Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cui Bono? Who benefits from the Republican program?

Cui bono, or who benefits, is a question that's popped up for me when considering all that the Republicans want. Whether you're talking about education, health care, environment, taxation, regulation, women's issues, sexuality, race, the Republicans are on the side of the most regressive and quite frankly anti-life positions. That's the problem. The question is why, why are they supporting all these things, things which most first world countries reject? Looking at who benefits provides an answer.

In my estimation there are two groups that benefit from the Republican program, two groups that are interrelated. They are economic elites and social elites. Economic elites are a pretty obvious group: business owners, people with lots of money, people who are in the management of corporations. They want to pay no taxes, have no regulation of their business, and want no alternate programs, like the social safety net of many countries offer, which could allow people to exist without playing by their rules. Playing by their rules is a core part of what they want; in their ideal world the only values which would exist would be corporate values and the only way to physically exist and to make a living would be to fully submit to those corporate values.

The other group which benefits from the Republican program isn't quite so obvious. The social elites are people who belong to dominant social groups. Much of the legislation around social issues like abortion, sexuality, and religion seems to enforce the dominance of these social groups. They are, pretty much, white anglo-saxon protestant men. What banning abortion does is to reinforce the traditional hierarchies, making women have to submit to men, isolating people who are outisde of the social elite from power by having them have to raise children instead of pursuing their choice of occupation. Going against abortion reinforces Patriarchy.
So does banning sex ed. Banning sex ed and contraception for teenagers increases the risk that women will get into situations where they're more likely to have to submit to men through getting married and bearing children instead of pursuing independant careers. Homophobia benefits Patriarchy as well because it legitimates sexist behavior towards women and towards the world in general through macho images which would be called into question if homosexuality was accepted as being a legitimate way to be.

Religion reinforces the dominance of Protestant Christians. The religion which is talked about and which the pressure groups are pressing for is Protestant Christianity. By making that the norm they're isolating people who don't belong to Protestant Christian groups and reinforcing the hierarchy and power of those who do. Althoug people like Rick Santorum and Antoni Scalia are Catholic conservatives the people who benefit from their espousal of religion in public life aren't Catholics but white protestants. White protestants; I think its safe to say that fundamentalist Christians don't represent African Ameriacn protestants. So espousal of religion in public life by these people not only benefits members of one division of Christianity but specifically benefits one set of ethnic groups: white people from northern Europe. People from England, Germany, Holland, Scotland, and Scandinavia benefit disproportianitely from the advancement of Protestant Christianity because the general makeup of religion for these countries is Protestant and their descendants are much more likely to be Protestant. Germany is the only partial exception since there are many German Catholics.

So emphasis on Protestant Christianity benefits people who have preexisting ethnic dominance in this country.

The drug war in combination with the taking away of social services combine to reinforce white supremacy. People of color facing a racist society with nothing to help them overcome the barriers to them face a dead end life and are more likely to engage in self destructive practices like drug use and petty criminality. Then they get arrested, thrown into prison, and are that much farther from being able to escape from their social situation. Therefore they're that much less of a risk to the dominance of white anglo saxon protestant men. It's something which prevents there from being a fair contest based on ability between WASPs and people of color, a general pattern which persists in areas far beyond drug policy.

Indeed, the United States is increasingly set up as a social darwinist state where survival of the fittest reigns supreme. The thing is that groups come into this arrangement with power and influence of their own and so subjecting the citizens of the United States to a dog-eat-dog world of ultra competition tends to press those people who don't already have privilege down while elevating those who come to the table with privilege up, people who then crow about 'natural differences' between ethnic groups and races when the only thing this really proves is that if you kick the supports down from people they'll fall.

All incentives towards competition which are done in an unequal system favor those who start off with advantages; the dismantling of the social safety net by conservatives guarantees that nothing will intervene to make the race equal between participants. It therefore reinforces white supremacy and patriarchy.

Now, the social elites and the economic elites intertwine.Economic power in the United States is less than totally competative; there's an element of conservatism in the buiness environment which refers to how access to the elite position is structured which naturally benefits those who enjoy social power.

So the makeup of the economic and social elites intertwine in the United States and it is these two poles which the Republican agenda revolves around.

Either group alone doesn't account for the specifics of the Republican program. For example, if you look at economic elites as being the primary beneficiery of the Republican agenda you face having to account for things like opposition to gay rights or the pressing of a religious and socially conservative agenda which don't obviously benefit pure economic elites. If all that matters is money than, theoretically at least, gay people, women, and minorities, should be able to participate in the system fully and benefit as exploiters just as well as people who are of white protestant male affiliation. But that's not how the business environment in the United States works. So looking just at economic is insufficient in itself.

Looking at social elitism is insufficient too. If social conservatism is the goal then why do Republicans insist on tax cuts for the wealthy, the end of the estate tax, the end of regulation as we know it? Not every person of white protestant male extraction is in a position of economic power and so these positions don't obviously directly benefit these people in general. Someone who benefits socially very well from the conservative agenda might not benefit from it economically at all. Someone can benefit from the reinforcing of male dominance, protestant dominance, and de facto ethnic dominance to a great extent while being shut out of the economic benefits which the Republicans are pressing for elite economic interests. They may of course actually be hurt by these moves. Looking at who benefits socially isn't suffiecient in itself either.

But combined they provide a pretty good picture of who the Republican party program benefits, why, and what this says about the structure of the society which we live in.

It should be noted that where these two spheres intersect we should expect to find some of the most powerful people in the United States and indeed, people who are of northern European protestant descent are over represented in the hierarchy of business culture and of political culture. The idea that rich white men run the country isn't an inaccurate one. To see the sort of intersection which this describes one only has to look at the Bush family; white anglo protestants who made a whole bunch of money and who now are dominant in the political world.

The same story could be repeated over and over again in different areas of public life in the U.S., as well as in business life. Business life is reputed to be one of the most regressive places in American society, and the idea of Country Club life, ie. an exclusive, all white, all protestant, rich, society life, is such a well known idea that movies have been made lampooning it. Ivy league and fraternity life as well, with boarding schools in the Northeast making their contribution here too.

However, this isn't the good old days when people from the Northeast stole all the glory. In this incarnation of which WASPhood the pool of people included has gone nation wide, welcoming western, southern, midwestern, and mid atlantic elites into the fold, people who would have been dismissed several decades ago as not being classy enough to deserve a place in the Northeastern dominated WASP elite. This incarnation is an equal opportunity oppressor, at least when variants of protestantism, ethnic origin, and class origin come into play. A born middle class German/English Methodist from Indiana is on par with a Northeastern born upper middle class Mayflower English Congregationalist.


So, yes, this sort of rich WASP society is the group that benefits the most from the Republican program. They get to have their social values reinforced while making a killing from the economic policies that Bush enacts.

And everyone else is screwed.

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