Privatization and Neo-Feudalism

Right-wing strategist Grover Norquist, famous for his stated aim to shrink government so that he can drown it in a bathtub, is en route to having his way.

Recently, and within a brief time span, observers in many quarters have expressed their understanding that an unstated strategy behind the huge Republican tax cut has been to bring the US government to its financial knees, thereby making it unable to cover the Right's hated social programs -- e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- and the administration of our public domain.

Paul Krugman, in a May 27 article in the New York Times titled "Stating the Obvious", wrote that "the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises; ... The people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need."

Two days later, Peronet Despeignes, reporting in the Financial Times of London, wrote that "The Bush administration has shelved a report commissioned by the Treasury that shows the US currently faces a future of chronic federal budget deficits totaling at least $44,200 trillion [the deficit is currently at about six trillion dollars] in current US dollars."

That's trillion with a "T". To put that terrifying figure in perspective, Despeignes reported it to be the rough equivalent of four years of US economic output or 94% of all US household assets, and that "closing the gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 per cent across-the-board income tax increase."

The next day, on his PBS show Now, Bill Moyers was blunt. The Bush administration, he said, kept news of this impending debt from the public "lest it throw the fear of God into Congress and the financial markets and cost them the tax cut for the rich." Moyers went on to say that "we are watching the country's future slip deeper and deeper into a black hole of red ink."

And two days after that, Noam Chomsky, in an interview on C-SPAN televised on June 1, stated flatly that the tax cut was calculated to lead to a "fiscal train wreck".

"At some point", Krugman wrote, "Bond markets will balk -- they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues, and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control."

But that's the very point of massive tax cuts: breaking the bank so as to kill social programs. It was a point made very well by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer when pressed on the issue. Congress, Fleischer said, would have to reform programs accordingly. He didn't say "kill," which would have been more appropriate.

Corporate America has spent billions lobbying for deregulation of its activities and for privatization of everything from the health system to education to national parks and forests to Social Security -- a situation that would lead to ownership and control by the corporate sector and a tiny handful of the super rich of virtually every aspect of society.

With no cash in the federal till -- due to massive tax cuts along with huge deficits, and ultimate inability of the government to borrow further -- there would no longer be much to argue about. The corporate sector would win by default, so that everything needed by the masses would have to be obtained through them at any price they would want to charge.

As the deficit balloons, the rightist program to privatize public lands is also moving right along. Free marketeer Terry Anderson, whose published plan to give each citizen "shares" of the public domain, said shares being sellable on the open market to those with the wealth to scoop them up, has been made President Bush's adviser on public lands issues.

Late last year, fellow free marketeer and Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, a product of the anti-environmental "Wise Use Movement", revealed plans to "outsource" to the private sector 3,500 jobs in the US Park Service. This raised no eyebrows, and by January 2003 the estimate had risen to more than 11,000 positions -- an eyebrow-raising 72%. Soon thereafter President Bush revealed that as many as 850,000 positions, now federal, could become privatized. It was a declaration of war on public ownership and government by the people, framed as an argument for fiscal efficiency.

With country and culture in the hands of a very few, democracy perishes. The great American Experiment would end not through internal weakness, but via carefully crafted "neoconservative" strategy from without, to be replaced by something resembling, more than anything else, medieval feudalism, only set in a high tech world. According to the plan now in place, "we the people" are to be the new serfs. As Thom Hartmann noted: "We're entering a new and unknown but hauntingly familiar era."

Mass media have been eager to keep ramifications of the tax cut and the loss of federal programs and public domain off of what they like to call their "radar screen". Simply look at the power brokers of the private sector who are the owners: giants in defense contracting, advertising, and industrial entertainment and recreation. All of them stand to be big winners in a system controlled by wealth.

Following 9/11, a mourning public and their congressional representatives too quickly handed the keys to the Kingdom to ideologues dedicated to killing government of, by, and for the people. If we do not waken soon from our collective daze, our descendants will surely feel a deep rage at our having given up their birthright without a struggle.

Bill Willers is a biology professor emeritus, environmental activist and contributing writer for Liberal Slant (, where this originally appeared.

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