April 29, 2003
Back in the day, when Ronald Reagan and the first wave of reactionary Republicans swept into Washington, they talked about "starving the beast."
By that, they meant reducing the size of the federal government in almost every area--except the Pentagon and corporate welfare, of course.
By defunding the public sector, they wanted to delegitimize it, and open up one avenue after another for private profiteering.
The entire concept that we, as a community, have certain obligations to each other for food, shelter, health care, education, environmental preservation, and occupational safety was suspect in their eyes.
As was the belief that government, a democratically formed body, was necessary to ensure those obligations.
The reactionaries believed then, and believe now, that any obligations we have to each other are private ones, and that the government has no role.
But today, unlike in Reagan's time, the reactionaries are waging this fight on the state level. Now they want to starve 50 beasts--the state governments, which they have even less need for, since the Pentagon is not stationed there.
"I hope a state goes bankrupt," Republican strategist Grover Norquist told The New York Times on April 27. "We need a state to be a bad example so that the others will start to make the serious decisions they need to get out of this mess."
Serious decisions? Where's this guy been?
Almost every state is in a financial crisis right now, facing deep budget deficits that somehow must be covered. Already, they are laying off workers, cutting funds for education, closing libraries, raising tuition to state colleges, closing parks, and pinching on health care for the poor and the disabled. More than one and a half million Americans may lose health coverage as a result. And it's happening already: "Oklahoma eliminated its 'medically needy' program, which provided Medicaid coverage for 8,300 people with catastrophic expenses," the Times reported on April 28.
But the Bushies don't care. The President refuses to provide additional funding to the states, even though he has added additional federal mandates for them to carry out on such things as domestic security and educational testing. Ironically, if he provided federal funds to the states, that would spur the economy much more than abolishing the dividend tax, and a spurred economy would help Bush get reelected.
But the ideologues have an even more important goal in mind: trash government, top to bottom.