Playing out the Powell Memo
Yves Smith had a very good piece the other day about how the Right Wing has reshaped conventional wisdom from when it was unimaginable to even consider destroying Social Security and Medicare to where we are today where all serious people believe that in order to get a handle on the deficit, these programs must be targeted for cuts (if not outright elimination). As she notes, a major part of the decades long change in attitude came about through a careful application of the Powell memo:
At the risk of oversimplifying such a complex, multifaceted campaign, several elements appear to be critical to its success. First was the sheer amount of resources devoted to it: an imperial armada of think tanks, advertising dollars, political donations, polling and focus group road testing. Second and related was the creation of viable, lucrative career paths for those who signed up for the cause. Third was the utter denial, followed by deer-in-the-headlights paralysis, within the left as to the effectiveness and relentlessness of this effort. Too many assumed that ordinary people would never sign up for policies that were detrimental to their well being. They failed to understand that people vote based on identity much more than interests, and a concerted effort at rebranding could make conservative economic policies sound attractive by linking them to success. Only losers could possibly be in support of redistribution and social safety nets (and they have been increasingly portrayed as parasites). Fairness went out the window; plutocracy was in.
She's definitely right. Listening to the wise men today, only losers have to depend on the government to get their healthcare covered or to fund their old age. The real people, like the VSP will be well taken care of by their corporate masters. Yet, I say, if you really believe that, then you must have straw where your brains are supposed to be. Who believes that companies who are offering healthcare today would continue to do so if Medicare was privatized? Because then nothing will restrain the greed of the market and companies will not be able to afford the expense. (Most people won't either.)
Yves's bigger point is that the progressive movement in the USA is very weak because too many progressives get in bed with people like Pete Peterson in their desire to be part of the discussions with the big boys and because of that they've had no effective way to beat back the tactics of the right. In this case, just agreeing that the deficit is the biggest problem we have plays right into the Peterson playbook.
Both of her pieces are excellent in describing the problem:
Bribes Work: How Peterson, the Enemy of Social Security, Bought the Roosevelt Name
On Fauxgressive Rationalizations of Selling Out to Powerful, Moneyed Backers