Friday, January 07, 2005

The Banquet

The Moose points out that the opening of the 21st century has brought a return to the Gilded Age.

An announcement this week by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) provided a clarifying moment about the period in which we live. The LA Times reported yesterday,

" powerful business lobby is preparing a multimillion-dollar campaign to aid the White House in its quest to win approval for conservative judges, a move that could transform the ideological battles over the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court.The new effort on behalf of some of the nation's biggest manufacturers will increase the cost, visibility and intensity of an already divisive confirmation process, one that has been dominated by social issues."

Virtually all of the focus on Supreme Court vacancies has been on abortion and other hot button social issues. However, the titans of industry realize that the Court also rules on critical economic concerns. Ultimately, the Court will probably have more impact on that area than on the culture. Rarely, does the Court, even an ideological one, advance much beyond the general cultural milieu.

It is ironic that cultural conservatives who pride themselves on advancing the "pro-life" cause will support justices who will inevitably weaken worker safety and environmental regulations. Oh well, who cares about the pre-born after they are hatched, anyway. Property rights should always prevail over the public good, right?

A conservative judiciary was a central institution in promoting the economic arrangements of the last Gilded Age. The distinguished right-of-center publication, the Economist, suggests in a must read piece that we may be in the middle of another one,

"Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace: would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap. The United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society."

Some conservative commentators have long accused the left of promoting European-style economic policy that would stifle economic opportunity. But that is exactly what the Economist is suggesting that the income redistributionists of the right are accomplishing. Note the closing sentences of the article,

"The Republicans, by getting rid of inheritance tax, seem hell-bent on ignoring Teddy Roosevelt's warnings about the dangers of a hereditary aristocracy. The Democrats are more interested in preferment for minorities than building ladders of opportunity for all.

"In his classic "The Promise of American Life", Herbert Croly noted that "a democracy, not less than a monarchy or an aristocracy, must recognize political, economic, and social distinctions, but it must also withdraw its consent whenever these discriminations show any tendency to excessive endurance." So far Americans have been fairly tolerant of economic distinctions. But that tolerance may not last for ever, if the current trend towards "excessive endurance" is not reversed."

The Bush Administration should be viewed as a bountiful banquet of the comfortable with the great malefactors of wealth stuffing themselves on a feast of tax cuts and deregulation. The trusty Maitre d' is W. and he is assisted by the always reliable crew of waiters led by Delay, Santorum and Frist.

And, of course, we all quite grateful for the scraps.
-- Posted at 8:19 AM | Link to this post | Email this post