What the Tea Party billionaires are really afraid of

12:43 pm in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Before starting off on the Tea Party’s craziness, I would like you to examine some images from two nearly identical tragedies that occurred over a hundred years and several thousand miles apart. Later in the post I hope to make a connection between these twin horrors and the strange metamorphosis of the American right. Please bear with me.

Compare this Reuters photograph of the Tazreen Fashions Fire, Bangladesh – 2012 with the photograph below of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire:

Interior view of the tenth-floor work area in the Asch Building after the Triangle fire
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, New York – 1911
Drawing "The Locked Door!" refers to the Triangle fire and depicts young women throwing themselves against a locked door in an attempt to escape the flames.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, New York – 1911

The great mystery of American politics, a mystery which no one in the world can fathom, not even most Americans, is why so much money, hot air and spittle is being spent on literally paralyzing the American political system and making it impossible, not just to negotiate solutions, but to even have an intelligent conversation about solving the problems facing everyone, everywhere today. For that is what the Tea Party is really about: making first thought, then negotiation, and finally action impossible.

What is all this sound and fury covering up?

In my opinion it has much to do with where contemporary globalization is leading, the forces that it is setting in motion, which for historically minded Americans could elicit a bit of dèjá vu.

It seems to me that the globalization of today is in many ways similar on a world scale to the explosion of growth, power and sophistication of the US economy in the period after the Civil War, commonly called “The Gilded Age“. This was the period of the “robber barons” and viewed nostalgically by many of the American right as a paradise of anarcho-capitalism. This was a period of immense growth and innovation, but also one of enormous inequality, suffering and exploitation and financial crisis, all of it interpenetrated by an ubiquitous political corruption as the enormous new wealth so recently created set about purchasing and deforming to its benefit the institutions of American government: federal, state and local.

The excesses of the Gilded Age gave birth to a mass reform movement in the United States called, “Progressivism“. This movement, in a titanic struggle, bridging decades, among other things brought into effect: the regulation of interstate commerce, the breaking up of the monopolies known as “trusts“, laws regulating the purity of food and drugs, the rise of labor unions, laws eliminating child labor and in 1913, even progressive income tax, something which still causes intense indignation on the American ultra-right.
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