If you are a right-wing white Southern Republican, you can spend your entire life as a ward of the state. You can serve in the socialist economy of the military and then, as a retired officer, you can go to work for a semi-socialist major defense contractor. Both in your active-duty career, your career in the pseudo-private defense contractor sector and your retirement, you will be one of the privileged Americans who enjoy a system of socialized, single-payer healthcare — the Veterans Administration. And throughout your career as a state functionary in the socialist military sector, you can grumble about big government and denounce liberals who don’t understand private enterprise.
It’s true: If you really want to know about life under socialism, join the military. Then quit and soak the taxpayers for even more money as a consultant or independent contractor making twice as much.
The U.S. economy increasingly resembles the dual economy of the Soviet Union, with an overfunded military sector and a chronically weak, dysfunctional civilian sector. Like the Soviet Union in its decline, we are bogged down in an unwinnable conflict in Afghanistan. The Soviet system was supported to the end, however, by Soviet military and intelligence personnel and defense factory workers and managers. Their equivalents exist in America. Conservatives are not being irrational, when they ignore the civilian economy while fostering the military economy that provides orders and jobs to many of their constituents. Theirs is the logic of Soviet-style conservatism.
Unfortunately, the current meaning of “conservatism” in America is completely twisted up with transitory politics, superficial cultural idols, and hopeless idealism.
The old Republican Party of Robert Taft and Dwight Eisenhower was a fiscally conservative party of Northeasterners and Midwesterners who favored balanced budgets and viewed foreign wars and military spending with suspicion; recall Eisenhower’s warning about the “military-industrial complex.” The Republican Party of Ronald Reagan and his successors is based in the Southern and Western “Gun Belt,” whose economy of military contracting and subsidized agriculture and energy was largely created by New Deal Democrats in World War II and the Cold War. The Republican Party seeks a permanent alliance with the Wall Street financial industry, which, however, flirts with neoliberal Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Both the Wall Street and the red state wings of the GOP depend on right-wing Keynesianism and right-wing socialism, in different forms. Right-wing Keynesianism for Wall Street consists of low interest rates that stimulate speculation and encourage inflation of the assets of the rich, like stocks and bonds. Right-wing socialism for Wall Street consists of “too big to fail” policies, which guarantee that over-leveraged financiers can keep their profits, while any losses will be socialized and paid for by the public. . . .
As long as they are out of power, Republicans theatrically pose as fiscally conservative enemies of big government. If the GOP recaptured Congress or the presidency, however, Ron Paul would be locked in the attic again and Paul Ryan’s plans for downsizing the federal government would be shelved in a locked cabinet in one of those secret government warehouses depicted in “The X-Files” while even more money was shoveled at the Pentagon.