The Republican Tea Party makes a lot of noise accusing the Democrats, or anybody to the political left of the RTP screamers, of trying to redistribute the wealth, of handing over taxpayer money to the lazy poor who refuse to work, a category of citizens that includes everyone who is not a Republican or not wealthy enough to give gobs of money to the RTP.
The so-called redistribution of wealth is, in the cowled eyes of the RTP stalwarts, socialism or communism or tyranny or whatever the flavor of crap Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist are handing out that day.
As a result of RTP (and its predecessor Republican Reagan Party) influence and actions over the past thirty years or so, we have, ironically, seen wealth redistributed. Taxpayer money has flowed up to the wealthy, who have used it to buy politicians, buy legislation favorable to the acquisition of more and more wealth, and undermine democratic representative government in the United States. So simply on that score alone the RTP show themselves to be hypocrites pandering to the wealthy classes by distributing to them the money generated by the middle class and the working class and the working poor.
And in fact there are not enough wealthy people to do what the RTP ideologues believe wealthy people do. They cannot spend enough, consume enough, if you will, to make a mass society whole and functional. The money flows to them and stops. The only way to get it flowing is to pry it from them by taxing it.
Unfortunately for American society, a one-way flow of cash is a sure way to destroy American civilization. A civilization thrives on the circulation of money throughout the society, on money flowing down and up and laterally. Money’s the grease for the wheels of civilization. When one class of people collects the bulk of the money, the wheels stop turning and the society risks collapsing on itself and turning to chaos instead of rational governance.
The RTP is okay with that. They don’t want to spend taxpayer money on anything other than making sure that the wealthy keep their privileged status and pay little or no tax. That is their stated position. They’ve stated it over and over. It is their only position on governance, other than maintaining and expanding an already oversized military which they use to brutalize any third world country they decide they don’t like e.g., Grenada, Panama, most of Central America, Vietnam, Laos, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran soon enough, etcetera ad nauseam. That’s pretty much the sum of the RTP programs and policy.
Unfortunately for the RTP one of the primary functions of government, of successful government, is the redistribution of wealth. Government collects taxes from the citizenry and puts that money to work where it will do the most good in maintaining a vital, thriving, democratic society. Government doesn’t do that perfectly: as a classic example of imperfection one need only remember the famed Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere” sought by the Republican establishment a few years ago. But on the whole, under a reasonable and rational government, the system works to the benefit of society.
Suppose somewhere in the state of Iowa there exists an important bridge that is on the verge of failure. It is beyond patching and must be replaced. One might note that there are many such bridges in the country.
The state of Iowa can raise half the money, say, and turns to the Federal government for the rest. The Feds provide the money, from taxpayer funds (which is where all the money comes from in the first place), in the form of a loan, or perhaps a grant, or some other financial vehicle. Iowa can then proceed to design and build the new bridge.
But it is not government that builds the bridge. The Iowa Rundown Bridge Authority hires a private design firm and a private engineering firm.
Those two companies can now afford to hire some new people, and maybe expand their physical plant, thus putting some construction companies to work. Perhaps they buy new computers, putting a couple of more people to work at a computer company in Colorado.
Eventually steel is ordered, and concrete, and lumber. Those manufacturers might hire more people, buy more goods, buy more equipment, distributing the wealth, as it were.
Finally construction begins. Construction workers are hired and begin to draw their wages. They might now be able to afford to improve their house, buy a new car, buy a new home, and so on. Every purchase of goods helps more companies, helps more people, helps the society. Tax dollars have been distributed where they are needed and society benefits.
The RTP holds that money should go to the top, to a few people, to their so-called job creators. In fact those people do not create jobs, other than in minor ways, perhaps by hiring undocumented immigrants to cut their lawns, or increasing the number of financial drones in the bowel that is Goldman Sachs and the like. The wealthy invest their money in financial instruments that make more money but that don’t benefit society, if at all, anywhere near the level of benefits that building that new bridge in Iowa brings to society. Wealthy people are economic dead ends. Money flows to them and stops. The RTP would have the rest of society stand there with hands out hoping for the wealthy to trickle some money onto them. The RTP’s oft-stated philosophy claims it would do away with handouts, and yet they virtually guarantee that handouts are all that are left for the bulk of the citizenry.
And yes, there are problems with this model of economic operation. To function it must have constant growth: more and more people must buy more and more goods. In the long run it is unsustainable, and in fact, considering what we have done to the environment that we absolutely depend on to sustain life on the planet, that system is deadly.
Controls are needed. Regulations are required. Governance must depend on rational, logical choices and decisions based on the best science and knowledge we can obtain. Growth must be constrained with the least damage to populations, and ultimately population must be constrained. These are legitimate concerns and must, absolutely must, be acted upon relatively soon.
But if the United States continues to act in ways that continue the RTP’s actual and stated policies, the country will fail to thrive, fail to survive. The United States is not “exceptional”, as the RTP and other juvenile minds crow and boast. It is subject to the same logic, the same failings, as every other empire throughout history. The sooner the United States and its adolescent leadership give up the idea of being special, of being exceptional, of existing outside the laws of governance and science and human behavior, the sooner it can confront reality and deal with its problems and help to lead the world away from the brink.
But for better or for worse, that bridge in Iowa must be built if the country is to survive.