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WHY CONSERVATIVES MUST LIE
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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