Today, Governor Schwarzenegger has come out with his revised state budget. It, quite predictably, calls for more massive program cuts, including the wholesale elimination of programs that serve the most vulnerable in the state. He refuses to even put on the table for discussion any tax increases or the development of other revenue sources. As always, the Republican legislators bob their heads as a block in agreement.
For those of us working in non-profits or the public sector in California, there are absolutely no surprises here. We’ve easily recognized Arnold and the Republican legislators’ agenda all along because it mirrors a national plan that is based on a cold, neoliberal, Darwinian philosophy.
We’ve perceived that the long-term goal all along has been to completely dismantle government and empower corporate America and the financial elite. These are the individuals who have, framed on the walls of their posh offices, the words of Grover Nordquist to “reduce government to the level where it can be drowned in a bathtub.”
Essentially, they want us to return to a feudal society, with a ruling elite and cowed masses worried about keeping their jobs, their homes, their chance at an education, their dwindling hopes for any improvement of their lives. They’ll continually utilize fear and anger to maintain their power. The only money spent will be on national defense, while they regularly stoke fears about terrorists or illegal immigrants (Viking raiders, Attila the Hun, displaced native tribes, your great-grandparents from Sweden, Italy and Ireland…or Mexico) in the peasants, while really using those armed forces to ensure their status quo at home. Ironically, much will be similar to the times when the monopoly British East India Company ruled the American colonies or when many western towns were company towns.
Arnold et. al. have been quietly laying this foundation for his entire term: to culminate in the privatization of all public services and destruction of government “by the people, for the people..” in favor of domination by corporations, their lobbyists and the elite. They’ve repeated the mantra that the private sector can always do so much better than the public sector. They’ve thrown out the whole concept of checks and balances in our system. They’ve rewritten history in terms of the “Founding Fathers,” who perceived the dangers of concentrated power in the private sector and in the merging of government with business (including mainstream media). They’ve conveniently ignored the blatant examples of how blind trust in, and lack of oversight over, the private sector always leads to disaster (Enron, bank failures, oil spills, Halliburton, corporate-sponsored initiatives). They claim concern for small businesses while their unchecked brand of rule trends that private sector towards uncompetitive, corporate monopolies in all sectors. They talk about democracy, while regularly seeking to undermine it and impose the will of a minority. They rail against big government, but enable big corporation in its place.
But for those of us who work in public schools, non-profit health agencies, state agencies, local fire and police departments, etc., the biggest conflict is their attitude that everything will be solved by an unfettered, free market and that everything should be addressed by “the wonders of the marketplace.” They worship competition and eschew cooperation. They feel everyone is motivated solely by material gain and deny, or have contempt for, those of us who believe in public service, in caring for others, in the common good, that we’re all in this together and that we need to cooperate in order to make better communities, a better state, a better world.
They are also, quite clearly, willing to bet the whole house (meaning the house serving the common good) on their battle plan because they won’t be the ones killed as the house is burned down. They’ll watch from their gated communities on the hillside, like the “Stratus Dwellers” in an old Star Trek episode, with their millions from tax breaks safely ensconced in overseas tax shelters.
As the past few years have indicated, Arnold and the Republicans will not even discuss any options that don’t fit with their philosophy. Never mind that their job, as elected officials, is to PUT ALL OPTIONS ON THE TABLE, especially in “crisis” times!!! They will stonewall to the point where the state is paralyzed or on the verge of collapse because they demand we take their way or the highway. They will cynically bet that the other side will always blink first, due to that side’s actually caring for the real people hurt by their drowning of government/enthrone the plutocracy strategy. After all, we’re the ones who see and feel the human costs of their death by a thousand cuts approach and we always want to minimize the pain. Of course, this slow-bleed of government achieves all of their goals in the end.
And here we are. We’re right where they’ve wanted us since the implementation of FDR’s New Deal, the rise of the middle class in the 1950’s, and the enactment of various civil rights legislation in the 1960’s.
California, since 1978, has been the test case for their destruction of that New Deal and its more egalitarian benefits, through the promotion of a neoliberal agenda at the state level. If they destroy safety nets, privatize social services, education, transportation, and more, and drown the last vestiges of state government, they will be emboldened to do so across the rest of the country. The end result will most certainly be states and a nation about as far from the ideals of a true democracy as you can imagine. It will be a complete failure of Gandhi’s test of a society being ultimately being judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.
The big question now is, are those of us who believe in another vision willing to make our stand? Even if it does cause a lot of short-term pain? Are those in Sacramento who truly believe in something besides a monopoly dominated “free” market/emasculated puppet government world willing to draw a line in the sand? Are we willing to go beyond rallies that are ignored, letters and petitions that are stuck with contempt in a back drawer, and raise the ante? Are we willing to fight for the most vulnerable who, quite literally, have nothing else to lose at this point and will suffer and die from this destruction of state government? Are we willing to get out of our special interest silos and work together for a society that values cooperation, the common good, and basic caring and that can function (as other countries have clearly shown) quite well with a vibrant free market economy, representative government, active non-government organizations, and independent media-each serving to keep the excesses of the other in check through constant vigilance and citizen participation?
I know I am because as one proud, “bleeding heart liberal,” (as they so like to label us) I’m sick to hell of this crap.
Glenn Reed, Eureka