It is time for a reality check. It is far beyond time for a reality check. We are standing on the edge of a giant precipice and we are about to fall out of the kind of society that we have built over about 250 years. We are about to fall into the abyss of “third world” politics.
Let’s take an aside for a second to understand what we mean by “third world’ government or politics. In every other society that did not create a sound and operable government structure that worked…for the people…for the People…society fell into chaos…not once but repeatedly for a hundred or hundreds of years.
What did it mean? In Latin America, in a country as close to us, for example, as Mexico, the upheaval, the rebellion against poverty, sickness and death as recently as the mid 20th Century resulted in assassinations, gangs, drugs, and the disintegration of what had been a potentially very sound economy.
Elsewhere in the world it has been even worse. In Asia, as a result of the major change in society, as the result of the looting and abandonment of the people for colonial profits, there were wars and deaths in the tens of millions. Families, women, children, the elderly–all died horribly engulfed in Napalm, shot by firing squads, murdered one-by-one or murdered en masse, as in the massacres in Cambodia.
We now have about 15 million people who simply have no way to support themselves. The Republicans, the Neocons want that number to grow. The way we know that is that they continue to support new jobs…in China…in Brazil…and elsewhere, but not in the United States. Tax cuts did not create jobs. Tax cuts merely gave money to the rich and to corporations who then created jobs abroad.
By the way, for “Neocon” Republican (including Tea Party members) we alway say one should substitute the word “Nazi” or “Fascist.” Any time you have a political party that aligns itself with the industrial wealth of a country to control government and the power of the military…that is the very definition of “Fascist.” It is not the “American Fascist Party” you need to worry about.They are just a bunch of kooky anarchists who live in the woods and like to pretend to be military, shoot rifles at trees and hate African-Americans, Jews and Catholics.
If you know someone who has gone to a food pantry, has taken a job for minimum wage just to keep food on the table and prevent homelessness, or has had their home foreclosed and been turned down for dozens on dozens of jobs…you are beginning to understand what is coming. Don’t say that it can’t happen here because we have documented repeatedly that it has already started. Food pantries are up 50% since the Great Bush Recession started. There are 40 tent cities with growing populations around the country.
While it may not have happened to you yet, the kind of degradation that is abroad in the world beyond our borders has now arrived here and is creeping slowly across this land. Remember this, totalitarianism does not come on like a blitzkreig, or like “shock and awe.” It also happens slowly, one group at a time. The attacks on unions, teachers, public worker pensions, then the gays, then the Blacks, then the Jews, then the Catholics…but always and in an ever-diminishing way…all the groups that make up the middle class.
The Middle Class is what has distinguished this country from the rest of the world for hundreds of years. Not Freedom. The Brits have more freedom than we do and did almost from the time we were breaking fee from Great Britain. The French have real, total freedom as do the Swedes and Danes and Dutch and Germans and Swiss….far more freedom than we have. What we have is more geography, more space. Germany is the size of New York State. You could put all of Eastern and Western Europe east of the Rocky Mountains with room to spare.
We claim that we are the last of the great individualists. Freedom and independence, we say, made us great. That’s a bunch of bull shit. What made us great were vast quantities of oil, gas, coal, timber, gold, and gigantic numbers of totally impoverished immigrants who needed jobs. Some men, not necessarily brilliant but very shrewd, and very enterprising, energetic and focused created industries and jobs from the needs of an ever-expanding population.
After a century or two some of those who, because of a naive system, began to dominate the society went too far even for other wealthy men, we created better working and living conditions for the average family. After this system flourished for 30 years or so past World War II, the Europeans who had been devastated by overpowering influences of industry and oligarchy decided to follow the American model. They did, only they improved upon it, as always happens with a system. And now average Europeans, with less land, less natural resources and less mobility live better, if in a small space per person, than Americans….by far…no comparison.
We, on the other hand, are going backwards. Instead of thanking God for what we had and trying to create a “rising tide” that would “lift all boats,” Americans saw the Reagan and post-Reagan society as some kind of pathway to riches. We’ve seen more scams since 1980, that in all the tent shows and carnivals and medicine shows of the entire history of the country up to that point. It is possible that Bernie Madoff alone took more money from more people than all the mail order medicines of the 19th Century.
Yes…be afraid. Be very afraid. Not of bearded terrorists. My God,we’ve had that since before the Haymarket Riots, before the John Browns and the Barbary Pirates. What you need to worry about is Fascism. You need to worry because the people have been deliberately lied to for three decades and during that time, the biggest corporations have grown massive and their political power grown out of all proportion even to their huge bank accounts.
That would not be so bad, but the result has begun to be clearly what we worried about…demands that members of one political party sign an oath (sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically) to the Party. No one is allowed in to a Party meeting unless they agree completely with the leadership. More fanatical Party members are being elected to office (Tea Party…like Michelle Bachmann and Sharron Angle, who almost won.)
These are the people who are talking about shutting down government, which would…you should know…cut off Medicare payments, Social Security payments, long term care for the disabled elderly and food stamps and medical care for children of the poor. The point is that these are the fanatics, the “true believers,” the kinds of people who say, yes, it is necessary to put people into concentration camps. It is for the good of those of us who understand the “truth.” Killing people to save the world to save the Aryan race. That is what Hitler was all about. He was only trying to do the right thing for the people who deserved it. Who determined who “deserved” it? Hitler did.
Those who recount how totalitarian governments began will tell you it was the small things. First there was a crisis, a Reichstag fire, or an attack, like 9/11. Then the danger of potential disaster was promoted and things became more urgent. A Chancellor was now given total power, or a society was told that a Patriot Act was necessary, which would tap people’s phones, check their library and video store records without their knowledge. Then there were trials without the broader protections of the law, people imprisoned without charges, or with charges but no specific warrants. Or, there were people simply removed from the streets, kidnapped, sent to interrogation centers, tortured, and yet those in charge were never brought to justice for these domestic “renditions.”
Thugs roamed the strets, disrupting protest meetings, holding up signs ridiculing anyone who made sense, threatening violence, and then causing violence. And there were armed militia, not accountable to anyone but top government officials, who roamed the country in black, SUVs with tinted windows, appearing at scenes of natural disasters, under whose authority no one knows even today.
Rude, arrogant behavior, lies, militias, stealing elections, propaganda….what does this sound like, if not Fascism?
So how do we stop it? It is a basic political problem. But in this country, that also means a basic economic problem, because in the U.S. money and politics are inextricable. The Republicans have been making economic gains in two ways. First, they have cut taxes on everyone, but more on the rich than others. In the last thirty years, the Republicans dropped taxes from a top rate of 74% down to 35%. Many of those very wealthy at the very top of the pyramid have reinvested that money in Right Wing politics.
Right Wing politics does several specific things, all designed to increase the differential in the standard of living between the rich and the rest of us. They do that by fighting against wage increases, which means trying to eliminate unions. It also means sending jobs abroad, not only because the wages are infiinitesimally lower elsewhere but because the higher the unemployment here, the lower the wages people are willing to work for.
So how do we fight back? Jobs. The obvious source of new jobs is energy and infrastructure change. The oil companies would like to drill, baby, drill. So let’s drill. Oh, no, not the oil companies, but the government. Let’s create a new segment in the Department of Energy which only drills on government land, which decides how drilling will be conducted, and which sends all the revenues back to the Treasury. This alone could create 3 million jobs. That’s an oil industry estimate.
Rather than letting the oil companies dictate to the American people how much we will get in royalties, when they will drill and how and why and how they will leave the land when they are done, the new Oil and Gas Development branch of the Energy Department would rescind all contracts with oil companies where land has been granted for drilling but no drilling is being done.
Next, we must begin to create the conversion from fossil to renewable energy. Now, Boone Pickens did have a good, if self-serving, idea about using natural gas as a transition source. But here is where we should depart from his ideas. This should be a national program, run by the government. We don’t need to nationalize the industry, merely to compete with the private sources. We as a people could easily defeat these people, bankrupt them, hire their staffs at the same wages and then charge whatever is necessary to maintain natural gas at a level that will not cost the government but will actually become a revenue source for the government. That would add another 3 million jobs.
The top oil industry execs are right. We could create bout 6 million jobs over a period of maybe ten years. By that time, however, the money we make on gasoline and natural gas could have created jobs in alternative energy and some manufacturing that would replace the old gasoline and oil and coal based economies. Nationalization is not a bad word when you are talking about replacing a sinister, polluting, outlaw system that pays no royalties and no taxes to the American people.
We know now that the tax cuts from 2001 to the latest, in 2011, have contributed about $5 trillion of the national debt. Studies conducted by the Office of Management and Budget under Douglass Holtz-Eakin the first President Bush’s OMB Director, show that we only recover about 1% of the revenue lost to the government from tax cuts. In other words, we have known from 1992 at the latest that tax cuts do not increase the nation’s revenues, but in fact cost the government almost the exact amount that was lost in revenue from the tax cuts.
Of course the worst part of that is the fact that we had to borrow all that money from the Japanese. Bush Jr. knew it. Cheney knew it. They all knew it. Yet now they want to cut Social Security and Medicare because they a. gave us these tax cuts, and b. took their eye off the road and drove us into an economic ditch…which is where we are right now.
So, here’s what we need to advocate. We need to push for tax increases of 45% at the top marginal rate down to about $500,000, then scale everything down from there. Some people at the bottom or in the lower end of the tax scale might also pay more taxes but that will be ok if we get full employment. That’s what we need to do. The idea that good enterprises can’t be run by the government is not true. The government runs many good and profitable enterprises. The problem is that we have let too many of our valuable natural resources go to people who then repaid us by trying to abolish the middle class.
We do not need severe budget cuts. It can be demonstrated with simple arithmetic that the problem is not economic, it is political. With tax increases and cuts in unnecessary military programs, with unemployment brought back to at least 6%, which could be done with energy programs, the budget can be balanced and could begin to pay down the debt. The tax cuts and the withholding of jobs has been done entirely through the threat of filibuster by the Republicans in the Senate over the last 7 years. Raise taxes, create 6 million energy jobs and cut the military by at least 20%.
If we do this we will get our country back then we’ll have a balanced budget going forward, plus a gradually diminishing national debt. Anything else is unthinkable, un-American and unworkable. It is time the billionaires began to pay their way. We need energy jobs and repeals of tax cuts. The