IN THE MIDST of last year's congressional wrangling over President Reagan's first budget, am indignant Democrat felt it necessary to declare. "This is not a dictatorship!" That contention, sadly, has not been proven by subsequent events. A House under nominal Democratic control wasted no time about "giving the President what he wanted"--carte blanche to impose a policy of economic and fiscal suicide upon the nation.
A year later, the same script is being replayed in gruesome detail. An economy teetering on the brink of Depression has revealed the true fruits of "voodoo economics," yet this year, House Democrats were so eager to pass the Administration's tax bill word-for-word that they saw no reason to even debate it, let alone observe the lower chamber's Constitutional responsibility to initiate tax legislation! And so Americans will be hit with the largest tax increase in their history--this from the man who promised to "reduce the burden of the federal government"--largely in the form of sales and excise taxes which weigh most heavily on lower-income individuals.
Last, Thursday, the House speedily passed the Administration's $175.3 billion military authorization bill for 1983, by an overwhelming vote of 290 to 73. The final document differed hardly a what from what the Administration had first requested--a symbolic 1 percent overall reduction, and a reneval of a $54 billion authorization for nerve gas production, were the only cuts which the House made without the approval of the White House. The white elephant B-1B bomber, the first-strike Trident 2 and Pershing 2 minutes, an unjustifiable and essentiatly priced MX missle, and a thoroughly absurd and unworkable "civil defense" program were all approved Apparently many legislators see no incousistency in throwing symbolic but meaningless sops to the messive nucleat freeze movement and then fleefully voting for the very weapons which most threaten to destabilize the current neclear balance.
IF THE DEMOCRATIC legislators' submissiveness can in part be explained away as shrewd politicking, the people have no such excuse for the credulence and deference they continue to grant to their charismatic but inept President. After these many months of near-depression, and long after David Stockman's public admission that the President's "economic recovery program" was merely a blind and cyncial "Trojan Horse" to sell upward redistribution of income and wealth to the masses, those masses continue to believe that miracles will result from swallowing this bitter potion.
Opinion surveys taken in May and June, both by Reagan's own pollster Richard Wirthlin and by The New York Times with CBS, indicate that over 50 percent of the populace continue to believe that Reaganomics "has helped" or "will eventually help" the economy. What is most amazing here is not the majority's patience in expecting positive results from what John Anderson rightfully termed "snake-oil economics"--but rather, that they persist in believing that the policy was ever designed to help anyone but Reagan's political creditors in the upper class.
The Administration displays awareness of this "pool of patience" in its very arrogance: Stockman is still in office despite his iconoclastic admissions, so is Raymond Donovan, in the face of continuing allegations of gangland associations: and so are William Casey and William French Smith, in spite of disclosure of their financial mixdealings. And there is no sign that James Watt is on the way out, despite the furor over his letter to Israeli Ambassaror Moshe Areins which somewhat to blackmail American Jews into supporting his slash and burn land use policies Reagan seems confident that his adoring fans will forgive members of his supporting cast of any sin.
And yet there is some indication that Reagan and his boys know trust there is much for them to be advanced of and that they fear the voters may just figure out that this November (or two years hence). What has become perhaps the most distinctive trademark of this Administration is the "senior official who would only talk to the press on a "background" basis, with the condition that his name not be used." This mysterious individual appeared at least twice recently first to brief reporters on the White House incredible certification that El Salvador's rulers have made "progress" on human rights: and then to present an equally preposterous rosy economic forecast, which has already led to the resignation or hastily scheduled "vacation" of any nameable official who could be connected with it.
In the past, this shadowy "senior Administration official" has on occasion turned out to be none other than former Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Evidently this Administration's highest-ranking Cabinet members are afraid to be identified with its policies.
And so we have a government of faceless, anonymous individuals, dictating irrational, unworkable and sometimes insane policies that no one is really responsible for. And a "loyal opposition" in Congress all for eager to rubber-stamp these policies, as long as they can sign their names to those bills that represent pork barrel to their constituents, and support the rest...anonymously. Perhaps the next step will be a government of total anonymity, for which voters will select nameless candidates--Brand A or Brand B--on the basis of unattributed empty slogans and hollow promises, and anonymous records of supporting shameful legislation. The identities of these noble statesmen need be revealed only to the one constituency which might be expected to appland the kinds of policies we've seen this last year and a half: the corporate and upper-class interests who sign the campaign fund checks.
The author is a Ph. D. candidate in Political Economic at MIT