Friday, March 16, 2012

Robert Reich on the Upside-Down Morality of the Religious and Political Right

Robert Reich takes a close look at the moral concerns energizing the Republican base (and many Catholics, since Santorum and Gingrich are, after all, Catholic) in this and every recent election cycle, and finds that the Republicans have morality upside down.  While Republican candidates (and many Catholics) constantly decry what they see as the breakdown of private morality, the breakdown of public morality is gutting our democratic society in one way after another--and the Republicans front for the very economic elite whose lack of morality is producing social decay:

There is moral rot in America but it’s not found in the private behavior of ordinary people. It’s located in the public behavior of people who control our economy and are turning our democracy into a financial slush pump. It’s found in Wall Street fraud, exorbitant pay of top executives, financial conflicts of interest, insider trading and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign “donations.”

Reich's advice to the Democratic party: learn once again to use the language of values and morality, but apply it where it is most needed now, and where the Republicans refuse to use it--apply it to the behavior of the super-rich and their attack on the common good: 

Republicans have staked out the moral low ground. It’s time for Democrats and progressives to stake out the moral high ground, condemning the abuses of economic power and privilege that characterize this new Gilded Age – business deals that are technically legal but wrong because they exploit the trust that investors or employees have place in those businesses, pay packages that are ludicrously high compared with the pay of average workers, political donations so large as to breed cynicism about the ability of their recipients to represent the public as a whole.

If you want to see close up and at first-hand (and if you're not squeamish), what a truly "values-oriented" society dominated by upside-down Republican morality might accomplish if given free rein everywhere in the U.S., take a look at this sensational video about the state of Mississippi, whose voters are the most conservative in the nation, and who insist they must vote Republican because they vote their moral values.  As subsequent postings Andrew Sullivan has done in this thread demonstrate, there's understandable pushback on the part of some Mississippians and others to the way in which the video depicts Mississippi.

And yet, I'd also maintain that there's considerable truth in the video, which is, after all, a documentary.  The people interviewed here aren't actors and the squalor and poverty on full display in many parts of the video aren't a stage set.  These are real-life citizens of the heart of the American bible belt.

And as they tell the interviewer, they intend to do down fighting just as they did in the 1860s--fighting for their moral values, no matter what happens economically to them or anyone else.  Because Obama is anti-values (and a black half-breed), and the Republicans stand for right values and morality, by damn.  (And the president is, after all, a Muslim, according to more than half of the Republican voters in Mississippi.)

These are the people the U.S. Catholic bishops and their centrist commentariat pawns have hopped into bed with in recent years, and this is presumably their vision for a nation that hews to strong moral values and returns to God.

P.S. A sincere note of gratitude to Bilgrimage reader Evagrius for reminding me of this Reich article after I had bookmarked it, intended to blog about it, and then overlooked it.

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