April 25, 2013

Austerity = termination

Austerity & Termination are twin ideologies

By Mark TrahantIf you look at the failed history of termination--the idea of ending the federal-treaty relationship with tribal governments--there were two distinct motives. Some believed it was the next logical step for Indian progress, an economic integration. While others hated government and used termination as a method to shrink and attack government.

National Congress of American Indians President Joseph Garry, a member of Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Tribe, said at the 1958 convention, that Congress adopted the termination resolution in good faith ... “believing it would be good for Indian people” even though it was clearly dangerous and a disaster. That’s why nearly everyone, friends and foe alike, were at least partial supporters of termination policy.

Utah’s Republican Senator Arthur Watkins was from the shrink-and-attack government camp. He was zealous about termination, badgering tribal witnesses when they came to Capitol Hill, refusing to even consider alternatives. He dismissed treaty obligations outright. Indians, he said, “want all the benefits of the things we have--highways, schools, hospitals, everything that civilization furnished--but they don’t want to help pay their share of it.”

This story should have a familiar ring to it. The same forces are at play when it comes to austerity. One camp sees the problem--the country’s demographic imbalance--and opts for austerity as a solution or at least a partial solution. While the other camp hates government and sees austerity as a tool to shrink and attack. Arthur Watkins would be at home in a Tea Party crowd.
Trahant's conclusion:The United States sharply cut government spending after World War II when debt levels exceeded 120 percent of GDP. Indian Country remembers that era well because it paralleled the termination era. Severe austerity and termination are related ideologies.Comment:  We've seen how conservatives demonize welfare recipients, and how it's a thinly veiled attack on women and minorities. "Austerity" is the name people are increasingly giving to this attempt to preserve white male privilege.

Termination was an Indian-specific version of this political philosophy.

For more on Indians as welfare recipients, see Natives "Filed Away" by Stereotypes and Canadian Candidate Quits Over "Hateful" Comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Technically, the basic premise of austerity (and the entire Austrian school), that government spending inevitably hurts the economy, has been discredited. (I should note that this doesn't mean all government spending is inherently good, but nobody was saying it was.)

Of course, it doesn't take a study to get politicians to do what they love to do anyway.