River City faces a terrible deficit, and if we don’t cut spending on the things We, the People do for each other right now, there will be trouble. We gotta do some austerity! We gotta eat that seed corn. We gotta stop taxing the 1% and stop paying for things the 99% need!
It’s a con as old as the hills. Whip up the people with fear, and then offer them the ready-made “solution.” In his post, Ya Got Trouble — A fresh look at an old con, Tom Sullivan nails it with a scene from The Music Man. For those not familiar with The Music Man, here is the lead-up: “River City ain’t in any trouble.” “Well, we’re going to have to create some.” Then the Republican Congressman Music Man goes out and whips the town into a state. He does it to sell them. (The following is from a local production, which YouTube allowed to be embedded here. To see the clip from the movie click here.)
From Sullivan’s post:
Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
and that stands for pool!
In one, short speech — building intensity as he goes — Professor Harold Hill gathers a crowd of onlookers and rattles off a litany of big city sins “the right kinda parents” worry about corrupting their children and their small town: sloth, drinking, gambling, being “stuck-up,” smoking, loose morals, and indecent pop culture. In a fevered crescendo, Hill warns parents of “shameless music • That’ll grab your son, your daughter • With the arms of a jungle animal instink!”
Sullivan explains the con:
Hill presses every button the people of River City, Iowa have to press, plus appeals to patriotism and God to create a city-wide moral crisis that four minutes earlier the townspeople didn’t know they had. Sound familiar?
Now strike pool. Insert contraception, voter fraud, death panels, or a half dozen other right-wing bogey men and the grifter’s pitch works the same. Today, Harold Hill would be working for Fox News or Americans for Prosperity. He’d be running American Crossroads, and making a lot more money.
This con has been perfected in recent years as The Shock Doctrine, forcing entire countries into debt or other crisis, then stepping in to plunder and privatize their resources, like what is happening to Greece right now.
Whipping Up Deficit Hysteria
This “con game” is what is happening to our own country as well, with the whipped-up terrification over deficits. The Reagan plan was cut taxes and increase military spending to force the country into debt, and then use the debt to force privatization of public resources into the hands of a few. George ‘W’ Bush said after cutting taxes on the rich and raising military spending that the resulting transformation of Clinton’s budget surplus into huge budget deficits was “incredibly positive news” because it would force us into near-bankruptcy. Yes, he said that.
But the solution offered — the current Republican budget that phases out Medicare and guts our government — doesn’t even cut the deficit! The Republican “austerity” budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts for the 1%! Then it guts most of what We, the People do for each other.
Don’t be fooled, it is just one more conservative con game.
Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California. Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.
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