Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and prime ultra-reactionary advisor to the Bush administration, is also a head hatchet man. He believes that President Theodore Roosevelt ushered in an era of socialist government that has existed to this day.
Teddy Roosevelt, known as a “trust buster,” broke up monopoly control of the economy. Like Grover Cleveland before him and FDR after him, Teddy warned of the subversion of democracy by huge accumulations of wealth in the hands of the few.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) who, of course, took this country further in the direction of social programs, was excoriated and reviled in the board rooms and mansions of the wealthy. He was roundly hated by the wealthy class he came from, and he acknowledged that fact in 1936 when he declared, “and I welcome their hatred.” He was called a “class traitor” and a “communist” for declaring as he did in a 1944 speech, “[All Americans should have] the right to a useful and remunerative job … the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; the right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him … a decent living; the right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies … the right of every family to a decent home … to adequate medical care … the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment; the right to a good education.”
The Bush family had more reason than most of the wealthy oligarchy to hate FDR. In the 1930s Prescott Bush, George W. Bush’s grandfather, established a bank in partnership with a German industrialist named Fritz Thyssen who authored a book bragging that he financed Hitler’s rise to power. Thyssen was tried and convicted as a Nazi war criminal. In 1942 the FDR administration seized the assets of the bank under the Trading With the Enemy Act.
Every one of the rights that FDR enumerated were and are an anathema to the ultra reactionaries like Bush, Cheney, DeLay, Frist and Norquist. They and their predecessors have waited for 60 years or more to destroy the gains made during the years since FDR’s New Deal.
Their goal is to destroy the very fabric of our society, and as means to this end they would do the following:
• Eliminate all federal taxes on private capital
• Eliminate Social Security and private pension systems
• Eliminate public housing
• Eliminate food and drug protections
• Eliminate public education
• Eliminate public welfare
• Eliminate unions
• Eliminate regulation of business
• Eliminate restrictions on public funding of religion
• Eliminate public funding of the arts.
It is reasonable to think that this list is an exaggeration but each one has been stated in one form or another by those who are close to Bush and his administration. While others may try to be more subtle Norquist is an “in your face” type. Here are some of his thoughts: “My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” “We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals – and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship.” “Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.”
What they keep out of sight as much as possible is their efforts to roll back equal rights for minorities. Declaring that the law should be “color blind” they are going to the courts, where they were recently defeated.
Bush has perfected the strategy of dressing up his reactionary program with innocent, even progressive-sounding slogans. What is becoming ever more clear is that he and his entourage lie to the American people in order to disarm and distract any opposition. However, this strategy will fail.
The labor movement in the 1930s was able to organize hundreds of thousands of workers and their families to win important gains for all – the very gains now under attack. Labor won then and labor will win again.
David Buxenbaum is a trade unionist. This column appeared in AFSCME District Council 1707’s publication, DC1707 Voice.