GILROY, Calif. -- After watching former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on the Christian Network explain that he committed adultery because he was "so passionate" about America, a quick image flashed across my mind in a daydream moment.
It starts at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. With the Great Emancipator looking down, Newt is standing on the top step projecting a body like Stallone-as-Rambo holding a .50-caliber machine gun with ribbons of ammo hanging from his bulging muscles.
This image melts into a ranting Newt-as-Tony-Montana in Scarface, pulling the trigger as he shouts, "Say hello to my leetle fr-end."
Bullets fly, tracers peppering the Capitol Mall.
"I pool dee tree-gur 'cuz I lov my coun-tree," yells Newt, his face contorted into an evil smile. Glenn Beck, sitting at the great man's feet, is grinning and waving a BYU banner.
Flash back 3,000 years or so. Newt, having a plenitude of graying hair and a long white beard blowing in the wind, angrily waves two slabs of stone above his head, as he stands on a promontory overlooking the Promised Land.
He is silent. But each stone slab has one of these lines
chiseled into it:
V. Thou shalt not kill, except ...
VI. Thou shalt not commit adultery, except ...
The dream ends.
The images pass.
Yet - one more flash, an ah-ha! moment. While pondering the fading images of Mr. Gingrich as a tough-guy religious leader, one flaw in conservative ideology becomes crystal clear: If the directives of the Ten Commandments are not absolutely, one-hundred percent forbidden, or if their transgressions are easily forgiven, then any lesser directive can be crossed with greater impunity.
The Bible reports that as the Israelites moved into Canaan, the Promised Land, there was a lot of killing and wife-coveting going on. Indeed, killing and adultery has spiced human existence for a very long time.
Apparently, as most deep-thinking philosophers and some
theologians may attest, no rule is absolutely sacred.
The Prime Directive of the conservative movement is:
Thou shalt not raise taxes! To right-wing proselytizers, this commandment appears to be more important to society than coveting or killing your neighbor's wife.
To get conservatives' support, all GOP presidential candidates have to do is sign a pledge never to raise taxes. The verbal, "Read my lips: no new taxes," is just not enough!
You can lie, cheat, steal, even start a phony war or torture, but you must never raise taxes.
Any reasonable citizen would know that the stricture against raising taxes is but a chimera, a fire-breathing dragon in a horror show created by fanatical conservative ideologues who were poorly potty-trained as infants.
There is a theological basis for this view: Christ said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." This is usually interpreted to be an endorsement of taxation in principle, though some hard-line
exegetes, employing spaghetti logic, disagree.
Indeed, if we rendered unto God all things that are God's in practice, there would be nothing left for Caesar, i.e., government.
Even Mr. Gingrich accepts taxation for defense. The headquarters of Lockheed Martin resides in his old congressional district, after all.
Since President Ronald Reagan moseyed on into the White House, the fanatics have been riding their high horse, whipping up discontent in the body politic, while turning the principles of American democratic political dialogue on its head.
Over time, with conservative ideology spreading
like a lethal virus through the body politic, folks with greater wealth have come to exercise decisive control over the American political system.
Politics, rules, and regulations on behalf of all Americans have taken a back seat to the interests of those who want to weaken national loyalty to the people's government, so they can take it over and make new rules that facilitate the creation of greater personal wealth for themselves.
The conniving band of brothers and sisters who ballyhoo this agenda include Republican politicians, right-wing broadcasters, country-club executives with Cayman-Island bank accounts, dirty-tricksters, feeble-minded John Birchers, emerging New Confederates who believe the South was right in 1861, flimflam bloggers, and intrauterine theologues - to name a few.
They all get a lot of help from Dr. Frank Luntz, who's worked hard to identify the right words, phrases, and images to move the conservative cause along, while nurturing a know-nothing mindset in this 15-minutes-of-fame consumer-marketing age.
"I want to know how you really feel," he says to his FoxNews focus groups. Luntz has become somewhat of a guru, training right-wing politicians, their political cadres, advisors, speech writers and secretaries, explaining how to use the perfect bon mot in front of the camera, while applying the lessons learned from his sophist's histrionic exercise of rhetoric.
The key word in their speak-to-the-mic repertoire, of course, is "taxpayer." Americans citizens have become transmogrified from individuals with an active, participating voice that expresses concern and vision for the direction
of their communities and nation into that of an homuncular leprechaun fumbling with keys for the locks attached to his pockets.
In the Golden Age of Eisenhower and JFK, American citizens gave little thought to funding education, the hometown park and Little League, to emerging technologies, museums or even the arts.
The Vietnam War taught us that a "lying government" is a bad government, and Mr. Reagan rode in on the wave of the refrain, "Government is a necessary evil."
The logic runs like this: Government, while necessary, is bad, so it should be made to be as small "a bad" as possible. To make it small, taxes must be cut. "Taxpayers" know best how to spend their own money, anyway.
"Whatever money government spends, it's my money that it's spending," is a thought we all ought to have, they think. So let's eliminate the things it spends it on that I don't like.
A corollary to this syllogism is the tenet aimed at keeping the spectre of the Cold War hovering over the political debate: Those who want to raise taxes are communists or socialists, the only defenders of "Big Government."
A "liberal," meanwhile, is only a communist in drag. To hell with Adam Smith, the free market's founding liberal. A generation after Mr. Reagan's election, lesser minds have simplified it:
"Government is evil."
The conservative anodyne? Kill citizenship. Kill the American Community. Privatize everything. Let Corporate Feudalism rise! Where ought our loyalties lie? Certainly not in an evil government, even if Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson had a hand in fashioning it. Be loyal to the folks who give us jobs - the plantations have reincarnated as corporations.
So people in government make mistakes. What about people in business, especially Big Business? Let's keep in mind that, since the election of Mr. Reagan, conservatives have done a lot to make government look bad.
We had Iran-Contra in the '80s; the GOP forced a government shutdowns and a phony impeachment in the 1990s; and, in the last decade, we've had a war costing American citizens hundreds of billions of dollars. Conservative governments account for three-fourths of our current national debt and federal fudget deficits - a result of their tactic of reducing the size of government, running it by increasing spending without raising taxes, and thus creating deficits that Democratic Administrations have to deal with.
Ever since Reagan conservatism morphed into a fanatical,
absolutist, non-compromising brand, business decisions have not only led to a rise in white-collar crime, but they have also cost the American people trillions in wealth and wasted tax dollars as the right-wing ideology glommed onto the public consciousness.
In his book, Why Decisions Fail, Professor Paul C. Nutt explains that 50 percent of business decisions are bad decisions that fail to achieve their intended consequence.
In a democracy, voters have some ability to correct bad
government decisions; but in a plutocracy, where wealth controls politics, the power of the public is diminished in both the public and private sectors. The wealthy control both political and economic outcomes.
With the conservative rise to power, irrational and illicit business decisions occurred in the '80s. The killing of the savings and loan industry typified the unintended consequences of applying right-wing privatization theology.
The Reagan-inspired Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, the legislation that precipitated the S&L crisis, was one of the most irrational pieces of legislation passed by Congress in the 20th Century.
"This [Act] ... will make the thrift industry a stronger, more effective force in financing housing for millions of Americans in the years to come," President Reagan said when signing the bill. "It means help for housing, more jobs, and new growth for the economy. All in all, I think we hit the jackpot."
But not only did American citizens lose billions of dollars, the Justice Department received over 11,000 criminal referrals. Why weren't there 11,000 criminal prosecutions? Because the budgets of agencies responsible for investigation and prosecution of those cases were either cut or eliminated. In one case, a key investigative agency lost 95 percent of its staff, killing its efforts.
Of course, a few of President Reagan's crony's did "hit the jackpot," as they became sole owners of S&Ls, and were able to loot them before they went bust. During the 1990s, we had the rise of the dot.com bubble.
On one hand, economic activity exploded. President Bill Clinton got lucky. The invention of World Wide Web technology in 1993 sparked a burst of national energy and creativity not seen since the 1960s. On the other hand, deregulation and globalization took its toll on the country, as business decision-making deteriorated and its consequences accumulated.
While corporate mergers ultimately led to net job losses by the turn of the Millennium, dot.com companies, popping up
like weeds on an abandoned golf course, plsyed shady games by reporting numbers that had little basis in reality.
Investor pressure to produce revenues and profits in the face of heightened free-market competition whetted the appetite of too many executives, who freely bent long-standing rules of business management and finance.
One example was the relaxation of accounting rules, enabling accounting firms - like Arthur Andersen, Inc. - to accept more lucrative contracting commissions, creating
conflicts of interest in their dealings with clients.
While Arthur Levitt and Harvey Pitt, two chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), sought remedies to these problems, their efforts were blocked by GOP members of Congress, who enabled a misty curtain of permissiveness to hide a vast wave of unethical activities.
So, even today accounting firms can accept jobs as consultants to their clients. Meanwhile, companies like Enron, working with their accountants and consultants, were able to doctor quarterly reports, bamboozle investors, and scam consumers - in Enron's case, California energy consumers - into paying higher electricity prices to cover their losses elsewhere.
One result of this free-market perfidy was the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis, who was taken down by voters after an electricity crisis was manufactured by Enron energy traders in league with top executives there.
Too many companies created phony assets,transactions, and profits, assisted by accountants enticed by large consultant fees to look the other way. In the end, together with thousands of other businesses, Enron crashed, taking their costing investors - including pension funds - many billions.
Few of the transgressors were punished, though Enron's leading executive, Ken Lay, received a stiff jail sentence before he died. In the last 10 years, private enterprise found new ways to scam consumers and investors, leading to the worst world-wide recession since the Great Depression.
It was actually the wife of well-known, right-wing U.S. Senator Phil Gramm who is said to have inspired the present crisis. We are told Mrs. Gramm - associated with Enron's crash and the bankruptcy of a large managed health-care company - came up with the idea of "credit default swaps" - i.e., insuring bad mortgages to minimize risk and generate long-term income.
Bad private sector decision-making led to the closure of hundred of banks and the death, for all practical purposes, of "investment banking." Trillions of dollars of investment wealth evaporated.
Both Republican and Democratic Administrations
forgot about the people and bailed out the wealthy. Only Bernie Madoff went to jail. By contrast, when the stock market crashed in 1929, everybody got hurt, including the very rich.
This led to economic reforms and new regulations to moderate volatility, aimed at reining in the worst of bad business practices. Since then, those who opposed these changes have fought rule-by-rule to eliminate them; their priority was to control the political system that made the rules.
Rules have been consistently changed to benefit the rich. When the stock market crashed in 2008, the wealthy were bailed out, thanks to their ability to influence politicians. American patriots started their journey in 1776 with the refrain: "No
taxation without representation!" To accommodate our shorter attention span, that's now been truncated to "No taxation!"
That's where Newt Gingrich and his crowd stand.
In reviewing his adulteries and his political acts, and the excesses of an era he ruled, Newt's main passion is clearly for himself. That's characteristic of conservative fanatics, as the history of their rise and their exercise of power demonstrates.
In short, Mr. Gingrich may well have an abstract passion for
America, but he has no real passion for Americans. If he did, he'd be a liberal.
Copyright 2013 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.