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Guest: Thomas Frank

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Listen Now

 
Vandalism has defined conservative Republican strategy in Washington, D.C. during the 30 years they’ve ruled, reports economic historian Thomas Frank. All that matters is business, cynicism is the name of game and what remains of government is a plutocracy answering only to money. In The Wrecking Crew, he details his findings.
“There‘s no loyalty to anything except business. So they wreck the regulatory state because OSHA bugs them. Labor unions bug them. All these things cutting down their profit margin, They want 'em gone. Then look what happens. They cannibalize themselves. They revert instantly to Nineteenth Century capitalism, as we're seeing before our very eyes.
 
“This massive wave of corruption and scandal, the lobbying, all that stuff? Jack Abramoff (is) not a bad apple, he's representative. He’s the ideal figure of conservative Washington. What I’m talking about is conservative misrule.
 
“In Republicans’ minds, government is not a legitimate institution. The market -- now that’s legitimate. Vandalism is one way of describing what conservatives in Washington have done. Not playing by the rules is another. They believe that the state is corruption, only the market matters.
 
“This definition has been applied very successfully by people who represent the actual ruling class in this country, i.e., big business, the very wealthy, high net worth individuals, the great fortunes. They're the ones that funded and led the attack on liberalism ever since the 1930's and it’s only coming into flower since the 1970's.
 
“Republicans have this deep hatred of the liberal state, which is economic democracy. That's what has been under such brutal attack for 30 years. Liberalism is democracy not only in politics but also in the world of economics. A famous definition of liberalism is ‘Freedom Plus Groceries‘. That's been undone.
 
“What they have in mind is not just winning an election here and there, their quest is to make their vision of the state permanent. Permanent. That’s a word they use a lot. There are any number of strategies -- outsourcing, privatizing of all this federal work, monster deficits. Privatizing social security would be the A-bomb.
 
“The concept of the free market? That’s always been the greatest fig leaf of them all. They use it for the needs of business, the needs of the upper class. Of course when they need to be bailed out, then it’s ‘Forget the free market.‘ Even that goes.
 
“There's capitalism and then there's capitalism. In the 1960's when I was growing up and this country had a very equal distribution of wealth, it was a totally different world. The workers by and large were unionized. People had health care. Blue collar people lived next door to white collar people. It was the affluent society. Today it’s still a capitalist country but a very different one. And it’s not sustainable.”
 

Acknowledgments

 
Truthfulness often hurts, but seeing clearly what is happening is where we must begin if we are to reclaim democracy in the United States, both economic and political.
 
We thank Thomas Frank for undertaking this dreary endeavor and for keeping his sense of humor intact as he dug around in the muck. Now it’s our turn.
 

Related Links

 
The Wrecking Crew and What’s the Matter with Kansas? are both published by Henry Holt.
 
Former White House counsel (under Richard Nixon) John Dean has been writing about Republican abuses of power for decades as has Kevin Phillips (Money, Empire & Collapse, American Trinity: Religion/Oil/Debt, Dynasties & Crony Capitalists).
 
Jonathan Mahler details the Bush Administration's subversion of the Constitution, federal law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Conventions and the United States Supreme Court in The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight over Presidential Power
 
Entrepeneur and shareholder activist Robert A.G. Monks lays out the more general threats to American capitalism and the American economy in Corpocracy.
 
Attorney and historian Edward J. Larson puts the 2008 American presidential election into perspective, connecting modern-day Republicans to the High Federalists competing in the 1800 election between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
 
In Legacy of Ashes, Tim Weiner shows how a half century of basic contempt for democracy among CIA leaders and staff undermined America at home and abroad.
 
Neal Gabler and Susan Faludi and Curtis White demonstrate how the stories we tell ourselves damage our democracy if those stories are based on magical thinking rather than a commitment to truthfulness.
 
In very different ways, Susan Jacoby and Garry Wills argue that American democracy's true roots are in the enlightenment rather than in religion.
 
... and, here' s a little background information on Paula Gordon and Bill Russell, the Program co-hosts.
 

This Program was recorded on Thursday, September 18, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia, US

Tags: cheat cheaters fundamentalists government radical right Republicans The Wrecking Crew thieves Thomas Frank vandals What's the Matter With Kansas wrong wing