting out of long"'term necessity, unable to depend on a life"'long job or the pension that accompa nies it."
"Many American families and businesses are being forced to privat ize security and sanitation by default. Community associations, ranging from small condominiums to sprawling planned communities, have grown from 10,000 in 1970 to 150,000 in 1993 and now include 1 out of every 8 Ameri cans." "Privatization of local services is, however, a lot less liberat ing for the millions of Americans who can't afford it."
The True Economic Perspective
In the face of all this, what is happening to wealth in America? Well, family income has gone up steadily since the Nixon years, but per capita in come has declined. Why has the former risen while the latter has fallen? As pointed out above, two-parent employment, for the most part. Just one of the major family stressors that have arisen over the last 20 years. And while per capita income has declined, the con centra tion of wealth has in creased.
Time again: "Over the past 20 years the very rich have improved their lot in life by getting richer. Half a million U.S. households (one"'half of 1% of the population) now owns 39% of all assets (stocks, bonds, cash, life"'insurance policies, paintings, jewelry, etc.). This makes the U.S. No. 1 among prosper ous nations in the inequality of income. . . . During the Reagan years . . . the nation's net worth in creased from $13.5 trillion to $20.2 trillion . . . between 1983 and 1989, $3.9 trillion of the reward was captured by the top one"'half on 1%." That's almost 60% of the in crease in wealth going to that top 0.5%.
Or as Thurow put it (1995):
"The tide rose (the real per capita gross domestic product went up 29 per cent between 1973 and 1993), but 80 percent of the boats sank. Among men, the top 20 percent of the labor force has been winning all of the country's wage increases for more than two de cades. . . .
"With the death of Communism and, later, market socialism as eco nomic alternatives, capitalists have been able to employ more ruthless approaches to getting profits without worrying about po litical pres sure. 'Survival of the fittest' capitalism is on the march. What econ omists call 'efficiency wages' (a com pa ny pay ing higher salaries than the minimum it needs to pay, so that it gets a skilled, cooperative, loyal work force) are dis ap pearing to be replaced by a different form of motivation--the fear of losing one's job [and one's health insur ance]."
I just wonder if Reagan's tax cuts for the wealthy and borrow"'to"'spend policies had anything to do with all these develop ments.
Some Social Issues
Let's take a look at some social problems, like crime for instance. The crime rate has actually been falling a bit over the last couple of years, while the nation rose to first place among developed nations for proportion of its citizens incarcerated. But crime overall has risen dra matically dur ing the peri od since the 1970s when all those prisons have been built. Why? They are irrelevant. There is an arrest in only about a fifth of all crimes, with only half of those leading to convic tions in serious cases, and few er than 50% of those leading to jail time (Lacayo).
Even while crime has been decreasing slightly in recent years, the fear of crime has risen markedly. Part of this is real. Murder is still a rela tively rare event in this country, with a rate that has remained more or less unchanged since the 70s. But the proportion of murders com mitted by strangers has risen dramatically, while the homicide"'solution rate dropped from 91% in 1965 to 66% in 1993.
And youth violence has increased markedly. What might the rea sons be? Not enough prisons? Not long enough sentences? Well, the Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, "recommends focusing on the in creasing number of chil dren brought up in 'no parent' homes." Dare I say there is some relationship between the latter and declining per-capita"'income/ rising"'two"'parent"'employment, and rising one"'parent working/no"'affordable"'day"'care"'available for their pre"'school chil dren?
However, at least part of the increasing fear of crime is definitely the work of politicians in both parties. For them a focus on crime and "being tough" on it wins elections (even if the advocated measures af fect the crime rate not more than minimally). And then there are the media (pri marily in the hands of major corporations like General Elec tric and major private right"'wingers like Rupert Murdoch) for whom presenting crime, real, fic tional, semi"'real, and semi"'fictional, in gorier and gorier detail, up"'close and personal, makes money. Finally, there are the demons of right"'wing talk radio, who especially like to color crime black and brown.
What about education? Well, while, for example, our 13 year"'olds rank 14th among the children of the developed countries in math per for mance, and does anyone know where Belgium is, it's estimated that less than half of the average of $5300.00 spent per pupil in this country goes to support classroom work. As to health care, costs continue to sky rocket, quality declines, health care corporation profits rise, and the critically"'required comprehensive reform is once again a dream that does not become reality, just as it has every time it's been seriously proposed by a national leader, beginning with Teddy Roose velt in his 1912 Bull Moose campaign.
In response to this situation, Americans turn to God, in massive num bers. 95% profess to be believers, distributed among about 1600 denomi nations (44% of them non"'Christian). 40% of Americans pro fess to attend a religious institution regularly. With churches hardly hard to find, there is hardly "Christian persecution" going on, despite what the Religious Right would have us believe.
Democracy in Decline
In the face of all this, it seems that our democratic structures are be ginning to crumble. According to John Gray, a fellow of Jesus Col lege, Oxford Uni ver sity (England) (1995):
"In the United States the end of the cold war  has intensified a mood of political cynicism. American public opinion expects little from its democratic institutions, and if the experience of the last decade or so is any guide, even its modest expectations are likely to be disappoint ed. . . .
"The mobility of capital has contributed significantly to the decline of the middle class and its distinctive culture. . . . This may prove [to be] of decisive importance for democracy in the United States and in other Western democracies--namely the pro letarianization, through rising debt, falling incomes and un relent ing job insecurity, of the tra ditional middle classes. The U.S. undoubtedly leads the field in repli cating in a Western industrial economy the middle"'class impotence that is an en dem ic feature of many third world countries in Latin America and elsewhere. . . .
"In a worst"'case scenario, we may even glimpse a sort of Colombianization of the United States, in which failing political insti tutions, become increasingly marginal in an ungovernable, criminalized and endemically violent society."
I could not have made the point better myself. But in the midst of all this, what does the winning party in the last election offer us? Why noth ing other than the "Contract On," sorry, I mean the "Contract For Ameri ca," alluded to above. Relevant to the problem list? Right up there with what we need? Problem"'solutions provided by the Party of Business? Not quite!
For proof of that statement, here's the "Contract" in a nutshell (Kel ly): a balanced federal budget by the year 2002; term limits for mem bers of Con gress; "tough" welfare"'"reform;" cut crime"'prevention, increase incarceration; carry out death sentences quicker; permit the use of improp erly seized evi dence; restrict the use of U.S. troops in United Nations oper ations; prevent the use of money saved from military"'spending cuts for national domestic pro grams; cut the capital"'gains tax; raise the Social Se curity earnings limit; enact a 'loser pays' provision for civil litigation; cut Congressional staffing by a third and the number of Congres sional com mittees; require Congress to ap ply to itself the laws it passes; require a three"'fifths majority for tax hikes; and sub mit proposed Federal environ mental regulations to risk"'assess ment and cost"'benefit analysis.
Like the Christian Coalition's "Contract on the American Family" of which this "contract" was a precursor, what a prescription of irrele vance. Just put the real problem"'list against the "solution list" con tained in either "Con tract." Nothing on what really ails the country. Nothing on jobs, export of, and insecurity in. Nothing on the crum bling infrastructure. Nothing on health, nothing on education, nothing on the environment (ex cept to make it easier for companies to poison it). Lots of focus on wel fare, only a small chunk of Fed eral spending, but great politics because it's painted black (even though two thirds of recipients aren't). The crime proposals focus on measures that just don't work and take money away from ones that either do or at least might. Balanced budget and term limits? How are they going to affect every day life?
More tax cuts for the rich? In the 80s, cuts for them didn't lead to invest ment and jobs here at home--just to speculation, sometimes huge finan cial losses, export of capital, and that widening gap between rich and poor. Then there's the proposal for "reform" of the civil litigation system to address a problem that just doesn't exist: an "avalanche of tort litiga tion" against com pa nies. In fact, the major increase in civil cases is in contract actions between companies (Kelder)--and so forth. And the Dem ocrats right now have nothing much better.
And then there's the "moral" agenda, as noted not exactly designed to touch the declining industrial base and declining per capita incomes; the export of manufacturing jobs, to be replaced, if at all, by a less than equal number of lower paying service jobs; and a continually dete riorat ing na tional infrastruc ture.
John Gray, in that last sentence I quoted from him, is right. And that "Colombian" state, that unstable, violent, insecure state, in a do mestic environ ment of increasing racism and xenophobia, is a prescrip tion for future, massive "civil unrest," followed by the imposition of a violent, oppressive, authoritari an governing structure to control it.
A spectre is haunting the United States of America. But it is not the spectre of communism. It is the spectre of fascism. Is anyone out there watching or listening? And if they are, are they seeing or hearing any thing?
Gray, J., "Does Democracy Have a Future?" The New York Times Book Re view, Jan uary 22, 1995, p. 1.
Hull, J.D., et al, "The State of the Union," Time, January 30, 1995, p. 53.
Kelder, G., "What Speaker Newt's 'Contract on America' and Tort 'Reform' Mean for the Tobacco Control Movement," Tobacco on Trial, Novem ber/December, 1994, p. 3.
Kelly, M., "You Say You Want a Revolution," The New Yorker, Novem ber 21, 1994, p. 56.
Lacayo, R., "Lock 'Em Up!," Time, February 7, 1994.
Nelson, L"'E., "Contract Words, Deeds Divorced," Newsday, May 18, 1995, p. A 19.
Thurow, L.C., "Companies Merge; Families Break Up," New York Times, September 3, 1995, News of the Week in Re view.
 Author's Note: This latter item referred to a product of the old "Initiative and Referendum" system used most prominently in California. Once a tool of progressives, Initiative and Referendum became a leading anti-democratic tool of Right-Wing Reac tion in both the Transition Era and the Fascist Period. I discuss it in some detail in Chapter four.
 Author's Note: The "Cold War" was a 45 year-long, primarily political, econom ic, diplomatic (but non-military) battle between the old U.S. and the old Soviet Union, that followed the end of World War II. The Cold War came to an end following the peaceful demise of the old Soviet Union as a nation-state.