Republicans talking about rebranding their agenda has garnered some amusement from Democrats. Changing the package, if the contents aren’t selling, seems such a lame response. And superficial. But, that’s what the instinct-driven individuals who now populate the Republican arena respond to — superficial attributes. On the other hand, a brand is a mark of ownership. So, perhaps what they’re really proposing is handing the political organization over to someone else. The problem seems to be that nobody wants it.
A brand is, of course, a symbolic representation of ownership, but a symbol, nevertheless, and in that it resembles the word, something the instinct-driven have proven very adept at using. They may not do much cogitating, or provide little evidence that they do, but they sure are good at producing verbiage, especially verbiage that disguises what they do. Or not. Because, when you come right down to it, other than take what they need for themselves, the instinct-driven don’t do much. Verbiage hides their thievery. Calling it austerity is not going over well. Well, duh.
“Government is the problem” was very persuasive for a good long while. I suspect it was because “government” is an amorphous entity and nobody was quite sure what was meant. Certainly, that the public purse was to be emptied at the behest of Ronnie’s cronies didn’t become apparent until all of our money ended up with them.
Money, like a brand or a word, is just a symbol, a representation of something that lets us see more clearly. In that sense, getting everyone hooked on using money to represent almost all their valued relationships was a good thing. Otherwise, we’d be in the same situation as before the purchase of the Louisiana territories for a specific sum of money it was hardly noticed that some European royal laid claim to owning half the continent. Talk about a concentration of wealth. Or rather, there was none because we hadn’t assigned the numbers to count it.
Of course, even when we know how much, we can’t be certain whom it belongs to or whether anyone claims it at all. Numbers just tell how much; we need words to define what’s really important–what it is and whom it belongs to. And that’s where the advantage of the verbally adept lies. People can acquire wealth or lose it all with just words, without doing a thing. Stake a claim and, if nobody objects, that’s the end of it.
What Ronnie’s Raiders didn’t say when they uttered the phrase, “government is the problem,” was that they were wanting the contents of the public purse for themselves. Which was not new. From the very beginning, indeed before the first explorers even arrived with claims for land in their hands, officials were responsible for doling out assets to the privileged–legally to the few. What had happened mid-century and what had to be reversed was the distribution to the many, rather than the few. Not only were too many people getting benefits from officialdom, but they were demanding the right to determine who those officials are and whom they are obligated to serve. That spelled the demise of the privileged class. Making the use of money ubiquitous, it was hoped, would serve as a necessary correction.
For about four decades, it worked fairly well. Congress, the official keepers of the purse, fearing the demise of their powers under the onslaught of demands for information, public supervision and an ever-expanding electorate, proved quite adept at using the purse strings to reward their cronies and strangle the malcontents — i.e. the majority of the electorate. Money joined the law in the service of subordinating the population and perpetuating the culture of obedience. Nay, not just perpetuating, but by expanding servitude.
Of course, they didn’t call it that. Just as government was redefined as a problem, servitude was transformed into service and sweetened with payment. Bush the Elder dubbed them “points of light” — voluntary workers that would be paid, but less than the supposedly involuntary kind. It was a peculiar argument that nobody questioned. Because, quite frankly, that the object was to get people hooked on money (rather than drugs) hadn’t really occurred to anyone. Not even when Alan Greenspan announced that the equity Americans had accumulated in their homes needed to be “liberated for the market” did the real intent register. Nobody expected that their real assets would be monetized just so the stripping of wealth could go forward unnoticed. Legal thievery on such a large scale was quite unprecedented. It had never been so blatant.
Perhaps hubris is the right word for what crossed the bridge into the 21st century. But, I’m not sure the executive officials of the U.S. are the sole bearers. The crooks in Congress, our scofflaw lawmakers, would seem to be the main culprits. They have reason. After all, if the populace asserts itself, then neither the law nor money will suffice to restrain their power. Ideally, in a consensual community, power is dispersed, available to coalesce when needed, but otherwise at rest, like a sleeping giant. Widespread austerity in a land of plenty seems sufficient to rouse it. When the corporate Tea Party folk and progressives are on the same page, watch out. Rebranding won’t turn a bull into a puppy dog. The thievery has gone too far. It’s just money. But, the thing about money is that it tells. Money lets us determine when enough is enough and when it is too much.
Anyway, I think liberals would do well to engage in a little renaming of things. The word “government” is in such bad odor as a consequence of official complicity in large scale thievery that it seems useful to designate the federal agents by some other name. Uncle Sam used to be in favor, but “uncles” have recently fallen out of favor. “U.S. officials” seems sufficiently precise and respectful for the moment, and just a bit longer to write. “America” simply won’t do because the Americas comprise many more people than just the US. Claiming that moniker is hubris personified.