CROSSPOSTED WITH: http://blog.buzzflash.com/contributors/3011 \ First Published Fri, 02/19/2010
Is the Stage Being Set for Fascism?
Section I: Setting the Stage • Chapter One • The United States in 1995: Setting the Stage for Fascism • Author’s Note
The story of fascism in the old United States in my view begins with the accession to the Presidency of Carnathon Pine, The Last Republican, in the year 2001. And thus the drama as we will see it in some detail begins in earnest in the next Chapter, constructed around that personage’s Inaugural Address. However, before dramas can proceed, the stage must be set.
For this book, I have chosen to do that with an essay written by our friend Dino Louis in 1995. As you can see, Louis was never short on opinion and interpretation of facts. The bare facts he occasionally cites throughout the essay were taken primarily from a feature article that appeared in the then leading weekly printed newsmagazine Time early in that year (Hull, et al). I hope, dear reader, that you will find this essay helpful in understanding from whence fascism arose in our national ancestor.
Is the Stage Being Set for Fascism?
by Dino Louis, 1995
A spectre is haunting the United States of America. But it is not the spectre of communism. It is the spectre of fascism.
Elections ’94. The Republicans win. The message is clear. Grinchism, developed by Newt Gingrich and his fellows as a meaner, harsher version of Reaganite Bushism, is triumphant. The people have spoken. They and the Grinchites have clearly identified what’s wrong with the country: government is too big, taxes are too high, the “undeserving poor” are “stealing bread from our table,” people “different from us” have set out to destroy “our nation.”
And on the “moral” side? Well, that slasher of national domestic spending Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, tells us (Nelson):
“The American people in their guts, mothers and fathers across this country, know that over the last couple of decades we have removed the speed limits from the highways, the lines on the highways, the yes and the no, the black and the white and the rights and the wrongs. And Americans are beginning to say that . . . culture has slipped and it’s time once more to assert that Judeo-Christian tradition of rights and wrongs and values that guides our nation in the 21st Century.”
The proposed solutions to these problems? Shrink government. Cut taxes. Slash government spending, especially on the poor. End tolerance, reinvigorate prejudice. On the “moral” side? Follow the Christian Coalition (Nelson) and outlaw freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy, require voluntary school prayer, make divorce more difficult (except for the leading Republican Presidential candidates), prohibit pornography (except for aspiring Republican Supreme Court nominees), ban sex education and contraception. And oh yes, above all free the “free market.”
The “mainstream” Democratic response, enunciated by the Democratic Leadership Council and more or less followed along by the President? “Yes, for the most part, on the economic side, at least, you’re right. Although we may disagree on some details of both problem analysis and program prescription, you are basically right. And we can be even more Republican than the Republicans. Just let us show you how.”
But pause for a moment. Did “the people” as a whole really speak in the 1994 election? Well, no. The message of Reaction was supported by less than 20% of the eligible electorate. Not voting in droves were those who potentially benefit most from government intervention in the economy, and government protection of their rights in the society. It seems safe to assume that they didn’t vote because even the Clinton Administration, with its emphasis on deficit cutting not growth stimulation, on being liked not aggressively protecting rights, did not seem to give them anything much to vote for in either intervention or protection.
And then consider, have the Grinchites identified the real problems the country faces? Well, no. Since Clinton was elected in 1992 the basic problem list has remained unchanged (Thurow): a declining industrial base; the export of manufacturing jobs, to be replaced, if at all, by lower paying service jobs; a continually deteriorating national infrastructure; serious problems in health services, education, and environmental protection and preservation; the ever-increasing gap between the have a lots and everyone else.
It is these problems, not some sudden changes in “Americans’ morality,” that are putting tremendous pressure on the American family, as Thurow has pointed out (1995):
“Falling real wages have put the traditional American family into play, as the one-earner middle-class family becomes extinct. . . . Thirty-two percent of all men between 25 and 34 years of age earn less than the amount necessary to keep a family of four above the poverty line. Mothers have to work longer hours if the family is to have its old standard of living.
“Children exist, but no one takes care of them. Parents are spending 40 percent less time with their children than they did 30 years ago. More than two million children under the age of 13 have no adult supervision before or after school. Paying for day care would use up all or most of a mother’s wages.
” . . . Men have a strong economic incentive to bail out of family responsibilities since when they do so their real standard of living rises 73 percent—although that of the family left behind falls 42 percent.”
Added to these real economic and economy-based family pressures are resurgent racism and homophobia, the atmosphere of hate fed by a talk radio culture dominated by the Right Wing, and the new national chauvinism reflected in California’s “Proposition 187.”
Will the DLC-lead me-tooism effectively respond to this crisis? Well, no. It won’t win elections. That was proven in 1994, when almost every me-too Democrat running in a closely contested election lost. As [post-World War II President] Harry Truman once said, when someone wants to vote for a Republican, he’ll pick the real thing over a pale imitation every time. But even more importantly, the DLC/ Grinchite program simply cannot solve the basic problems the country faces because it doesn’t face them. It deals with side issues like term limits and “shrinking government.” It is an agenda of distraction, not focus.
Big problems require big solutions. It’s not the size of government that’s the problem. It’s what government does with its size. It’s not the number of terms of office that lead to a “non-responsive Congress,” “devoted to the ‘Special Interests’.” It’s corporate campaign financing and the hidden system of lobbying. It’s not the tax burden (one of the lowest in the industrialized world) that’s the problem. It’s what the tax revenues are spent on. It’s not the poor that are dragging the country down. AFDC could be eliminated tomorrow and the total Federal saving would amount to less than 10% of the current deficit, less than 1% of the Federal budget. It’s the declining industrial base, declining per capita income, and increasing true unemployment.
And the whole so-called “moral” agenda, the fake “Contract on the American Family” of the Christian Coalition, could be enacted tomorrow and the economic problems that are the real factors making life ever-tougher for evermore Americans would remain absolutely untouched. Much less personal freedom. No fewer, actually more, personal and family problems.
Atomization is Taking Over
The country thus seems to be falling apart. But at a time when people really need to pull together, under a constant barrage of Republican propaganda about “individual responsibility” and the ability of the “free market” to solve every conceivable problem, the people are pulling apart too. “Many Americans have stocked up on guns and walled in their communities,” Time tells us in its own “State of the Union” message (Hull, et al). “More than 700,000 children are educated at home.” “Self-reliance” is spreading, and “in many cases Americans are acting out of long-term necessity, unable to depend on a lifelong job or the pension that accompanies it.”
“Many American families and businesses are being forced to privatize security and sanitation by default. Community associations, ranging from small condominiums to sprawling planned communities, have grown from 10,000 in 1970 to 150,000 in 1993 and now include 1 out of every 8 Americans.” “Privatization of local services is, however, a lot less liberating for the millions of Americans who can’t afford it.”
The True Economic Perspective
In the face of all this, what is happening to wealth in America? Well, family income has gone up steadily since the Nixon years, but per capita income has declined. Why has the former risen while the latter has fallen? As pointed out above, two-parent employment, for the most part. Just one of the major family stressors that has arisen over the last 20 years. And while per capita income has declined, the concentration of wealth has increased.
Time again: “Over the past 20 years the very rich have improved their lot in life by getting richer. Half a million U.S. households (one-half of 1% of the population) now owns 39% of all assets (stocks, bonds, cash, life-insurance policies, paintings, jewelry, etc.). This makes the U.S. No. 1 among prosperous nations in the inequality of income. . . . During the Reagan years . . . the nation’s net worth increased from $13.5 trillion to $20.2 trillion . . . between 1983 and 1989, $3.9 trillion of the reward was captured by the top one-half of 1%.” That’s almost 60% of the increase in wealth going to that top 0.5%.
Or as Thurow put it (1995):
“The tide rose (the real per capita gross domestic product went up 29 percent between 1973 and 1993), but 80 percent of the boats sank. Among men, the top 20 percent of the labor force has been winning all of the country’s wage increases for more than two decades. . . .
“With the death of Communism and, later, market socialism as economic alternatives, capitalists have been able to employ more ruthless approaches to getting profits without worrying about political pressure. ‘Survival of the fittest’ capitalism is on the march. What economists call ‘efficiency wages’ (a company paying higher salaries than the minimum it needs to pay, so that it gets a skilled, cooperative, loyal work force) are disappearing to be replaced by a different form of motivation—the fear of losing one’s job [and one’s health insurance].”
I just wonder if Reagan’s tax cuts for the wealthy and borrow-to-spend policies had anything to do with all these developments.
Some Social Issues
Let’s take a look at some social problems, like crime for instance. The crime rate has actually been falling a bit over the last couple of years, while the nation rose to first place among developed nations for proportion of its citizens incarcerated. But crime overall has risen dramatically during the period since the 1970s when all those prisons have been built. Why? They are irrelevant. There is an arrest in only about a fifth of all crimes, with only half of those leading to convictions in serious cases, and fewer than 50% of those leading to jail time (Lacayo).
Even while crime has been decreasing slightly in recent years, the fear of crime has risen markedly. Part of this is real. Murder is still a relatively rare event in this country, with a rate that has remained more or less unchanged since the 70s. But the proportion of murders committed by strangers has risen dramatically, while the homicide-solution rate dropped from 91% in 1965 to 66% in 1993.
And youth violence has increased markedly. What might the reasons be? Not enough prisons? Not long enough sentences? Well, the Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, “recommends focusing on the increasing number of children brought up in ‘no parent’ homes.” Dare I say there is some relationship between the latter and declining per-capita-income/ rising-two-parent-employment, and rising one-parent working/no-affordable day-care available for their pre-school children?
However, at least part of the increasing fear of crime is definitely the work of politicians in both parties. For them a focus on crime and “being tough” on it wins elections (even if the advocated measures affect the crime rate not more than minimally). And then there are the media (primarily in the hands of major corporations like General Electric and major private right-wingers like Rupert Murdoch) for whom presenting crime, real, fictional, semi-real, and semi-fictional, in gorier and gorier detail, up-close and personal, makes money. Finally there are the demons of right-wing talk radio, who especially like to color crime black and brown.
What about education? Well, while, for example, our 13 year-olds rank 14th among the children of the developed countries in math performance, and does anyone know where Belgium is, it’s estimated that less than half of the average of $5300.00 spent per pupil in this country goes to support classroom work. As to health care, costs continue to skyrocket, quality declines, health care corporation profits rise, and the critically-required comprehensive reform is once again a dream that does not become reality, just as it has every time it’s been seriously proposed by a national leader, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt in his 1912 Bull Moose campaign.
In response to this situation, Americans turn to God, in massive numbers. 95% profess to be believers, distributed among about 1600 denominations (44% of them non-Christian). 40% of Americans profess to attend a religious institution regularly. With churches hardly hard to find, there is hardly “Christian persecution” going on, despite what the Religious Right would have us believe.
Democracy in Decline
In the face of all this, it seems that our democratic structures are beginning to crumble. According to John Gray, a fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University (England) (1995):
“In the United States the end of the cold war has intensified a mood of political cynicism. American public opinion expects little from its democratic institutions, and if the experience of the last decade or so is any guide, even its modest expectations are likely to be disappointed. . .
“The mobility of capital has contributed significantly to the decline of the middle class and its distinctive culture. . . . This may prove [to be] of decisive importance for democracy in the United States and in other Western democracies—namely the proletarianization, through rising debt, falling incomes and unrelenting job insecurity, of the traditional middle classes. The U.S. undoubtedly leads the field in replicating in a Western industrial economy the middle-class impotence that is an endemic feature of many third world countries in Latin America and elsewhere. . . .
“In a worst-case scenario, we may even glimpse a sort of Colombianization of the United States, in which failing political institutions, become increasingly marginal in an ungovernable, criminalized and endemically violent society.”
I could not have made the point better myself. But in the midst of all this, what does the winning party in the last election offer us? Why nothing other than the “Contract On,” sorry, I mean the “Contract For America,” alluded to above. Relevant to the problem list? Right up there with what we need? Problem-solutions provided by the Party of Business? Not quite!
For proof of that statement, here’s the “Contract” in a nutshell (Kelly): a balanced federal budget by the year 2002; term limits for members of Congress; “tough” welfare-“reform;” cut crime-prevention, increase incarceration; carry out death sentences quicker; permit the use of improperly seized evidence; restrict the use of U.S. troops in United Nations operations; prevent the use of money saved from military-spending cuts for national domestic programs; cut the capital-gains tax; raise the Social Security earnings limit; enact a ‘loser pays’ provision for civil litigation; cut Congressional staffing by a third and the number of Congressional committees; require Congress to apply to itself the laws it passes; require a three-fifths majority for tax hikes; and submit proposed Federal environmental regulations to risk-assessment and cost-benefit analysis.
Like the Christian Coalition’s “Contract on the American Family” of which this “contract” was a precursor, what a prescription of irrelevance. Just put the real problem-list against the “solution list” contained in either “Contract.” Nothing on what really ails the country. Nothing on jobs, export of, and insecurity in. Nothing on the crumbling infrastructure. Nothing on health, nothing on education, nothing on the environment (except to make it easier for companies to poison it). Lots of focus on welfare, only a small chunk of Federal spending, but great politics because it’s painted black (even though two thirds of recipients aren’t). The crime proposals focus on measures that just don’t work and take money away from ones that either do or at least might. Balanced budget and term limits? How are they going to affect everyday life?
More tax cuts for the rich? In the 80s, cuts for them didn’t lead to investment and jobs here at home—just to speculation, sometimes huge financial losses, export of capital, and that widening gap between rich and poor. Then there’s the proposal for “reform” of the civil litigation system to address a problem that just doesn’t exist: an “avalanche of tort litigation” against companies. In fact, the major increase in civil cases is in contract actions between companies (Kelder)—and so forth. And the Democrats right now have nothing much better.
And then there’s the “moral” agenda, as noted not exactly designed to touch the declining industrial base and declining per capita incomes; the export of manufacturing jobs, to be replaced, if at all, by a less than equal number of lower paying service jobs; and a continually deteriorating national infrastructure.
John Gray, in that last sentence I quoted from him, is right. And that “Colombian” state, that unstable, violent, insecure state, in a domestic environment of increasing racism and xenophobia, is a prescription for future, massive “civil unrest,” followed by the imposition of a violent, oppressive, authoritarian governing structure to control it.
A spectre is haunting the United States of America. But it is not the spectre of communism. It is the spectre of fascism. Is anyone out there watching or listening? And if they are, are they seeing or hearing anything?
Gray, J., “Does Democracy Have a Future?” The New York Times Book Re-view, January 22, 1995, p. 1.
Hull, J.D., et al, “The State of the Union,” Time, January 30, 1995, p. 53.
Kelder, G., “What Speaker Newt’s ‘Contract on America’ and Tort ‘Reform’ Mean for the Tobacco Control Movement,” Tobacco on Trial, November/December, 1994, p. 3.
Kelly, M., “You Say You Want a Revolution,” The New Yorker, November 21, 1994, p. 56.
Lacayo, R., “Lock ‘Em Up!,” Time, February 7, 1994.
Nelson, L?E., “Contract Words, Deeds Divorced,” Newsday, May 18, 1995, p. A 19.
Thurow, L.C., “Companies Merge; Families Break Up,” New York Times, September 3, 1995, News of the Week in Review.
Jonathan Westminster (Steve Jonas’ nom de guerre) was born in 1996 in Port Jefferson, NY. In 2012, the New American Republics (NAR) regime declared his parents to be “black/Whites” and deported the family to the South-Central Los Angeles Sector of the NAR’s Black Republic. A Sector Leader in the Movement for the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy, Westminster survived the Fascist Period and the Second Civil War. Migrating back east after the War, he was a member of the first group of Ph.D.s in political science to be graduated from the New State University of New York at Middletown, in 2031. He is presently a Professor of Political Science at that institution.
A student of the pre-Fascist Period in the old U.S., his previous books include: The Rise of American Fascism and theFailure of the American Left, 1972-2005, Classic “Anti-Communism” in the Old U.S.: The Role of the Classic “Liberal”, and The U.S. Constitution and the Defense of Democracy: AUser’s Manual.
 Author’s Note: This latter item referred to a product of the old “Initiative and Referendum” system used most prominently in California. Once a tool of progressives, Initiative and Referendum became a leading anti-democratic tool of Right-Wing Reaction in both the Transition Era and the Fascist Period. I discuss it in some detail in Chapter four.
Author’s Note: The “Cold War” was a 45 year-long, primarily political, economic, diplomatic (but non-military) battle between the old U.S. and the old Soviet Union, that followed the end of World War II. The Cold War came to an end following the peaceful demise of the old Soviet Union as a nation-state.
Jonathan Westminster and biography are based on a pseudonym.