Guest Commentary

March 3rd, 2011 |


by John Hicks


Is this what we want?


Much of America may not yet realize the devastating consequences of the kind of government that we have chosen. Our nation is undergoing a radicalization of right-wing conservatism that does not bode well for most Americans. It is being unleashed with a vengeance that serves big corporations and the wealthy elite but is wont to grind the rest of us into the ground.

Instead of being a nation of fair-mindedness, justice and compassion for all, our national politic centers on maximizing profits and swelling the assets of the wealthy at the cost of self-righteously undercutting what conservatives call entitlements for the rest of us. As a justification for defending the wealthy and granting them tax cuts, it is claimed that as the rich grow richer more jobs will be created and the poor and the Middle Class will benefit economically. Nothing could be further from the truth, but many there are who believe this falsehood, even as the rich grow richer, the gap between rich and poor is widening, jobs are being shipped overseas, and the Middle Class is being diminished.

If there is any doubt as to what present day right-wing conservatives are all about and what they stand for, take a look at some of the things they have been up to. They are:

Fighting against labor union bargaining rights. Purpose: to enhance the power of corporations and business to maximize profits. Result: ordinary working Americans in both the public and private sectors, who are the back bone of this nation, are to be resigned to lower living wages and total submission to the paymasters. The argument that tax payers are being robbed by public servants is a gross fallacy; public servants are tax payers, and unless we all stand together, we shall fall together under the crushing force of the hoarders of wealth.

Pulling back regulations on corporations, banks and investment firms. Purpose: To maximize the opportunity for obscene profit-making. We should not be fooled: the more prosperous economy that is promised by deregulation is only for corporations and Wall Street. Result: The average American gets the short end, loses his/her pension, home, and job, earns only subsistence income in many cases, and pays higher prices on many commodities in a non-competitive, mega-corporation environment.

Undoing health reform. Purpose: Allow the pharmaceutical and insurance companies to operate in a free market economic system. Translation: Allow them to operate without any compunction for ripping off average Americans in order to reap inordinate profits. Talk of making huge profits off of the backs of the sick, the poor and the struggling is curiously missing in the public discussion.

Eliminating funding of Planned Parenthood, which offers counseling and medical services to millions of child-bearing women who would not otherwise afford such services. Purpose behind the expressed purpose: Reduce the Federal budget while implementing tax cuts for the rich.

Cutting off funding for Public Media. Purpose: To eliminate or cripple public media. As a conservative Senator recently remarked, it is not just to reduce the budget but because NPR and PBS do not report the news objectively!!! Fox News does!!! Ultimate purpose: Allow private enterprise and for-profit corporations to make their profits in an economy controlled solely by them. Result: the American people hear only the corporate propaganda on the airwaves while being misled politically and getting ripped off economically by the profit-makers.

Not only claiming that corporations are human beings but that their egregiously large stores of money are their free speech. Purpose: To further line the pockets of the wealthy and the giant corporations. Among the results: Our country manufactures and exports more weapons of war than all other countries combined. There is still one major commodity that is "Made in America", namely, Weapons of Mass Destruction! The wealthy and giant corporations buy our government and dictate our economic and war policies. The average American loses efficacy of the vote. The Lower and Middle Classes become further silenced and the Middle Class, further diminished. Many who are in denial about what is happening to us support those very forces that are bringing this about.

Cutting off funding to the Department of Justice for that Department's fighting of the mean-spirited Arizona law against immigrants. Eliminating the Federal Diversity Visa program as an attempt to stop immigration to this country. Deporting struggling immigrant workers trying to survive. Unconstitutionally wanting to round up and deport young people who were born and grew up in this country, because their parents do not have proper documents. Reason: Racism and Xenophobia are unquestionably among the grounds for such actions. The ploy is used that immigrants rob Americans of jobs and financial resources. The opposite is mostly true. The undocumented are financially exploited by corporations that employ them, and they pay into our Social Security system without getting any benefits. Furthermore, immigrants have added to America's productivity. Many employers report that they need immigrants to fill positions for which there are not enough workers. Results of right-wing policies: Families are torn apart — children from their parents, husbands and wives from each other. Struggling immigrant wage earners trying to put food on the table for their families lose their jobs and are put into prisons. Immigrants are sent back to dangerous, poverty-stricken areas in their home country. As the Postville tragedy has demonstrated, this has actually been bad for business. The welcoming heart of America has turned into a hardened and smug heart toward the stranger and the needy.

Ousting competent, constitutionally-minded, judges for properly making a decision that narrow, conservative ideology does not agree with. Result: The civil rights of Americans are taken away, and a Sharia type law of right-wing religious forces replaces justice. It is a victory for conservatives. The American people lose, even though some are not aware that they are losing something absolutely essential in our government and to our freedom as a society.

Ironically outlawing Sharia in thirteen States even though Sharia Law does not exist in any of them. Purpose: To satisfy the irrational Islamophobia that has been ravaging our nation. Result: people who look different from white Americans, who speak another language, dress differently, have a religion other than the dominant religion are to be feared and restricted in their rights.

Claiming that progressives are raising the specter of class warfare by advocating for labor, the sick, the Middle Class, the underpaid and the poor. Result: The worker, the sick and the poor naturally do not want warfare. Many believe the conservative party line that unions, minimum wages, universal health care are evil, and some of them vote for conservatives in order to avoid warfare. It is a win-lose outcome for the wealthy and powerful; they win; everyone else loses. But at least class warfare is avoided while the wealthy continue to elevate their own status!

Putting a damper on efforts to control soil, water and air pollution, and protecting polluters from regulation or enforcement of clean energy and clean environment laws. Purpose: Big corporations — cattle and hog lots, oil drillers, manufacturers of petroleum burning vehicles and machinery — will not have to take a cut in their bottom line. A Congressional Representative from Texas claimed recently that EPA regulations cannot be allowed to infringe on the oil refineries in his State. Result: Americans have to endure odorous and disease causing pollutants, and detrimental human-induced global climate change is allowed to continue.

There is a clear distinction between the right-wing ideology of conservatives and the ideology of progressives. De facto, the former favors the wealthy and the profit-makers. The latter favors the worker, the struggling, the poor, those who are sick, the hungry, the victims of violence, the Common Good. The former has taken over our country and vows to take even firmer control. The latter stands for what our nation should be. If those who are for a kinder, gentler, less selfish America do not rise up with strength to reverse the direction we are accelerating in, we will continue to see a deterioration of conditions for Americans who are not wealthy and powerful. We cannot allow that to happen. CV


Rev. Vernon H. Naffier is a retired Lutheran minister and has been teaching for the past 13 years in the Religion and Philosophy Department at Grand View University in Des Moines. He is also a co-founder of the Progressive Coalition of Central Iowa Inc. a resident of Ankeny and occasionally contributes commentaries to Cityview.