Truthout: From “Morning in America” to the Nightmare on Main Street

March 8, 2011- Ronald Reagan's infamous "it's morning in America" slogan, used as part of his 1984 presidential campaign, paved the way for a set of market-driven policies that historians faithful to the human record will be compelled to rename twilight in America to signal a historical crisis fueled less by a spirited hope for the future than by a shocking refusal to be held accountable to and for it. The policies that informed Reagan's neoliberal agenda have given way to the intense assault now being waged by his more extremist governmental descendants on all vestiges of the democratic state. This brutal evisceration includes a rejection and devaluing of the welfare state, unions, public values, young people, public and higher education; and other political, social and economic institutions and forces in American life that provide a counterweight against the political power of mega-corporations, the rich and the powerful.

In order to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful corporations, the formative cultures, social formations and institutions necessary for a viable democracy are under a wide-ranging assault. The intensity and barbarism of such an attack is evident in the current right-wing attempts to dismantle crucial social safety nets, collective bargaining rights, unions and the regulatory constraints on powerful corporations. This conservative assault is not just about the enactment of reactionary government policies; it is also about the proliferation of a war at home, the collateral damage of which is harsh and brutalizing, especially for young people, the unemployed, the elderly, the poor, and a number of other individuals and groups now bearing the burden of the worst economic recession since the 1920s. But there is more at stake than an increase in the hard currency of human suffering; there are also disturbing signs that American society is moving toward an authoritarian state largely controlled by corporations and a financial elite.

Political power is now up for sale just as government resources are increasingly being contracted out or sold off to the highest bidder. Like lemmings in heat, thousands of corporate lobbyists flock to Washington determined to corrupt the political process, while multibillionaires such as the Koch brothers use their $42 billion-dollar war chest to fund right-wing think tanks, the Tea Party, and other conservative groups in order to crush the labor movement and enact legislative policies designed to decimate the social state and hand over the levers of political and economic sovereignty to the rich. Commenting on the real agenda of the Koch brothers and the Republican Party, New York Times op-ed writer Frank Rich rightly argues, "[t]he real goal is to reward the G.O.P.'s wealthiest patrons by crippling what remains of organized labor, by wrecking the government agencies charged with regulating and policing corporations and, as always, by rewarding the wealthiest with more tax breaks."


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