Lewis Lapham: Of America and the Rise of the Stupefied Plutocrat

Lewis Lapham in Literary Hub:

Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980 with an attitude and agenda similar to Trump’s—to restore America to its rightful place where “someone can always get rich.” His administration arrived in Washington firm in its resolve to uproot the democratic style of feeling and thought that underwrote FDR’s New Deal. What was billed as the Reagan Revolution and the dawn of a New Morning in America recruited various parties of the dissatisfied right (conservative, neoconservative, libertarian, reactionary and evangelical) under one flag of abiding and transcendent truth—money ennobles rich people, making them healthy, wealthy and wise; money corrupts poor people, making them ignorant, lazy and sick.

Re-branded as neoliberalism in the 1990s the doctrine of enlightened selfishness has served as the wisdom in political and cultural office ever since Reagan stepped onto the White House stage promising a happy return to an imaginary American past—to the home on the range made safe from Apaches by John Wayne, an America once again cowboy-hatted and standing tall, risen from the ashes of defeat in Vietnam, cleansed of its Watergate impurities, outspending the Russians on weapons of mass destruction, releasing the free market from the prison of government regulation, going long on the private good, selling short the public good.

For 40 years under administrations Republican and Democrat, the concentrations of wealth and power have systematically shuffled public land and light and air into a private purse, extended the reach of corporate monopoly, shifted the bulk of the nation’s income to its top-tier fatted calves, let fall into disrepair nearly all the infrastructure—roads, water systems, schools, bridges, hospitals and power plants—that provides a democratic commonwealth with the means of production for its mutual enterprise.

More here.