I suspect that Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, et al. will be a little less vocal for the next few months regarding their mantra of “starve the beast.” The beast, you see, is government spending for social services. The right wing cabal doesn’t mind spending like a drunken sailor when supporting, subsidizing, and just downright handing out cash to the wealthy elite and the defense industry. Our conservative brethren only mind spending when it benefits the poor, the needy, the bottom half of America. That sort of spending is bestial and must be curtailed.
Alas, along comes Katrina and her visit to Mississippi and Louisiana and suddenly people remember, why, yes, there is a need for government services. In fact, people are downright upset about the failure of the government to act swiftly and to provide adequate funds for the relief efforts. The connection that these good, outraged citizens fail to make, however, is that the philosophic chickens they endorsed when they voted for George W. Bush have come home to roost in Louisiana and Mississippi. Here we have a genuine tragedy that exists because, in part, the Bush administration starved the beast in cutting funding for the very levees that burst, killing and destroying the lives of thousands of poor people. That same administration, in sending more than 30 percent of the Mississippi and Louisiana National Guard off to fight a disastrous war in Iraq, helped cripple those two states’ ability to respond to Katrina.
And then comes the ultimate hypocrisy: all the while the Bushites are preaching “starve the beast,” they are practicing “engorge the elite.” Provide massive tax cuts for the rich, deplete the government’s surplus and create a massive deficit while helping your rich cronies get richer, and then find yourself lacking the budgeted funds for relief. So we find GWB on the radio requesting private donations for flood relief, asking Daddy and Bill Clinton – who at least funded FEMA appropriately and who built up a budget surplus – to help bail you out by launching a fundraising campaign.
Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al haven’t worried about how to fund a war that fosters the coffers of their Carlyle and Halliburton buddies. No problem: spend and borrow today; let someone else – our children, most likely – pay the bill tomorrow. But when it comes to welfare, social services, education and health – then suddenly government is too big and needs to be starved.
It is such a ludicrious and mean-spirited philosophy that one wonders how the American public has swallowed any of it. But swallow it many have. So, as we desperately seek funds to rebuild people’s lives, the Bush administration wants to enact a permanent repeal of the estate tax – a tax which affects only the top 2 percent of Americans. In a deliberately deceitful campaign, Bush, et al refer to this tax as a “death tax,” implying what they know is not true – that the tax applies to all Americans. It does not and will not. Ninety-eight percent of Americans will never have an estate big enough to fall under the estate tax strictures. What the estate tax is, according to William Gates Sr. and others, is a modest attempt to keep the playing field just a little bit level and to retard the process of creating a permanent aristocracy in America. What the Republican dilution of the estate tax and the Bushites’ efforts to eliminate it altogether does is to deprive government of social service dollars and to help the rich get and stay richer.One wonders when so many American people will wake up or whether they are thoroughly hoodwinked or dumbed down by the very poor quality of education that the starved beast policy has created. Perhaps Katrina woke up the beast.