“Every problem that the editorialists fret about today will get worse,” Harper’s Magazine columnist and author Thomas Frank told an audience in November. “Inequality, global warming, financial bubbles, one after another. But it won’t matter. On America will go, chasing the only ideology that our country has left, down into the seething Arcadia of all against all.”
Frank was on tour in Seattle promoting his latest book, “Pity the Billionaire,” published in January of last year. The theme of the evening, and the book, was the upside-down political world that appeared immediately after the greatest economic crisis of our time—a crisis that by all rights should have discredited the neoliberal and neoconservative policies that created it, but instead led to a conservative resurgence dressed up in the language of populism manifested as the tea party.
With the authority of decades of study of the economic and social forces that shape popular political opinions, Frank offered his own dark view of the times ahead, including the mounting bipartisan effort to privatize public goods and services.
“Sometimes I wonder what our world is gonna look like if and when the new, revitalized right prevails in the polls and actually gets a chance to do what they say they want to do with the country,” Frank said with signature sarcasm. “I mean, maybe finally what the pundits have been saying all these years will finally happen and they’ll have pushed too far, and the country will start to drift back in the other direction by some occult force of history and we won’t have to lift a finger and everything will solve itself.”
“But I don’t think so. I think that as Americans clamber further down into the sulfurous pit called ‘utopia,’ the thinking of our market-minded friends will continue to evolve. And before long—you know it—they will have discovered that certain once-uncontroversial arms of the state must be amputated immediately. ‘What are interstate highways and national parks,’ they’ll ask, ‘but wasteful subsidies for leeches who ought to be paying their own way? What is disaster relief but a power grab by losers who can’t get themselves out of the path of a hurricane?’ And you know Social Security will go too, of course, as the ‘essential injustice of protecting the weak’ dawns on them.”
The volume on the recording below is poor. So grab headphones if you can, or move to a quiet room.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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