Looking Through the Overton Window

The recent budget proposal from right wing budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan reveals several sordid truths about conservative strategy. We would do well to understand what these rascals are really up to with their demand for draconian cuts to the social safety net.

First, in delivering such a drastic and extreme budget proposal the right is simply doing what many have done before them. They have offered policy that is so outrageous and absurd that virtually anything less severe will be greeted as “moderate” and “reasonable. In doing this they push the debate continuum further and further to the right, as policy once considered harsh is now looked at as a potential compromise.

In political parlance this is called pushing the Overton Window. The Overton Window is the range of policy that is considered acceptable. By introducing radical policy proposals to the discussion one attempts to move the window to include ideas once considered unacceptable to the mainstream of public debate, by making them look less objectionable in comparison. It is a tactic used by everyone in the political game, primarily because it works. By advocating, for example, the eventual privatization of Medicare, Ryan hopes to make future policy advocacy of a slightly less undesirable nature more appealing to the masses. Time will only tell if the trick works.

Second, inside Ryan’s proposal we find revealed the true strategic aims of the right. Conservatives have been trying to repeal the New Deal for over 70 years. They hope to take advantage of the current weak economy and the resultant loss in federal revenues to emasculate reviled New Deal and Great Society social programs, all in the name of fiscal responsibility.

The rich and their pet programs will not suffer from Ryan’s budgetary slashing. In their plan only the poor and middle class will bear the burden of allegedly putting our country’s financial house in order. Make no mistake, the corporate elite and their followers aim to make America a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy. If the Overton Window continues to get pushed further and further to the right eventually the corporations and their fat cat followers will have a stranglehold on our nation that average citizens will be unable to overcome.

Can you say Banana Republic?

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