Monday, November 28, 2016

The end of the democratic social contract

The Trump years are gonna be fun. Which of these are we going to decide we're no longer going to even go through the motions of attempting to provide for people?

Health care?
If House Speaker Paul Ryan has his way, the 115th Congress won’t just repeal Obamacare, it will dramatically reform Medicare, turning the program into a form of private insurance.

Ryan has long supported the controversial idea and, immediately after the election, he suggested that any Obamacare reform should include Medicare reform. Another key player, House Budget Chairman Tom Price, said Medicare reform was a top priority for the unified Republican government.

President-elect Donald Trump has yet to commit to further privatization of Medicare—which could cause a tidal wave of unease among senior citizens—and a Trump spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. At a minimum, though, Ryan’s Medicare plans are a topic of negotiation between the speaker and the president-elect.
It's hard to know if we should even count health care given the sorry state of what even our puny somewhat public programs actually provide. But it's clear we're not moving that ball in the right direction.

How about public education
Donald Trump’s choice to be secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is a woman who never went to public school, nor sent her children to public school, nor worked for public schools. She does, however, come from a wealthy family that has donated millions to the Republican Party. And she would be terrible for public education in this country.
As AlterNet explained in a 2011 profile on the DeVos family, the DeVos family is a prominent right-wing donor. Betsy Prince DeVos’ father-in-law co-founded Amway, while her brother, Erik Prince, founded the notorious private military contractor Xe (formerly Blackwater USA).

While many wealthy campaign donors have pet causes, the DeVoses have been particularly driven to promote school vouchers.

In 2000, the DeVoses launched one of their most ambitious campaigns, spending millions of dollars on an unsuccessful effort to convince Michigan voters to support a voucher initiative, which would have let parents steer tax dollars to private schools instead of public ones.

The 2000 ballot initiative was voted down by 68 percent of Michiganders.

After the loss, the DeVoses shifted gears, focusing instead on pushing voucher bills through state legislatures, which they have been doing ever since. They founded a group, All Children Matter, devoted to pushing vouchers. In 2013, the group, now known as the American Federation of Children, was fined $5.2 million in Ohio for breaking campaign finance laws, which it has not yet paid. The PAC was never registered in Wisconsin, where it was hammered by the press.

American Federation for Children has worked closely with Religious Right groups that can motivate voters from their homes and churches. It also coordinates its planning through the Council for National Policy, a secretive right-wing group that meets several times a year and gives members of the Christian right access to sympathetic donors.

Betsy also serves on the board of the Acton Institute, which merges corporate interests with dominion theology, or the belief that Christians should take control of political and social institutions. Earlier this month, the Acton Institute published a blog post titled, “Bring back child labor: Work is a gift our kids can handle.”
Not gonna spend our education dollar on your poor kids anymore unless they pray real good the way we tell them.  Failing that, it's send them down into the mines or whatever.  Doesn't matter anyway since we aren't expecting to develop an informed and educated citizenry anymore. Who needs that when we're not going to let anybody vote anyway? Which brings us to...

The basic right to vote
Bruce Ackerman, a constitutional law scholar at Yale University, tells me he worries it could all amount to the “beginning of the end of the Second Reconstruction.” This is the name some historians use to describe the sustained 20th Century effort to codify civil rights and full equality for African Americans after decades of voting and institutionalized discrimination, just as the original Reconstruction period tried to expand democracy after the end of slavery — an effort that was followed by the sort of retreat that could conceivably happen again.

“The rest of the Voting Rights Act will become a dead letter,” Ackerman suggested, adding that he expects nothing less than a wholesale rollback of “the fundamental achievements of the Second Reconstruction."
One memory I have from the (later) heyday of the Rush Limbaugh radio program comes from  Election Day 2004.  Those of you who were alive back then might remember some mid-day exit poll reports being circulated which seemed to suggest that John Kerry could maybe possibly have been in the process of ousting George W. Bush.  Turns out these must have been "fake news" or something.  It's a good thing everyone avoids these errors today by just using Facebook.

Anyway, Rush, under the impression that Kerry might win, was in full panic mode and launched into a long loud diatribe about the need to seriously consider bringing back the property requirement for voters.  It was funny at the time because 1) that's crazy and 2) I was as hopeful at that point in the day as Rush was despondent and was getting a kick out of listening to him whine.   But it's also an indicator of where the right wing mind goes when it decides the democratic process needs "fixing."

And when a radical right wing party controls the Presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and very nearly enough state houses to amend the Constitution, this stuff gets less funny and more scary.

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