The Bush administration is pushing a dangerous agenda that will set back the gains of the Civil Rights movement for generations. The administration has been taken over by an extremist ideology referred to as “neo-conservatism” or, for short, “neo-con.”
The name neo-con is misleading because there is nothing new, or “neo,” about this con.
Neo-cons put forth an agenda of less government to protect us (the average American), more government to enrich themselves (the economic elite). Less government means dismantling laws that protect public health and well-being from money-driven corporations. Less government means massive tax cuts for the rich. These tax cuts have already taken over three trillion dollars away from serving the American people.
More government means not only the enrichment of the elite, but also increased subsidies to corporate interests. Military spending is a masterful way of taking public funds, collected in taxes from the general population, and funneling them to multinational corporations in the name of “defense.”
The current effort to make Iraq into a U.S. gas station is a great case in point. Congress has approved $87 billion to “rebuild Iraq.” This is in addition to the $79 billion spent to date on the war. Politically well-connected companies are war-profiteering off military contracts. CEO pay at defense contractors rose 79% from 2001 to 2002, compared with 6% raises at the average company. Their $5.4 million average pay was 577 times as much as the pay of Army privates in Iraq.
When Americans think of defense spending, they think of money to ensure the safety of the general public. Now the question must be raised, have the billions of dollars spent on Iraq for “national defense” protected America?
The answer is clearly no. American soldiers are dying almost every day in Iraq. It has become clear that Iraq was never an imminent threat to the United States. The imminent threat is that the half-trillion dollar deficit will drain funds for basic social service programs. The imminent threat is Bush under-funding his “No Child Left Behind” Act, so that children will be left behind to the tune of $11 billion. The imminent threat is that hundreds of thousands of students will receive less government help to go to college. The imminent threat is that 2 million jobs have been lost since 2001, and that Black unemployment is rising faster than at any time since the mid-1970’s.
For the neo-cons, the suffering of the American people is irrelevant. They see subsidized healthcare, education, and Social Security as nothing but wasteful “big government,” obstacles to making bigger profits. Neo-cons want to con the American public out of these programs and limit government aid to only wealthy people and corporations.
The American public has other ideas about how their money should be spent. Seventy-six percent of Americans support overturning Bush’s tax cuts for the rich in order to pay off the cost of the ill-advised war with Iraq. Seventy-two percent oppose increasing the deficit to pay for this war, and 82% oppose cutting domestic programs. Yet Bush is ignoring the will of the American people in order to stay true to the con of the Neo-Conservatives, just as he ignored the will of the world in deciding to go to war with Iraq.
We African-Americans are the constituency with the most to lose from this conning of America. We must be at the forefront of making America live up to its ideals. From the Homestead Act to the GI Bill, America has invested billions in making sure its citizens have the opportunity to attain a middle-class lifestyle. Just as America began to acknowledge Blacks as citizens, it is now pulling up the economic ladder that had been so readily available previously to white Americans. Pouring funds into “national defense” and tax cuts for the rich will institutionalize the racial wealth gap for generations to come. If we follow the neo-conservative agenda, the U.S. will not be able to leave the legacy of racism behind. Black America must not fall victim to this con.
Dedrick Muhammad is the coordinator of the Racial Wealth Gap project at United for a Fair Economy .