From my History in Politics series:
October 10th, 2011
Given the present day orientation of the G.O.P. (the “Grand Old [Republican] Party”) as fanatic defenders of the very rich and apostles of fiscal inequality, it is fair for Americans to conclude: “My God, they’re trying to turn us into a Banana Republic.”
The term Banana Republic apparently was coined by none other than the famed American short story writer O.Henry in a book of his, Cabbages and Kings, based on a stay he made in Honduras from 1896-97. The expression, not a flattering one, has been defined by Wikipedia to apply to “a politically unstable country…ruled by a small self-elected wealthy group who exploit the country by means of a politico-economic oligarchy.”
The banana part was applicable to Honduras at the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th because the monopoly industry growing the yellow-skinned fruit there so dominated that nation. To be sure, the phenomenon that originated in Central America and on the Caribbean islands has since expanded elsewhere and also refers to commodities other than just bananas. Christopher Hitchens, a wasp-tongued British writer turned American citizen has penned an article entitled America, the Banana Republic, stating that his dear adopted land was putting itself “on a par with Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea.”
The current Wall Street Occupation Movement configures our present financial system through percentages – 1% of the country [the extravagantly rich] versus 99% [the rest of us]. This might be deemed what a full-fledged Banana Republic ends up becoming. Perhaps we are not quite at that point now. The top 1 % of our citizenry at this point in time merely pockets 25% of the nation’s income and 40% of its wealth. However, rest assured that the secret plans of the Banana Republicans contemplate going much, much farther in the direction of what the United Fruit Company turned Guatemala, Honduras and other Central American countries into during the heyday of inequality there from the 1920’s until the 1960’s. The unrest created by these conditions still have their repercussions until this day [Honduras presently has the highest murder rate in the world]. It should also be acknowledged that a goodly part of our immigration derives from this Banana Republicanism.
That we still have time for the U.S.A. to avoid such a fate can be argued from the fact that the massive re-distribution of American wealth is of fairly recent origin. The Bush Re-distribution [from the middle class to the very rich] can be traced to the Bush Tax Cuts. In the year 2000, the ex-Governor of Texas was handed a healthy surplus, not a deficit, when he entered the Oval Office and as part of the Banana Republican game plan, embarked upon the Bush Debt March toward the bottom and the Bush Job Loss and the Bush Bank Bailout.
The three Republican Top Bananas – Senator Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor – have since picked up these cudgels from George W.Bush and bullied their way steadily downward to the goal of Banana Republicandom for the United States. Unlike their guru Grover Norquist who merely wants to destroy the U.S. Government, this trio of ideologues seeks to divert to divert those governmental resources into the hands of a pampered few – i.e., the 1% whom people are getting angry about. The sense of where the GOP’s “No Way” is headed can be seen in a placard held up by one protester at an Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City. Its message simply declared: “BAN CORPORATE GREED. WE ARE NOT PEASANTS.”
That is, we are not yet all peasants. But the Banana Republicans are assiduously working to assure that we soon will be. Their utter refusal to do anything about jobs or let anyone else do anything strikes them as good politics. Unfortunately, such anarchistic behavior has seemed to work for them. If they should achieve total power in the 2012 election, the rush will be on to create even more income and wealth inequality in the U.S. than at present.
As it is, that statistic in America now stands at the highest level worldwide among the developed nations. In 2005, this inequality was already as dire as it had been here in 1928, before the Great Depression struck. Most if not all Banana Republics never experienced the recovery that the U.S. achieved in the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy years. Consequently, by 2011, we have reached the dubious distinction of having become the top banana when applied to increases in fiscal inequality, with much, much, more in the offing should the Banana Republicans have their way.
History, of course, has left us examples of what happens when these trends turn intolerable. Our own Revolution against Great Britain reflected an anger at the arrogance of our Tory “betters,” who paid little if any taxes and lorded it over the “little people” whom they scorned and sought to keep from voting. We now have Eric Cantor imitating that Tory snobbishness with his characterization of the Occupy Wall Street Movement as a “mob.”
The term brings up an image of the French Revolution, which transformed the “little people” of France against their own blood-sucking aristocracy. Remember Queen Marie Antoinette’s cold-hearted response when she was told: “The people have no bread to eat.” Without missing a beat, she shot back: “Let them eat cake.” An echo of such selfish detachment was recently witnessed at a gathering of the so-called Tea Party. Told that there were many Americans without health insurance, they shouted back: “Let them die.”
No, the American people are still not a disposable peasantry. As the Banana Republicans struggle to keep the privileges they have bestowed upon their wealthy financial backers and fiercely thwart all efforts to deal with unconscionable lobbyist-introduced loopholes in our laws and regulations, sectors of our American community are beginning to realize what is being done to the country at large.
“Let us return to American values. No Banana Republic for the USA.”