In Sunday’s “Good servants, poor tactics” column, Carl Mumpower inadvertently described the Republican starve-the-beast strategy. His concluding observation: “The audacity with which public servants and almost everyone else in America is willing to milk their fellow man marks a culture in decline.”
He thus linked Asheville police and firemen whose wages have stagnated with Wall Street gurus who continue to see huge increases in their multimillion dollar yearly incomes. Among “almost everyone else,” he apparently would also include union members generally, and any class of laborers enjoying above average incomes.
To understand an important cause of the economic disaster that’s going on across the nation, go to Google and search “starve the beast.” Hundreds of sites explain the Republican plan to dismantle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and to put a lid on public sector employees’ incomes. Republicans concluded that programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were so popular with the American public that they could never be reduced or eliminated by frontal attack.
Instead, they should focus on starving the beast (government). If they could cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy, it would create a huge deficit and they could make the case that government was broke. Then, all social problems would have to be reduced or eliminated, and many public services would have to be provided by the private sector—at a profit, of course.
Now that starve-the-beast policies have actually bankrupted local and national governments, spin artists like Mr. Mumpower are creating an era of misplaced anger. Unemployed and poorly paid private sector workers are angry at public employees with jobs and benefits. Nonunion workers are angry at better paid union workers, despite their favorable impact on wages generally. (When union wages increase, nonunion companies must also raise wages if they are to remain nonunion.) And everyone is angry at the financially starved government that supposedly created the deficit by paying too much for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
All this begs the question: Why should middle- and low-income Americans make any more sacrifices for this horrible economy than they already have? They didn’t cause the problem, their wages have stagnated or declined for the past three decades, and they’re losing their homes and their standard of living. On the opposite end of the income scale, virtually all billionaires and millionaires, either directly or indirectly, realized huge income benefits because of those same chronic low wages and the resulting corporate and business profits.
This disparity in economic well being is no accident. It’s the result of public policies. Our culture is in decline all right, but Mr. Mumpower has identified the wrong villains.
Charles M. Kelly is a retired management consultant and author living in Burnsville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org