Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Flat Earth Society

Actually, the FES is no more crazy than the people who have successfully established the basic premises of political discourse in the U.S. I believe I have mentioned that I've been OD'ing on NPR due to my (involuntary) commute. Last night they featured a fawning, slavering profile of Grover Norquist, dedicated to fully explaining, on his own terms, who he is and what exactly he thinks he is doing. The only controversy the story sets up is whether Norquist deserves the credit for the Republican allergy to taxes, or whether he just reflects the zeitgeist. The only dissenting voice was three seconds from some dupe at a progressive think tank who complained that he doesn't distinguish between closing tax loopholes and raising tax rates.

That's true, he doesn't, but is that really the only thing that's wrong with his crusade against taxation? NPR gives him the last word (well, not quite the last word -- Morning Edition today featured a long, deferential interview with him):

To Norquist, it all comes back to the "less than" symbol. His goal is not to perfect the tax code. He doesn't aspire to make government work better. For him, tax cuts are a means to the end of shrinking government. "Our job," he says, "is to make people free."

This is indeed the central premise of conservative ideology: that the only institution capable of depriving us of our "freedom" is government, that less government equals more freedom, and so less government should be the aspiration of people who want to be free. Politicians will step up to defend individual government programs and actions -- including conservative politicians who want massive military spending and taxpayer subsidies for their corporate sponsors -- but hardly anybody speaks out in public against the premise.*

Here's a suggestion. Get your head out of the place where the sun don't shine and look around at the real world. The prosperous democracies to which most Americans would presumably like to compare ourselves all have certain things in common: higher tax rates than in the U.S., particularly on the wealthy; and more activist government, including various schemes to provide universal health care; and less economic inequality. Do their people consider themselves less free than us? Is there any discernible sense in which they are in fact less free? Please explain how.

Look, in contrast, at those countries that have the weakest central governments, that don't collect any taxes at all from wealthy people, and where there is essentially no governmental regulation of private enterprise. That would be places like Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan. Those represent the Grover Norquist/Tea Party version of paradise.

Tell me what I'm missing.

* NPR's slavish devotion to Norquist seems particularly odd. I get the feeling they think that if NPR slobbers all over these people, they'll stop accusing NPR of having a liberal bias and will let them keep their federal funding. Why does that seem unlikely?

1 comment:

C. Corax said...

I think NPR has well and truly moved to the right, at least at the editorial level. And those show hosts aren't giving up their well-into-six-digits salaries in protest of NPR's lack of journalistic integrity.