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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.

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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.