Don’t wait for the August release of “The Wrecking Crew,” which outlines how the conservative revolution devolved into a money-grubbing enterprise headquartered on the banks of the Potomac. You can read an adaptation of Thomas Frank’s book in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine. In his recent classic, “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” Frank told us why people vote against their economic interests. The Wrecking Crew zeroes in on the rise of Jack Abramoff from chairman of the College Republicans to sleazy lobbyist who squeezed millions from clients with gleeful contempt.
The lobbying world, according to Frank, portrayed Abramoff as a “bad apple” or a “one-of-a-kind con man” engaged in bizarre antics that the typical D.C. lobbyist would never have dreamed of. The media picked up that theme, and presented Abramoff’s jailing as evidence that the system worked.
Frank believes the exact opposite is true. To him a “wider tsunami of corruption” has washed over the federal government. He writes: “Fantastic misgovernment is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society.”
According to Frank, “industry conservatism” is a philosophy that believes in entrepreneurship not only in business, but in politics. The inevitable results are to allow business to capture the government and what follows from that: “incompetence, graft and all other wretched flotsam that we’ve come to expect from Washington.” Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.
Frank says Corporate America and rich right-wingers bankroll an entire conservative support network of flagship organizations (Cato, Heritage and American Enterprise Institute), numerous magazines and even a daily newspaper, the Washington Times, which is published strictly for the movement’s benefit. He compares the WT to a “propaganda sheet whose distortions are so obvious and so alien that it puts one in mind of those official party organs one encounters when traveling in authoritarian countries.”
Those entities are bolstered by countless political strategists, pollsters, campaign managers, trainers of youth, image consultants and direct mail specialists who are skilled at launching their “million-letter raids on the mailboxes of the heartland.” They each get a piece of the federal pie.
All industry conservatives have to offer America are “tax breaks for wealthy benefactors, wars started and maintained for the benefit of American industry, and fat contracts granted to the clients of the right consultant,” writes Frank.
Frank’s book cries out for a clean sweep of D.C. after eight years of Republican cronyism. Read the book. Tell a friend about it. Amazon is currently taking pre-orders.