True Colors

The right-wingers in charge say they follow God. Which one?

Item: A Tucson physician specializing in pain, Jeri B. Hassman, has been charged with believing her patients' accounts of their suffering and distributing medication to them too freely. The executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Jane Orient, M.D., says that Dr. Hassman's indictment is part of nationwide "war" by the Bush administration against doctors who treat people with chronic pain. (Arizona Daily Star, June 27, 2003, 1A).

Item: Two Democratic senators revealed that the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (known by the friendly, uncapitalized acronym Darpa,) was seeking to exploit the perspicacity of the free market by setting up an online futures market (read: dead pool) in which investors would place real-money bets on possible acts of terrorism. Darpa told prospective player/investors that the game would be "engaging and possibly lucrative." The program had a budget of $3 million, but was shut down the day after it came to public attention. Admiral John M. Poindexter (ret.), convicted for lying to Congress during the Reagan administration's Iran-contra scandal, was a key figure in developing the plan. (The New York Times, July 30, 2003, 1A.)

How are these startling news bits linked? By what they reveal about the Bush administration's ideological bent, insofar as it differs from unbridled greed.

It is, of course, increasingly obvious that the administration's overarching aim is theft--the diversion of public monies into the pockets of the Fortune 500 and its other closest friends on an unprecedented scale. While it may be possible that our Commander in Chief is suggestible enough to have believed that the invasion of Iraq was about stomping out terrorists funded by the Saudis and based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, surely his handlers knew it was about money. (Those who cannot remember the past, Santayana said, are doomed to fulfill it. Those who never heard of the past--those who were too hung over to pay attention in history class--are busy dooming the rest of us.)

Or maybe the president's posse decided that a few hundred American deaths and destabilization of an entire region was a small price to pay for that awesome photo op of our leader posing as Tom Cruise on the aircraft carrier--in which case the war in Iraq is the most expensive campaign stunt ever staged.

So. Mostly the action is all about stealing and re-election, but once in a while, as in the two stories above, we get a whiff of the administration's true beliefs.

In cobbling up a theoretical structure to match that of their enemies, the rightist think-tanks financed by dear old Joseph Coors (union-busting, tax-loathing promoter of the richness of the Rockies) have tried to outdo Karl Marx himself in their disregard of plain fact, spinning out theories of government every bit as useless as Marxism. Marx said that the state would wither away once the people's revolution has corrected all distortions created by capitalism--such as greed and selfishness. Anybody who grew up on planet Earth knows that proposition is just wrong, but how many tens of millions have been murdered in its name?

Stop and think about it. What is a business for? Making money. How does it improve the bottom line? By cutting costs and increasing productivity. How does management accomplish that? By keeping wages down, avoiding taxes and getting rid of employees whenever possible--and, course, by seeking tax-supported subsidies. Who are the "employees" of the business-state? The citizens. So why would the Bush administration be so baldly indifferent to the poor, veterans, small children, old people, sick people, etc? Market efficiency. Those folks are useless--that is, they do not increase profitability. They do not matter.

This corporate model of the state is incompatible not only with good sense, but with the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, most basic American institutions and, for that matter, with democracy itself. And besides, unfettered capitalism is so done--check your encyclopedia under "robber baron" or "child labor" or "opium wars." Or just contemplate for a moment the three most depressing words in the English language: "Health Maintenance Organization."

OK. So the administration's damp-eyed admiration of the free market's most abstract manifestations--Wall Street and commodities trading--helps explain the Pentagon's dead pool plan. But that still leaves the Justice Department's valiant pro-agony crusade unaccounted for. The drug companies who make pain meds are among the Bush's most generous benefactors, and the AMA is known to have some influence. Chronic pain sufferers are customers. So what gives?

Here, I think, we so enter the realm of religious belief. Someone important in the Justice Department wants people to suffer. (People with no pull, anyway. Do you imagine that Dick Cheney has trouble scoring narcotics in the ICU?)

This, in turn, brings up the continuing puzzle of who the right-wingers' God could be. They mention Him often, but cannot be referring to God the Father of the gospels, or to Yahweh even at his most exasperated. These folks must be aware on some level that the Ten Commandments frown on killing, and that Christ has absolutely nothing to say on the subject of same-sex marriage but is stunning clear on kindness, charity and peacemaking. Somewhere in the course of all that White House Bible study, somebody must have run across the Golden Rule.

OK. So when they refer to God, who are they really talking about? Mammon, god of money, doesn't have much to do with pain, per se, so my guess is that it's one of really old, hungry gods: A punishing fertility deity like Marduk, or one of the bloodthirsty Mayan pantheon, or maybe Tinit and her consort, Baal, to whom the Carthaginians offered up newborns. Some One, anyway, who enjoys pain and demands human sacrifice. But Jesus of Nazareth? No way.

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