Search This Blog

Monday, March 3, 2014

The New Deal, The Current Economic Crisis and The Price of a Civilized Society

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."   ~ Albert Einstein

The New Deal was a series of domestic economic programs enacted in the United States between 1933 and 1936. After the deal was struck, the wealthiest American citizens were paying as much as 92% in income taxes for income above $200,000 per year. There was a cap placed on personal income, which, in today’s money, would be about $350,000 per year. At the time, strong socialist and communist movements, among other major movements, like the Wobblies, gave then President Franklin Roosevelt the leverage he needed to convene the richest Americans of that era into one room and get them to agree to his offer. The social security program was the prize of these economic programs, which also included the unemployment program among others.

Today, it not uncommon for a billionaire to pay a lesser percentage in income taxes than his/her secretary.  What took place between that era and this one to bring about such a drastic change? Within a decade after Roosevelt’s New Deal, the fabulously wealthy launched a massive campaign of indoctrination using, in part, the education system to accomplish mind control of the people as well as a massive PR campaign to sell the philosophy of capitalism, among other things, to the American public.

The ultimate goal was to indoctrinate American adults—and children—into the new “Spirit of the Age,” as they coined it in conversations and literature of their day and to maximize control and domination of the masses who would provide the labor that, when combined with the elite class’s ownership of the mechanisms of production, would make the ruling class rich and powerful beyond their wildest dreams.

This was clearly intended to be mind control of the masses, and this programming was subsequently perpetuated over a period of decades since then. The end result of this massive, collective brainwashing was that the great mass of Americans were taught not to question the capitalist system, which became a taboo subject, and many who dared to question that system with vigor were often accused of being card-carrying communists in the 40’s and 50’s and subsequently persecuted, ostracized and blacklisted from the communities and institutions where they made their living.

America can do better than the capitalist system.

Today, although the situation is improving somewhat due to increasingly widespread discontent, questioning capitalism is still largely taboo in many circles. Furthermore, American students have been taught obedience and conformity for decades. This was a major objective of the ruling class of Roosevelt’s day. Our very attitudes and values were intended to be shaped for us.

Today, students pay thousands of dollars in tuition and fees or go into massive debt to cover the costs of getting an education when education should be completely free to everyone. Think about this: Why should the labor force of tomorrow be forced to pay for the education needed to run the corporations that the rich own and control in order to become incredibly wealthy from the sweat and hard work of that very same labor force? While labor could exist and thrive without the presence of a wealthy ruling class, the wealthy would become non-existent without labor, which establishes the overall importance and superiority of labor over a ruling class. However, in our present arrangement, most of the resources and machinery, the very mechanisms of production required to accumulate wealth are primarily owned by the very rich.

That’s why Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to decrease the interest rate paid by American students, despite seeming like a fabulous solution to the financial woes of many students on the surface, is really a betrayal of our students, instead, who are essentially tomorrow’s labor force of the ruling class. Why should students have to take on massive debt to make the ruling class phenomenally rich seems like a fair question to ask ourselves. Warren’s proposal makes us believe that this is an ingenious and equitable answer to the financial woes of students, while it actually falls way short of being a long-term solution.

We’ve, somehow, managed to miss the entire point because we’re not seeing the big picture that history makes crystal clear to us if we’d only take the time to investigate it with an open mind. All of the debt acquired by students puts us into what amounts to overwhelming “debt peonage” for decades, as Noam Chomsky describes it, and it’s a tool of social control to force onto students the values of obedience and conformity to their masters, the ruling class. All the tuition paid, along with the endless fees to get an education are really just taxes levied on students disguised as a reasonable and legitimate price that every student should have to pay to learn the skills needed to implement the mechanisms of control (owned by the masters), which, ultimately, wind up in the deep pockets of the masters, along with the fruits of our labor after graduation. This is a terrific scam and very lucrative in more ways than one for the very powerful.

Unfortunately, we’ve been brainwashed to believe that this completely lop-sided and imbalanced state of affairs is the way things are supposed to be. In large part, we owe much of our attitudes and beliefs to those who began that PR campaign more than seventy years ago and those who’ve perpetuated it up to the present day. To vehemently question capitalism and the status quo means doing so at our own peril, although I like to do it routinely and would strongly recommend it for many reasons, some of which you are about to find out.

If we could use our imaginations to envision the kind of society we might have if we had a system in place like Roosevelt’s New Deal, our society would be amazingly different than it is today. While it certainly wouldn’t be a utopia by any stretch of the imagination, the quality of life for practically everyone would increase by several orders of magnitude, and our crumbling infrastructure would be rock solid instead of falling apart at the seams like it’s doing today. Health care would be free for everyone. That is, true, universal health care for everyone. The New Deal was the price of a truly “civilized society.”

Yet, today, anyone who asks too many questions or who actively pursues a sound education based on learning sound critical reasoning skills used to question the powers that be often finds him/herself at odds with the dark and sinister institutions that comprise the very fabric of our society. In the revealing words of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, Chris Hedges, who spent 15 years working as a foreign correspondent at the New York Times before that organization attempted to control and restrict his anti-war messages in opposition to the Iraq War, all institutions are inherently evil.

We’re encouraged to wholeheartedly pursue the creation of endless personal wealth for ourselves even though we might be more likely to win the jackpot of a lottery than achieve such wealth by our own design. Critical thinking skills are not emphasized and are downplayed as many don’t go to school to learn, anymore, but simply to go through the motions of learning that are required of us to earn a diploma that symbolizes a permanent pass to increased wages in the workforce over the course of a lifetime. Typically, the degree does mean higher wages, but the actual learning that is supposed to take place in colleges is often circumvented and, thus, practically nonexistent.

The goal of the masters was, and still is, to dumb down the workforce so no one asks too many questions and we conform to the rules imposed on us by those who wield power. To use a term that I didn’t create, their goal was to have a population comprised of “village idiots,” unable to think outside of the collective and unable to postulate balanced, unprejudiced opinions that differ from those they encounter in their social environments, to have an obedient population that never questions authority, where sound moral reasoning is not rewarded, and finding a higher purpose for our lives beyond the wholesale pursuit of the legal tender is discouraged.

The need to fit in to a group or organization by shutting our eyes to inconsistencies there and blind loyalty to our in-group in order to earn a paycheck and essentially to keep moving from one crisis to the next shuts down any serious pursuit of a deeper understanding of the world we live in. Those who get out of line or become “too smart” will be pressured to get back in line with the group or they may find themselves losing social acceptance and facing ostracism. In essence, we surrender our right to question the institutions we work for and, ultimately, the freedom to define ourselves in any way we want when we become part of them. Those institutions rarely encourage individuality, but conformity, instead.  And so the main focus becomes getting with the program and fitting in rather than to question authority—popularity contest.

Today, we can see the effects of that bold PR campaign initiated more than seven decades ago, right after the New Deal came into effect.  Our liberal politicians are no longer liberals as the left offers less and less resistance to the right as time goes by, and the radical right continues to chip away at the last vestiges of the New Deal and even Social Security, itself, the last social safety net of the poor, the homeless, sick, disabled, the elderly and our children. The prize of the New Deal, Social Security, is now being placed on the chopping block by a Democrat, Obama, and will someday be a thing of the past, despite being completely solvent for decades to come and doesn’t contribute to the national debt.

The government routinely bails out the banks as in this last Great Recession to the tune of more than 12 trillion dollars, to date, and an additional 85 billion dollars each and every month from the Federal Reserve goes to float the banks, while some of these very same institutions receiving funds simultaneously hide billions in offshore accounts every year in order to avoid paying taxes (getting rebates from the IRS in many cases despite record-breaking profits) and become even more obscenely wealthy as the country’s middle-class evaporates in front of our eyes. These are the same institutions, you may recall, that caused the Great Recession of 2009 which actually began in December of 2007 by some accounts. Furthermore, the causes of that recession have not been resolved, which only guarantees us more recessions like it that wiped out decades of accumulated wealth by much of the middle-class virtually overnight—all gone in the proverbial blink of an eye.

Is the ruling class coming to the rescue?  Hardly. They’re actually tightening the screws down even more every day. Their greed has no bounds. The newest economic philosophy and fad in American politics is “austerity,” which didn’t work in Europe, by the way. Austerity means cutting social programs, like Medicare and Social Security, without any sense of shame or regret by our leaders, and places a heavier part of the overall burden of paying off our national debt on the backs of the sick, elderly, poor, disabled and, yes, even our children, too. These highly vulnerable populations, along with the vast majority of every day Americans are told to go without, to exercise more self-discipline—“tough love”--while the obscenely wealthy get bailed out by the government (who, ironically, are actually the taxpayers that are being taught “tough love”) in what has now been coined as the “nanny state,” by some. The rich get infinitely more “corporate welfare” from the government (the taxpayers) than the poor are allowed to receive through social welfare programs, like food stamps, by way of the politicians they control, and they continue to shift every bit of the burden they can on the weak and vulnerable, but never onto themselves.

This is a cruel hoax and a scam, the perfect racket.  As the late Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone, the infamous American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate so aptly described it, “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.”  Yet, Capone, for all of the violence and dishonesty associated with his name, frequently made sizable donations to charitable organizations with the money from his illegal activities, like opening a soup kitchen for the unemployed, for example, and came to be viewed by many as a type of “modern-day Robin Hood.”

There are obvious solutions to the mess we’re in, the most glaring of which is to make the rich pay their fair share of taxes and the redistribution of wealth as the previous leading patriarch of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, pointed out to his followers. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening at an alarming rate and the frustrations of the impoverished are surfacing more and more frequently, not just in the United States but around the globe. One hundred million Americans (almost one-third of the U.S. population) are now poor or in a category described as near poverty.

Unbelievably, between 2009 and 2010, 93% of all newly-generated wealth in the United States went to the wealthiest one percent of the population, while the remaining 99% of the population was left to scramble for the leftover scraps amounting to just 7% of newly generated wealth during that period.

Today’s modern-day version of class warfare is simply the manifestation of a cyclical conflict that had its beginnings around 1760 when the Industrial Revolution was just getting started. When the working classes and poor bring about reform in any society, the ruling classes respond to take back what was lost—a perpetual tug of war that goes back and forth as the years go by. And so we find ourselves at a point in the history of our nation where the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent, once again, have the upper hand.

If our political processes seem dysfunctional and our leaders don’t appear to be using sound reasoning skills to perform their duties, it’s because there is a sinister reason behind it. Political paralysis is the point where government no longer serves the people but the elite who wanted it this way. The liberal class becomes less and less significant while the people become more discontent and the quality of life in our society diminishes.  Hard times will happen to more and more Americans, even those who’ve been shielded by previously amassed personal wealth over the years as their resources dwindle in order to maintain the lifestyle they’ve come to know and expect.

The question is whether Americans will awaken and come to terms with what’s really happening to them before the government, now fully an appendage of Wall Street, weaves its web of control around them so tightly that there’s no longer any chance of escape. The great Karl Marx, who we've been taught to casually dismiss as anti-American, anti-democratic, and presumably inconsequential, had it right from the start; our current situation, just as it’s been all along, is best defined as class warfare, plain and simple, although until our world recently came crashing down all around us, we didn’t have the need to recognize and acknowledge it as such. Social wedge issues like race, abortion, LGBT issues, religion, and so on, are just divisions the ruling elite capitalize on to divide and conquer the 99.90 percent of the population they’d like to, by design, see continue to toil in perpetuity below and “beneath” them.

What is actually unique about our current situation are the numerous modern threats to man and womankind’s very survival; man-made threats to our survival as a species are unprecedented in human history as we’ve never before had the capacity to destroy all life on our planet thousands of times over.  The current climate crisis also threatens the human race with extinction by asphyxiation and, in my opinion, this will occur within the next 50-100 years if we don’t successfully meet the challenges posed by deforestation of the rain forests and irresponsible mining and consumption of the planet’s natural resources, namely fossil fuels.

For sure, there are other problems like new infectious diseases that can travel across the globe virtually overnight, and genetically-altered food crops, any one of which could potentially bring human civilization to an unceremonious and abrupt end.  We seem to be under the gun and, for now, we don’t appear to be awakening from our dream state fast enough to understand the dangers that confront us and future generations. The mass media in the United States, which is now owned, in large part, by just six major corporations, is little more than a tool of the corporate state. Former President Clinton, a Democrat, was responsible for the deregulation of the FCC that took place under his watch.

Americans are passively and obediently following a state that is doomed to failure by the greed and insatiable lust for power of those who would have everything for themselves and nothing for the rest of us. Those who control the mechanisms of production, also own our politicians and our mass media. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” The question that begs to be asked, here, is how can Americans solve a problem they don’t even know exists?  We aren’t alerted to the unpleasant truths we need to know and that are necessary for our very survival because the corporations that own our media are structured around a business model that is subject to the profit motive as its main reason for existence.

The most often quoted person on the planet, today, Noam Chomsky, once said, “The general population doesn't know what's happening and it doesn't even know that it doesn't know.”  The mass media is corporate-run and tacitly supports in rather complex ways the goals of their shareholders. Corporations are, ultimately, responsible for making money for those shareholders, and profit is the bottom line. The six corporations that monopolize the mediums of communication are owned by the phenomenally rich and, therefore, are a huge part of the problem. When given a choice between presenting the American public with unpleasant truths and making profits, the truth inevitably gets sacrificed and pushed aside in favor of ratings—which mean increased profits, in the final analysis.

Thus, we are conveniently entertained with cheap, useless stories that, typically, appeal to the lowest common denominator on a daily basis instead of getting the unpleasant truths that foster the public good and have the potential to save humanity from itself, whether it’s the climate crisis, nuclear proliferation or other serious threats to our survival—while the corporate state quietly continues to strengthen its death grip on the American people through legislation enacted by our leaders that continue to erode our civil liberties and pave the way for a totalitarian state, ruled by brute force.

Whether we will awaken in time is anyone’s guess, but it isn’t happening fast enough for me and others like me who see the danger signs. The ruling class has a huge head start on us to the tune of about seven decades. The corporate state, now centered on Wall Street, not Washington D. C., will be unable to stop itself from its own voracious appetite for wealth and power. It’s a run-away train that has lost its capacity to apply the brakes because the mechanisms for controlling corporations, namely our nation’s political processes (run by our leaders) in Washington, are busy doing the bidding of those very same corporations. Corporate America supplies the funds needed for their political campaigns which are now exponentially more expensive that at any previous point in our nation’s history.

The costs of political campaigns often run into the millions and, sometimes, billions of dollars. Now, more than ever, political success depends on the ability to raise exorbitant sums of money for advertising. Few politicians are willing to forego the capital (political campaign contributions also called “protection”) supplied by the corporate state in order to achieve political freedom to be their own bosses and make decisions that are truly in the best interests of their constituents. And so our politicians, at the behest of the corporate state, have deregulated the industries that are destroying the planet, itself, because deregulation, ultimately, means record profits for those industries that have now have more freedom than ever to irresponsibly exploit and cannibalize the planet and its resources (including human capital).

The Earth and its inhabitants have essentially become expendable. A decision at Goldman-Sachs, for example, can result in the deaths of thousands of Africa’s most vulnerable populations by starvation, without ever raising an eyebrow within that institution or with little more than symbolic, yet heroic, opposition, from a handful of dedicated activists like Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Cornel West, Norman Finkelstein, and others.

One of the few leaders that has successfully managed to wriggle free from the clutches of corporate control is the Independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who relies on more than 140,000 small campaign donations to provide most of the funds needed to stay in office, defend his constituents and promote the solutions we need to right the course of this ship that’s limping directly into the storm’s path.

It is my hope the senator from Vermont will become a presidential candidate with his eyes focused on 2016. He is always in the middle of the most important battles facing poor and working class Americans and speaks with conviction in defense of America’s most vulnerable populations. He understands intimately the class warfare that’s at the heart of our problems and vigorously pursues legislation that will force the elites to pay a larger portion of their vast acquired wealth in taxes so that we can, once again, return to the peace of mind that a civilized society is capable of affording us.

To his credit, he is also keenly aware of the climate crisis, has fought hard and with a sense of urgency to alert the public and his fellow congressmen and women to the lethal nature of this threat. To my knowledge, Bernie Sanders is the only leader in American politics, today, with insight into the sinister forces working to undermine what little remains of our once thriving society and who has, with great tenacity, drawn a fiercely-defended battle line in the sand between the American people and the super-rich—a battle line he is not afraid to cross in order to take the offensive.

Thanks to the deal that Franklin Delano Roosevelt negotiated with the elites of his era, he came to be viewed by many as the person most responsible for saving a democracy that, like ours, was in danger of falling apart at the seams, and I see no one with the courage and convictions to do the same for America, today, than the venerable senator from Vermont.  If he’s to be successful, he’ll need a lot more than raw courage and the power of his convictions to make things happen; he’ll need the overwhelming support of the American public—a revved up and angry nation that clearly understands what’s taking place and the implications of, both, success and failure. As Abraham Lincoln, who was, himself, once in a unique position to right the course of our then struggling nation once said, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”

Spurred on by Big Money, all three branches of the U.S. government have undertaken an all-out assault on our civil liberties, as they prepare for the day when total control of the population, by force, will be necessary. In recent years, corporations have quietly and innocuously seized power in what has been coined by Chris Hedges as a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. The corporations won, and now our leaders do their bidding to prepare for the uprisings that will inevitably ensue as more and more Americans become discontent with their circumstances and  critical mass will eventually be reached.

The assault against our civil liberties, whether it’s Section 1021B of the National Defense Authorization Act, warrantless wiretapping, use of the Espionage Act to shut down whistle-blowers, or the misuse of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as giving the executive branch the power to assassinate American citizens, is eroding the very freedoms Americans have come to value so greatly and continues to assist in the acquisition of power by the corporate state for its present and future plans.

The ideological line in the sand that was drawn decades ago that historically separated Republicans from Democrats is being washed away by the rising tide of vast amounts of corporate money in politics, as the infamous Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, is threatening to completely wash away the last vestiges of our crumbling democracy that was never actually a true democracy to begin with. That, too, was part of the misinformation and disinformation that was spoon-fed to the people through the deception of our founding fathers going all the way back to the very beginnings of our once fledgling nation.

In the final analysis, there are two principle actions at the disposal of every American to deal with the imminent crises that lie ahead. As Abraham Lincoln so aptly put it, “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.”

Getting the message out in time to halt the destruction of our planet’s ability to support life and before the government establishes irreversible control of the American people becomes the key question, as mass movements, like today’s Occupy Movements, are best suited to contend with the threat of mass subjugation and domination posed by corporate states in the United States and around the world. Bear in mind that our main issue, called class struggle, is not unique to us; it is a worldwide phenomenon. The future looks bleak, right now, but true failure doesn’t occur until we give up hope and refuse to try any more. In the meantime, the wealthy are still using their greatest assets, which are seemingly endless amounts of wealth and power, to seduce many while the assault on our political processes, the planet, and its resources continues to move forward at a terrifying pace.

Truth be told, many Americans are just a lost paycheck or two away from complete economic disaster. For all our optimism, the plain truth is that a job, today, could easily turn into partial or full unemployment, tomorrow, and this prospect becomes exceedingly greater as the next recession or, worse yet, the next Great Recession is always looming on the horizon. Our standard of living, which has been steadily declining since the mid-sixties will no doubt continue its free fall. This process of devolution from a country that once owned half of the world’s wealth at the end of World War II but just five percent of its population into a virtual Third World country, a banana republic, if you will, is only going to continue until the challenges posed by the corporate state are faced head-on by a population that clearly understands what’s at stake.

Some of the obvious rewards I’d like to see take place for successfully halting our progression towards a full-fledged totalitarian state are the preservation of the freedoms we value so greatly, having a truly civilized society with a government that isn’t top-down but works its way from the local level upward, and, of course, the ongoing survival of life on Earth. On the other hand, the price of failure would signify the final victory of hatred and intolerance over love and kindness, lives seduced by the power of greed over lives spent in service to a cause greater than our own, and the ultimate victory of our selfish impulses to dominate and enslave our fellow humans in lieu of mutually respecting each other’s dignity and right to self-determination.

It would mean the forces of darkness prevailed over all that was good, just and noble on our planet. The Earth, itself, would no longer harbor life of any kind except for the simplest microbes, and the planet would hang suspended indefinitely in space—a mass graveyard for all of humanity—an eternal monument to futility and grim testimonial to any life forms from other parts of the universe passing this way of man and womankind’s dismal failure to learn from the mistakes of our past.

“The only mistake in life is the lesson not learned.”

~ Albert Einstein

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

~ Albert Einstein

“There lies before us, if we choose continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”

~ Russell-Einstein Manifesto

You have the right to remain silent, but I don't recommend it.