Home > Uncategorized > Jeffrey Sachs Names the Problem– “the Reagan Lie”– and Sees a Hopeful Solution– Grassroots Activists

Jeffrey Sachs Names the Problem– “the Reagan Lie”– and Sees a Hopeful Solution– Grassroots Activists

Yesterday’s Boston Globe op ed column by economist Jeffrey Sachs concisely describes the underlying ethos of our country and appropriately titles it “Ending the Ronald Reagan Lie”. The “Ronald Reagan Lie” is familiar to readers of this blog, because, like Sachs, I see it as the root of all of the wrongheadedness in our collective thinking. Here’s Sachs’ description:

Our current political travails can be traced to Reagan. In his jovial way, Reagan would quip, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” With his sneering disrespect for government, Reagan ushered in nearly four decades of tax cuts, deregulation, and rising inequality that now threaten to devour our future. Trump, Ryan, and McConnell are the scheming and vacuous politicians at the end of a long process of decline.

Now we are faced with a loathing of government at all levels and contempt for anyone who seeks to raise taxes to improve the situation, especially if those taxes are going to be “redistributed” from those who work hard to those lazy and shiftless and welfare recipients. Of course many of those who devise schemes to ensure that redistribution is impossible— like the Koch brothers whose role is underscored in Sachs’ article— inherited their wealth and many of those “lazy and shiftless” welfare recipients work multiple part-time jobs with no benefits for businesses like Walmart in order to make ends meet. And who are the beneficiaries of this system? The very ones who designed it! And how did such a system get put into place?

…the marriage of anti-civil rights politics in the South, West, rural America, and the suburbs, with big money in politics. Presidential aspirants had always had their financial backers. But with the advent of expensive television ads, mass mailings, and big data, campaigns became expensive. Big campaign money flooded in and federal politics became the playground of billionaires.

And nobody played it better than David and Charles Koch. They played the long game. With their lavish funding of libertarian think tanks, advocacy groups, university departments, and political action committees, the Koch Brothers and their brethren (including Robert Mercer, Sheldon Adelson, and the late John Olin) bought the Republican Party and turned it into a radical antigovernment force. It’s be all and end all became tax cuts and deregulation.

The deregulation had one more crucial effect. It enabled the rise of “too big to fail” businesses, and their lobbies in four key sectors: Big Oil, Wall Street, Big Health, and Big Armaments. Antitrust became a dead letter. The billionaires successfully championed tax cuts, deregulation, and deregulated companies that became more influential than government itself, and that when necessary could call on the federal government to do their bidding.

But Sachs believes that the public is beginning to see that what is good for billionaires is not good for the rest of the country… and beginning to realize that their taxes pay for things that benefit them as well as their neighbors and “other people”…. and maybe the end is in sight:

…A small group of wealthy interests has hijacked the federal government, driving policies that are strongly against public opinion and the public good. Legislation is drafted in secret, pushed without deliberation, and if possible, adopted without regard for the voters. This is obviously the case with the Obamacare repeal, but it’s also true regarding climate change, environmental protection, tax cuts for the rich, antitrust enforcement, and foreign policy.

Obamacare repeal and the Trump agenda have exposed the big lie. Yes, the Koch Brothers have bought the Republican majority, but the policies they espouse, such as slashing health care coverage, are not the policies desired by the American people. We are therefore at a reckoning.

My own belief? We will soon swing back to an era of grass-roots democracy, led especially by young people, in which public activism will trump big money in politics. Stay tuned.

I hope that young people’s voices will be heard… but fear that too many young people of means are now invested in the big lie and believe it to be true and that too many young people who do NOT believe in the big lie have taken to the sidelines in despair. Someone needs to provide young people with hope for change the way Barack Obama did in 2008… someone who, unlike the former President, is not beholden to the donors who will water down the “change” agenda.  I am staying tuned and hoping a message and messenger emerge soon.

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