Dec 10, 2013
America’s Descent Into Madness
Posted on Aug 19, 2013
By Henry A. Giroux, CounterPunch
The stories that dominate the American landscape embody what stands for commonsense among market and religious fundamentalists in both mainstream political parties: shock-and-awe austerity measures; tax cuts that serve the rich and powerful and destroy government programs that help the poor, elderly, and sick; attacks on women’s reproductive rights; attempts to suppress voter ID laws and rig electoral college votes; full-fledged assaults on the environment; the militarization of everyday life; the destruction of public education, if not critical thought itself; an ongoing attack on unions, on social provisions, and on the expansion of Medicaid and meaningful health care reform. These stories are endless, repeated by the neoliberal and neoconservative walking dead who roam the planet sucking the blood and life out of everyone they touch—from the millions killed in foreign wars to the millions incarcerated in our nation’s prisons.
All of these stories embody what Ernst Bloch has called “the swindle of fulfillment.” That is, instead of fostering a democracy rooted in the public interest, they encourage a political and economic system controlled by the rich, but carefully packaged in consumerist and militarist fantasy. Instead of promoting a society that embraces a robust and inclusive social contract, they legitimate a social order that shreds social protections, privileges the wealthy and powerful and inflicts a maddening and devastating set of injuries upon workers, women, poor minorities, immigrants, and low- and middle-class young people. Instead of striving for economic and political stability, they inflict on Americans marginalized by class and race uncertainty and precarity, a world turned upside-down in which ignorance becomes a virtue and power and wealth are utilized for ruthlessness and privilege rather than a resource for the public good.
Every once in a while we catch a brutal glimpse of what America has become in the narratives spun by politicians whose arrogance and quests for authority exceed their interest to conceal the narrow-mindedness, power-hungry blunders, cruelty, and hardship embedded in the policies they advocate. The echoes of a culture of cruelty can be heard in politicians such as Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, who believes that even assistance to those unemployed, homeless, and working poor suffering the most in his home state should be cut in the name of austerity measures. We hear it in the words of Mike Reynolds, another politician from Oklahoma who insists that government has no responsibility to provide students with access to a college education through a state program “that provides post-secondary education scholarship to qualified low-income students.” We find evidence of a culture of cruelty in numerous policies that make clear that those who occupy the bottom rungs of American society—whether low-income families, poor minorities of color and class, or young, unemployed, and failed consumers—are considered disposable, utterly excluded in terms of ethical considerations and the grammar of human suffering.
In the name of austerity, budget cuts are enacted that fall primarily on those individuals and groups who are already disenfranchised, and will thus seriously worsen the lives of those people now suffering the most. For instance, Texas has enacted legislation that refuses to expand its Medicaid program, which provides healthcare for low-income people. As a result, healthcare coverage will be denied to over 1.5 million low-income residents as a result of Governor Perry’s refusal to be part of the Obama administration’s Medicaid expansion. This is not merely partisan politics; it is an expression of a new form of cruelty and barbarism now aimed at those considered disposable in a neo-Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest society. Not surprisingly, the right-wing appeal to job-killing and provision-slashing austerity now functions as an updated form of medieval torture, gutting myriad of programs that add up to massive human suffering for the many and benefits for only a predatory class of neo-feudal bankers, hedge fund managers, and financiers that feed off the lives of the disadvantaged.
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