The Deficit, the Supreme Court and Conservatives

Some in the professional commentariat ask, how come true conservatives are not complaining about the rapidly increasing deficit? You can say the same about many astute observers. Asking why is indeed a critical question. This could not be just about tax cuts for top earners, who are making out like bandits. Nor could it be about funding the government, which increasingly is harder to do. Why? The out of control deficits.

Part of this is political ideology. Many, if not most, in conservative politics believe taxes are evil. To some, they are outright theft of their private poverty. They are willing to make an exception for the military. In some cases just in cases of declared war. A few of these ideologues point to the Constitution. Nowhere in the document are roads, education, or healthcare mentioned. Raising an army is contemplated, but only in wartime. Incidentally, this is why the Bill of Rights contains the Third Amendment. There is a reason why it has become a curiosity, archaic and all. Go ahead and look it up. Most people don’t know it. After all, a prohibition against quartering troops was very relevant in the 18th century but has not been necessary for over two hundred years.

Deficits are not spelled in the Constitution either. The only thing that is clear is that the power of the purse lies with the House of Representatives, the People’s House. Most federal programs in existence would be alien to the Founders. None of them, whether it is Social Security, Section Eight Housing, or Medicare are spelled out. These would be alien to the people who drafted the foundational documents. In their age, a safety net existed. It was limited to mutual aid societies and relied on charity, and the church. There was the precedent of Poor Laws, but that included a likely indenture.

It was a very different era. During that time medical care relied on luck, not necessarily skill. In fact, there were scarcely any professional societies. Things like vaccination were starting to become widespread, but only for Smallpox. The method used was messy, and hardly understood. The germ theory of disease lay at least fifty years into the future. Many of our modern day advances in medicine were unknown even a century ago. Antibiotics did not come into the scene until the 1930s, and that happened by a real fluke.

Roads were not publicly funded. Many were poorly laid and maintained toll roads, or at times country roads that got no maintenance. Some of these were created by horse and cart traffic, not by tools. They were near impassable in bad weather

The only method of communication mentioned in the constitution, after much debate, is the United States Postal Service, and postal roads. They thought that communications were important. These roads and the service were used to distribute early newspapers. They were deemed essential for a self-ruling Republic

However, over the course of the 19th century that early social contract started to change. The largest, most consequential change of that century was the end of slavery. The other was the early unions. During the 19th century also saw immigration from Europe, and new ideas coming to the country. Communes were established in the 1830s and ’40s before Karl Marx wrote his books. These communes were derided by the conservatives of their era since they advocated a life where the collective mattered. It was part of a movement in Western countries, where experimentation in new ways of social organization expanded. Most of these communes failed.

The 20th century saw the emergence of a new social contract. It included things like Social Security, Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act. It was far more inclusive and helped to deal with deep poverty and income inequality. It also saw the raising of income taxes, used to fund many of these social services. This new contract spoke to the needs of the We. It rejected the individualism of the 19th-century classic capitalist ethos It rejected pure market forces and embraced a social system that included regulation. It redistributed income and created a far more egalitarian society with fewer divisions. It was not perfect. It excluded a lot of people as well, especially earlier in the century. The New Deal was carefully calibrated to keep most of its benefits away from the Jim Crow south, for example.

The far right has been busy trying to return the market to its central place in American society. They have been trying to cancel that new social contract and go back to an older one that benefited them greatly. Neoliberalism within the Democratic Party meant this right-wing ideology captured the party of the people. However, this is not enough. They want to destroy the whole twentieth-century social contract.

One way would be to pass legislation to cancel the New Deal. These programs are still very popular with-especially older Americans. So this would lead to a backlash at the polls. There is another way to get to that goal. This is to precipitate a crisis. This crisis has to be very deep and essentially create so much suffering that passing this legislation will be possible. This is what Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism.

So we turn to the deficits. They are growing to levels unheard of in peacetime. Wealth is currently undergoing a dramatic redistribution to the wealthiest in the country. The bare bones of this final intent are taking form. These are incredible to behold. Conservatives, who speak highly of fiscal restraint, are trying hard to bankrupt the country. Why? In the midst of a crisis, like the Great Depression, they will be able to pass the necessary legislation to go back.

This is why we are seeing Republicans blow up the deficit. And do not fool yourself. The other party does not fully disagree. Or to be far more precise, parts of the other party who pay homage to the New Deal while agreeing it needs to go. This is the conservative wing of the Democratic Party.

So when you hear, but Conservatives are fiscally conservative, and then you look at the deficit, it is consistent with that end goal. It is clear when you hear the talk of reforming the entitlement programs. This is code, to partially, or fully, privatize the safety net. This is where Judge Brett Kavanaugh comes in. They seek to recreate the conservative, ideologically right-wing, Supreme Court of 1932. Democrats will oppose some of this, but some of the opposition is a theater of the absurd.

That court declared major parts of the early New Deal unconstitutional. This is where we are going to. When the inevitable crisis comes we will have a court ready to rule against more liberal solutions.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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