I read the other day that the 400 richest Americans possess more wealth than the poorest 140 million.This seems like a good moment to remind people about the cabal of conservatives who in 1969 dubbed themselves “The Famous Five” and created “The Plan” that would lead to the conservative ascendency of the past four decades. Herewith a link to a piece I wrote a few years ago about this little-known history. I still have the papers referred to in this essay, and I suppose that one day I’ll get around to publishing a book on this topic. Meanwhile, here are some fragments of the amazing story:
In these times that try men’s souls, I call on all Blue State citizens to surrender to the Tea Party.
I likewise call on all progressive Democrats in the Blue States and on their representatives in Congress to lay down their arms. To meet with the Tea Party at Appomattox and accede to their demands immediately. Agree to cut federal taxes. Agree to cut federal spending. Agree to Starve the Beast!
Then go home and quietly raise Blue State state taxes to make up the difference. And spend that state tax money at home, in the Blue States.
Within a few months, the rattlesnakes of the Red States will come crawling back and beg us to raise federal taxes again. In doing so, they’ll be begging to be readmitted to the United States of America.
For the fact is that the great majority of the Red States are helplessly dependent on the federal tax dollars they drain — yes, like Zombies — from the throats of the Blue States. Even as they rail against federal taxes and the federal government, they benefit from these far more than their neighbors in the Blue States. Without the flow of Blue State dollars into their Red State coffers, they would have to raise their own state taxes to stratospheric levels – and then watch as a stampede of businesses and upper-income citizens fled for the Blue States.
All of the 6 wealthiest states that give the most tax dollars to poorer states are Blue.
Of the remaining 19 wealthy states that give more tax dollars than they take, 13 are Blue.
Of the 31 poorer states that take more federal tax dollars than they give, 2/3s are Red.
All of these claims substantiated here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_taxation_and_spending_by_state
Of the 135 politicians (Congressmen, Senators, Governors, etc.) affiliated with the Tea Party: 75 are from “taker” states, 40 are from “giver” states. That is, “takers” outnumber “givers” nearly 2-1.
Of the 49 Congressmen in the Tea Party Caucus of the 112th-113th Congress: 24 come from 7 “giver” states and 25 from 14 “taker” states. (What somewhat softens these numbers is the very high proportion of Tea Party members from Texas, a “giver” state.)
These claims are substantiated here:
So, what if the Blue State “givers” agreed with the Red State “takers” to reduce federal taxes and basically stopped giving their federal tax dollars to the Red States?
Well … one awful consequence would be that the poorest citizens of those Red states would suffer terribly. But would they then make common cause with each other – across racial lines – as racial animosities melted away in recognition of a common plight? It’s hard to say.
One thing is sure. Right now many Red State politicians get to have things both ways: they can loudly fight for lower taxes while quietly benefitting from their disproportionate share of federal tax disbursements. Would they continue to shrill against “Big Government” if the flow of Blue State dollars fertilizing their economies slowed to a trickle and dried up?
What we’re seeing here is a fiscal equivalent of the notorious 3/5ths clause of the Constitution. That, too, allowed many southern (now Red) states to have it both ways: to count their slaves populations for purposes of proportional representation in Congress but to deny those very slaves citizenship, enfranchisement, and even personhood.
The fact that the Red States depend on a revenue flow of Blue State dollars may also explain one of those mysteries Republicans never want to talk about: why since 1980, the federal budget deficit soars when a Republican is president and dips when a Democrat is in office. (Obama is the exception because he inherited a recession and the War in Iraq from Bush.)
This claim is substantiated here:
Republican politicians love to talk to talk. Shout the shout, I should say. But they know that if they actually walked the walk, their constituencies would suddenly find themselves with no money to pave roads, no money to build schools and sidewalks, no money to run county hospitals, no money to build enormous new sports stadiums, and the list goes on and on ….
Maybe it’s time for Democrats and progressives in the Blue States to call them out – by surrendering to them.
Hang your heads radical progressives! The Republican insurgency that has just achieved a second shutdown of the U.S. government should embarrass every self-styled radical on our side of the political spectrum.
Ted Cruz and his confederates have radicalized their party to a degree that the left has not ever come close to. Imagine, if you can:
– Bernie Sanders and a handful of other Congressmen bringing down the government because their demands for a radically progressive income tax have not been met.
– the Black Congressional Caucus and its allies bringing business as usual to a halt because their demands for equality of educational opportunity have been ignored.
– a cadre of Congressmen concerned about global warning shutting down the federal government until meaningful climate-change legislation has been passed and signed into law.
Why are these scenarios so hard to imagine? Why, indeed, are they so …. laughable?
All week long, these words kept echoing in my mind:
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
But now it’s not Mario Savio speaking them – it’s Ted Cruz. And that squishy sound in the background? That House Republicans throwing their bodies on the gears…
Seriously: Aren’t we ashamed that there’s no radical wing of the Democratic Party pushing everyone leftward as forcefully at the Tea Party has pushed Republicans to the right?
What riles me is that almost no one is even asking this question. Instead, we join the holy choir of sanctimonious censuring. In our tones I hear my grandmother’s voice when she complained about “those dirty hippies with long hair. Why can’t they shave and get a job!”
Now it’s –
“Those nasty old Tea Party Republicans! They’re so narrow-minded they won’t compromise! How mean of them to hold the government ‘hostage’ as a way to block legislation that has been enacted and signed into law! That’s so unfair!”
These are good points. Fair points. But they’re debaters’ points. I can’t speak them any more. They sitteth in my mouth like unto soggy breakfast cereal.
Meanwhile, the other side is breathing fire and brimstone.
Sure, we should keep trying to corral the Tea Party back inside the fences of conventional politics marked by reason and compromise.
But we should also identify weak Democratic candidates in strongly Democratic Congressional districts, mobilize our radical troops to vote in those primaries, and push those candidates to the left – hard.
“But we can’t do it without the Koch brothers!” I hear someone say.
They’d sure like you to believe that, wouldn’t they?