Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Money, Not Culture

She was the head of the pro-abstinence Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT). She became famous for panning masturbation, arguing "It is not enough to be abstinent with other people, you also have to be be abstinent alone" and has bragged about remaining "chaste" in her thirties. She complained that the U.S.A. "took the Bible and prayer out of public schools" and alleged "American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains." She characterized evolution as a "myth" and claimed to have heard "the audible voice of God." She decried homosexuality as "an identity disorder" and opposed abortion even in the case of rape or incest.

So when U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware gave her non-concession concession speech Tuesday night, did she urge victor Chris Coons to consider alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, support traditional marriage, or uphold the sanctity of human life?

Hardly. She beseeched Coons to fight reinstatement of the estate tax (which Frank Luntz has taught Republicans to smear as the "death tax") and

reminded him that he is now in a position to help the people of Delaware who are suffering. I reminded him of Victor Rodriguez and Donald and his family and the many small business owners who are very concerned about these tax hikes. And if he does raise them on the top 2%, they'll be forced to close their doors.

This was not Senator-elect Pat Toomey (R-Pa), former head of the Club for Growth, whose raison d'etre is doing the bidding of the corporate sector. Or Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-Ky), who believes it is just plain mean for government to require private businesses not to discriminate. Or Tea Party honcho Dana Loesch who, asked recently (could it be otherwise?) on CNN's "Parker Spitzer" to name her top priority for Congress, instantly cited extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.

This was Christine O'Donnell, famous for being a "social conservative" (which really is a "cultural conservative"- oh, never mind). And in that brief moment she had with the incoming Senator of her state, she counseled tax cuts for the wealthy, via elimination of the estate tax, or cutting income taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.

It has been making the rounds, this idea that the Democratic proposal hits mom 'n pop stores. In its report submitted to the U.S. Congress in July, the Joint Committee on Taxation noted (page 10)

The staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that in 2011 just under $750,000 taxpayers with net positive income (three percent of alltaxpayers with net positive business income) will have marginal rate s of 36 or 39.6 percent under the President's propsal....

Obviously, Christine O'Donnell, who was defeated decisively on Election Day, is yesterday's news. But everywhere through the Republican Party there is one message. It's not gay marriage, or right to life, deficit reduction (insert joke here), or national security. It's one message and one message only: cut the taxes of the wealthy.

It's one of the great storylines of American politics over the past 30-40 years, best told (pp. 6-7) by Thomas Frank in "What's the Matter with Kansas":

Old-fashioned values may count when conservatives appear on the stump but once conservatives are in office the only old-fashioned situation they care to revive is an economic regimen of low wages and lax regulations. Over the last three decades they have smashed the welfare state, reduced the tax burden on corporations and the wealthy, and generally facilitated the country's return to a 19th century of wealth distribution. Thus, the primary contradiction of the backlash; it is a working-class movement that has done incalculable historic harm to working class people.

The leaders of the backlash may talk Christ but they walk corporate. Values may matter "most" to voters, but they always take a back seat to the needs of money once the elections are won. This is a basic earmark of the phenomenon, absolutely consistent across its decades-long history. Abortion is never halted, affirmative action is never abolished, the culture industry is never forced to clean up its act. Even the greatest culture warrior of them all was a notorious cop-out once it came time to deliver. "Reagan made himself the champion of 'traditional values' but there is no evidence he regarded their restoration as a high priority," wroter Christopher Lasch, one of the most astute analysts of the backlash sensibility. "What he really cared about was the revival of the unregulated capitalism of the twenties: the repeal of the New Deal."

Frank recognizes in America generally what he says (p. 249) about his native Kansas :

The state watches impotently as its culture, beamed in from the coasts, becomes coarser and more offensive by the year. Kansas aches for revenge. Kansas gloats when celebrities says stupid things; it cheers when movie stars go to jail. And when two female rock stars exchange a lascivious kiss on national TV, Kansas goes haywire. Kansas screams for the heads of the liberal elite. Kansas comes running to the polling place. And Kansas cuts those rock stars' taxes.

Meanwhile, the daughter of a proud Sarah Palin, the purported grand dame of social conservatism, goes Hollywood to the max, performing on "Dancing with the Stars." There you have it: deregulation, tax cuts, and whatever else is on the wish list of the privileged for the party which once claimed family values as its guiding light.

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