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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
A lonely voice of reason in the wilderness of our corrupt single-party Corporate State:
The rancorous debate over the debt belies a fundamental truth of our economy — that it is run for the few at the expense of the many, that our entire government has been turned into a machine which takes the wealth of a mass of Americans and accelerates it into the hands of the few. Let me give you some examples.
Take war. War takes the money from the American people and puts it into the hands of arms manufacturers, war profiteers, and private armies. The war in Iraq, based on lies: $3 trillion will be the cost of that war. The war in Afghanistan; based on a misreading of history; half a trillion dollars in expenses already. The war against Libya will be $1 billion by September.
We have to realize what this country’s economy has become. Our monetary policy, through the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, privatized the money supply, gathers the wealth, puts it in the hands of the few while the Federal Reserve can create money out of nothing, give it to banks to park at the Fed while our small businesses are starving for capital.
Mark my words — Wall Street cashes in whether we have a default or not. And the same type of thinking that created billions in bailouts for Wall Street and more than $1 trillion in giveaways by the Federal Reserve today leaves 26 million Americans either underemployed or unemployed. And nine out of ten Americans over the age of 65 are facing cuts in their Social Security in order to pay for a debt which grew from tax cuts for the rich and for endless wars.
Sadly, Kucinich stands little chance of having any impact from within the rotting heart of the corporatocracy he despises. In a nation where the flow of virtually all information is controlled by a vast corporate media machine, where style perpetually trumps substance and political debate is always relegated to the realm of the 10-second sound byte, Kucinich’s passionate and reasoned diatribe will be drowned out in the maddening din of propaganda, pushed to the fringes of our extreme-right corporate-controlled society.
Forget the sick and elderly, we have wars to fight:
The US House of Representatives has approved a 649-billion-dollar military spending bill, increasing the Pentagon budget while the country is facing austerity measures and huge debt crisis.
The bill, passed with an overwhelming vote of 336-87 on Friday, boosts the Pentagon budget for the 2012 fiscal year beginning on October 1 by some $17 billion compared with the current spending, Reuters reported.
The measure, which was about $8 billion less than what President Barack Obama had sought, would provide $530 billion for the Pentagon’s primary budget and $119 to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The approved bill excludes funds for US nuclear programs or military construction which will add another $33 billion to military spending in later bills.
The increase in military spending comes while huge budget reductions are expected in other agencies, affecting food aid for low-income women, health research and energy efficiency.
And while Barney Frank is a bit of a tool, he really nailed it on this one:
“The military budget is not on the table. The military is at the table, and it is eating everybody else’s lunch, “Frank said.
There’s not much more for me to say about this, folks. This is a theme I have pounded into the ground over and over again, but nothing ever seems to change. It’s a bit nauseating to observe the American public fervently buying into the fabricated budget crisis, arguing about arbitrary debt ceilings and deciding which important social services should be cut, but the military machine churns on unhindered all the while.
For the last ten years, we’ve been hearing about troop withdrawals in Afghanistan. It’s not at all surprising that politicians will try to manipulate the masses with promises of an end to the war, but it is somewhat shocking that we seem to fall for it over and over again. So with the latest reports that Obama is pledging a reduction in troop numbers in Afghanistan, it’s a good idea to ignore the corporate puppet and listen to what Pentagon officials have to say:
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy reminded lawmakers the U.S. troop force in Afghanistan will still be larger than it was when Obama took office, despite the President’s pledge to reduce the military presence in the country.
Michele Flournoy: “Even after the recovery of the surge forces, totaling about 33,000 troops, we will still have 68,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan. That is more than twice the number as when President Obama took office. Clearly, this is not a rush to the exits that will jeopardize our security gains. More importantly, at the end of summer 2012, when all of the surge forces are out, there will actually be more Afghan and coalition forces in the fight than there are today.”
We’re not leaving Afghanistan, or Iraq, Libya, Yemen or Pakistan at any point in the foreseeable future. As long as there is something to be gained by maintaining a troop presence, we will be there. Such is the nature of empire, and ours is no different. It doesn’t matter if the nation bankrupts itself in the process, because the wealthy elites that are pulling the strings have rigged the system in such a way that they always profit. When the masses lose, they win. When we’re struggling to survive on the unemployment line, they’re greedily lining their pockets with our national wealth, and laughing all the while.
The only surprising thing about this incident is that it hasn’t happened more often:
Uninsured Man Robs Bank of $1 to Gain Prison Medical Coverage
A North Carolina man who had no health insurance has admitted to recently robbing a bank of one dollar in order to be sent to jail to get free medical coverage. James Verone, a laid-off employee of Coca Cola, recently noticed a protrusion in his chest and had developed arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Without health insurance or money for private care, Verone concluded his best option would be to go to prison. Verone told a local newspaper, “The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept. I kind of hit a brick wall with everything.” Since being held in jail he has seen several nurses and has an appointment with a doctor Friday.
The story communicates much about our society. A giant, multinational, multi-billion dollar corporation laid off an employee, leaving him without income and without access to medical care. Verone was then sentenced to prison for stealing $1 from a bank, an ironic development considering that banks prosper by stealing money from people in any way they can. As an ordinary law-abiding citizen Verone was not afforded the access to health care, but somehow criminals are deemed worthy of this most basic of human rights.
It’s rather shocking to think just how much we’ve devolved socially in the 67 years since FDR first proposed his Second Bill of Rights:
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
Over the last few days, Failed Empire has received quite a bit of attention from, shall we say, less than sympathetic readers. In the interest of openness I never delete any comments, but the comments that self-professed conservatives tend to leave say quite a lot about what we’re up against in the fight to build a better world. Consider the following examples (I’ve put all personal insults and particularly ignorant comments in bold).
From the post “One Million Expected for Bruins Rally as Nation Crumbles“:
the write of this article is a complete jackass. yes there are lots of problems in the world. and having parades like this to celebrate good things, things that make people happy, helps remind us what we are fighting wars for. Just sit at home and be miserable you fucking loser.
— “Joe,” firstname.lastname@example.org
lol this guy is such a tool.
fight the power, pro! lmao.
And then a slew of comments from a particularly mature individual who has given himself the devastatingly witty moniker “Impeach Hussein”:
Americans are growing sick of war, but clearly no one in Washington cares:
According to a recent CBS News poll, six out of 10 American Democrats, Republicans, and independents think the US should not be involved in the unpopular war on Libya, The Atlantic reported.
The poll found that while 60 percent of the people opposed the Libyan war, only 30 percent of Americans feel their country is heading in the right direction with its military involvement in the North African country.
A similar CBS poll conducted back in March found that seven out of 10 Americans supported the US military intervention to protect Libyan civilians from the country’s ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
It should not be at all surprising that the majority of Americans are now opposed to U.S. military involvement in Libya, given the disastrous state of things here at home. What is quite telling, however, is the initial poll from March showed that seven out of ten Americans initially supported the invasion. After nine years in Afghanistan, eight years in Iraq and nearly 6,000 dead American soldiers, the masses were still tricked into supporting yet another war of aggression.
Once you sift through the layers of thinly veiled racism, a picture emerges of just how bleak many Americans perceive the future to be:
Why the white working class is alienated, pessimistic
The latest measure of this discontent came in a thoughtful national survey on economic opportunity released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project. If numbers could scream, they would probably sound like the poll’s results among working-class whites.
One question asked respondents whether they expected to be better off economically in 10 years than they are today. Two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics said yes, as did 55 percent of college-educated whites; just 44 percent of noncollege whites agreed. Asked if they were better off than their parents were at the same age, about three-fifths of college-educated whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics said they were. But blue-collar whites divided narrowly, with 52 percent saying yes and a head-turning 43 percent saying no. …
… 63 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Hispanics said they expected their children to exceed their standard of living. Even college-educated whites are less optimistic (only about two-fifths agree). But the noncollege whites are the gloomiest: Just one-third of them think their kids will live better than they do; an equal number think their children won’t even match their living standard. No other group is nearly that negative.
The focus on whites versus “minorities” is wholly unnecessary, and only serves to reinforce racist notions that have lingered since the birth of our nation. What is most relevant in the article is the negative perception that people of all races – but particularly working class people – have of the future.
The comment section for the above article is filled with tales of suffering and discontent: people working three jobs simply to make end meet, or being fired after 20+ years on the job as yet another corporation seeks to maximize its profits by moving operations overseas. The article has been shared on Facebook nearly 5,000 times, a fact which suggests that a very tender nerve has been struck.
Continuing with the taxation theme, I found one comment in the discussion following “Save the Rich, Pay Your Taxes” to be extremely relevant. A reader named Nicholas posted the following:
The average rich person will derive an enormous benefit from government spending compared to the janitor. It’s thanks to public subsidies that most industries are even profitable in the first place. Capitalism works by externalizing costs, socializing losses and privatizing profits. “Private” enterprise is possible at a profit because the public sector (and/or future generations) carry most or all of the costs of pure research, technological development, infrastructure, educating the “human resources,” health and environmental impacts.
The government, moreover, provides direct subsidies and/or bailouts and/or massive contracts to many large corporations, again with the greatest benefit accruing to the rich. The only reason someone can make more than a million dollars a year is thanks to a complex economy that would collapse without the infrastructure and services provided by the public sector.
Oh, and did you notice that in 2008 the unregulated private system that ran exactly by the rules that the capitalists desired failed miserably and 100 percent predictably, and then blackmailed the public sector into rescuing it? This cannot be emphasized enough: In 2008, capitalism failed. By its own rules. And then terrorized the world into rescuing it. And now continues to plunder it.
The janitor is likely to get nothing from the “defense” budget, the wars, the overseas bases, the black budget, or the interest on prior debt (most of it accumulated due to “defense” and war spending or to rescue the banksters). These are already most of the discretionary budget. These end up benefiting shareholders in the big corporations before the janitor gets any (and if he owns a couple of shares of the right item, then bully for him and his negligible windfall).
The post is extremely well-written and contains a plethora of valid points about American-style pseudo-capitalism and the role of taxation in our society. It is a common belief that poor people present a heavier burden to tax-payers than the wealthy. Such a belief is entirely wrong, and ignores the reality of how tax revenue is collected and spent in the United States.
In the classic novel The Time Machine, H.G. Wells envisioned a future in which humans had diverged into two distinct species: the Eloi and Morlocks. The Eloi were a species of great beauty but intellectual simplicity. They spent their lives in a lighthearted stupor, laughing and dancing the days away without a concern for anything beyond the superficial pleasures of today. The Morlocks, in contrast, were creatures of necessity. They lived in dark subterranean dwellings, and lacked any of the positive traits – such as love and compassion – that we attribute to humans today.
Wells described the means through which the two species had come into being. Essentially, the Eloi were descendants of an aristocratic elite, who through countless generations of easy, comfortable living had devolved into mindless – albeit attractive – creatures of superficial comforts. The Morlocks had descended from the working classes of today, after generations of malnutrition, hard labor, and dismal living conditions.
The parallels between Wells’s vision of the future and the world we see today are striking. Clearly, there is a large – and growing – divide between the wealthy elite of today and the ordinary, working and middle class masses. The wealthy of today lead lives of leisure and luxury, while those at the bottom work dreadfully long hours and consume extremely unhealthy food, devoid of needed vitamins and nutrients. Having spent some years in the trenches of the working class myself, I know all too well how desperate life can be.