Thomas Frank appeared on "The Colbert Report" last night to promote his new book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, and succinctly explained the thesis of his latest work thusly: Conservatives may be good at winning elections, but they suck when it comes to governing.
"Once you start treating it as a business, you know once you start turning over government operations to the market you're not talking about democracy any more. What you're talking about is plutocracy. Rule by the wealthy. Rule by the market."
(h/t Heather for vids and transcript)
Rough transcript below the fold:
Colbert: My guest tonight says that conservatives have destroyed the government. Oh yeah? Then why do I still have to vote?
[...]..Now you're saying that that uh they don't rule very well. That's your argument. What do you mean by that? They've been ruling for the Congress for most of the nineties and for most of the 1990's, plus they've had control of every other branch of the government. How could they not rule well if they stayed in power? Isn't that the objective of government?
Frank: Yeah I guess if you figure in one, in one sense it is. They've been very good at winning elections. What they've actually been doing in Washington DC though is throwing the bureaucracy into reverse. You know, uh, selling off the government to you know to the highest bidder or in some cases the lowest bidder.
Colbert: Isn't that the quickest way to reduce the size of government? Is that redefine what the role of government is.
Frank: You know that's uh...
Colbert: Government doesn't do this. Government doesn't do that. You know government is just welfare for people who can't put out their own fires.
Frank: That's an excellent suggestion. Just redefine the whole thing. Government isn't about you know looking after the general welfare. Government is about looking after you know our campaign contributors or something like that. The problem is that's not what we have the elections about. That's not what they were elected to do.
Colbert: What were they elected to do? I'll bite.
Frank: I'd start with endorsing the laws.
Colbert: Okay, sure, but laws..
Franks: Labor laws Stephen?
Colbert: Labor laws?
Colbert: Labor laws are very mutable. Who's to say, who's to say what a hazardous work environment is? I mean maybe OSHA, but if you sell OSHA off to a private enterprise to enforce the labor laws..
Frank: Ah, very good idea. See and this is what's been going on in Washington for the last well, at least the last eight years but if you go back further as I do in the book for the last 28 years it is basically turning over these operations to the private sector where we really have no idea what they're doing.
Colbert: But government's like a business. Why shouldn't a business run the government?
Frank: Well that's the funny thing it ain't a business.
Colbert: It ain't a business? What do you mean it ain't a business? You mean isn't a business? I just wanted to point out that that was grammatically incorrect.
Frank: I believe, I believe you nailed me.
Colbert: I did nail you. How's that feel by the way? How's that feel? Good? Stings a little but it's a good feeling.
Frank:But it's not a business.
Colbert: Okay what is it then?
Frank: Government is the uh, the expression of the uh, you know, public will.
Colbert: But it takes money, it takes money...
Franks: It does take money..
Colbert: It makes it a business.
Frank: Oh very good.
Colbert: It does it takes money...
Frank: Is the Treasury Department a business?
Colbert: There's the deficit, debt...
Frank: Here's the interesting thing. Once you start treating it as a business, you know once you start turning over government operations to the market you're not talking about democracy any more. What you're talking about is plutocracy. Rule by the wealthy. Rule by the market.
Colbert: And people who know what they're doing and that's why they got rich.
Colbert: Who do we give the government to? The losers of the world? You know there's no silver or bronze in life. There's only people who rule and people who follow.
Frank: There was a time, there was a time in this country when a lot of people shared your views on this...
Colbert: A lot of people share my views now sir.
Frank: Maybe so but hopefully it's not the people who vote.
Colbert: Uh huh. We shall see.
Colbert: Tell me, tell me something the conservatives have done to the government that have made our life worse.
Frank: Well if you, let's say you live in New Orleans.
Colbert: No one lives there any more.
Frank: Let's say you are a meat packer in the state of Iowa..
Colbert: Aha yep.
Frank: And you're thirteen years old..
Frank: You probably shouldn't be, you know, working on the killing floor when you're thirteen.
Colbert: Uh why because I don't want to build character?...Here's the point is. I know that conservatives say like Grover Norquist wills say he wants to make the government so small that he can drown it in a tub. But my question for you is that even if they do that, who's paying for that water? I hope it's not the taxpayer.
Frank: You know exactly. You know the really interesting thing is they haven't shrunk government. I mean it's grown. I mean you vote for these guys...crosstalk..
Colbert: They've made the government weaker.
Frank: They've turned it over to your buddies in the private sector. They've turned it over to the big contractors, the big campaign donors.
Colbert: And what's so wrong with that?
Frank: Well those people don't answer to you and me. They don't answer to "We the People" Stephen. They answer to...
Frank: Yeah, they answer to the stockholders. They answer to "He the Boss".
Colbert: Meet the new boss. It's the same as the old boss.
Frank: You know it is! It is!