Good Government

To a person who inherits $300,000,000, like each of the Koch boys and our current president, who actually got more than $400,000,000 from his tough father, good government is one that keeps its hands off their fortunes while protecting them from anybody who wants to rob them.   That government also provides a strong military for general defense, good roads, bridges, electricity, sewage systems, police and fire departments, airports and so forth, the things necessary for all citizens, rich or poor.  The rest: liberty! [1]  

For all other citizens, we expect good government to provide other things.   A free, quality public education, for example.  Affordable health care.  Programs to protect the weak, the disabled, children, the elderly.  Regulations to ensure that the environment is not destroyed and that poison is not piped into our homes.   Laws to protect vulnerable citizens, and enforcement of anti-discrimination and labor laws, among other things.

The long, openly racist rule in the former Confederacy, for example, would never have ended but for federal enforcement of Civil Rights laws (Malcolm X more accurately called these rights Human Rights).   The constitution was amended and laws were made after the Civil War to enforce these new rights for freed slaves (and everybody else), but states and the Supreme Court soon nullified these for a century or so.  During that century of terror and virtual slavery under a new name, lynching was commonly used to enforce Home Rule in states that had rewritten history to make outfits like the Ku Klux Klan heroic protectors of white womanhood in the eyes of angry white citizens who believed in the old ways.

I was amazed to learn, during Constitutional Law class in the first term of law school, that much of the long overdue federal enforcement of Civil Rights in the former Confederacy (and in many other places where racist practices were written into the law) came under the constitution’s Commerce Clause.   The Commerce Clause gives the federal government the right to intervene in state matters when interstate commerce is involved.  The segregated restaurant in Georgia served potatoes from Idaho: commerce clause!

I learned recently that the Commerce Clause had been a compromise with slaveholders, they received a guarantee that slaves could be imported from Africa for at least twenty more years in exchange for the Commerce Clause. Good on you, you murdering racist motherfuckers, sealing your own eventual doom with that sweet deal.

I have an old friend who worked as a corporate lawyer for a few years until his conscience got the better of him.   He became a lead lawyer for the earth, constantly arguing in federal court on behalf of endangered species, poisoned land and water, destructive policies pursued for profit, often in violation of existing regulations.   His job was to convince a federal judge to force the responsible government agency to step in and enforce its own laws.  Ain’t dat some shit?   His organization would bring lawsuits to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce its own rules against a massively powerful company like Monsanto, whose chemicals do great damage to the ecosystem.  Monsanto would send an army of the best lawyers money can buy.  My friend fought them toe to toe for years.   He won quite a few cases, though many were also lost.   He is leaving that job after many years pretty exhausted, as you can imagine.

When our current president took office he hired, as head of the EPA, a climate change denier who, as governor, had sued the EPA many times, on behalf of toxic polluters like his good friends and political backers.   His brief as EPA Administrator was to get meddlesome government regulators off the backs of job creators.    Fuck nontoxic drinking water, mercury, arsenic, toxins in the air, destruction of the biosphere… CLEAN COAL!   FOSSIL FUEL!  USA! USA!!!  [2]

I’m reading Juan Gonzalez’s fascinating book on progressive politicians struggling to remake America’s cities.   He concedes that the jury is out on all of them, including Bill de Blasio, the main politician he discusses in Reclaiming Gotham,  but the chapter detailing de Blasio’s first hundred days lays out a lot of admirable moves from the administration that promised an end to the Tale of Two cities that has long been life in New York City, increasingly the playground and safety deposit box for the international rich.

In contrast to Trump’s picks to head agencies (with an eye toward disabling them), de Blasio picked as head of the Human Resources Administration, the organization that provides all services to the city’s poor, the disabled, the elderly, and many services to children, a Legal Aid lawyer who had sued the HRA many times over its many abuses and shoddy practices.   Who better to run the agency, if your intent is to make it serve its public mandate better? 

The argument rages, between those who view fairness and justice as the same thing, who believe the weakest among us deserve society’s protection, as does the earth we all live on, and those who believe only in infinite, unmolested wealth for themselves.   The sides are drawn, between those who consider basic fairness an aim of human society and those who believe justice means preserving existing privileges for the few at all costs, at any cost.  

Untold millions are spent every year by the super-wealthy to advance the idea that liberty means a government that coerces nobody to do anything they don’t want, a government small enough to drown in a bathtub.   These determined fucks are at it around the clock, with dozens of well-funded think tanks, where the only thought is how to change the public dialogue to convince at least 40% of citizens of a philosophy that cares nothing for them, for the earth they live on, for the future of their children’s children.

There is no price too high, for most inheritors of vast fortunes (and most self-made billionaires, for that matter, in my ruthless opinion), to make sure the government keeps its hands off their fortunes.   Pave the goddamned roads, keep the planes running on time, have cops to protect me, a fire department, top notch sewage disposal, all the rest of those basic services of civilization, just keep your fucking hands off my wealth.  In fact, stop fucking looking at it, you entitled, class-war stoking social justice warrior fucks!


[1] The “ideology” these oligarch-types have devised, to make themselves appear morally upright, is called “libertarianism” which we can all agree sounds much better than “greedy assholism” or “fuck y’all, I got mine, bitches!”.

[2]  Quick hit on google:

President Trump’s first EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, resigned effective July 6, 2018, amid a series of scandals. Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, started serving as acting administrator on July 9, 2018.



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