In an early James Bond classic the evil villain, Goldfinger, concocts an ingenious evil plan (aren't they all?). Goldfinger intends to irradiate the U.S. gold supply at Fort Knox with an atomic device. The goal is to render the U.S. gold supply useless for decades. This, in turn, will make the value of Goldfinger's own gold holdings surge.
Achievement through sabotage - as opposed to achievement through hard work - is Goldfinger's way of helping us understand the Republican's decades long race to the bottom.
For the better part of thirty years the Republican strategy for acquiring power has been to dismantle and discredit the state by depriving it of cash, while dumping the worst mistakes of the market on to its books. Tax cuts for the rich and bailout politics for their political supporters have become the GOP's "irradiate the state" tools of choice.
Contamination by deliberate sabotage - like Goldfinger's irradiation plan - allows the Republican Party to criticize a bailout saddled federal government and cash-strapped states who are increasingly unable to make even the most basic repairs.
Market players, who are made fabulously wealthy through continuous bailouts, reckless deregulation, and favorable legislation, grin and then make outlandish claims about the superiority of the private sector. That America's super wealthy have gotten even richer after thirty years of favorable legislation and the GOP's tax-cut-jihad is simply icing on their "hate-the-state" palooza.
The rationale for the Republican's Goldfinger-like irradiation policy today is really quite simple.
Recognizing that the Great Depression revealed the weaknesses of an unfettered marketplace the Republicans second bite at the "magic of the market" apple under Ronald Reagan exploded in their face. Thirty years of deregulation and tax cuts for the rich have pushed America's national debt from about $950 billion in 1980 to $14 trillion today (almost $11 trillion when President Obama was inaugurated). It also contributed to biggest market collapse since the Great Depression in 2008.
But it has also paid political dividends.
Today, with cities and states cash starved, and America's richest class getting even richer, the Republicans continue to harangue a discredited and "broken" state for shortcomings that their policies have made worse. Like Goldfinger's gold stock, the GOP's political stock rises every time they get someone in America to believe the state is the enemy.
Collapsing infrastructures and failed government responses have become the poster children of debt-strapped states that are increasingly burdened with challenges they don't have the resources to deal with (unless, of course, Wall Street needs trillions of dollars for wrecking the economy).
By squeezing resources from the state - and transferring them to America's richest class - the Republicans are on the verge of breathing political life into Grover Norquist's infamous quote, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
The fact that the state appears incapable of responding - or seems tone deaf - to natural disasters is beside the point. As long as the state gets blamed, the point is made. And like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, the Republicans party on through it all.
As Americans become increasingly frustrated with a toxic political environment, the state's problems are made worse by its seeming incompetence in the face of natural or market driven disasters.
Meanwhile, the ideas of the Republican Party, like Goldfinger's gold stash, have not been improved upon. In fact, they're not even trying. Think about it. The Republican Party voted to repeal President Obama's health care legislation last week - only to acknowledge that they had nothing to replace it ... The GOP complains about deficit spending, but continue to push for irresponsible tax cuts for the rich which make our deficits worse ... The current GOP leadership once proposed a budget with no numbers ... After railing against government spending for decades the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, couldn't think of a single program he would cut from the budget during his first week as Speaker.
Under the GOP's race to the bottom approach our future - like America's Gold reserves in the Goldfinger movie - is in trouble. Only this time it is being hijacked by ideologues who have no other strategy but to deprive and discredit the state. This race to the bottom has been going on for the better part of thirty years and - with the 2012 presidential season around the corner - won't be getting any better.
It's really that simple.
UPDATE: I adapted this post for publication in our local paper, the Bakersfield Californian, which you can find by clicking here. As well, this bumper sticker seems to fit in with the piece ...