We are watching a couple of old men from the Midwest reshape our government to preserve a way of life which is no longer relevant or viable. The Koch brothers and a few other billionaires have invested money, time, lots of energy and thousands of words into redesigning our democracy according to their conservative beliefs about economics, social matters, and business matters. They believe that governments are about defending a nation from foreigners and after that governments are about economics, pure and simple. They have created a web of think tanks and foundations that really do no new thinking. They merely preserve a way of thinking by repeating it over and over. It is their mantra and they dole it out to us in the form of talking points.
They have been quite successful, in what is a masterful campaign of propaganda and repetition, in swaying many Americans to fight to preserve a way of life that is dying a natural death and which cannot be saved. This is the pattern of an Industrial Age that began in the 18th century and boomed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This is their way of life. We are not the owners of factories. We were only workers and now we are superfluous unless we still work for them.
We know how to do industry. We will always have factories. But clearly the model for the pattern that dominates our lives is changing. At one time the world was not at all industrialized and goods were the product of individual skill and someone’s imagination or strength. We once hunted whales but we no longer do that. Mankind keeps changing the way the world works without necessarily even meaning to. That is who we are. Our minds are never quiet. We remake the world every day until we remake it into a world that no longer works in the same old ways. So, America is no longer a mainly industrial nation. Industry, now that we understand the harm it has done to the earth, can only survive if it recognizes the need to find cleaner energies to produce the goods that will allow us to live comfortably on a healthy planet.
But these extremely wealthy old men are not ready to accept that America, just like the rest of the world needs to move on. They want to take a time-out and rusticate, keep an America that is white and Christian and of European extraction and let refugees from non-Christian nations disturb the rest of the nations across the oceans, but not us. They want to deny science, stop educating the peasants (the worker class) and stick to what they know, using melted dinosaur guts to make stuff and ship stuff and sell stuff and keep their wealth growing.
These conservative billionaires have goaded the Republican Party to take over the reins of our government and recreate it in the image hashed out in their think tanks and foundations. We have them to thank for our current President. We have them to thank for the 2017 budget and tax reform. These are their talking points come to life. And they are rich and successful men so it is far more likely that they know what works than that you or I do. At least that is what we say to ourselves. But new elements that build to a new era in human history have not always come from the richest and most successful people. They often rise-up from more humble origins. The wealthy get stuffy and cautious. Drastic change is not always in their DNA. They have no reason to change their world. It works for them and they are determined to keep it just the way it is.
But perhaps they are wrong about how well the things that worked in the past will work in the future. Perhaps they are wrong about the whole economic worldview they have decided to pitch their tent on. If we are to increase the deficit of our nation, do we do it to continue to support the whale hunters of our time? Perhaps, some of us argue, money that will really be a pittance to these wealthy people would be better spent training Americans to do the jobs that are not filled because no one is trained to do them. In the meantime, putting all that expertise into the minds of Americans who are idle and perhaps unfulfilled can be valuable in terms of the creativity it might inject into America’s future. Spend those dollars that American industry does not need to build the infrastructure we need now even though the ways we transport ourselves may someday be more fantastical than anything we can build for right now. That would be a deficit that might be justifiable, that might offer real returns in terms of the quality of life for everyone in America.
The reason I fight against this budget and this tax reform is because they will be unproductive. If we go down the conservative road it will be like throwing our money away. If we add to the deficit then we need to do it as a grand experiment in improving the future of America for all of us and not these few old men, these almost extinct whalers. The last time America was stuck in the Great Depression we did not make life better for millionaires and billionaires. We made life livable for ordinary folks and it worked. We slowly but surely, with our government putting its faith and its money in people who had no net worth, pulled our economy back from the brink of destruction to relative health, even before WW II led to that post war boom we have basked in for most of our days.
The future of the world is uncertain. We may not be able to hold on to order. The world seems as if it could explode into chaos at any moment. Overpopulation alone could leave people looking for new spaces that seem much too empty and filling them even through violence if necessary. We could easily become a survivalist planet. But we don’t have to go down that path either, at least we may still be able to avoid it, but we need some truly innovative ways to think about almost everything. This is the globalism everyone dreads because they think it means surrendering their identity or their autonomy. I do not see why doing some global planning necessarily requires the loss of those things. Someday in the far distant future we might not mind giving up national loyalties for a whole-planet government but we are nowhere near ready for such a system now. This is no time to be conservative however. Give us a budget and a tax bill that respects the power of ordinary people and invests in those people and we will help you pass it.