In the south Bronx, the unemployment rate is 19%. In Detroit and other metro areas it can be even higher than that. The opportunity to emerge from those areas, and now increasingly widening areas in the country has become, according to sociologists and economists….almost nil. There are no more Horatio Alger stories. They exist only in fiction.
Yes, there are success stories. The college kid who creates a new technological advance and takes it from his garage or dorm room to a high rise in San Jose or Cambridge. But that kid was already in college. College costs forty grand a year. People who have an extra 40 grand are now only found in the top 5% and far fewer in the bottom 50 percent than ever before.
We are now way down the list of countries in which you can go from the bottom to the top, or even the bottom to the middle class…behind Japan, Spain (even with a recent 24 percent unemployment), France and Switzerland…and those are countries where socioeconomic lines were always thought to be firmly drawn.
You can round it off and say that the top 1% are now annual millionaires and the middle class averages less than $50,000 a year. The gap between rich and poor has grown, doubled, tripled…gone rocketing up…since 1980. What happened in 1980? Ronald Reagan set into motion the idea that if the rich got richer, then everyone would benefit. But would they?
As with most things Reagan thought, he was wrong. Possibly a nice guy…but totally misguided by a Corporation…General Electric, the most conservative of its day, they discovered outsourcing to Asia before anyone else…a father-in-law and a wife who were arch-conservatives, who had no concern for anyone but their social equals, and their social equals–based on the skills of Dr. Davis and his daughter Nancy–were only the top people in their fields. So, trying to be concerned about one’s fellow man, meant being concerned for other world-class surgeons or other prominent movie actresses. Everyone else could go to hell.
There are only a couple of possibilities for Ronald Reagan, similar to the possibilities he left for the Republican Party. You don’t have to be a genius to see them. Either he was too stupid to see that he was being manipulated by the rich, or he looked the other way. His career as an actor was going away. The people who rescued him were arch-Conservatives, General Electric. He had two choices. He could become a minor television actor, perhaps a local news anchor, a product spokesman for some other company….or he could become the mouthpiece for GE.
For several years, he did nothing but travel around the country berating labor unions, big government, social programs, and “freedom.” He would take on Communism and compare every social welfare policy we created, including Medicare to Communism or Socialism. That was the GE message. And that is what he delivered, for a very good paycheck, while man of the members of the Actors Equity, for whom he supposedly cared, were losing jobs and lifetime careers as films gave way to television.
When Reagan came to office, we had a thriving middle class, he envy of the world. We made autos and shoes and heavy machinery and domestic products of all kinds, that we now make in China. But the owners of corporations like GE began to realize that they could fill the pot in Washington and get away with breaking unions, sending jobs abroad, and shutting down factories in Detroit and rebuilding them just across the border in Mexico.
Workers lost their jobs, their healthcare and their pensions. And now, the last bastion of the somewhat-middle class, government workers…who never would get rich but who would work hard for a steady job and a pension…have been attacked by governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana and other Republican Neo-Fascist governors. Even those old, reliable, not too desirable government jobs, even the postal workers, are now being told that we are going to take away the one reason many of them stayed in thankless jobs–their pensions.
The new message to American workers is this…no matter where you are or what you do, your job is not safe; you are not safe; your family is not safe…from corporate greed. We corporations will break your unions and make you deal with us individually. Then we’ll take every bit of security you have until you beg us for a job…at a minimum wage.
You may laugh at that depiction. But before you do, you’d better take a long, hard look at the facts. There are 400 people living in this country today, heads of corporations, owners of financial institutions, inheritors of vast corporate fortunes….owners of casinos….a wide variety…who have as much income as 150 million Americans. 400 versus 150,000,000. 400 versus the income of half of all Americans. Can you even grasp what that means, how much that is for these people?
And the point is not that they have it. We have always had Carnegies and Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. But now, with a few notable exceptions, we have what we can only call the Neo-Fascist rich. These are the people, who, like the industrialists of early 20th Century Europe, aligned themselves with one political party to dominate their societies. Then, without opposition, they went to war. Do you see any similarities between the old German Nazi idea of lebensraum (living space) which Germans did not need and the Bush-Cheney rush to war over a “mushroom cloud” of supposed atomic weapons that never existed? Propaganda costs money. Media and people to make and deliver messages are not free.
There are two people who exemplify what is wrong with this country right now more than any other two…and we hesitate to use the term…citizens. David and Charles Koch. They were blessed with a fortune from their father, Fred Koch, in oil and other valuable assets that have grown over time into a fortune of $25 billion and is still growing. Koch Industries owns companies that produce consumer products like Lycra, and Dixie cups and Stainmaster carpets but their primary business is petroleum and chemicals. Their combined businesses have revenues of something like $100 billion.
So, there is nothing wrong with rich men wanting to spend their money way they want. In fact, Charles Koch has been a big benefactor of hospitals and David Koch of Lincoln Center. They have given money to public television, even became long-term sponsors of scientific programming. But what they give to charity, something like $400 million dollars over the years, has to be balanced by the damage they do with the money they give to politics.
Here are some, but not all of their beneficence to Right Wing, anti-middle class, anti-social, anti-worker and anti-health care causes. David Koch founded the Cato Institute, has subsequently given them $2.5 million. He has given the Republican Governors association $2 million. He founded, heads and continues to fund the anti-universal health care organization, now known as the Tea Party. He gave them $5.7 million. The Bill of Rights Institute he gave $3.77 million, presumably to enhance their civil rights at the expense of yours. Other Right Wing organizations and donations: The George Mason Foundation, $17 million; The Heritage Foundation, $3.9 million; The Federalist Society, $1.6 million; The Mercatus Center, $9 million; The Manhattan Institute, $1.6 million; The Institute for Humane Studies, $8.7 million; The Fraser Institute, $500,000; The Pacific Research Institute, $770,000; the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), $405,000; Texas Public Policy, $499,000; Suffolk University; $818,000. Florida State University; $689,000; The Tax Foundation, $607,000, and Reason Foundation, $543,000.
They have given huge amounts in campaign contributions to Congress, 90%+ to Republicans. In aggregate, the amounts total over $200,000,000.
The Koch Brothers have given $28 million dollars in grants to universities who would agree to teach a class or more on conservative economics that would receive their approval. Remember that the Koch Brothers are against all regulation, against any kind of relatively large central government, against taxes, whether it be inheritance taxes, income taxes or corporate taxes. They are against Social Security, Medicare and now universal health care plans such as the Affordable Care Act.
But the following universities…and many more…have agreed to teach their nonsense: George Mason University, Suffolk University, West Virginia, Florida State, Clemson, Arizona, Northwestern, Kansas, Brown, Utah State, Alma College, Arkansas Tech, Ashland, Athens State, Auburn, Azuza Pacific, Ball State, Barton College, Baylor, Beloit, Berry College, Bethel College, Hanover, Hillsdale, Indiana, Robert Morris, Rockford, Roosevelt, Sara Lawrence, Seton Hall, Nebraska and many, many others. Why should two private citizens think that they can dictate self-serving economic education to university students? For the same reason that they can buy radio commentators and legislators. They believe that a different set of rules applies, and should apply, to them.
They think that they are above the law. In 2000, the Clinton Administration disagreed. They paid $30 million dollars in fines for over 300 oil spills around the country. 300 oil spills! Does that sound like a company that is concerned for the welfare of others.
We are not being too harsh. Take just one of their groups, Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded group that tried desperately to stop health care reform by issuing all kinds of misleading information (remember “death panels”? That was Americans for Prosperity propaganda.) Here are some quotes from their principal speaker:
“When you make corporations less competitive because of regulations (remember this is the Kochs talking, who paid $30 million for 300 oil spills in people’s backyards) by the Environmental Protection Agency (note the name…protection…agency. The Kochs don’t want you protected.) and other unelected bureaucracies (unelected? We don’t directly elect or police forces or the FBI. We elect representatives who appoint the best people to do the job.) instead of being able to compete with our foreign competitors.” (We should point out that the Koch companies do compete with foreign competitors and domestic. That is why you pay $3.60 per gallon for gas and they collect about $20 billion a year in royalties. They are robbing you blind, and in many cases from oil drilled on land that belongs to you but on which they pay no royalties and pay no corporate taxes.)
Regulations may create more paperwork and may require that corporations not dump sewage or tar all over your cities and towns, but the additional half-of-one-percent in administration is not doing anything at all to influence profits. The idea that “government kills jobs” is ridiculous. Government should be even more involved. If we had more oil companies, we’d have more jobs, more competition, lower gas prices and more diversification in long terms means of transportation.
Back to Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs have spent about $7.4 on Americans for Prosperty, not just their initial investment. They rail against taxes, which of course is one of the Koch Brothers big arguments…that we need no taxes. We–the Koch Brothers–do not need government–is their attitude. They have tried to hand the national debt of $17 trillion around the neck of the Democrats by almost literally drowning the dumbest sectors of society in propaganda. They both caused it–Democrats and Republicans–Americans for Prosperity preaches in its meetings around the country. But they are wrong, and they know they are wrong. So…that makes them liars.
In 1980, the national debt…from the beginning of the country to that year was $800 billion, a great portion of that amount during the Nixon and Ford years when inflation was running rampant. (Remember Jerry Ford’s solution–created by his assistants, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld? WIN buttons. Whip Inflation Now. Hoorah! Buttons and slogans.)
Reagan took that from $800 billion to $2140 billion ($2.14 trillion) in 8 years. George H. W. Bush, increased that debt to $4 trillion in only 4 years. Bill Clinton added another $1.6 trillion before he could balance the budget and start creating surpluses, which he did. So now it was at $5.6 trillion when Junior Bush and Cheney walked through the door in 2001. Between 2001 and 2008 they took the national debt from $5.6 trillion to $12 trillion. In addition, they caused the Second Great Depression, which has cost us to date an additional $5 trillion in lost jobs, welfare, unemployment, and a partial stimulus program. We are now $17 trillion in debt and $14.4 of that debt was cause by stupid and greedy policies of Republicans in the Presidency and in the Congress. And they are still doing it.
Because of people like the Koch Brothers, a huge sector of the American People thinks that we need our “freedom” back. What the hell are they talking about, you may ask. The answer is: nothing. Nonsense. Jibberish. Pure propaganda. We have more freedoms now than at any time in the history of this country. You cannot discriminate against women, blacks, gays..or members of any religion. We all have the vote and the right to protest if our ability to vote is in some way disregarded.
What we don’t have is a ruling class, a lobbying and campaign-contributing class that believes in jobs, in American industry, in a Middle Class. Here is what we do now. If there is a demand for shoes…and there always is…a shoe corporation designs a shoe with American consumers in mind. The corporation hires a contractor in Asia to make the shoes, finds the raw materials or the contractor does, has the shoes made, shipped to the United States and puts the shoes into retail stores that pay minimal wages to clerks who sell them to American consumers. Americans no longer make the things they buy. In the 1950s, over 80% of products made for U.S. consumption were made here in the United States. Today it is about 12%.
Americans for Prosperity talks about “taking back our country.” Taking it back from whom? The Chinese? Well, you’d better throw out all Republicans if that is what you want. Republicans support sending jobs and factories abroad. 50,000 factories and 5 million jobs went to Asia under George W. Bush. He and Cheney initiated legislation that would encourage the outsourcing to China of jobs and the off-shoring of corporations so that the greater profits from those corporations from outsourcing could not be taxed.
There is only one way to stop his slide into third world status. Elect Democrats who both say and have demonstrated that they will return to American Middle Class values. Jobs, good pay, security, and good education and training and solid middle class families.
You want freedom as they see it? Freedom to have so many guns that it is virtually impossible for police forces to prevent the murder of 20 six-year-olds in Connecticut…a supposedly very civilized and cultured area? Freedom to promote jobs in Asia so that we can have daily increasing homelessness and hunger? Freedom to worry if your job will be there tomorrow or your pension will be there when you retire? Worry even about whether these corporate giants will eventually get their way and shut down Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security?
Why are we even discussing these basic tenets of a frees society? Because of Right Wing propaganda spread by people like the Koch Brothers, greedy, evil men who need to be taught a lesson. They are the ones at war with the people. And make no mistake about it–re-read those millions of dollars of contributions–they are at war with you.
The only ones who can stop them is you. You…the People.