With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

The Looting of America

Any American who thinks that only other nations -- especially those of Third World nether regions -- are susceptible to tawdry power grabs should think again, for it seems we're in the 3rd year of an ugly coup d'etat as real as any in history. Because ours is directed by invisible hands of stalking Karl Roves of the under-your-bed spook variety, it is infinitely slicker than palace-storming revolutions. You'll see no scraggly bearded general encircled by cutthroat gangs firing .45s from parliament's steps here. Our revolutionaries are refined paper pushers -- those oxymoronic Radical Republicans.

Unlike the 19th-century originals, who emerged from an irrepressible bloody conflict seeking to end socioeconomic and political inequality (though for males only), these modern namesakes are fixated on undoing 2 centuries of socioeconomic and political progress. Any way you cut it, their intentions and deeds are revolutionary indeed -- and to a consensual society unaccustomed to scheming governmental upheavals, their steered course is nothing less than unAmerican. Nary a week passes in this brave new era without further testimony to Radical arrogance and democracy razing.

Last week alone a few Central Intelligence Agency officers, disgruntled over Rummie-Wolfie manipulations of information gathering, disclosed the existence of an internal investigation into prewar intelligence … oddities? Swaggering Radical administration claims of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorists have proven themselves baseless, just as most war opponents alleged they were. So honest C.I.A. analysts are applauding the review's targeted mission, which is to compare predicted reality with subsequent goose-egg reality. (Initially requested last fall by the defense secretary as a somewhat casual examination of intelligence capabilities, the agency's probe has since taken on an air of focused urgency.)

Prior to Bush II's globally condemned invasion, these few good C.I.A. men grasped -- again, just as war opponents did -- that administration ideologues were politicizing objective intelligence findings. Now they'd like a little vindication. There's always a chance that any explosive revelations resulting from the study will see the public light of day, I suppose, but I'm not holding my suspicious breath. This White House hasn't gained a reputation for clinical paranoia and despotic secrecy for no reason.

In the same week, under their commander-in-chief's iron heel Radical Republicans made official their intense dislike of economic fairness and equal opportunity, while blowing fiscal kisses to ominous militarism with absolute minimal democratic debate.

Even though a recent internal Pentagon audit revealed the defense department seems to have lost track of more than one-thousand-billion dollars of spending -- including tangibles such as nearly 5-dozen airplanes and almost 70 tanks and missile launchers -- Republican Congress-pods busied themselves with cramming a bloated $400-billion defense budget down taxpayers' throats. One appropriations watchdog organization, the Project on Government Oversight, commented that with a record like the Pentagon's "any other agency would be closed down," but to "challenge" the military these days "is seen as unpatriotic." Radicals are more than happy to conspire with the extortionate defense department, of course, and given the accuracy of the watchdog's observation, most Democrats are sitting mutely on the sidelines.

What's more -- and this sort of thing now passes as a mere sidebar -- Radicals are ramming through Congress a related bill titled "Defense Transformation for the 21st Century." Innocuous though it may sound, this gratuitous legislation preauthorizes Pentagon waste by slashing away at legislative oversight of military spending. So much for constitutional concepts. Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering wasn't burdened with cost-benefit justifications for his toys: soon, our brass will have similar freedom from that inconvenience.

As for economic fairness or at least avoiding fiscal Armageddon? Instead of blowing kisses, Radical Republicans simply kissed propriety goodbye. A close second to the dumbest fiscal move in American history -- Bush's first tax "victory" that turned a $5-trillion surplus into crushing debt -- last week's tax bill is nevertheless on a revolutionary par with 2001's plutocratic usurpation.

By now you are familiar with the horrifying basics. The bill adds not the advertised $318 billion to the national debt over ten years, but more than $1 trillion. In ballooning an already eye-popping deficit it will broaden federal begging and in turn hike interest rates, cut savings and do injury to job-creating capital formation. So say legions of sober economists and even sprinklings of expected supporters such as Wall Street investment firms. "Some argue there is no link between budget deficits and interest rates, citing the lack of correlation," said Goldman Sachs's analysts. "This argument is not compelling."

One of the bill's few provisions not sunsetted is the reduced income-tax rate for America's wealthiest, although no one expects any suns to set anyway, hence the titanic addition to debt. The most comfortable among us realize an $80,000-a-year windfall, while the squeezed classes will see from $0 to $800. And of course the bill cuts capital gains and stock dividend rates -- something received with little fanfare by the unemployed, the underemployed, the job-worried and the just plain disgusted.

There is barely a supply-sider left who still insists that massive tax cuts will generate anything close to lost government revenues. Rather, because they now feel secure enough in revolutionary power, Radicals are likewise bold enough to admit aiming at permanently crippling the government by starving all but the Pentagon. You may have thought you and your children had a social contract with high officeholders, and rightly so since you were holding up your end of the deal. But the ins are in a snarling, contract-ripping mood. They are foreclosing on your tomorrow, insignificant as it is compared to the monied elite able to bankroll mutual self-interests today.

As revolutions go, this one is fast assuming a stubborn and lasting face. It is nothing what the insurrectionists market it as: all Americanism. In its plutocratic militarism, the quiet revolution is the death of that.

© Copyright 2003 P. M. Carpenter

Mr. Carpenter's column is published weekly by History News Network and buzzflash.com.