Before I begin, let me just make one thing clear: this article is not – repeat, NOT – about Israel, at least not specifically or uniquely. In fact, it’s not about any particular country at all. Instead, what this article IS about is the universal truth that, wherever the right wing gains power or exercises significant sway (including the de facto veto power it wields in the U.S. Congress and Supreme Court), it
f***s messes things up. Big time.
Case in point: Israel, right now, where hundreds of thousands of people, to a large degree young Israelis, are protesting against right-wing policies, economic and otherwise, and demanding social justice. To understand what’s happening in Israel – and, more broadly, in any country where the right wingnuts hold significant power (like our own) – I strongly recommend this article, by writer and business professor Bernard Avishai. Here are highlights of Avishai’s main conclusions, all of which are integral features of the U.S. Teapublican Party, and also descriptive of what’s been happening here economically and politically under Reagan, Bush, Bush, DeLay, Boehner, Can’tor, etc.
1. CRONY CAPITALISM/THE RICH GET RICHER: Israel has a high degree of income inequality, in which, due largely to the Israeli right wing’s “freewheeling approach to market regulation − so much like that of American Republicans…The wealthiest 16 families own 20 percent of the top 500 companies.” Sound familiar? Well it should: here in the United States, “the top 1 percent control 40 percent [of the wealth],” and rakes in “nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year.” That income inequality is growing, year by year, as (to paraphrase Jim Webb) the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class gets squeezed. In both America and Israel, guess who fosters the policies that lead to rapidly growing income inequality? You guessed it: conservatives, the right wing, whatever you want to call them. It’s always the same people, engaging in what they perversely call “class warfare” (accusing Democrats of the very thing THEY do, on an enormous scale), but in a Reverse Robin Hood manner, robbing from the poor to give to the rich (who don’t need it), using the power of government to reward favored industries – oil, coal, big ag, big pharma, etc. – in exchange for campaign contributions. It’s called “crony capitalism,” and it appears to be alive and well wherever the right wing wields significant power.
2. LACK OF DOMESTIC INVESTMENT: “Social services are inevitably trimmed…Educational infrastructure is in serious decline…The health-care system is in crisis…” Again, sound familiar? Here, we’ve got chronic underinvestment in our people and in our physical capital. We’ve got a health care system that’s truly “the best of times” (for very few) and “the worst of times” (for many if not most). Here in the United States, we’ve also got an “educational infrastructure…in serious decline,” due to chronic underinvestment in our “human capital,” exacerbated by the misplaced priorities of the right wingnuts. Priorities such as the following item.
3. MILITARISM AND ULTRA-NATIONALISM: “The settlement project was, and is, insufferably expensive…One-sixth of the government budget goes to defense, and that fraction is creeping up to incorporate new weapons systems…Incessant war tension, among other things, has degraded the quality of life…” Not an exact parallel to the United States, yet close enough: over the past decade, military spending in this country, including the two unpaid-for wars (and let’s just be clear, whether you think they were justified or not, the wars were NOT paid for), has skyrocketed. In 2011, for instance, the U.S. defense budget was $693 billion, nearly 9 times higher than our nearest competitor (China), and second to China (among the top 10) as a percent of GDP. As for the “incessant war tension,” how about the endless “war on terror” (I say “endless” because how on earth do you ever declare victory on “terror,” or “terrorism?”), following on the heels of the decades-long Cold War? Does anyone remember President Eisenhower’s warning about an out-of-control military-industrial complex, not to mention the basic concept that money spent on “guns” can’t really be spent on “butter” (or education, bridges, health care, whatever)? Apparently, the right wing continually forgets, or just doesn’t want to remember.
4. RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM: “…the long-standing policy of the Likud and Company − a policy Yossi Sarid, when he was education minister, tried to change − to keep ultra-Orthodox yeshivas on the dole…It is Netanyahu and the right, settlers and the Orthodox and Russian Putinists, who live in a bubble.” Here, it’s not so much subsidies to religious fundamentalists, as the fact that a major political party – the Republican Party – is heavily in the grip of those fundamentalists. This, of course, has repercussions on policy choices, ranging from stem cell research to gay rights to women’s rights to environmental policy (remember, if The Rapture is coming soon anyway, there’s no reason to worry about trashing the planet), almost all of which are bad.
In sum: wherever right-wing philosophy is followed, it tends towards several unfortunate outcomes, including: Reverse Robin Hood economics (class warfare in reverse), ultra-nationalism and militarism, religious fundamentalism, and letting the public good and environment go to hell in a handbasket while enriching the wealthy and powerful. Unfortunately, one of those countries is our own. And another is Israel. In the latter case, hundreds of thousands of young people are taking to the streets in protest to demand social justice. In this country, the populist (although only quasi-populist, as it’s funded and directed from above) movement we’ve got is the bizarro (to quote John McCain) Tea Party. Oh, and note the alliance between the most far-right elements in this country, particularly religious fundamentalists, and the most far-right elements in Israel?
Anyway, what I really wonder is why we put up with this here in the United States. Where on earth are the young people (or whatever age), the progressives, the working people, the middle classes, and why aren’t they out in the streets protesting the fact that they’re totally getting screwed over by Norquist/Boehner/Cantor/et al? That needs to change, if we ever hope to prevent the right wing from
f***ing messing up America, let alone if we want to be a great nation, in all senses of the word, for decades to come.