If you haven't already, you should check out the excellent post this week at the Black Commentator: The U.S. is Becoming a "Failed State."

"Failed state" is a phrase used by the World Bank to describe nations that have been rendered impotent and ineffective by economic and/or military coercion. Or according to Henry C.K. Liu in the Asia Times,

"Failed states provide only substandard political goods, if any at all. Weak failed states involuntarily forfeit, and strong failed states do so voluntarily, the responsibility for delivering political goods, and leave it to non-state actors, i.e. the private sector through the market mechanism. Privatization of the public sector is more than the outsourcing of state functions. It is the selling off of state prerogatives."

The U.S. is a long way from being a "failed state," but there's no doubt that's where the right wing wants to go when they say they want to "kill government" -- hollowing out the state as an instrument for protecting and advancing the public good, leaving only the cold market and free reign for the powerful.

The Social Security debate is a great example.

I doubt many on the right thought they could actually win full-scale privatization. But what was important was to 1) begin chipping away at one of the most popular bastions of the public sector, while 2) managing to win smaller changes that could siphon away public assets, bleeding the system. Same with vouchers and public education.

I remember speaking to an anti-apartheid activist from South Africa in 1990. When I asked about prospects for change, he said very clearly: "Apartheid will fall, the whites will let it fall. They don't need apartheid any more. They have capitalism."

As the Black Commentator notes, the right's war on government is having a similar effect on rendering the political gains of progressives in the United States superfluous:
Of what use is a congressional or state Black political caucus, or Black mayors and city councils, if the state is so enfeebled that it cannot deliver the goods? That's precisely the strategic objective of those who would "Starve the Beast" - poison the fiscal well with deficits and tax cuts until the federal government cannot deliver popularly desired political goods such as health care, much less help the states and cities provide basic services. Corporations then step into the void - or as much of the needs-market as is profitable - to sell vital services. Elected officials are made superfluous. Black power - or the dream of it - becomes a dead letter.
So will all progressive politics, if we don't defend not just individual programs, but the entire idea of the public sphere.