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By David Podvin

During the founding of the United States, Alexander Hamilton said the Constitution should declare that the country would be run for the benefit of the financial elite. His philosophy was rejected in favor of Thomas Jefferson’s more populist approach. Ever since losing that debate, American conservatives have felt the need to lie about which citizens are intended to benefit from their policies.

Modern conservatism retains Hamilton’s dream of a country that exists to serve the interests of the powerful. Today’s elite consists of the multinational corporations that are the financial lifeblood of the Republican Party. It also includes people who have distinguished themselves by inheriting great wealth. This American aristocracy finances the conservative movement, and relentlessly pushes its agenda for redistributing money from average citizens to more deserving citizens…like them.

The nation’s dominant financial interests have formed a political alliance with conservative religious activists. These are deeply pious people who, after much praying, have determined that their fellow countrymen are desperately in need of some coercive moral guidance. They are the shock troops of the movement. However, their interests always take a back seat to the central conservative belief that something must be done to correct the country’s most heartbreaking social injustice, which is that America’s wealthiest people are being financially persecuted.

This is a vision of America that views the middle class as usurpers, which explains why every major conservative economic program has resulted in middle income Americans winding up with a smaller piece of the national pie. It is not possible to persuade the vast majority of Americans to knowingly transfer their income to people who are much wealthier than they are, so it becomes necessary for conservatives to deceive them. This is a nation that prides itself on having a participatory democracy, even though recent events have again demonstrated the limits of that comforting myth. For conservatism to function efficiently, and in order to avoid the provocative sight of the establishment having to blatantly override the expressed will of the people, many average citizens must be fooled into voting for policies that are designed to make them poorer.

When the success of a philosophy depends on manipulating most people into voting against their own interests, then dishonesty is transformed from being a personal failing into being standard operating procedure for an entire political movement.

While there are nonconservatives who are individually dishonest, being a liar is an intrinsic part of being a conservative. It is the only way that they can convince Americans to give them the power to govern on behalf of a tiny minority of elitists. This does not refer to lies about embarrassing personal flaws, like alcoholism and illiteracy. In order to win elections, conservatives must lie about important public matters that are crucial to the well being of the average citizen.

On economic issues, which tend to decide most national elections, conservatives have always found it necessary to scam the public. They know they cannot win if they admit that their tax cut tricks will give most of the rebates to the rich and that the middle class will ultimately subsidize this largesse. Conservatives offer meager tax cuts to middle income Americans as a sucker play, hoping that these voters will fall for the “something is better than nothing” ruse. When the bill comes due in the form of budget deficits, conservatives always propose that the rich be allowed to keep their tax cut windfall. The conservative economic model invariably results in the budget being balanced by having the middle class pay more in additional taxes than it ever received in tax cuts. The political terminology for this treachery is “lowering the top marginal tax rate”. It is wonderful that the top tax rate can be lowered without shifting the burden to the middle class. It is also a lie, one that conservatives use to redistribute wealth upwards.

Conservatives want to destroy the social safety net that is designed to provide subsistence level help for those undeserving paragons of vulgarity, the poor. They believe eliminating all current programs that help the destitute could finance authentic projects for the truly needy, like the total elimination of the estate tax and the capital gains tax. The poor are basically nonentities in the conservative philosophy, which equates personal wealth with personal worth. In the conservative utopia, the poor are left on their own to swim or, preferably, to sink. Their main function is to serve as scapegoats during times of economic hardship. The primary target in the conservative jihad is the middle class, because that’s where the most alluring plunder is found.

Since the advent of the New Deal, the stated intention of the conservative movement has been to oppose “Big Government”. This consists of eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic oversight of trustworthy business interests like the energy industry, and reinstating the time tested honors system that has recently worked so well in California. It also means taking funds that are currently squandered on socialistic schemes to help unproductive widows and orphans, and then reallocating the money to socially constructive programs that award subsidies to deserving corporate benefactors of the Republican Party. In order to prevent any social disruption as a result of governmental downsizing, orphans would be granted scholarships to the Gingrich Orphanage Society. Widows would ultimately be taken care of by the actuarial tables.

Conservatives have opposed every important piece of humane legislation. They have issued dire warnings of imminent economic disaster each time laws have been proposed to care for the elderly, eliminate child labor, reduce environmental pollution, demand product reliability, enhance safety in the workplace, protect workers’ rights, or insure human liberty. They tried to stop the Social Security Act, Medicare, Child Labor laws, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Food Act, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act…

And they still oppose them. Public opinion dictates that the opposition be shrouded in code, so conservatives use euphemisms for repealing progress, including “privatization” and “states’ rights”.

There is currently a major conservative effort to deceive Americans into surrendering their last real protection against being victimized by the powerful elite. The issue is “tort reform”, which would mandate that the loser in a lawsuit be obligated to pay all legal expenses. The goal is to guarantee that, no matter how valid their legal claims might be, common citizens would be unable to afford to take the risk of paying the court costs of a wealthy adversary. Even if you had the greatest case in the world, if you couldn’t afford to lose, then you couldn’t afford to sue. This would finally protect multinational corporations from being held accountable for their misconduct by those annoying panels of average Americans called juries. Conservatives cannot fathom why twelve nobodies in Compton should be able to force mighty General Motors to pay a large cash settlement to a low income family just because GM knowingly sold them a defective car that exploded and blew off their daughter’s face.

Conservatives seek to con the public by endlessly repeating the story of the woman who spilled hot coffee on herself at McDonald’s, then sued for $2.9 million and wound up receiving over $400,000. They use such extreme aberrations as anecdotal evidence of an “epidemic” of outrageous verdicts that should motivate average citizens to effectively give up their right to sue. They deceitfully neglect to mention that Corporate America pays out less than two tenths of one percent of its profits in legal judgments. In the name of ending an imaginary “epidemic”, conservatives are trying hard to mislead Americans into giving up their only defense against powerful companies who have the ability to destroy their lives. This is consistent with the historical conservative stance that legal protection should not be available to those who are most vulnerable.

It was conservatives who supported slavery. They were the ones who opposed women’s suffrage. They are now the ones who are against legal protections for gays. In each of these instances, their victims have been different, but their argument has been the same; they are standing up for the Lord and defending the sanctity of the status quo against those who are somehow inferior. On issues of social progress, the cynical arguments of conservatives have been disproven by the facts every time. Nonetheless, as each group seeks to gain equal rights, it must run the same conservative gauntlet of discredited lies that minorities in America have faced since the beginning of the country.

The presidential campaign of George W. Bush is a case study of the necessity for conservatives to lie. On every major policy issue, Mr. Bush found that it was essential to deceive the American people. He relabeled unpopular conservative policies as “compassionate conservatism”, and then deceptively drew nonexistent distinctions between the two. He lied about who was going to receive his tax cut, because he knew that if he told the truth, then he wouldn’t have had a chance to win. For the same reason, he lied about his prescription medicine plan for the elderly, saying that it covered every senior citizen when he knew otherwise. His lie that he would “leave no child behind” concealed his intention to cut funding for pediatric hospitals and reading programs. He lied about his support for a patients’ bill of rights. He lied about his position on environmental protection. He lied about his intentions on Social Security. He lied when he said that missile defense was technologically viable. On these and many other issues, he lied for the same reason that conservatives must always lie; it is not a winning strategy to publicly acknowledge their core belief that the government should be used to rob from the middle class and give to the upper class. Conservatives will always govern in that way, but getting their chance to govern can only happen through bait and switch.

Conservatives had to lie in order to gain control of the federal judiciary. If conservative appointees to the Supreme Court had been honest, then they would have been rejected. William Rehnquist had to lie when he was confronted with evidence that he supported the concept of  “separate but equal”. Clarence Thomas had to lie when he was asked about his position on abortion. The moderate mask that was worn by Antonin Scalia at his confirmation hearing was an artifice that was discarded as soon as he was sworn in.

Politically conservative multinational corporations own the American mainstream media. If they allowed accurate, unbiased coverage of current events, then conservative politicians could not be elected. This would deprive Corporate America of the allies who lower its taxes and who insist on eliminating any regulation of business. General Electric, Viacom, Disney, and News Corporation own the four major commercial television networks. Each has literally billions of dollars of business that is affected by the actions of the president, the Congress, the courts, and the regulatory bureaucracy. The prosperity of these companies is highly dependent on which candidates win elections. This explains why Democratic presidential candidates who mangle anecdotes are “habitual liars”, while Republican presidential candidates who habitually lie about major public policy issues are “likeable”.

Conservative clerics must also lie. Most Americans strongly oppose having a religious government. Conservatives argue that the “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, and that it is liberal propaganda. The theocrats insist that their dogma be codified into law so that Americans can receive proper guidance on everything from which art is acceptable to which sexual acts are not. They want to start the indoctrination process at an early age, but they need to gain a captive audience.

Towards that end, conservatives advocate prayer in public school. They say that this is needed so that their children can receive spiritual nourishment. They lie. Their children can pray before school, after school, on weekends, during holidays, and all night/every night. They do not need the public schools to provide them with a venue for prayer; they can already pray at home, in church, and virtually everywhere else. However, the public school is the only place where conservatives can get their proselytizing hands on other people’s children. In order to fulfill the Religious Right’s stated intention to “Christianize America”, there must be an escape-proof delivery system for the message. Conservatives adamantly deny any intention to turn the public school system into a revival meeting. They lie. Pat Robertson, among other theocrats, has told religious groups that prayer in public school is needed to “reach the unconverted” as part of a longer term plan to ultimately transition America to a system of parochial schools.

Conservatives opposed the creation of the public school system in America. They argued that it was the parents’ responsibility to see that their children were educated, and that the very concept of “public schools” was collectivist government intrusion. While that belief has never changed, they now have a logistical challenge. Over ninety percent of the nation’s children currently attend public schools, which has made it necessary for conservatives to be deceptive about their desire to end public education. William Bennett and Charles Murray are two leading conservative voices on the issue. They have told conservative groups that America would be a better place if the government-run school system were ended and children were channeled into religious schools. When conservatives talk to the American people, they speak of  “favoring vouchers to make the public school system better”, which sounds more benign than “let’s bankrupt the public schools and put them out of business”. They cannot possibly win their struggle to destroy public education by being candid. So they lie.

It is in America’s most conservative governmental institutions that the dishonesty is the most profound. When the Soviet Union fell, a little publicized review of the U.S.S.R.’s military revealed that it was less then half as big as the C.I.A. had been reporting for decades. This was the most expensive lie in human history, costing American taxpayers trillions of dollars in totally unnecessary “defense” spending. Ostensibly, these expenditures were made to fight communism. In reality, it was welfare for what President Eisenhower called the military industrial complex. Had the conservatives in the military and intelligence communities told the truth about the size of the Soviet threat, it would have been impossible to swindle all that money from the American public. So they did the conservative thing. They lied.

The leaders in the Pentagon are extremely politically conservative, and they lie with such regularity that Washington National Airport should be renamed in their honor. One illustration involves Raytheon’s vaunted Scud Defense, the Patriot missile. During the Gulf War, the American viewing public was treated to the prime time sight of the country’s latest military wonder weapon shooting down an amazing forty one of forty two Scud missiles that were launched by Saddam Hussein. Network TV anchormen were bursting with pride and running short of superlatives as the videotape endlessly showed the Patriots conquering the Scuds. President Bush flew to Raytheon headquarters to personally lead a corporate cheer for this latest profile in capitalist greatness. He promised that Raytheon would receive much more taxpayer money so it could build many more Patriot missiles with which to defend the national interest. It was all a glorious tribute to America’s politically conservative aerospace industry.

In the weeks that followed, nonmilitary sources got a hold of information that the Pentagon never intended to make public. The accuracy rate of the Patriot was not really forty one out of forty two. It was zero out of forty two. The videotapes were phony. The story was fantasy. The conservatives had lied. Again.  

The Pentagon also deserves acknowledgement for artificially whipping up the Persian Gulf War frenzy with warnings about the “fierce, battle hardened Iraqi Republican Guard”. This turned out to be a ragtag group of terrified, starving misfits who dropped to their knees in abject surrender as soon as they saw the enemy. It is fitting that a war waged by a dishonest president on the false premise of “restoring democracy” to Kuwait was fraudulently hyped by the serial liars in the military.

During the last fifty years, conservative presidential campaigns have consisted primarily of four major deceptions that were intended to hoodwink the people into voting against their self-interests. This has involved demagogically playing upon the fears of the public with regard to the conservative wedge issues of economic resentment, racial hatred, cultural paranoia, and xenophobia. Conservatives have had to resort to stampeding voters by raising the specters of welfare queens who use food stamps to buy filet mignon, Willie Horton preparing to rape white women, baby killing-flag burning-gun confiscating-feminist illegal aliens who are members of the A.C.L.U., and a communist bogeyman under every bed.

In fairness, what could Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes really have been expected to say? That the big problem in America is that the middle class has too much money and the rich don’t have enough? Saying what they meant was never going to get them elected, in which case America would have been deprived of Watergate, Iran Contra, and the most ethical father-son combination since Vito and Michael Corleone.

Throughout American history, conservatives have always had to choose between lying and losing elections:

They lied in supporting slavery, publicly claiming that blacks were inherently inferior even while writing in their journals that this was a pretext for maintaining really, really low unit labor costs.

They lied about the robber barons rape of the American economy, opposing the trust-busting efforts of Theodore Roosevelt even when they were confronted with the objective facts that proved his case against the monopolistic parasites who were bleeding America dry.

They lied about the Great Depression, blaming the hard economic times on the poor, the working class, the unions, the communists, and anyone else they could scapegoat. Anyone, that is, except the financial elite that had hoarded two thirds of the nation’s wealth.

They lied about the Cold War, dramatically overestimating the nature of the threat and ruthlessly smearing anyone who told the truth.

They lied about the Civil Rights movement, labeling as “communist agitator” any African American who objected to being treated as subhuman.

Conservatism is an immoral philosophy. Under the guise of promoting individual rights, it seeks to further empower the most powerful elements of society. It does so at the expense of the average citizen.

Conservative economic policies are intellectually indefensible. They sacrifice the needs of the many in order to satisfy the greed of the few. They can only be promoted by screaming “class warrior” at any heretic who deviates from the sacred principle that the upper class should monopolize power.

Conservative social doctrine embodies the law of the jungle. It is the callous worldview of those who root for the overdog. It is the conviction of people who despise the underprivileged but whose hearts bleed for the overprivileged. It rewards conformity and punishes dissent.

All of this is done in the name of God.

Distilled to its essence, the conservative philosophy is so evil that it can only be sold to the American people when it is carefully wrapped in a manipulative package of lies.  

More David Podvin

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Last changed: December 13, 2009