It’s not complicated. Every retailer, restaurant, and corporation in America can do what Costco is doing, but they don’t.
Why is that?
I think it’s because the people who own and run these businesses refuse to look beyond next quarter’s financial statements. Their thought processes, their vision, and their values don’t include ways to share their wealth with their workers.
They are greedy, selfish, sons-of-bitches who want us to think that’s just how capitalism works.
That also seems to be how today’s conservatives who are outside the 1% think, too. What other explanation can there be for why they think they are Republicans?
Conservatives Don’t Seem to Understand Reality
Costco clearly has leaders, a board of directors, and shareholders who are visionary and courageous enough to implement ethical and moral business strategies that are profitable AND which include a more equitable distribution of those profits to workers in the form of livable wages.
Contrast that with the lies we’re told by Wall Street, by Big Business shills like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and the National Federation of Independent Business, by libertarian mythologists like Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, and by Republican politicians who keep claiming that trickle-down economics works, that we should abolish a minimum wage and leave compensation to market forces, and that government interference and over-reach are stifling business and our economy.
How is it that conservatives don’t get that all of that is, of course, complete and total bullshit?
How is it that conservatives who make less than $340,000.00 – what it takes to be in the 1% – insist on voting for Republicans and their failed policies which have ALWAYS been designed to benefit the rich and powerful first and foremost?
Liberals: Time to “Welcome Their Hatred”
We need leaders like Bernie Sanders who welcome the hatred of Wall Street and Big Money.
We need people like Lawrence Lessig as politicians who represent us and who are willing and eager to confront Big Money for their lies and their failures.
As individuals, we also must welcome the hatred of the rich and powerful. We need to find the courage to band together. We need to shine light on the fact that conservatism and Republican policy is to blame for where we are now as a nation and as a society.
More than anything, we liberals need to stop surrendering to the all-too-common liberal weakness of always wanting to find compromise.
No more compromises. It’s how we got to this sorry state of affairs. We let conservatives move the center further and further to the right by acquiescing to their demands and our own desire to avoid confrontation and conflict.
Liberals didn’t elect Reagan and two Bushes. Liberals didn’t cause banks to fail. Liberals didn’t demand that government shrink and corporations become less and less regulated. Liberals didn’t funnel all of the recovery and wealth to only the absolute richest among us.
We liberals need to continue to point out these and all the inconvenient truths that stem from conservatism (and its absurdly juvenile and greed-driven stepbrother, libetarianism).
Our fellow citizens who self-identify as conservatives need to hear from us whether they want to or not. They need to hear the truth; that they are also part of the ever-shrinking middle class and the ever-growing class of working poor.
They need to hear from us liberals that they are wrong – plain and dead wrong – for voting for ANY Republican anywhere and at any level of government.
They need to keep hearing it. Conservative (and much of libertarian) ideology that informs and drives Republican policies have unequivocally been proven to be dead wrong for everyone on every issue, and that includes economic issues. That is true, of course, for everyone except for the rich and powerful.
The Parties Are NOT The Same
It’s pretty simple and absolutely obvious. The GOP is the party of big business and the rich.
For those who are tempted to trot out the b.s. false equivalence that, “Both parties are the same,” save it. As far as I’m concerned, you’re second in line as the greatest obstacle to making real progress in this country. You give Republicans cover, and you need to stop it.
Number one on the list of obstacles are actually those Americans living in households with adjusted gross incomes of less than $340,000.00 per year who insist that they are Republicans and who vote for Republicans. I have news for them. They are not in the 1%. The conservatives in the 99% mean precisely nothing to Republicans except as useful fools who can be counted on to vote for them.
The very people who legally crashed our economy – and those who did it illegally and still haven’t gone to jail – and have kept their bonuses are now even bigger than before.
This is when our government needs to – HAS TO – step in and say….
“You are a danger to the rest of society. You are no longer going to operate in this manner. You have abused the rights and privileges afforded to you in the law, and now the law is changing. You will be broken up, and you will be regulated such that your actions cannot threaten the global economy and the financial well-being of all of the rest of us ever again.”
If there was ever an industry that has repeatedly proven that it is populated with and largely led by people incapable of policing themselves, it’s the financial services industry. This isn’t a personal attack. It’s just the facts, and it’s just history.
There can’t be opportunity and protection without a balance between the private sector and the government. There is no balance today. The scales have been tipping for far too long toward Big Money. This is why it’s so important that we strike at the root of all of our problems – money in politics.
We must change campaign finance laws in order to get the influence of Big Money out of our political processes and out of the halls of government. It’s the only way we can expect to have any influence as ordinary citizens over our elected officials.
What can we do? Plenty.
Join up with other concerned citizens who have come together to make their voices heard.
Here are some of my favorites. Please feel free to share this and to add others.
I can’t imagine anyone arguing that America does not need a healthier, more economically viable, active, and growing middle class. Sadly, I also can’t imagine much argument that the exact opposite is dramatically evident.
The question now is what are we in the middle class prepared and willing to do about it?
I ask that question because I am completely convinced that the decline of the American middle class is reversible. I’m also completely convinced that the responsibility rests almost entirely and exclusively with all of us in the middle class. We can and we must do more to stop and then to reverse our decline.
Facebook posts and yelling at the TV might feel cathartic, but they don’t accomplish much. Let’s resolve in 2014 to do more and to take real action to take our democracy back from the corrupting influence of money.
What Can Be Done
It’s my opinion that we in America’s middle class need to do two things:
1. Stop waiting around for someone else to do something about it for us
2. Stop digging the hole deeper by no longer voting against our own economic self-interests
Let’s Stop Digging
I’ve written a lot over the years about point number 2, most recently here, here, and here.
There’s no other way to say it. All of the responsibility for point number 2 rests with Americans outside the wealthiest 2% who insist on voting against the economic interests of the middle class by voting FOR Republicans and tea party candidates who want to turn over control of our government and our economy to the very people and industries who got us into this mess.
The mess we’re in started with Reagan and his Rand/Friedman/Greenspan-inspired lies of trickle-down economics and the canard that government is somehow the only source of our problems. So long as some of us keep voting for the people representing those lies, we’ll keep digging the American middle class into a deeper and deeper hole.
I’m not saying we should never vote for another Republican. I have voted for Republicans in the past. I’m just asking – pleading, really – that we please just stop voting for the extremists in the Republican party.
We know – or we should know – who’s on that list. We know – or we should know – that it includes people selling us the fairy tales of unfettered free markets coupled with the failed economic and governmental philosophies of Milton Friedman, a.k.a. Reaganomics, a.k.a voodoo economics (thanks, btw, to G.H.W. Bush for that one), a.k.a. trickle-down economics.
Today, this describes one party and only one party. Anyone wishing to offer evidence to the contrary is invited to do so.
The Dangers of Being Kept In The Dark
To some extent and in a world where people still watch, listen to, and believe the likes of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and a whole plethora of ideologues masquerading as news media and opinion “journalism” (a very liberal use of that term, btw), it’s kind of understandable how so many middle class Americans can be duped into believing the lie of trickle-down economics.
Traditional corporate news media is almost as guilty. (In case you’re wondering, the answer is, “No, outside of a weather report, I do not count anything broadcast by Fox to be unbiased news.”) Corporate media spends almost no time or energy informing us about how and why the middle class is in decline. What time is spent on the subject is spent mostly with people meant more to drive ratings than to inform us about what the decline of the middle class actually means to America and to our geopolitical power and influence in the world on a long-term basis.
The reason for their silence seems clear. It’s not in their corporate economic self-interest for us to understand it, nor is it in the interest of the wealthy and powerful who run those corporations. They are beholden to their investors. Collectively, they exercise control over our government more than ever by funding campaigns with little-to-no oversight thanks to Citizens United.
Even worse for the vast majority of Americans, these are people who already seem to demonstrate little-to-no appreciation for the ramifications of their actions and that of a declining middle class. They are either willfully ignoring or inexplicably discounting in a dangerous and short-sighted way what a declining American middle class means for our economy, our country, and for the world.
If we move to a system where half of the country is either stagnant or losing ground while the other half is surging, the social fabric of the United States is at risk, and with it the massive global power the United States has accumulated. Other superpowers such as Britain or Rome did not have the idea of a perpetually improving condition of the middle class as a core value. The United States does. If it loses that, it loses one of the pillars of its geopolitical power.
Every society throughout history has its ‘winners’ and its ‘losers’ in whatever terms each society chooses to define those words. Of late, it’s perfectly clear who the winners and losers are in America.
When it comes to the American middle class, the facts are in. The data are undeniable. The American middle class is in decline while the wealthiest accumulate even greater wealth and prosperity. This imbalance spells only trouble for us as a people and as a country.
Badly Tipped Scales
The balance that once existed between the income gains and the relative prosperity of the middle class and the wealthy – and which ought to exist again between free market capitalism and representative government – have tipped in dangerous and disturbing ways.
The scale seems to have tipped not between middle class and rich or between “corporatists” and “statists”, but instead in a third direction; Big Money.
Big Money, Bums, and Parties
Take a close look at the following chart. Appreciate and understand that it represents the average wealth of ALL of our representatives in Congress.
As of 2011, that’s an estimated average wealth of $11.7million for a Senator and $6.5million for a Representative.
What, exactly, are we supposed to have in common with these people?
What, exactly, do we think motivates them and what, exactly, should we expect from them when it comes to the resultant policy and law they make?
Isn’t it clear that all of the opportunity, privilege, and entitlements – yes, entitlements – now flow almost exclusively to the wealthy and, by extension, to their Big Money interests in both the private and public sectors?
We need to stop deluding ourselves about whom they serve. Our elected representatives represent the interests of Big Money. That means they do not represent the vast majority of Americans.
And, yes, both parties are guilty but it must be stated emphatically that they are NOT both guilty in equal measure. I’ve also grown weary of false equivalencies like that, too. Again, anyone wishing to offer credible citations to the contrary are invited to do so.
That said, the evidence is clear.
If the average Senator’s wealth is nearly $12million and the average House Rep is worth a cool $6.5million, then it stands to reason that these elected representatives don’t come from and don’t represent the middle class or the lower middle class or the working poor or the impoverished.
They represent Big Money, and without Big Money they can’t fund their campaigns.
The average winner in a Senate race <in 2012> spent $10.2 million, compared to $8.3 million in 2010 and just $7.5 million in 2008. That’s an increase of 19 percent since 2010. Senate Democrats seemed to have to work particular hard to win their seats, spending an average of $11.9 million, compared to the average Republican winner who spent $7.1 million.
On the House side, there was a smaller but still quantifiable increase in the cost of winning. On average, a winner in the House spent $1.5 million, compared $1.4 million in 2010 and $1.3 million in 2008. In the House, it was Republicans who had to work a bit harder: The average winning House Republican had to spend $1.59 million to win a seat, a bit more than the $1.53 million spent by the average Democratic victor. (Source: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/06/2012-overview.html)
Once in office, they are well on their way to amassing serious wealth. It begins on Capitol Hill with legislation and regulation (or more accurately, deregulation) in favor of the very industries they are supposed to be watching over for our benefit and protection. That’s just the start. Much bigger paydays await.
Being elected to office or appointed to one of the myriad departments or agencies is merely the step necessary before twirling through the revolving door that opens onto K Street and the private sector where their real rewards await them.
That is the heart of it. Money that concerns itself only with more money and not with the concerns and well-being of ordinary citizens.
This closed circle of money between government and private enterprise is precisely why a “throw the bums out” or even the dream of more viable third, fourth, and fifth political parties will not work to change anything.
Let me repeat that.
Simply replacing the current crop of politicians with a new group of elected officials – either from the current 2-party system or from a whole host of additional political parties – will serve to change very little if the underlying and fundamental campaign finance process and electoral systems by which these people are elected and reelected does not change.
Where We Come In
If we’re going to make our voices and our concerns heard, if we’re going to have a democracy that works for us, then we’re going to have to take the actions that serve to get Big Money out of politics.
The wealthy, both in and out of government, are continuing to prove that, outside of people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, we have very, very few people in Congress actually representing us.
It’s not just national politics, either. We need to be examining and pressuring our local and state governments about whom they actually represent. Is it us or their Big Money backers?
What we can’t expect politicians to do on their own is to work very hard at tearing down and rebuilding the very systems that got them elected and which make them rich (or richer) in the process.
There are lots of groups and lots ways for you to get involved and to add your voice to growing chorus. The ones that I endorse and that I strongly encourage you to learn more about and to get behind are listed below. Together, we can make our voices heard and we can make a difference.
Whether shutting it down temporarily or shrinking the government permanently, the facts are that doing so tends to hurt the people in Republican states more than other states and to greater degrees than Republican voters seem to realize or are willing to admit.
States with a larger government presence — as measured by either employment or economic impact — tended to vote Republican in the 2012 election, while states with a smaller government presence tended to vote Democratic.
It begs a couple of questions.
Do Republican voters understand that they are more often the greater beneficiaries of direct government employment? They and their neighbors are more likely to actually work for the government. When the government shuts down or shrinks, that hurts their neighbors and the economy in the same way that a layoff or business shutdown in their community does.
That’s the direct employment part. How about government spending?
Do our Republican family and friends not understand that the only true “trickle down economics” comes *FROM* government spending? Government agencies not only employ our fellow Americans, the government also spends money through private businesses. That spending creates private sector jobs and prosperity for themselves, their communities, their families, and their neighbors.
The state G.D.P. figures may well understate the importance of — and the decline in — government activity. That is because they are computed differently from the national G.D.P. number. The national number is based on spending, while the state numbers are based on profits and income of workers. As a result, if a government pays for the construction of something, whether a school or a fighter jet, that will show up as government activity in the national figure.
But for the state figures, it will show up as private-sector activity because the work was done by employees of construction or aerospace companies.
Doesn’t that mean the government is a legitimate job creator? After all, who else is going to place orders with private companies for fighter jets, roads, bridges, and schools, not to mention the $517billion spent on outsourcing?
All of this adds up to a mystery.
Why do some middle class Americans insist on voting against their own economic self-interests? It makes absolutely no sense. For that kind of voting to be even more common in states where the economy is even more dependent on government makes even less sense.
Let’s not shy away from this fact, either. It is only Republican legislators who want to shrink government to the point that they can drown it in the bath. Middle class Americans who vote for them are voting to commit economic suicide.
FDR had this to say in his famous “I welcome their hatred” speech in 1936. It’s just as true today as it was back then.
The very employers and politicians and publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them. (http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/od2ndst.html)
Let’s hope that our Republican friends, family members, neighbors, and strangers will come to their senses soon and stop allowing themselves to be deluded by the tyrants of their party.
On this, the 5th anniversary of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, Americans should take time to pause and remember this as yet another heinous crime of historic proportions perpetrated on Americans on a day in September.
It wasn’t terrorists and it wasn’t Main Street who killed our economy. No, this crime was perpetrated on us by a conspiracy forged between Big Money on Wall Street and Small (not Big!) Government politicians who carry their water and actually pass rules and laws that make the crime legal.
That means we’re also to blame. Actually, it’s not all of us who must share the blame.
There’s no other way to say this. It’s Americans who vote for politicians who want to further deregulate all kinds of industries, including the financial services industry, who share in the blame. By electing people who work to shrink government and deregulate industries, we’re actually creating a “Socialism of Wall Street” where the gains of capitalism are privatized to an infinitesimally small number of people while all the losses are socialized to all the rest of America.
How much more proof is needed that deregulation, coupled with greed and power, leads to terrible outcomes for everyone except those with wealth and power? I consider myself to be a capitalist, but I also know from experience that corporations have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to police themselves alone.
Many actors obviously played a role in this story. Some of the actors were in the public sector and some of them were in the private sector. But the public sector agencies were acting at behest of the private sector. It’s not as though Congress woke up one morning and thought to itself, “Let’s abolish the Glass-Steagall Act!” Or the SEC spontaneously happened to have the bright idea of relaxing capital requirements on the investment banks. Or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of its own accord abruptly had the idea of preempting state laws protecting borrowers. These agencies of government were being strenuously lobbied to do the very things that would benefit the financial sector and their managers and traders. And behind it all, was the drive for short-term profits.<emphasis added>
I think “…being strenuously lobbied…” is too polite a euphemism.
It was the Big Money One-Percenters exercising their control over politicians who got agencies to do their bidding. 2008 was the result of the lies Reagan told America about trickle-down economics and the size of government, and the perpetuation of those lies coming from Republicans, extreme neo-cons, and the One Percent ever since. They are the ones who killed our economy in 2008, and they will do it again unless we do something to stop them.
Need more evidence?
Here are some facts about the 2008 bailout, courtesy of Public Citizen.
Amount the crash cost the U.S. economy: $22 trillion
How much everyone would get if that $22 trillion were divided equally among the U.S. populace: $69,478.88
Assets of the four biggest banks in America — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wachovia/Wells Fargo — when they were “too big to fail” in 2008: $6.4 trillion
Assets of those four banks today: $7.8 trillion
Of the 63 former Lehman Brothers employees identified by a bankruptcy examiner as being aware of an accounting scheme Lehman used to mask its true finances, number who are employed in senior financial services positions today: 47
Number of the 25 banks responsible for the bulk of risky subprime loans leading up to the crash that are back in the mortgage business: 25
Chances that an American voter thinks that regulating financial products and services is “important” or “very important”: 9 in 10
Chances that an American knows the Earth orbits the sun: 8 in 10
Amount spent in 2012 by Wall Street and other finance industry behemoths on lobbying to roll back, water down and weasel out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: $487 million
Number of registered financial industry lobbyists in 2012: 2,429
Number of lawsuits filed as of April of this year by Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to hold up implementation of Dodd-Frank rules on legal technicalities: 7
Rank of finance industry among all corporate election spending by sector in 2011 and 2012: 1
Amount the industry gave to political candidates in 2011 and 2012: $664 million
In 2012, rate at which revenues of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., matched Public Citizen’s operating expenses for the entire year: Every 80 minutes
Isn’t it time to join forces as average, middle class Americans to make our voices heard about getting big money and it’s corrupting influence out of politics, and to get our democracy turned back over to us ordinary citizens?
You can start by joining and supporting CoffeePartyUSA and by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act.
I am no longer a supporter of any kind of Coffee Party USA. To understand why, click here.