President Obama got it right in his speech on the budget last week when he said the Republican Party’s goal “is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.”
Forged in the great social struggles of the 1930s and 1960s, this social contract upholds the right to organize unions, a minimum standard of living for the elderly, as well as voting, housing and health care rights for victims of historic discrimination.
Undergirding this 20th century social contract is the idea that government has a role to play in regulating excesses in the capitalist economy and assisting the poor, the disabled and the elderly.
This role is now seen as harming the corporate bottom line. The U.S. ruling class and, indeed, the ruling classes of other developed capitalist countries see it as interfering with business “competitiveness.”
As we noted earlier, large sections of European and U.S. business have come to an ideological and political consensus and concluded, “We can no longer afford it.” As one German banker said, “Half of the social benefits [pensions, universal health care] have to go; people have to work more, longer hours, longer years; otherwise, it is impossible to continue to fund the present system.”
These concepts have risen to the level of policy in the Republican Party budget, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week. This budget would end the guarantee of Medicare and Medicaid, cut Head Start and Pell grants severely and slash food stamps by over 20 percent.
No longer content to posture on social issues like Planned Parenthood and abortion, investigation of Muslims and attacks on NPR, the GOP majority in the House almost unanimously has declared open class war on the American people.
This assault, combined with the union-busting and budget-cutting measures of Republican governors, is a clear and unequivocal sign of what will be in store for the country if the ruling-class extremists win in 2012.
Some Democrats, including the president, now seem to be taking a more assertive posture. Politics, however, does not begin at the top and, as recent events have clearly shown, cannot be left there.
A massive fightback down below unlike anything seen in recent memory is required to deal the right-wing extremists a severe blow. Only this will allow friendly but wavering politicians to do the right thing.
Republican Paul Ryan called the GOP budget “a defining moment.” The congressional GOP’s unanimous vote cast the die.
The battle for the soul of America has begun.