The war on democracy in America: The radical right seeks victory by deception

Part 3 of 4

Given the obvious contradiction between right-wing ideology and the real needs of most Americans, the radical right devised ways of deceiving ordinary citizens, using populist language to assure them that conservative reformers were selflessly saving these social programs for the peoples’ future benefit, while in reality they were whittling them away, slice by slice,  toward complete  extinction. 

For example, although the radical right is absolutely opposed to the very existence of of Social Security, they have taken pains to assure a malleable public that Social Security is going bust in the near future, and the conservative right wants to “save” Social Security from future bankruptcy by privatizing it. The idea is to get government out of the safety net business,  stop coddling an improvident majority, and replace Social Security with private solutions more favorable to banks, insurance companies and investors. Wealthy, more meritorious elites who had succeeded in business and investment, they maintained, would obviously do a better job of looking after the well-being and needs of ordinary working citizens. 

Unmentioned was the inconvenient truth that people’s future financial security would be vulnerable to the whims and cycles of the free market. Ultimately, the radical right hoped that by means of privatization, Social Security would quietly disappear. The cabalists succeeded in penetrating the Republican party and selling the privatization concept to some 40 percent of the population. In doing so, they ignored Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s  dire warning: “Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.”

The same sort of cynical tactic was applied to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pejoratively referred to as Obamacare, which was pronounced already to be a total failure (based on zero evidence), and which should purportedly be repealed and replaced by something else, such as block grants to the states, to save people’s health.Individual states would then be free to choose to cover pre-existing conditions or not, meet basic health needs or not, or provide nothing at all. Thus the people would be saved from Obamacare. 

In truth, the main weakness of the Affordable Care Act from day one has been the matter of affordability. The inborne weakness of Obamacare was one imposed by conservative lawmakers in Congress already in 2008,  namely the failure to regulate costs and prices of health providers, health insurance policies and pharmaceuticals. (Our Socialist friends in Europe require such cost and price regulation, the absence of which in the U.S. is the main reason for some 640,000 family bankruptcies each year for medical cost reasons in America, compared with zero bankruptcies in every country of the European Union.)

The conservative answer to the ACA was not to fix it, but rather to repeal and replace  it — a populist slogan quickly adopted by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, to appeal to his right-wing conservative base.  (These were the very persons whom Trump, in an unguarded but tape-recorded moment, once referred to as “the stupidest people in America.”)

Similar deceptive tactics were needed to accomplish the ultimate goal of the extreme right, namely the reduction or total elimination of the federal income tax, particularly for the wealthy investor class, to be sold to the populace under the misleading term “tax reform.” Although traditional fiscal conservatives had long opposed  any kind of budget deficits, the cynical new insight introduced by the extreme right cabalist thinkers was that still greater tax breaks for the already wealthy could be achieved by deliberately increasing the national debt, and then using the fact of that greater debt to reduce, defund and/or ultimately eliminate any and all social welfare programs, from food stamps to public education and health care. Ultimately, working Americans and the poor would pay, one way or the other, for the tax breaks for the meritorious investor class. Funds for guns, but not for people.


Anthony Piel is a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization.