When we look at the past year and a half since President Obama and his staff have come to office, we can only shake our heads and wonder.
We wonder whether the United States of America is headed for its final hour, for an era of disgrace and shame and stupidity beyond the fall of any great society in history.
Why would we say such a thing and what is happening that would indicate such a great collapse? Well, first of all, it is not the Recession, which now seems almost certain to turn into a Depression. Let’s say a word about that before moving on to the more serious matters…which may sound strange…but there are things more serious than the Recession.
The Neocons have been using the stimulus as a political football, simply lying about the results and distorting the real results, which are there on the recovery.gov website for anyone to see. Some of the contractors, who are not hotshots when it comes to the Internet, have sent in wrong ZIP codes when they reported the jobs completed or jobs undertaken, but the fact is that the numbers are correct. But every reputable economist has said that about 1.8 million jobs were created.
But the stimulus has not been enough. The Bush team really did a number on this country. The economy was losing half a trillion dollars a year before the Recession. And so how do you think things should look now—in a deep Bush Recession…with 15 million people unemployed? We lost 8 million jobs in just a few months at the end of the Bush Administration and it was getting worse until President Obama got the stimulus through within only about 60 days…and no Republican help.
But we can’t absolve the President, nor the Senate. The Democratic House of Representatives has done its part. It passed the health care reforms that we need in order to get started on reducing health care costs and freeing Americans from the clutches of health insurance corporations. And they passed some relief from Wall Street and from credit card company scams.
Remember, it was the health insurance industries who were denying care, cutting off mortally ill people, raising rates by 15 or 20% every year who were destroying America. Even this year, not only did WellPoint raise rates in California–in a Recession, when costs are going down–by 39%, but the head of WellPoint in California actually resigned in protest!
In the process of fighting for health care, we saw the future, and it is scary. We saw exposed clearly the great American problems…saw them in the streets carrying signs…ignorance, superstition, and their ugly little brother…racism.
Even if these are a small percentage or even a segment of a small percentage of the population, the second problem we have gives this degraded segment of society a much bigger voice.
Our second big problem is ownership of the media. The largest media outlets in the country…the daily news outlets are controlled by Right Wing moguls with more power than Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller combined. The television networks, cable companies, and radio networks are owned by a few rich and powerful people. They will spend any amount of money to get coverage. But when you own the networks, you can often get that money back.
After the Republican Telecommunications Act of 1996, Clear Channel radio, which had owned 43 radio stations began to buy up many more. At their peak they had over a thousand outlets pouring out the Rush Limbaugh show.
Beginning in 1988, Clear Channel would slot him for three hours on a local station. Then they would sell the advertising. So the local station would fire one host and take the money. Whether you thought Limbaugh was a jerk or a hero, he would be on that station and you, as listener, couldn’t do a damned thing about it.
After Clear Channel sold 500 or so stations like that, they could charge a ton of money for Limbaugh. It didn’t matter what he said or whether he was Democrat or Neocon, he was slotted. The Clear Channel management were simply Right Wing bigots, so they slotted the programming they wanted.
Of course, now, after Limbaugh has more money than God, Clear Channel is on the ropes financially. They lost $872 million in 2009. But that was actually better than the $2.9 billion they lost in 2008. In the 2nd Quarter of 2010 they lost $86 million. While paying Rush Limbaugh $40 million for the year.
Limbaugh is only one Right Wing radio talk show host, if the most famous and richest. There are dozens and dozens who want part of that gravy train, paid by the big Republican corporations.
Glenn Beck is also a highly paid talk show host on many of the same radio stations as Limbaugh and on television on the Fox News Channel. So is Beck hugely popular and that is why he makes so much money? Or is he supported by the Right Wing, no matter how well he does?
Glenn Beck is hugely offensive to some people. He is clearly a racist and, worse than that, he seems pretty clearly to be promoting racism only for its attraction for some of the less palatable elements in our society. In other words, it would appear that it is “Racism for Ratings.” But that plan seems not to have fooled national advertisers.
Because of his outrageous comments, over 200 national advertisers have left his television show. This, by one media analysis, amounts to about $500,000 per week! (Media is big business.) In addition, he has lost approximately one-third of his audience since January of 2010. But he is still on the air.
Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Beck’s channel, Fox News Channel, says that the company hasn’t really noticed a problem and hasn’t lost any revenue. Maybe $25 million isn’t noticeable to a billionaire like Murdoch. But it is more likely that Beck is spouting the kind of trash that Murdoch would like to say to Americans in person. Murdoch just gave $1,000,000 to the Republican Party.
The problem of ignorance is not only an abstract situation. It manifests itself in the political actions of the people. For example, there are 15 million people unemployed. Many of these people have good educations, high skills and were in demand until the Wall Street market collapsed and sent the country into a tailspin.
We need to create jobs for these people and for the normal growth of society. But here is where ignorance comes in. The “rich” don’t want these people employed. And who are these “rich” people? The expression is an unfortunate short hand for a very substantial number of people in the household income range of over approximately $250,000.
A significant number…not all…of the very wealthy, and corporations want to keep taxes where they are right now. Corporations have felt less and less responsibility to the people in society and more concern only with the wishes of their stockholders. And before you say, “Oh yes, pension funds and 401Ks. Those are important” let’s recall that over two-thirds of all corporate stock is owned by the top 1% of society.
Let’s recall that the average CEO makes a minimum of 300 times what the average worker makes. Let’s recall that the AHIP, the health insurance industry, spent $400 million in lobbying funds last year, one year, to try to defeat health care reform. Why? Because the average health insurance company CEO makes $14 million a year.
Yes. It is all about money. Money, money, money. It is not about patriotism, or freedom or fiscal responsibility or government intervention. Those are the talking points that the super rich and the CEOs and the Rupert Murdochs of the world are spreading through their media outlets.
Rupert Murdoch looks at his financial statements every morning. He knows exactly how much money he makes every day. He also knows that if we raise his taxes and those of everyone over a certain amount to 55%, our country’s problems are over. He and his fellow plutocrats will have to pony up another 20% in income taxes plus a minimum of ten percent for corporate taxes (they often pay nothing at all right now) or invest that money in American industry.
They don’t want to do that and so they have all gotten together and persuaded the Obama Administration that we need a “commission” to examine how we can get through the next several years of this recession and how we can begin to balance the budget. The idea of that commission is really to cut back on government spending…on things like Social Security and Medicare…things that the people need.
And they will use Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and all the others to spread the word that Social Security is “just too expensive” and we must cut back on it or actually do away with it for future generations.
Ignorance. They are counting on our ignorance. Do you think that Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Rupert Murdoch could afford to pay a little more, given how much that they have taken and taken and taken from society? Does a man like Limbaugh, making $40 million this year, or Glenn Beck, making $32 million this year, have any responsibility to society?
But they want the average American, whose Social Security fund was raided to pay for things sold to government by big corporations who advertise in Murdoch’s media or on Limbaugh’s Clear Channel stations—they want these same middle or lower-income Americans to pay the bill for the deficits that they created.
The people paid into Social Security in greater amounts than were necessary. There is a surplus, on paper, in the fund of about $2.5 trillion. But we, Americans, in our ignorance are allowing a commission made up of the same people who borrowed (some say “stole”) these funds to give tax breaks to Limbaugh and Beck and Murdoch, to decide how much to cut back on Social Security and Medicare.
You have the solution. It is very simple, but you will never hear it from any one…not a whisper…in any government position or on any government-sponsored commission. When Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were in office, we had inflation problems. The Arabs were really putting the squeeze on us (and they still are) and the costs for those huge petroleum increases spread from simple gasoline and diesel fuel to anything made from the left-overs of the refining process—plastics.
But even with the inflation, which Paul Volcker brought to an end eventually, we had strong manufacturing, and strong agriculture and jobs and home ownership and a thriving economy. We simply needed to slow down inflation. Which we did. But in those days, we had a 74% top rate on the income tax. We had enough revenues and had paid down our national debt from about 120% of GDP in 1946, after the war, to about 33% by 1979.
We understood that to have a great country, the country needs income taxes to pay for roads and bridges and schools and a strong military. Since Ronald Reagan, we have paid for only about three-fourths of that, except under Clinton, and borrowed the rest.
We don’t need to go back to 74%. But do not let anyone tell you that going to 55% will hurt the economy. The fact is that in times of war, except for the two Bush wars, we have always raised taxes to somewhere over 90% at the top rate. And we thrived.
The economy has nothing to do with taxes. We had tax cuts from 1980 through 2008 and look where we are now. We have no manufacturing and 15 million out of work and another 15 million underemployed. When we had 90% tax rates at the top from 1946 through 1960, we had our most productive period ever in our economy, under Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.
The problem is that a whole segment of the population is ignorant. And the rich have their stalking horses, like Limbaugh and Beck and others, and they have their think tanks and their lobbyists and the 40 Neocon Senators who have blocked 290 pieces of job-creating legislation and now want to cut Social Security.
We must be pro-active. We must point out that there are many things we can do to improve our economy. Certain trade policies, plus not allowing jobs to go overseas, and not allowing corporations to locate in the Caribbean to avoid taxes, not allowing lies about health care reform to go unanswered…because the health insurance companies are continuing to resist change…all these things we need to fix.
Don’t let the agents of the huge corporations do away with the middle class. They are actively trying to enslave one whole segment of the population. Don’t let them get away with it.