It is almost a commonplace for progressives, disgusted by the GOP’s war on the middle class, to talk about the U.S. devolving into a third world country – and, in their flattering if somewhat tiresome eagerness to copy progressive memes, fringe right wingers respond by claiming that government spending will beggar the country and –  voila – we will have attained the dreaded third-world status. Today, however, while I was preparing dinner and listening to the PBS Newshour, a discussion of the United States’ response to China’s human rights abuses caught my attention and brought the whole issue of our incipient third world status home to me in specifically Missouri terms.

In the segment, Phelim Kline, a China expert from Human Rights Watch, outlined some of the negative effects of Chinese repression on American life:

… Over the last couple of years, we have documented numerous cases of, you know, poison and toxic products from China entering the export stream, whether it’s poison dog food, toxic toys, poison melamine milk. Why does that happen?

Well, the fact is it happens because there is — there are severe restrictions on freedom of expression in China. … There is severe state repression of whistle-blowers, state censorship.

Wasn’t weakening whistle-blower protections part of what Missouri’s SB188, the Enterprise bill (which Governor Nixon vetoed last week), was all about? And what about the CAFO bill that would have denied rural residents access to judicial remedies for damages inflicted by big campaign donors industrial hog farms – a type of access that should be the right of every aggrieved American citizen. Did somebody say repression – or at the very least, efforts to institutionalize the repression of anyone who might try to thwart the big money interests in the state?  

Remember all those Missouri GOPers claiming that the minimum wage destroys jobs? What they were really saying, of course, is that if workers demand fair wages, their jobs will disappear into China or someplace similar where repressed workers have no choice but to put the slave back into wage slave. So folks, you can choose – out Chinese the Chinese and work for a pittance, or don’t work at all.

In fact, I bet if you went through each item of the legislative agenda, the “Fix the Six,”  that the Missouri Chamber of Commerce handed to their GOP pals to carry forward in the state legislature, you might find that each paralleled some development that is just that much more onerous in places like China, where repression and extreme income inequality are the norm.

And the irony here is that the politicians who are carrying this potentially authoritarian agenda forward are doing so in the name of freedom – visit any Tea Party site and read the self-satisfied drivel about preserving freedom. True, some of those talking about saving America, the Land of the Free, from our socialist, big government, black President and his socialist, facist, athiest cohorts, understand that the freedom they advocate is the ecomomic freedom of the biggest, strongest players to flex their muscles to their hearts content – but lots of folks have had so much of the pious freedom dust kicked into their eyes that they will never understand what the Chinese experiment has proven. Contrary to old beliefs about the conjoined nature of democracy and capitalism, capitalism can, indeed, thrive in an authoritarian environment. In fact, the type of capitalism advocated by the right-wing, economic freedom boys does much better when the government has unrestrained power to help its friends.

From this point of view, it’s appropriate that the economic initiative that is being touted as a cure all for Southeastern Missouri’s economic doldrums is the Midwest China Hub, which would establish St. Louis as a transportation hub for the importation of Chinese goods. After all, a whole cabal of GOP good ol’ boys in the State legislature have already been tilling that Chinese ground and have been working double-time to turn Missouri into China’s westernmost province, trade hub or no.