Monday, February 28, 2005

Why the Right Hates Social Programs

The elimination of social programs has been a basic tenet of the Right-wing's approach to government for decades; at least since the New Deal. The Left, finding this position morally reprehensible, has sought various models to explain the Right's thinking, in a way that doesn't demonize them. Currently, the model of choice is the one developed by linguist George Lakoff in "Moral Politics". He creates two metaphors for understanding how the Right and the Left view the world. The Strict Father Model for the right, and the Nurturant Family Model for the left. According to Lakoff, the Strict Father Model prizes, among other attributes, moral toughness and self reliance. From this perspective social programs give to those, who are not morally strong and self-reliant, things that they have not earned and, hence, don't deserve. And for them, this is morally wrong. In essence, then, what Lakoff is trying to do is to show that the members of the Right-wing are not the selfish, insensitive, opportunistic hypocrites (that they might appear to be at first glance), but are just folks with a different worldview and moral system.

Well, actually, they are the selfish, insensitive, opportunistic hypocrites they appear to be. Simply, the reason the Right-wing wants to get rid of social programs is that these programs raise the cost of labor. If one can make the equivalent of $5.00 an hour being on welfare and getting food stamps, business would have to offer $5.50 or $6.00 an hour to find workers. If there were no social safety net, there would be no reason wages couldn't eventually be lowered to be more competative with those of underdeveloped nations. If you whittle away all the rhetoric and come to the core goals of Right-wing ideology, the maintenence of a plentiful supply of cheap labor is at the center.

I recommend "Regulating The Poor; The Functions of Public Welfare", by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, for a history of the right's has attempted to achieve the goal of cheap labor, and especially the gains they made during the Reagan and Bush years.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Does Mr. Bush Know What the Word “Democracy” Means?

Once the administration decided, retroactively, that the bringing of democracy to the people of Iraq was the real reason for its invasion and occupation of that country, the word “democracy” has found it way more and more frequently into Mr. Bush’s utterances. But even as he uses it to underscore every bellicose malapropos, one can’t help but wonder if he knows what the term means.

The answer, of course, is that the word “democracy”, (along with assorted other terms and phrases such as “values”, “morals”, “healthy forests”, “clear skies”, and “evil”), has been co-opted by the radical right and given a meaning far from its original. Robert Parry offers us a disturbing peek into what that meaning might be, and what is at stake for all Americans:

“When conservatives talk of George W. Bush’s “transformational” role in American politics, they are referring to a fundamental change they seek in the U.S. system of government in which the Republican Party will dominate for years to come and power will not really be up for grabs in general elections.

Under this vision of a “managed-democracy,” elections will still be held but a variety of techniques will ensure that no Democrat has a reasonable chance to win. Most important will be the use of sophisticated propaganda and smear tactics amplified through a vast conservative media infrastructure, aided and abetted by a compliant mainstream press.”

The Press is Still Afraid To Question Mr. Bush On The Big Issues

"If one accepts George W. Bush’s lecture to the Russians that democracy requires a free press unafraid to criticize national leaders, then what kind of political system exists in the United States where the news media seems so scared of Bush that it shies away from mentioning the president’s autocratic tendencies?"


The Everyday Nuts and Bolts Of Propaganda

Propaganda is one of the tools used by the Bush administration* to manage the perceptions of the American people. An integral aspect of propaganda is the choice of words or labels. Take the following two terms used to describe the people actively working against the US presence in Iraq:

insurgency, n. an insurrection against an existing government, usually one’s won, by a group not recognized as having the status of a belligerent.

resistance, n. an underground organization composed of groups of private individuals working as an opposition force in a conquered country to overthrow the occupying power, usually by acts of sabotage, guerrilla warfare, etc.: the resistance during the German occupation in World War II.

The term resistance is the more correct because we are, in fact, an occupying power. But the Bush administration has ordered the media to use the term insurgency because it paints as legitimate the current government in Iraq. Hence, with each usage we are left with the frame: What's wrong with those people over there, why are they trying to destroy everything? Don't they know we are only there to help their government in helping them? And the American public becomes a bit more disconnected from reality.

*Republicans' two-decade-old "perception management" strategy [which] became official policy during Ronald Reagan's first term. On Jan. 14, 1983, President Reagan formally initiated the strategy by signing classified National Security Decision Directive 77. At the time, the White House worried that a repeat of Vietnam-type anti-war sentiment might constrain U.S. foreign policy in Central America and elsewhere. Also known as “public diplomacy,” the project had a more overt side that sought to build support for U.S. policy abroad, but it also had a less-visible domestic component that targeted the American people and the press. Robert Parry Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.

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