A Return to Gilded Age Social Darwinism

Despite clever “message structuring” and the occasional defeat the over-riding objective of post-Reagan Revolution Republicans has been to cancel the progressive economic reforms of the twentieth century. In “What’s the Matter With Kansas” Thomas Frank argues that the reforms of the 60s and 30s have already largely been eroded and that by creating a flat tax the reforms of the 10’s will be undone as well. After all of the tax cutting for the wealthy balloons the defecit then Social Security will default at around 2012 when many of the Baby Boomer generation retire and suddenly, for all intents and purposes, in terms of the economic climate, it will be 1888 again.

The social side of this transformation was revealed at the Republican National Convention when Arnold Schwarzenegger derided people who are unsatisfied with America’s lethargic economy for being “economic girlie men.” By implication, those who are having difficulty making ends meet these days are not decent folk doing their best to get by, but weak, damaged losers who do not have what it takes to prosper in the land of opportunity. Schwarzenneger’s “economic girlie men” derision is the most direct statement of the Gilded Age style Social Darwinism that the Republicans want to return to. That the enver popular actor-turned-governor made this statement is also telling, for this social structure only works if the masses of the new poor can be convinced that the social order is cool and that the wealthy are wealthy because of their skill and good looks, not nepotism.

Polls indicate that a majority of Americans favor the repeal of the estate tax (Or “Death Tax” as the conservatron messege-spinsters have dubbed it) even though it only effects a fraction of the very wealthy because they are convinced that they, one day, will be amongst that elite two tenths of one percent of the populations and when they are they do not want the Fed taking their money.

The Genesis of the progressive reforms of the twnetieth century were poor farmers who, despite their ethic of self-reliance, realized that they had to organize and use their power to fight interests that were too large for them to fight as individuals. The government was alread big back then. All that the progressives accomplished was to make government big for both railroads and for typical citizens. When government becomes big only for vested interests once again will hard working, proud, independent Americans band togehter to take on forces that are too big for them to face alone, or well they be so mesmerized by the one in five hundered thousand successes of athletes, rappers, lottery winners and other modern Horatio Alger characters and so bothered by the spectre of abortion and gay marriange that they will not want to be “economic girlie men” by demanding a better lot in life?

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