Bob Herbert of The New York Times:
It may seem like ancient history, but in the first few decades following World War II, the United States, despite many serious flaws, established the model of a highly productive society that shared its prosperity widely and made investments that were geared toward a more prosperous, more fulfilling future.If we don't address the causes for this economic collapse, the Reagan conservatives will be back again in a few years, talking seductively, trying to sell us deregulation and self-oversight and unquestioned access to the hard earned savings of the working class. Pots of unpilfered money make them rise like vampires in the dead of night which is why we need to stake down the truth, hang the facts like garlic around their necks, and shine the brilliant light of day into the Republican philosophy.
The American dream was alive and well and seemingly unassailable. But somehow, following the oil shocks, the hyperinflation and other traumas of the 1970s, Americans allowed the right-wingers to get a toehold — and they began the serious work of smothering the dream.
Ronald Reagan saw Medicare as a giant step on the road to socialism. Newt Gingrich, apparently referring to the original fee-for-service version of Medicare, which was cherished by the elderly, cracked, “We don’t get rid of it in Round One because we don’t think it’s politically smart.”
The right-wingers were crafty: You smother the dream by crippling the programs that support it, by starving the government of money to pay for them, by funneling the government’s revenues to the rich through tax cuts and other benefits, by looting the government the way gangsters loot legitimate businesses and then pleading poverty when it comes time to fund the services required by the people.
The anti-tax fanatic Grover Norquist summed the matter up nicely when he famously said, “Our goal is to shrink the government to the size where you can drown it in a bathtub.” Only they didn’t shrink the government, they enlarged it and turned its bounty over to the rich.
Now, with the economy in free fall and likely to get worse, Americans — despite their suffering — have an opportunity to reshape the society, and then to move it in a fairer, smarter and ultimately more productive direction. That is the only way to revive the dream, but it will take a long time and require great courage and sacrifice.
The right-wingers do not want that to happen, which is why they are rooting so hard for President Obama’s initiatives to fail. They like the direction that the country took over the past 30 years. They’d love to do it all again.
Because not all of them will disappear. Even through the smoke of this economic disaster, they are moaning about tax cuts for the rich, more deregulation, less government by the people, less restrictions. So we need to be forever vigilant, cynical, suspicious. We need to put these facts into every history book, every economic discussion, every civics lesson so our children are forewarned about these succubi.
And teach them how to drive a stake.