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On October 25, 1929, the day after Black Thursday, one of the days signaling the start of the Great Depression, where the Dow Jones lost 9 percent of its value in a single day, Republican President Herbert Hoover announced to the American people: “The fundamental business of the country… is on a sound and prosperous basis.”

Sound familiar? In perhaps the biggest political gaffe since then, just three days ago on September 15, 2008– on the very day now being referred to as ‘Black Monday’, where the Dow collapsed by over 500 points– John McCain, seemingly channeling the restless ghost of Herbert Hoover, declared: “I think still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”

The parallels are so frighteningly uncanny that one can’t help but be reminded that history, when forgotten, does repeat itself. In fact, it appears to repeat itself nearly word for word.

And the wheels of irony don’t stop churning there. September 15th wasn’t the first Monday to earn the ghoulish title of ‘Black Monday’. In fact, that title originally belonged to October 19, 1987, where the Dow Jones collapsed, as it did three days ago, by over 500 points, which ended up signaling the start of a massive recession in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Despite the eerie echoing of McCain and Hoover being quoted side by side, and despite the pun-worthy reminder that nobody likes Mondays, the ominous connections between these three days are perhaps best put into perspective by their most startling relationship. Namely: all three of these events happened at the end of long-held Republican administrations.

In the case of Black Thursday and the eve of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover was the fall guy for 8 years of previous Republican rule. Republicans Harding and Coolidge held the presidency from 1920-1928, instituting many similar economic strategies as have been implemented by Republican administrations in modern times. Of course, the collapse which occurred in October of 1987 rests at the end of a Reagan administration which had unprecedented economic control, instituting policies occasionally referred to as “Reaganomics”, and which focused on massive deregulation and deconstruction of the social programs created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Roosevelt’s social reformation was called “The New Deal”– which is what incidentally pulled the country out of the Great Depression. Should we be surprised by an economic collapse instigated by a removal of Roosevelt’s policies?

Reaganomics were, of course, the primary economic inspiration behind the policies of the Bush Administration of the last 8 years, which has unfortunately led us down another doomed road, perhaps already signaling yet another Great Depression.

History has been very clear here: Every time Republican and conservative economic policies are implemented, the results are worse than disastrous: they’re catastrophic. And yet, at frequent historical turns, the American people continually get swindled by the right wing rhetoric. The myth of ‘trickle-down economics’ and the utter destruction of oversight and regulation has never worked.

In a political season supposedly themed by “hope” and “change”, it’s remarkable to me just how closely recent events are paralleled by mistakes and economic blunders of the past. Even in the midst of a monumental economic collapse, John McCain has the naivete to announce that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong. Yes, well, the conservative principles which he extols are certainly still firmly in place. But is anyone honestly still being fooled? Those principles have been convincingly falsified by history again and again.

This time, let’s remember history.

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Perhaps the most succinct way of describing the conservative agenda of the last 80 years is that it exists entirely to deconstruct, demolish and disintegrate the reforms brought forth in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” in the 1930’s. In fact, if you were to outline the conservative agenda, you could just list all the reforms brought forth from the New Deal and then think of the exact opposite. Better yet: take that list of New Deal reforms and just cross them all out. The conservative agenda essentially doesn’t have a plan of its own; it exists only to tear down the plan set forth by the New Deal.

If we recall, the New Deal was put forth in a brave attempt to thwart the pummeling economy during the Great Depression. It was a sequence of reforms aimed at giving relief to the poor, stabilizing our financial systems, and protecting the middle and working classes from uneven distributions of wealth. The immaculate success of the New Deal in saving the American economy was not just a shining example of vision and leadership, but its success also demonstrated the utter failure of everything conservatism stands for.

Thus, conservatives have been vengefully dismantling the New Deal at every opportunity since its inception, and as a result they’ve just about put us back into another Great Depression. See, the real result of conservative economics is a total annihilation of the middle class, a radically uneven distribution of wealth between rich and poor, and complete deregulation of corporate plunder. Essentially, conservative economics aim for the same conditions which brought forth the Great Depression itself.

And this diabolical agenda is all hidden under the overarching banner of “privatization”. Conservatives want to privatize everything, which basically just means they think our social programs would function better if their primary goal was in turning a profit rather than serving their purpose in the public interest. Unfortunately, this economic strategy, the simplistic naivete of laissez-faire economics, has been proven disastrous for the public interest at every turn, and for good reason. Privatization shifts the interest away from the public and instead aims at the interest of shareholders and CEOs. It’s such a proven failure that the conservative loyalty to these economic principles can only mean one thing: they’re more interested in making a buck than in serving the public interest.

The latest example of all of this has been the recent debacle over bailing out mortgage giants, Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. In reporting the event, what the media has seemingly failed to tell is the backstory. Fanny Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), was originally a government invention, one of Roosevelt’s– a nationalized program birthed right out of the New Deal. Its purpose was to help prospective homeowners to get loans and to put an end to the escalating list of foreclosures which exploded during the Great Depression. Before the New Deal, there were no long-term, self-amortizing mortgages. Thus, the New Deal is essentially what allowed the home-owning middle class to stay afloat. Most Americans today would not have their mortgages, or their homes, if it wasn’t for this program.

The system worked like clockwork for 30 years. Home-ownership rates flew through the roof, as did the American economy out of the Great Depression. But in 1968, Fannie Mae was “privatized”, and Freddy Mac was created out of Fannie Mae in 1970 under the same principle. It took a couple of decades, but we’re seeing the failed consequences of this privatization today. Basically, it’s what happens when any public program is privatized: the program’s true purpose gets perverted so that a few insiders can get very rich.

In short, here’s how it worked with Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac: Under private management, it went from an explicitly government-backed agency in the interest of the public to a privatized bottleneck in the interest of turning a profit for its insiders at the risk of the public. See, now that our government is bailing out the mortgage giants (a necessity at this point), the debt is being covered by the taxpayers, since it is their welfare which was always being risked. In other words, even while a privatized Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac were reasonably stable over the last 30 years, the risks were always held by the public. This allowed insiders to take risks (and rake in the profits from those risks) and make irresponsible gambles which is what ultimately led to the collapse of these companies, and the American housing market, which we’re seeing today; the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.

Basically, privatization meant that the insiders could take all the profit, while the public takes on all the debt.

For instance, Fannie Mae CEO salaries remained stable, and ridiculous, even as the mortgage crisis reached its heights. Daniel Mudd, the CEO of Fannie Mae, received $11.6 million in salary, stock and other compensation for 2007. Richard Syron, CEO of Freddie Mac, took home about $18.3 million last year. Freddie Mac even paid for a number of other perks for Syron, such as a car and driver, a home security system, travel costs for his wife, even $100,000 to pay his lawyer to negotiate his employment contract with the bank. [1]

This is the same thing that would happen if we “privatized” Social Security, and all of the other programs created out of the economy-saving, job-saving, middle class revival that was the New Deal. Unfortunately, conservative legislatures and executives have so corrupted so many of these progressive, successful social programs, which we all rely upon for our modern standard of living, that the future looks as dismal as it does. Not even the public seems to understand the vast harm this conservative agenda stands to cause them. For the most part, the public seems seduced by the naive mantra of “privatizing” our government programs.

If the bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac demonstrates anything, it clearly shows the absolute failure of privatization.

The public needs to open its eyes in its own interest and stand against the bastardizing of our society by the gluttonous hand of privatization. The choice for our next President is very clear given this conundrum: If John McCain is elected, it’s been hinted that the top financial guy is likely to be former Senator Phil Gramm, perhaps one of the biggest proponents for reckless deregulation and privatization the Senate has ever seen.

Don’t be fooled: The conservative banshee of “privatization” is just a ploy to replace Roosevelt’s New Deal with a Raw Deal.

It’s become part of our lexicon: islamo-fascism. We hear the term used everywhere in the political sphere by Right Wing radio talkers, cable news pundits and even our President. It’s a term that’s been useful for drumming up blind patriotism, religious intolerance, the War on Terror, and all kinds of blatant fear-mongering, bigotry and cultural conflict. But as it is for many of the handy pieces of rhetoric used by conservatives, it’s also an ironically-shaped, deceitful misnomer. For those that use the term, it basically displays a complete ignorance about the meaning of the words involved.

In other words, for anyone who knows the origins of the term, ‘fascism’, they know that it doesn’t have much to do with what Islamic terrorist groups are preaching. In fact, the term much more closely resembles the philosophy of the conservative movement and the principles being applied by the Bush-Cheney-Rove Administration than it does with religious-inspired terrorism. The use of the term, therefore, is either hilariously ironic or otherwise frightfully ignorant.

Let’s begin with my 1983 American Heritage Dictionary’s entry on ‘fascism’: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.

In fact, the term was first coined and extolled by dictator Benito Mussolini and neo-Hegelian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, from the Italian, fascio, which essentially translates as a ‘bundle’ or ‘union’. The term was therefore utilized to reference a unification of the state with corporate interests; to eliminate the notion of individual and local liberties and to reinforce a governmental stronghold. Fascism was plainly designed to be a political system diametrically opposed to democracy. Mussolini was not shy from stating this directly:

Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right”, a Fascist century.

Here are some basic symptoms of a fascist/corporatist state:

Fervent nationalism/patriotism: thus the irony of drumming up patriotism with a term like islamo-fascism.
Government agencies run like businesses: privatization and corporate control of our public programs.
Monopolies: large subsidies favoring particular corporations, numbing out competition
Large corporations successfully lobbying Governments: lobbyists freely roam the halls of Congress and usually write our legislation themselves.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer: tax cuts to the rich, under the mythical banner of the repeated failings of ‘trickle-down economics’.
Favours given to campaign contributors: John McCain’s recent support of offshore drilling has been sharply correlated to a fourfold increase in campaign contributions from Big Oil.

Let’s face it, the marriage of big business to the government, the mantra of ‘privatizing’ our government, a call for American patriotism in the face of an unjust war (and the demonization of ‘liberalism’, another fascist strategy): these are all talking points straight from both the conservative playbook, and Mussolini’s. Don’t believe me? Several of John McCain’s top economic and campaign advisors are former lobbyists for the Oil and Pharmaceutical companies. Ed Gillespie, former RNC chairman, was a lobbyist for Enron. The also ironically titled Patriot Act, which does nothing more than strip away the civil liberties that the real patriots which founded our nation fought and died for, undermines our constitution and is one of many ploys to give excessive power to the Executive Branch. There’s the conservative attack on Habeas Corpus. The list goes on and on.

On the political spectrum, these are all traits and trends which steer toward text-book fascism, and which directly oppose and steer away from democracy. Our nation was built to be a representative democracy. If there is anything which is blatantly un-American, it is the fascist-oriented bent of the conservative, right-wing movement. There’s nothing American about conservative thought whatsoever. How, then, do conservative talkers, right wing pundits and the Republican Party get away with making claims about what is or what isn’t truly American or patriotic? Unfortunately, it’s probably because the American people themselves have forgotten what it is that makes them truly American.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned in an April 29th, 1938 message to Congress:

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

Saying all of this is not to excuse the vile tactics and political motives of radical religious terrorists, whether they be inspired through the warped fury of Islam, or any other religious fervor. But if we are going to reserve the term, ‘fascism’, to describe anything, it certainly seems to apply far better to the current Bush administration’s policies and the un-American conservative think-tanks which are slowly but surely stripping away our democracy and replacing it with a totalitarian corporatism, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Mussolini. Thus, when you hear those conservative pundits or cable news anchors warning about the ‘islamo-fascist’ threats to our nation, be careful not to react by becoming devoted to the wrong banner in response.

We all think we know the story of the Boston Tea Party. The tale has an almost fairy-tale quality, told as if it were read from a children’s book. For this author, the memory of the story seems ingrained; The memory goes back as far as any memory concerning our nation’s history. I suspect the story I recall is pretty much the standard version. Early American patriots, aggravated at rising taxes on tea levied against them by the British, dressed up like Native Americans and stormed Boston harbor on one dark night and dumped a bunch of tea into the sea in protest. The story is easy enough to accept. After all, it molds perfectly with so many of the notions we readily come to associate with American patriotism. What could be more fundamentally American than hating taxes? Right?

The standard version of the story is partly true. It was certainly correct that rising taxes were generating tension between the colonies and the British, particularly the taxes issued by the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts (which did, to be fair, include a tax on tea imports). But it wasn’t the taxes themselves that irked the American colonists so much as being taxed without representation. Furthermore, the real catalysis for the Tea Party– the proverbial last straw– was the Tea Act of 1773, which wasn’t a tax increase at all. Rather, it was a monumental tax cut. In fact, it was a monumental corporate tax cut.

I’ll say it again for the sake of resonance: The Boston Tea Party– one of the most fundamental events leading to America’s origin– was really a rebellion against cutting taxes for big business; it wasn’t about a tax increase. More specifically, the Tea Act of 1773 was practically a corporate bail out. The British East India Company was the principle lobby and sole beneficiary of the tax cut, which allowed the Company to transport its cargo of tea so cheaply that local colonial merchants were basically put out of business. The East India Company was a virtual monopoly on the transport of goods to the colonies; and the power of its lobby was at least equivalent to the lobbying power of modern day Big Oil, or the pharmaceutical companies, or other major corporate interests we’re more familiar with today.

Thus, I’m saddened to reveal: most of us don’t know the real story of the Boston Tea Party. As it turns out, what’s really fundamental about being an American is not so much a hatred of taxes (though we don’t have to like them, either) as it is a hatred of corporatism, corporate cronyism in our government, and tax policies which benefit the rich and powerful over the Everyman, or the local American. Early American patriots were inspired toward their exceptional act of independence primarily in resistance to their lack of representation in contrast to the power of a big business lobby.

If the truth about the Boston Tea Party were to properly represent for modern America what it meant to our founding fathers, it ought to be more readily obvious just how shamefully un-American the current political climate has become. The expense on the American taxpayer for corporate welfare, often paid in the form of massive subsidies or grants to giant companies like Enron, Boeing, Halliburton, Mobil Oil, General Motors, IBM, Dow Chemical, or General Electric, now exceeds what we pay for most of our more local needs like housing or health care (not to mention that most of the money for corporate welfare is pilfered directly from the Social Security fund). Which, ultimately, lends to the deepest national debt in our nation’s history, which further confounds the dilemmas faced by middle class Americans, such as the falling value of the dollar and the outsourcing of our jobs.

Subsidies given primarily to large agribusiness farming factories, due to their powerful lobby and cycle of rhetoric and misinformation, are a good example of how America has forgotten what it stands for. Billed to the American public as policy to help the farmer, the truth is that only the few largest agribusinesses get the government-issued financial advantages, leaving local and small-scale farmers– most American farmers– out of business.

Perhaps even scarier is the way the current economic policies and rhetoric of the neo-conservative movement, fostered further by the puppeted, corporate lead of the Bush administration and its predecessors (I primarily mean the multifarious incompetencies of the Reagan administration here), have become the symbolic equivalent of the corrupt British crown, which those Sons of Liberty stood against as they stormed the decks of those East India tea-transporting ships that one dark night long ago in Boston Harbor (it wasn’t that long ago, was it?). Such corporate cronyism is not just un-American. It is fundamentally what Americans fought and died to oppose. It was opposition to these villainous policies (the same policies which we see primarily extolled by cronies on the Right today) which spawned the Boston Tea Party, and our Declaration of Independence.

I’m afraid the truth about the Boston Tea Party has been mostly forgotten or mistold. But it is in the spirit of the Tea Party, its real story, that I have begun this blog. And it is in the spirit of telling the true story of the Tea Party that I intend this blog to be a beacon for weeding through the endless misinformation, maligned propaganda and amnesia that infects the American political climate today. This blog is meant as a finely crafted diction of non-nationalistic, grassroots, progressive dissent. And though not nationalistic, in the true spirit of what America really means.