What is the ongoing U.S. government shutdown really about? In the middle of April 2009, I was taking a rest in a hotel room in Syracuse, N.Y. and jumping between two channels: a PBS documentary on Pete Seeger, the great American country singer of the Left, and a Fox News report on a country singer of the anti-tax “Tea Party,” who was performing a populist, anti-Obama song full of complaints about how Washington is taxing the hard-working ordinary people to finance the rich Wall Street financiers.
There was the weird similarity between the two singers. Formulating an anti-establishment populist complaint against both the exploitative rich and the government, they called for radical measures, including civil disobedience. It was another painful reminder that today’s radical-populist Right strangely reminds us of the old radical-populist Left. Are today’s Christian survivalist-fundamentalist groups, with their half-illegal status, seeing the main threat to their freedom in the oppressive state apparatus, not similar to the Black Panthers back in the 1960s?
The difference is the fundamental irrationality of the Tea Party agenda: to protect the interest of the hard-working ordinary people by way of privileging the “exploitative rich” and thus literally countering their own interests. One of the weird consequences of the 2008 financial meltdown and the measures taken to counteract it (enormous sums of money to help banks) was the revival in the work of Ayn Rand, the closest one can come to the ideologist of the “greed is good” radical capitalism. The sales of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged exploded again. According to some reports, there are already signs that the scenario described in Atlas Shrugged—the creative capitalists themselves going on strike—is being enacted. The ridicule of this reaction is that it totally misreads the situation: Most of the gigantic sums of bail-out money went precisely to the Randian deregulated “titans” who failed in their “creative” schemes and thereby brought about the meltdown. It is not the great creative geniuses who are now helping lazy ordinary the people, the ordinary taxpayers, who are helping the failed “creative geniuses.” One should simply recall that the ideologico-political father of the long economic process that ended up in the 2008 meltdown was Alan Greenspan, a card-carrying Randian “objectivist.” Now we finally know who John Galt is—the idiot responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown and, consequentially, for the ongoing shutdown.
How long will this masterful ideological manipulation continue to work?
[Extract. Appeared in In These Times, on October 10th, 2013. (full text).]