The Big Picture: A 40-Year Scan of the Right-Wing Corporate Takeover of America
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CG. No. It is that and it is something deeper, more psychological. When I was in England a bit ago, I was talking to a Syrian cab driver, this was in the middle of the Arab Spring. I said, why is it that you've got (this was before the riots) English kids protesting at Trafalgar Square against tuition increases? You've got women in Rome -- a million people -- protesting against Silvio Berlusconi. The next day they've all gone home, the kids have gone home. In America we had the resistance against the Iraq war, they went home. But in Egypt they came back every single day. In Yemen they come back every day. And he said, "Well, we in the West have freedom. They don't have the freedom."
So there is someway in which we have the consciousness here that we have something that could be lost that we don't want to risk. In the Middle East, there is nothing left to be lost.
DH: So fast-forward to the present. How has the right-wing philosophy which has dramatically increased its influence, changed the nature of government?
CG: What we are up against is the constant reduction of compassion as the highest priority in how you make public policy and deliver public goods. The right wants to take public space. They want to take public resources. In response, progressives get lost in the message of to trying to re-instill belief in government. With the government argument, I think we're missing the point, both in terms of compassion but also that it's not not about belief in government. It's about who owns government and what it's for. Despite the right's anti-government rhetoric, their practice is pro government. But it is government for them. So we must challenge the principle of who owns government. We are saying they've diminished the belief in government, but why does Rick Perry want to become president of the United States and, in effect, CEO of the nation’s investment engine, that is, government.
It's not because he doesn't believe in government, it's because he wants to control government. They want to control and privatize government resources. Capitalism is exhausted here. It needs more public money. It’s always needed public money, it needs more now. When you look at the growth of capitalism in America from railroads all the way to the computer, it's publicly funded. I say to people what do Velcro and GPS have in common? They were both created by the military. And who is making a profit from that? Does the public get any return for its investment?
But if we had a conception of government that was not only tax agent, service deliverer, but also an investor in the economy like a bank, and it was entitled to a return just the way a bank gets return, we'd have plenty money. But we don't treat ourselves as the investor. But every major technological growth has been publicly invested in. If we were a shareholder in Microsoft because we invented the computer, it would be a very different terrain. So the reinvention of capitalism is the issue, and the reinvention of government is what is happening. So capitalism is directly claiming public investment now.
DH: Can you provide a current example of the privatization impulse?
CG: Charter schools are a very good case study for the impulse. Forget anti-unionism; forget whether or not they work, because they don't. But even if they did they are not cheaper. Charter schools are simply the transfer of public money to profit-making activity. That's the system they are steadily building -- prisons, schools, public parks, there's a conversion of the whole system into an investment of capital which is a major extension of what's always been true.