Consider a few lines from a piece by Nicholas Krisof (“Republicans, Zealots and Our Security”) in last Sunday’s NY Times. He first quotes Congresswoman Rosa Di Lauro:
“The attack on literacy programs reflects a broader assault on education programs,” said Rosa DeLauro, a Democratic member of Congress from Connecticut. She notes that Republicans want to cut everything from early childhood programs to Pell grants for college students. Republican proposals have singled out some 43 education programs for elimination, but it’s not seen as equally essential to end tax loopholes on hedge fund managers.
So let’s remember not only the national security risks posed by Iran and Al Qaeda. Let’s also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.
What struck me in this last line was Kristof’s qualifier: “however unintentional.” The truth is, the GOP’s rampage against “bloated government” is both quite rational and viciously intentional (again, Anders Breivik comes to mind). It is to gut every program put together by Democrats from FDR’s Depression programs to LBJ’s Great Society, programs to provide not just a minimal safety net for the least fortunate Americans, but opportunity for all those who have been able, finally, to gain a tentative purchase on a decent life by finding government jobs at various levels. This is the whole point of the GOP’s coordinated campaign to destroy unions, “cut waste from government,” and cut taxes. It’s about eliminating the revenue source for those government jobs. It’s about cutting off the voter base—mostly Democrat—that those government jobs represent. And at its core, it’s about putting back in their place—at the lowest levels of society—all those “uppity” minorities who, through government equal-employment mandates, have ‘risen above their station.’ This includes blacks, Hispanics, and women, as well as the lefties and liberals who have long argued for the inclusion of such minorities in America’s prosperity.
It is this that most grates on the Republican zealots—now concentrated more than ever in the South and the West/Midwest. They hate the fact that teachers have tenure and all those “luxurious” pension plans. They hate the perceived “laziness” of government workers with “cushy” jobs and pension plans. Though it may bring them down as well (and it is doing just that; the massive loss of government jobs in the wake of the 2008 collapse is responsible for a large part of the high and persistent unemployment rate), they are willing to sacrifice their own well-being in order to appease their toxic resentment. This resentment is clear in the symbolic language (“to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub”) used by the guru of this movement, Grover Norquist. Drown it in the bathtub? What is the size Norquist means here? Baby size? An infant drowned in a bathtub? Who would use such imagery? A privatizing Republican zealot, that’s who. An artist of propaganda, of revenge, of cruelty. The heir to those massive crowds in the pre- and post-Civil War South who could relish the spectacle of torturing, burning, hanging a human being who had dared to transgress their sacred code of two worlds that could never, ever meet.
And with a black man in the White House, that resentment has only festered and grown more virulent, more ugly. Of course not even the most conservative of GOP leaders can come right out and give this voice. So they use the symbolic language of cutting taxes to cut government spending.
But don’t be fooled. If you’re wondering why the GOP is hell-bent on destroying government (even as Republicans and their corporate masters suck from the tit of that same government, and display a fierce determination to re-take its most visible power source), you can start with two simple but toxic causes: racism and resentment. Then add the infinite greed and casual cruelty of the elite (the top 1% of Americans now control more wealth than the bottom 90% combined; median wealth of Anglo households is now 20 times that of black households—see July 27 Pew Research report), and you’re pretty much there.