The Moment of Truth — September 19, 2009

Democratic Wimps To Let Ashcroft Slide

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the battering ram that smashes open the gates of the Bastille.

There’s an interesting video on YouTube showing a 1959 Bel Air and a 2009 Malibu being crashed into each other at a combined speed of 80 mph.

Both cars’ front ends are totaled. But otherwise the effects on each car are quite different. The 2009 Malibu’s dummy driver is seen held in place by his safety belt, bouncing against his airbag and surviving relatively unharmed. Its front end crumples to about half its size.

The front end of the Bel Air evaporates into chunks and powder, and the dummy driver disappears as the jagged carcass of the engine is forced through his viscera and face. Hanging in the air afterwards is the dust of disintegrated Bel Air, some dark matter and, briefly, the ghost of James Dean.

Though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety set up the crash to demonstrate the value of its advocacy, the fact is that every improvement in safety evident in the video is the result of government regulation. The free market would not have come up with them on its own. To the contrary: auto companies fought those regulations tooth and nail. If they could get away with it, cars would be flipping over or exploding hourly and it wouldn’t cause them the slightest twinge of conscience. Eventually the insurance industry understood the business benefits of safer vehicles, but that was a later adaptation, though a welcome one.

The government didn’t come up with the idea for those regulations, either. You can thank seventy-year-old virgin Ralph Nader for that. But which institution of society was he as a citizen able to petition to save your life as well as those of the pathetic libertarians and their anti-government brethren in the so-called conservative movement? Where was a concerned citizen’s gateway into the process of making cars safer? Through the front door of General Motors? No, of course not. He went to the government.

Back in the old days the government was caught off guard when citizens organized to demand it do something to address such social problems as corporate disregard for the public. Back then the government was naïve enough to think it actually had to examine evidence, weigh the issues and get something done to satisfy the needs of the common citizen. This was long before Ronald Reagan began the project of redirecting government energies to address the needs of corporations against those of the public.

To be fair, the military industrial complex and the oil industry had already staked out that strategy. It wasn’t until the Reagan administration, though, that the rest of the big players of capitalism were ushered in to claim their piece of the public policy pie.

It was in fact a project to destroy the public itself. Reagan and the new conservative movement that defined his agenda had a truly fantastic vision. They wanted everything public to become private. Public policy would be donated to the private sector for their use. Public lands would be sold to private owners for their use or abuse, as they saw fit. The public airwaves were no longer seen as something rented to private broadcasters which they had a duty to manage responsibly, they were just given away to whoever could wrest the most profit from them. Public funds, also known as taxes, were to be privatized–that is, given to the private sector, especially its most wealthy members, and taken mostly from workers and other lowlifes too stupid and weak to get in on the game of gutting the public.

But just a commandeering of public wealth and purpose would not be enough. For the scheme of gutting the public to work, the public would have to go along with it. It would be necessary to commandeer the public discussion as well. To facilitate public acquiescence to corporate rape, the public had to be taught to hate itself almost as much as the new conservatives did, so that anytime it recognized a need it would see that need as a shameful weakness. Weakness and need themselves were to be understood not as conditions to be ameliorated but as sins to beaten out of the body politic with a willow switch to the buttocks.

This is how we came to such a pass that I could hear a man, on a radio call-in show about fuel efficiency in cars, say in all seriousness, “These regulations are taking away our personal liberties. I feel like all my personal freedoms are being taken away from me. I hear they’re even talking about banning black cars.” Yes, the ability to own a black car is a personal liberty. Take away the choice of color of car and you can pretty much kiss the Constitution good bye.

The public has been deceived by pro-corporate government into allowing its exploiters to define its priorities.

We were not exactly sold to corporations. Our government was taken over by people who hated government’s public mission. They don’t really mind government so much as long as it only helps the strong, because the strong can pay with private funds. The weak must use public funds, and those are taxes. Taxes are public money which of course must be privatized. Taxes are the money of the weak. The spoils of the economy belong to the strong, not the weak, and by circular logic the strong are defined as those who have secured for themselves the spoils of the economy.

The public is weak and ought to be ashamed of itself. And in order to distance itself from the weak, shameful public, part of the public has become anti-public. They can call themselves tax revolters, libertarians, tea-baggers, champions of free enterprise, guardians of American soil, but they are simply the anti-public, and ought to be identified as such.

The rhetorically violent reaction to the prospect of public health care is only the most recent symptom of this anti-public indoctrination complex. Whatever good reasons there might be to mistrust a government-run health insurance program have been drowned out by the rabid outrage of the anti-public.

Anti-publicanism does have a strong racist current. While Bush was in office the anti-publicans couldn’t quite get together on things. They were a little schizo. After all, Bush was part of the government, albeit an anti-government part of the government. But now that the Democrats are in power the anti-publicans can be purely adversarial. Their attempt to paint the leader of the public, the President, as an alien, non-American, usurper of someone else’s rightful office, is just the anti-public’s taking advantage of a convenient fact, the fact of the black self-identification of Obama. It’s a convenient tool to drive home their point that the public is alien, wrong, un-American, and to be considered different and inferior to them, the privately self-sufficient.

The anti-publican movement unites the anti-government people with the anti-foreigner people and the anti-secular people. This is a unity that can thrive best under a president who can be identified as not belonging to any of them.

Therefore if a “public option” for health insurance gives the anti-foreigners a chance to hate on a man with a Kenyan father, and gives the anti-seculars a chance to vent their anger at having a president who might not be anti-abortion, those two groups are more than happy to join with the anti-government group in attacking him. It’s all part of fighting their common enemy, the public.

The worst part of anti-publicanism is that it has turned poor and working poor people against what is currently the best practical legal means at their disposal to demand increases in their power and well-being.

Look at the front end of that 1959 Bel Air atomize. That could be a metaphor for anything. It could be the current health insurance system, where you can lose your insurance or be denied coverage or compensation at the whim of a company which will not feel the slightest twinge of conscience if you die. They are not any better custodians of public well-being than the car companies were in 1959. And it’s not going to be anything but the public that changes the situation.

So with health care as with most likely any initiative undertaken by the Obama administration to recover the public service mission of government, we’ve got two battles to fight: one against the insurance companies who will not reform themselves, of course, and the other against the anti-publican movement, who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the most powerful legal and nonviolent tool of reform we have.

The public has to take back the public. If there’s a civil war in this nation during the current century, it’s going to be to get the public back from the private sector, and fighting against us will be people in the same situation as we are but acting against their own self-interest out of pure shame and fear and lack of self-respect. Just as in the first Civil War, they’ll be fighting to protect the ability of the wealthy to profit from the withholding of a basic human right.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!