By any objective measure, Republican dominance in either state or local government ends in failure. Deficits, cronyism, declining services and economic malaise are always the result, conveniently leaving in their wake increased public cynicism about the value of government at all. But that leaves out the curious paradox that it precisely when government is so thoroughly trashed, rich people are more eager than ever to buy it. Why? For the same reason they love to buy “troubled” companies and fixer-uppers; somewhere, someone has left money on the table, and they’ve got to get their paws on it.
Never mind the individual tragedies that have moved these once-treasured assets onto the bargain shelf: the overseas competition that made the factory “uncompetitive,” the elderly widow who let her house fall to ruin, or the emaciated state government that can’t pay its teachers and firefighters. They’re all the same; another chance for the savvy investor to “flip” something for some quick cash. In that sense, Republican policies begin to become eminently logical.
If America were, say, a house, it wouldn’t have caught the attentions of any flipper back in 2000. It wasn’t upside-down on its mortgage, the yard was neatly trimmed, and the servants were able and contented. By 2008, though, the mortgage was in arrears, the paint was peeling, the servants were either surly or thieves, and unrepaired water damage had taken a ghastly toll; as you can imagine, the flippers hungrily swarmed in. You see, although Bush had been a little sloppy on the aesthetic stuff, he really had made a lot of valuable improvements not visible to the average buyer.
Why would anybody buy a government when it’s saddled with a bunch of grabby retirees, uppity unionized employees, boring functions to administer, a nosy judiciary, and a “quaint” Bill of Rights? Nobody, that’s who. So in his devilishly odd way, George Bush increased the value of government, at least for the right customer. And the wars, though costly on their face, not only drastically increased oil consumption and price, which made a lot of the right people want to move in, but they also threw in a dedicated revenue stream; think of it as a Granny apartment for Military Industrial Grannies. That sucker will pay the mortgage and then some, especially since it happens to be the size of Co-op City.
A similar bidding war is breaking out in Wisconsin; in the pre-Walker days, it was only worth a few million to the Kochs and their ilk. But after Walker’s “improvements,” they’re spending ten times that much to hang onto it, and why wouldn’t they? Abysmal economic performance aside, what with the voter suppression, emasculated unions, loosened environmental protections, and draconian new laws against dissent, the place has a lot of upside potential; never mind the shaggy lawns and dangling gutters.
Contrary to popular belief, the supposed goal of drowning government in the bathtub was always just a ruse; Big Government, of the socially stingy and punitively extravagant sort, is a primary requirement of the Big Money that might want to buy it. It’s one of those improvements you or I can’t see, and that’s the point. Our loss is their gain.