Have you got three minutes. Because that's all you need to learn how to defeat the Republican Right. Just read through this handy guide and you'll have everything you need to successfully debunk right-wing propaganda.
It's really that simple. First, you have to beat their ideology, which really isn't that difficult. At bottom, conservatives believe in a social hierarchy of "haves" and "have nots" that I call "corporate feudalism". They have taken this corrosive social vision and dressed it up with a "respectable" sounding ideology. That ideology is pure hogwash, and you can prove it.
But you have to do more than defeat the ideology. You have to defeat the "drum beat". You have to defeat the "propaganda machine", that brainwashes people with their slogans and catch-phrases. You've heard those slogans."Less government", "personal responsibility" and lots of flag waving. They are "shorthand" for an entire worldview, and the right has been pounding their slogans out into the public domain for getting on forty years.
So you need a really good slogan - a "counter-slogan" really, to "deprogram" the brainwashed. You need a "magic bullet" that quickly and efficiently destroys the effectiveness of their "drum beat". You need your own "drum beat" that sums up the right's position. Only your "drum beat" exposes the ugly reality of right-wing philosophy - the reality their slogans are meant to hide. Our slogan contains the governing concept that explains the entire right-wing agenda. That's why it works. You can see it in every policy, and virtually all of Republican rhetoric. And it's so easy to remember, and captures the essence of the Republican Right so well, we can pin it on them like a "scarlet letter".
Is there really a catch phrase - a "magic bullet" - that sums up the Republican Right in such a nice easy-to-grasp package. You better believe it, and it's downright elegant in its simplicity.
You want to know what that "magic bullet" is, don't you. Read on. You've still got two minutes.
Right-Wing Ideology in a Nutshell
When you cut right through it, right-wing ideology is just "dime-store economics" - intended to dress their ideology up and make it look respectable. You don't really need to know much about economics to understand it. They certainly don't. It all gets down to two simple words.
"Cheap labor". That's their whole philosophy in a nutshell - which gives you a short and pithy "catch phrase" that describes them perfectly. You've heard of "big-government liberals". Well they're "cheap-labor conservatives".
"Cheap-labor conservative" is a moniker they will never shake, and never live down. Because it's exactly what they are. You see, cheap-labor conservatives are defenders of corporate America - whose fortunes depend on labor. The larger the labor supply, the cheaper it is. The more desperately you need a job, the cheaper you'll work, and the more power those "corporate lords" have over you. If you are a wealthy elite - or a "wannabe" like most dittoheads - your wealth, power and privilege is enhanced by a labor pool, forced to work cheap.
Don't believe me. Well, let's apply this principle, and see how many right-wing positions become instantly understandable.
- Cheap-labor conservatives don't like social spending or our "safety net". Why. Because when you're unemployed and desperate, corporations can pay you whatever they feel like - which is inevitably next to nothing. You see, they want you "over a barrel" and in a position to "work cheap or starve".
- Cheap-labor conservatives don't like the minimum wage, or other improvements in wages and working conditions. Why. These reforms undo all of their efforts to keep you "over a barrel".
- Cheap-labor conservatives like "free trade", NAFTA, GATT, etc. Why. Because there is a huge supply of desperately poor people in the third world, who are "over a barrel", and will work cheap.
- Cheap-labor conservatives oppose a woman's right to choose. Why. Unwanted children are an economic burden that put poor women "over a barrel", forcing them to work cheap.
- Cheap-labor conservatives don't like unions. Why. Because when labor "sticks together", wages go up. That's why workers unionize. Seems workers don't like being "over a barrel".
- Cheap-labor conservatives constantly bray about "morality", "virtue", "respect for authority", "hard work" and other "values". Why. So they can blame your being "over a barrel" on your own "immorality", lack of "values" and "poor choices".
- Cheap-labor conservatives encourage racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of bigotry. Why? Bigotry among wage earners distracts them, and keeps them from recognizing their common interests as wage earners.
The Cheap-Labor Conservatives' "Dirty Secret": They Don't Really Like Prosperity
Maybe you don't believe that cheap-labor conservatives like unemployment, poverty and "cheap labor". Consider these facts.
Unemployment was 23 percent when FDR took office in 1933. It dropped to 2.5 percent by time the next Republican was in the White House in 1953. It climbed back to 6.5 percent by the end of the Eisenhower administration. It dropped to 3.5 percent by the time LBJ left office. It climbed over 5 percent shortly after Nixon took office, and stayed there for 27 years, until Clinton brought it down to 4.5 percent early in his second term.
That same period - especially from the late forties into the early seventies - was the "golden age" of the United States. We sent men to the moon. We built our Interstate Highway system. We ended segregation in the South and established Medicare. In those days, a single wage earner could support an entire family on his wages. I grew up then, and I will tell you that life was good - at least for the many Americans insulated from the tragedy in Vietnam, as I was.
These facts provide a nice background to evaluate cheap-labor conservative claims like "liberals are destroying America."
In fact, cheap-labor conservatives have howled with outrage and indignation against New Deal liberalism from its inception in the 1930's all the way to the present. You can go to "Free Republic" or Hannity's forum right now, and find a cheap-labor conservative comparing New Deal Liberalism to "Stalinism".
- Cheap-labor conservatives opposed virtually all of the New Deal, including every improvement in wages and working conditions.
- Cheap-labor conservatives have a long and sorry history of opposing virtually every advancement in this country's development going right back to the American revolution.
- Cheap-labor conservatives have hated Social Security and Medicare since their inception.
- Many cheap-labor conservatives are hostile to public education. They think it should be privatized. But why are we surprised. Cheap-labor conservatives opposed universal public education in its early days. School vouchers are just a backdoor method to "resegregate" the public schools.
- Cheap-labor conservatives hate the progressive income tax like the devil hates holy water.
- Cheap-labor conservatives like budget deficits and a huge national debt for two reasons. A bankrupt government has a harder time doing any "social spending" - which cheap-labor conservatives oppose, and . . .
- Wealthy cheap-labor conservatives like say, George W. Bush, buy the bonds and then earn tax free interest on the money they lend the government. The deficit created by cheap-labor conservatives while they posture as being "fiscally conservative" - may count as the biggest con job in American history.
- "Free Trade", globalization, NAFTA and especially GATT are intended to create a world-wide "corporate playground" where national governments serve the interests of corporations - which means "cheap labor".
The ugly truth is that cheap-labor conservatives just don't like working people. They don't like "bottom up" prosperity, and the reason for it is very simple. lords have a harder time kicking them around. Once you understand this about the cheap-labor conservatives, the real motivation for their policies makes perfect sense. Remember, cheap-labor conservatives believe in social hierarchy and privilege, so the only prosperity they want is limited to them. They want to see absolutely nothing that benefits the guy - or more often the woman - who works for an hourly wage.
So there you have it, in one easy-to-remember phrase. See how easy it is to understand these cheap-labor conservatives. The more ignorant and destitute people there are - desperate for any job they can get - the cheaper the cheap-labor conservatives can get them to work.
Try it. Every time you respond to a cheap-labor conservative in letters to the editor, or an online discussion forum, look for the "cheap labor" angle. Trust me, you'll find it. I can even show you the "cheap labor" angle in things like the "war on drugs", and the absurd conservative opposition to alternative energy.
Next, make that moniker - cheap-labor conservatives - your "standard reference" to the other side. One of the last revisions I made to this article was to find every reference to "conservatives", "Republicans", "right-wingers", and "righties", and replace it with "cheap-labor conservatives". In fact, if you're a cheap-labor conservative reading this, you should be getting sick of that phrase right about now. Exxxxcellent.
If enough people will "get with the program", it won't be long before you can't look at an editorial page, listen to the radio, turn on the TV, or log onto your favorite message board without seeing the phrase "cheap labor conservatives" - and have plenty of examples to reinforce the message.
Now if you stop right here, you will have enough ammunition to hold your own with a cheap-labor conservative, in any public debate. You have your catch phrase, and you have some of the facts and history to give that phrase meaning.
But if you really want to rip the heart out of cheap-labor conservative ideology, you may want to invest just a little bit more effort. It still isn't all that complicated, though it is a bit more detailed than what we have covered so far.
Less Government and Cheap Labor
"Less Government" is the central defining right-wing slogan. And yes, it's all about "cheap labor".
Included within the slogan "less government" is the whole conservative set of assumptions about the nature of the "free market" and government's role in that market.. In fact, the whole "public sector/private sector" distinction is an invention of the cheap-labor conservatives. They say that the "private sector" exists outside and independently of the "public sector". The public sector, according to cheap-labor ideology, can only "interfere" with the "private sector", and that such "interference" is "inefficient" and "unprincipled".
Using this ideology, the cheap-labor ideologue paints himself as a defender of "freedom" against "big government tyranny". In fact, the whole idea that the "private sector" is independent of the public sector is totally bogus. In fact, "the market" is created by public laws, public institutions and public infrastructure.
But the cheap-labor conservative isn't really interested in "freedom". What the he wants is the "privatized tyranny" of industrial serfdom, the main characteristic of which is - you guessed it - "cheap labor".
For proof, you need only look at exactly what constitutes "big government tyranny" and what doesn't. It turns out that cheap-labor conservatives are BIG supporters of the most oppressive and heavy handed actions the government takes.
- Cheap-labor conservatives are consistent supporters of the generous use of capital punishment. They say that "government can't do anything right" - except apparently, kill people. Indeed, they exhibit classic conservative unconcern for the very possibility that the government might make a mistake and execute the wrong man.
- Cheap-labor conservatives complain about the "Warren Court" "handcuffing the police" and giving "rights to criminals". It never occurs to them, that our criminal justice system is set up to protect innocent citizens from abuses or just plain mistakes by government officials - you know, the ones who cant do anything right.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support the "get tough" and "lock 'em up" approach to virtually every social problem in the spectrum. In fact, it's the only approach they support. As for the 2,000,000 people we have in jail today - a higher percentage of our population than any other nation on earth - they say our justice system is "too lenient".
- Cheap-labor conservative - you know, the ones who believe in "freedom" - say our crime problem is because - get this - we're too "permissive". How exactly do you set up a "free" society that isn't "permissive"?
- Cheap-labor conservatives want all the military force we can stand to pay for and never saw a weapons system they didn't like.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support every right-wing authoritarian hoodlum in the third world.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support foreign assassinations, covert intervention in foreign countries, and every other "black bag" operation the CIA can dream up, even against constitutional governments, elected by the people of those countries.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support "domestic surveillance" against "subversives" - where "subversive" means "everybody but them".
- Cheap-labor believers in "freedom" think it's the government's business if you smoke a joint or sleep with somebody of your own gender.
- Cheap-labor conservatives support our new concentration camp down at Guantanamo Bay. They also support these "secret tribunals" with "secret evidence" and virtually no judicial review of the trials and sentences. Then they say that liberals are "Stalinists".
- And let's not forget this perennial item on the agenda. Cheap-labor conservatives want to "protect our national symbol" from "desecration". They also support legislation to make the Pledge of Allegiance required by law. Of course, it is they who desecrate the flag every time they wave it to support their cheap-labor agenda. [Ouch! That was one of those "hits" you can hear up in the "nosebleed" seats.]
Sounds to me like the cheap-labor conservatives have a peculiar definition of "freedom". I mean, just what do these guys consider to be "tyranny".
That's easy. Take a look.
- "Social spending" otherwise known as "redistribution". While they don't mind tax dollars being used for killing people, using their taxes to feed people is "stealing".
- Minimum wage laws.
- Every piece of legislation ever proposed to improve working conditions, including the eight hour day, OSHA regulations, and even Child Labor laws.
- Labor unions, who "extort" employers by collectively bargaining.
- Environmental regulations and the EPA.
- Federal support and federal standards for public education.
- Civil rights legislation. There are still cheap-labor conservatives today, who were staunch defenders of "Jim Crow" - including conspicuously Buckley's National Review. Apparently, federal laws ending segregation were "tyranny", but segregation itself was not.
- Public broadcasting - which is virtually the only source for classical music, opera, traditional theatre, traditional American music, oh yes, and Buckley's Firing Line. This from the people constantly braying about the decay of "the culture". The average cost of Public Television for each American is a whopping one dollar a year. "It's tyranny I tell you. Enough's enough!"
See the pattern? Cheap-labor conservatives support every coercive and oppressive function of government, but call it "tyranny" if government does something for you - using their money, for Chrissake. Even here, cheap-labor conservatives are complete hypocrites. Consider the following expenditures:
- 150 billion dollars a year for corporate subsidies.
- 300 billion dollars a year for interest payments on the national debt - payments that are a direct transfer to wealthy bond holders, and buy us absolutely nothing. Who knows how many billions will be paid to American companies to rebuild Iraq - which didn't need rebuilding three months ago. [i.e., before we invaded. - Ed.]
- That's all in addition to the Defense budget - large chunks of which go to corporate defense contractors.
Is the pattern becoming clearer? These cheap-labor Republicans have no problem at all opening the public purse for corporate interests. it's "social spending" on people who actually need assistance that they just "can't tolerate". And now you know why. Destitute people work cheaper, while a harsh police state keeps them suitably terrorized.
[For a critique of Obama and the Democrats, see this, or, the rest of this site. - Ed]