It is time for all Americans to stop what they are doing and think about the future. Your future has already been mapped out for you by a relatively small percentage of Americans, who want to eliminate the middle class. The Neoconservatives, on a mission for the very wealthy and huge international corporations, have the power to do it, if you let them.
The danger comes from Washington. That is where the seat of power lies, where the levers will be pulled, the gears started in motion that will change America. There is a small group within that larger group. These are the people paid to implement the policy and make no mistake about it, they are coming for you. They want to establish a United States of America that is one-half forward-looking, hi-tech democracy, and one-half Latin-American plutocracy.
The first part is to continue a segmented manufacturing base, small but highly technological, where the United States can continue to dominate using its knowledge base. They want to continue to dominate the world economy for at least 50 and maybe 100 more years on a segment of patented export products. They also want to control a large segment of the world’s arms manufacture, and export those products. The same technological superiority that may give us an export advantage in industrial goods will give us, they realize, an edge in military hardware. We will have the latest and best military equipment with which to defend ourselves. Other countries will have military hardware that becomes obsolete for the American military.
The problem is that this relatively segmented manufacturing objective is probably not moral…creating an export industry out of weapons of war. Even if it were moral, it would not provide enough employment for the additional workers that we will have in that same 50 to 100-year period. Unless we change our policies, Americans will by and large exist on a consumer economy as it exists today.
Most Americans, therefore, will have lower wages from a small group of manufacturing firms and primarily from service jobs which they will use to buy cheaper goods imported from third-world manufacturing facilities around the world. American companies will continue to outsource manufacturing abroad to contractors who ignore human rights. Americans will have no choice but to buy cheap products from discount retailers like Wal-Mart and Target.
This is not new. Even with watchdog groups and the U.S. Department of Labor and the Justice Department involved, manufacturers get away with such practices every day. Sooner or later we must decide if we will become part of the plutocracy or opposed to it.
We already have the beginnings of a two-tiered society into which some people have already been grandfathered. This would be the owners and managers of the huge international corporations. Just as great wealth can be passed from generation to generation, a position in society can be passed on for a long time. In Europe, some positions in society exist that began nearly a thousand years ago and have survived war, revolution, economic devastation and even exile.
Today, we use the term “Neoconservative” or “Right Wing” to define a group of people whose philosophy generally relates to smaller government, more independence of action, if not thought, who want to be self-sufficient and resent mandates from government such as taxes, and social regulations. They are aligned with powerful financial and business interests and see their future as inexorably interwoven. They are less socially tolerant of others’ rights and are more religiously superstitious and dogmatic. As such, they demand more Party loyalty and less questioning of the validity of ideology established by the leaders.
The Neoconservatives have expanded from those who could well afford such a position, i.e., those who were affluent enough to be independent of most government services and regulations. The current Neoconservatives are more dependent on government services but substitute the Party for government. Consequently, they become more beholden to the Party for employment. It is self reinforcing.
Many of the line members of the Neoconservative Party have clearly been inspired by propaganda and conservative media and hold a very impractical vision of their lives. They are manipulated into believing somehow that the realities of American life will not apply to them, e.g., loss of health care insurance, loss of a job or home foreclosure.
The original Conservatives began as a sort of advocacy group for “Manifest Destiny” adherents. They basically espoused a political philosophy that put America first, expressed in military security, loyalty, diplomatic dominance, and economic superiority. In daily life, it was a philosophy that sought as much independence from government as possible. Shed government regulations and live life as freely as possible.
The Conservatives, even in the early days included a number of fringe groups that had other motives. One group, the John Birchers, went from being simply patriotic to becoming a thought police. Another, the Southern Wing went from being somewhat socially exclusive to being socially intolerant.
As America’s tolerance and social conscience grew, so did the inclusion of more different types and classes of people into Conservatism. Some popular national politicians, pundits and economists adapted some of their ideas into conservative politics. Others adapted some Conservative politics into their lives. The movement became more acceptable, if still considered somewhat radical.
Then, with the election of Ronald Reagan, everything changed. Facing dangerous and intractable inflation, and on the heels of a series of international challenges, the country saw in Reagan a strong leader. Not only was he elected, but his charisma and particularly his wholesome appearance carried into office many others in government. Strangely enough, his strongest leadership, on fighting inflation, saw some of his worst poll numbers.
Unfortunately, he also carried with his wave of popularity some of America’s least socially conscious legislators. Senators and Congressmen from the South, remnants of the old Dixiecrat wing of the Democratic Party, who had finally been marginalized by Lyndon Johnson and by the election of Jimmie Carter were suddenly thrust back into power as Republicans. They came in on the coat tails of this man who seemed like any tolerant, small-town, Midwestern politician. In fact, they came as in the belly of a Trojan horse.
Now we had a new group of Conservatives. They embodied the worst aspects of Richard Nixon and the worst aspects of old ante-bellum Southern politics. They integrated that intolerance, plus antinomian attitude of the Nixonites into the new arrogant, unrepentant, Neoconservative Party.
Because of the Reagan charisma, they grew in extraordinarily large numbers. But, also because of the Reagan charisma, average Party members went along, didn’t question and didn’t challenge. They accepted the Reagan dogma, “The nine most dangerous words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’” at face value without questioning or wondering if it was accurate.
The fact was that in 1980 more Americans were being helped by Social Security and by Medicare and Medicaid than at any time in our history. We had a society that had finally ended an unnecessary and costly Asian war, created civil rights and an affirmative action plan for the descendents of slaves and victims of Reconstruction and segregation, and were building a secondary and university educational system second to none in the world.
The country had been through a very challenging time and had come out the other side more tolerant, more prosperous and better prepared to face the future. We still made and bought more ugly, inefficient American cars here in the U.S. than anywhere. We still made shoes and furniture and some television sets and appliances here. We had about 19% of American workers who had good wages and inexpensive health care and some of whom are today, 2010, retired in Florida on the pensions that were negotiated by their unions.
By the way…yes, we can switch those pensions in future years to 401Ks and it will work out fine, but….we need guarantees by companies that they will not walk away from even those obligations, if the company decides to simply declare bankruptcy. Many have done just that. That is why we need unions more than ever, simply to protect workers rights.
But there was Reagan. First, he began the process that we see today. He challenged the American people to revive their faith in America. It was wonderful, except for one thing. We had not lost our faith in America. We simply had some pretty bad inflation and some damage done to our faith in the Presidency, damaged by Nixon and by some mistrust of Ford’s pardon of Nixon.
The Carter presidency, immediately preceding Reagan, was damaged by the same inflation that hit Ford’s short term, by early Arab energy shocks and by the beginnings of what we now know to be total, 24/7 media envelopment. Carter did not start the Iranian situation, nor would he ever have approved it, but it brought him down, and brought us Reagan.
And that put us on the one-way road to where we are today. As a country, we trusted Reagan. We relaxed and went to sleep on the job of monitoring him, and he apparently did the same thing. Several things were wrong but the mistakes were difficult to prove. The military buildup that cost us so much money, trillions of dollars was unnecessary.
Top military officials knew it as did the CIA, but they kept quiet. The military can be courageous in battle and fearful in politics. They are also subject to the whims of Congressional funding. So they are supportive of a President who wants to expand the military industrial complex. A very dangerous situation.
The Reagan tax cuts basically sliced U.S. revenues in half. Those tax rates not only have never been restored, but they have not even been raise to half of what they were before. Fixed costs of running government have been substantially reduced but never enough to balance the budget except for a few years under Clinton. Reagan cut the top rate 74% down to 28%. Just imagine that you went from $74,000 per year income to $28,000 income, even if you cut your household expenses by ten or even twenty percent. Could you survive? Not for very long and that is just exactly what happened to the United States treasury.
The government began to bleed red ink. By the end of Reagan’s term we were losing over $250 billion a year and had already amassed $2.14 trillion in debt. Ross Perot saw this and saw the inevitable result and he ran for President on a platform of reducing the debt, receiving 20% of the vote.
No one made the adjustments in government expenditures before the tax cuts and no one except Bill Clinton and to a lesser degree, the first President Bush, has been able to restore meaningful revenues. Bush I and Bush II both, for different reasons, increased the national debt to staggering amounts, Bush I to about $4 trillion and Bush II taking the roughly $5 trillion that Clinton left him and pushing it to $11 trillion with another $1.2 trillion left on President Obama’s doorstep.
That is why we are now $12 trillion in debt and why it is now a serious and unavoidable problem. Now, the Neoconservatives, the ones who want independence from government and “freedom” (although when asked many of them have no idea what specifically they want when they cry for more “freedom’)…these people want to cut your Social Security and Medicare benefits, among other things.
This means that they do not want health care reform, which they see as a new entitlement program. They see Medicare as costing them money. While they comprise a large segment of the middle class, which means that they represent for the most part the middle class or the lower middle class, they do not see that inevitably social services will have some influence on their lives.
So the Neoconservative middle class is being sold a bill of goods by the Neoconservative leadership that they do not need and will not need a social safety net. Forget for a minute that every other industrial nation in the world, many with as large a population as about half of ours, or Western Europe as large as ours or very small nations with as few as five million…which makes it harder to do large-scale social programs….have much more extensive programs than ours.
Western Europeans, for example, as a whole have better guaranteed retirement, longer vacations, shorter working hours, better pay, free health care, better transportation, unemployment that is on average about 40% of pay and lasts for up to 3 or 4 years.
Under the current trend of the U.S. government revenues and spending, the middle to lower class Neoconservatives, whether they want to or not, will lose at least 25% of Social Security benefits when the funds run out, unless something is done. At the same time as Social Security is being cut, Medicare costs will be increased, for the same reason. So they will receive less money and have a higher cost of living.
It is generally accepted that most people cannot currently live on Social Security alone. Because of Bush’s Great Recession, fewer and fewer people have equity in their homes, 3 million a year are actually losing their homes and a very large number over a million a year are going into bankruptcy. Furthermore, as we head into the teeth of the Baby Boomer retirement, underway right now, more and more people are coming onto the Social Security and Medicare rolls, adding to the pressure.
We have a huge shortfall in revenues, thanks to the Reagan tax cuts and the Bush Jr. tax cuts and the two wars in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. We eventually raised the top rate…and that is where the bulk of the money is…back up to 35%, but that is still less than half of what it was when Reagan took over. Many people, because of those higher rates, had tax breaks. Today they still have them.
So there were several unintended consequences. Once you give tax breaks to one group, you have to give them to another group. So not only did the big boys get tax breaks, but everyone got tax breaks. Now, there are many more people who pay no taxes at all. And may who do, pay very little. And the tax breaks that the rich got when taxes were much higher are still there. Those who inherit assets, keep more and pay less. Farmers get more. Capital gains pays less. So our total bill to the people to run the country is much, much less than it used to be. And our tax revenues are disastrously lower.
So here is the crux of your problem. The Neoconservatives and their financial backers know this. The Neoconservative rank-and-file who are influenced by the media who in turn are influenced by “think tanks” like the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute and the Hudson Institute and the Chamber of Commerce…who are paid for by massively wealthy oil, mining and media conglomerates.
Now of course they are paid for also by the hospital, pharmaceutical and health care industries. They all have the same solution. Cut social services and raise your taxes. Cut Social Security or privatize it altogether. Reduce Medicare services while charging higher co-pays and capping what Medicare will pay for. You won’t hear anyone suggesting that we return to anything like the former tax rates on the wealthy that kept the country solvent.
You wonder why 40 Senators have voted against every health care reform bill suggested by anyone. They are paid, through campaign contributions, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to vote against any kind of health care plan that will change the status quo. You can check the contributions they get at Sourcewatch.org, or at Opensecrets.org or at the federal election commission (fec.org).
The point is this. You paid into Social Security your entire life. You paid a very high percentage of money into it so that it would be there. It is, in fact, insurance and you paid your premiums every time you received a paycheck. But the government, under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and probably under Obama, has used all that money in addition to all the money in the Treasury and even more money borrowed from Americans and Arabs and Chinese to pay for tax cuts. These were tax cuts that were begun under Reagan and were raised in very small amounts, a few percentage points by Bush I and Clinton (who actually was somehow able to balance the budget three years out of eight. Then, in 2001 and 2003, Bush II cut tax again for the wealthy and reduced taxes down the line for everyone. This made things immensely worse, especially during extremely expensive wars.
These tax cuts under Bush II and his wildly spending Republican Administrations, added the last $5 trillion of debt. These are the same Neoconservative Republicans who now—still working for those huge corporate “think tanks” and the huge numbers of lobbyists, over thirty thousand of them in Washington—want to raise your taxes and cut your social services. There is no reason that you should tolerate this. It is unfair in the extreme. Let’s see why.
First of all, corporations now pay almost no taxes. They pay about 7% of all taxes collected by the Federal government and that is down by about half from what they used to pay before Reagan, when U.S. manufacturing and corporations were the envy of the world. Are they now? Not even close.
A man who made a million dollars a year, and there are plenty who make more than a million a year…CEOs of health insurance companies alone average $12 million a year…got a tax break under George W. Bush of about $43,000 per million. So if the man had been asked to pay $350,000 on a million and keep $650,000 (35% tax rate without any deductions) he got another $43,000. Not a lot on $350,000 in taxes but it allowed him to keep almost $700,000 out of a million. Problem is very few people pay the entire 35% but they still got the $43,000. Bush and Cheney, both worth over $20,000,000, paid less than 25% effective taxes to the IRS on incomes that were in the $400,000 range.
Now let’s take your situation. Let’s say that you make $80,000. You pay income taxes, state taxes and FICA taxes. When you retire, let’s say that at age 67 you get $2,000 a month. But let’s say that it has to be cut to $1500 a month because we don’t have enough money to pay it. That’s one of our big crises…not enough money in Social Security trust funds. So one of the big crises that they are worried about is paying you your own money.
Well, one year of that millionaire’s tax bonus, which he got by borrowing from your Social Security, which the government got by borrowing from China, would have paid for that difference between $1500 and $2,000 which might—just might–be enough to live on…for 7 years! And if we assume that the multi-millionaire borrowed that $43,000 from Social Security for at least 5 of the 8 years of the Bush administration, it would pay that difference in your Social Security shortfall for 35 years!
So my question to you is this: are you a Neoconservative who is willing to give big tax breaks to the rich in order to reduce your monthly retirement income at a time when you may have no other income, or at the least, a fixed income and no job? Bush decided, as had Reagan, that he would under-fund the government. That meant, in effect, borrowing from your Social Security insurance. You paid into it. And your Medicare—you pay into it.
So how about a repayment of that loan? No more taxes on you after you retire, but now, let’s start collecting some of the money that multimillionaires who will not ever need Social Security to retire, borrowed from you. Do you think that the Neoconservative corporations, like the health insurance companies who fund Republican Senators who have no problem whatsoever shutting down this government will allow tax increases on their rich friends without a fight? If one Senator, as Senator Bunning of Kentucky did, does not mind holding up millions of unemployment checks from people who desperately need them, do you think that the Neoconservatives will voluntarily see you receive your full benefits? By taxing their wealthy friends and big corporations?
Not bloody likely. If you want your fair share of what you have paid in to your Social Security from a country that you may have, as many of us did, served in its time of need, you had better prepare for a fight. And the Neocons have big weapons, like Fox News and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck and their allies like Rush Limbaugh. They will make you seem like ungrateful, long-lost relatives, shiftless and dissolute.
You cannot merely vote any longer. You must get out and work and march and organize among any of your friends who are not convinced of the long-term plan of the Neoconservatives to eliminate the middle class. Watch C-SPAN. Listen to the remedies from the bankers and the Federal Reserve and the Peterson Group, the ones looking to stabilize the finances of the country. They send the same message…cut middle class benefits. We can no longer “sustain” these kinds of entitlement programs.
If the people who paid into them aren’t entitled to them—if people who pay insurance premiums aren’t entitled to the insurance they pay for—then who is entitled to it? The people who didn’t need it but borrowed it and spent it? The people who got rich on the unnecessary, tragic, war on Iraq? Halliburton? Blackwater? Who is entitled?
You. You are entitled to get back the money that was stolen and given to the rich. You can get it back and save this country if you vote for officials who will say that it is time to raise federal income taxes, particularly on the rich, to much higher levels, to 45 or 55% of income at the top margin. Then we need some other taxes as well. We need to raise our state taxes around the country until these states’ budgets are balanced. Then we need to make them build reserves so that they never again become unbalanced.
We need to put some taxes on imports coming from all the countries that got the jobs from people who should have made those products here. We need to cut our military budgets, shut down these wars and start to use more diplomacy. We need to use our intelligence resources, and they are much, much greater than you know, to find and kill terrorists, not make a complete war out of something that is an entirely different type of military action. We could save hundreds of billions a year and be more effective. Right now our military budget is about half of our discretionary budget. We spend more than all the other countries of the world…combined…on military and wars.
All these things and more can restore our solvency and insure that you do not have to borrow money to retire as these millionaires did to live the kinds of lives that they wanted. This was a sad era in our country’s history and it is not over. But you can make a difference. Do not accept what the Neoconservatives want you to think is the only option. It is not. It is time that they paid back the loans they took from the American People.