Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Part 1: A Beginner's Guide to Conservative Politico-Economics

By Blueberry Tart

cartoon: Tom Toles, Washington Post

I preface this post with the admission that I am not an economist, so this is by no means an “expert” post. In fact, my limited knowledge of this subject is exactly what has spurred my interest in exploring it. This is my first, meager attempt to make sense of what is going on in this country politico-economically. You are entirely free to take or leave these ideas – or better yet, improve them!

The post has been at the back of my mind for some time, but I was finally motivated to put pen to paper (so to speak) by how blatant the Republicans’ economic strategies seem. I think the Wisconsin showdown, in particular, helped clarify my thoughts and spurred me to action. The fact that the Republicans are saying and doing things openly about which, a decade or two ago, they were much more circumspect seems a topic worth exploring.

From my vantage point, there seems to be a number of key trends that suggest long-term strategies at work. While predominantly conservative Republican, some of these strategies have been advanced by both Republicans and Democrats, reflecting conservative ideological gains in government that have shifted the overall debate toward the right. These trends include the following:

1) Shifting wealth to a very small segment of the population, as is typical of economic/corporate oligarchies (think banana republic)

2) Making tax increases politically impossible and shifting more of the tax burden from the wealthy and corporations to the middle class and working poor

3) Increasing spending on the military, and running up the deficit with expensive wars (benefitting defense contractors)

4) Using the deficit so-created as an excuse to dismantle the social safety net and other government programs that benefit society

5) Increasing corporate control of or influence over the government

6) Providing tax benefits to corporations even when they eliminate jobs or send them oversees (making a jobless economy even more profitable)

7) Privatizing profits and benefits by providing ways for corporations, and even individuals, to tap into public money (see #1) and insulating some of these gains from taxation (see #2)

8) Externalizing costs and socializing risk by having the public assume the economic (and health, environmental and other) costs of risky decisions

9) Weakening consumer protection, financial and environmental regulation, and social programs (see #5)

10) Weakening organized labor and programs to protect workers and the unemployed, at the same time setting the stage for “jobless recoveries”

11) Facilitating corporate takeover of the media and legalizing monopolization of media markets, thus limiting information and muting voices that support the people’s interests

12) Taking advantage of the unsettling aspects of boom and bust economic cycles to foster crisis- and fear-based decision-making

It may be that some, or all, of these topics warrant their own posts. To begin, rather than expounding on these topics myself, I am putting together a sampling of articles on these subjects, which I'll put up in a new post soon. There are many more, and probably better ones out there, and I’ll bet that Aview999 will lead a “cyber-posse” of our able PoliticalGates readers in collecting them – at least I hope so!

To be continued...

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