(This was also posted in the group "Left Wing Atheists")
I have come a long way in three years. I was so naive. I couldn't wait to vote the Republicans out of office, so I registered myself as a Democrat and woke up at 5am to go stand proudly in line to vote for Obama. Like many of us since then, I now realize what a sucker I was. I had high hopes that Obama was going to nationalize the banks when he took office and start loosening the hold the bankers have around our throats. Well, that didn't happen, and instead he went after health care. We all know what he has and has not done since, with the latter more than overwhelming the former. So I got frustrated, as most of us have, that nothing changed with Obama. I got determined to educate myself and find out what the real problems are, and what the real solutions are.
I started watching a lot of MSNBC. At first, I stuck with Hardball with Chris Matthews. While that kept me informed as to what the two political parties were up to, I was far from satisfied. Then one day I tuned in a little early and caught a little of Dylan Ratigan. His personality turned me off a little at first, but the next time I saw his show I was mesmerized. Hooked. Here was a guy who was finally speaking about the real issues, the fundamental structural problems underlying the mess we are in. If you know the show, much of what I am about to say will sound like repetition, but these are what I think the real problems in America are.
There are 6 industries which own the US government, the military-industrial complex (e.g. Lockheed Martin), health care (Big Pharma, health insurance), banking, energy (oil, Halliburton), agribusiness (think Monsanto), and telecommunications (e.g. the phone companies that rip us off). The heads of these industries use their spectacular wealth to buy politicians. In fact, 94% of our elections are now won by the candidate who raises the most money. Obama was no exception. Yes, he raised more money from small donations than anyone had before, but he also raised more money from LARGE donations than ever before. Goldman Sachs was his single biggest campaign contributor in 2008. We all know that if a candidate tries to go against any of these industries, they use their fabulous wealth to take out attack ads so that they don't stand a chance (think swiftboating). As long as our two political parties play by the rules, they can divide up the country in any other, meaningless way they want.
They have a very cozy relationship, these plutocrats. The politicians look the other way while the rich engage in insider trading. They even call up their friends on Wall St. and give them insider information as to policy changes which have financial ramifications (and then engage in a healthy amount of insider trading themselves). Then the rich spend huge amounts of money in lobbying efforts to convince the politicians as to how the laws should be written. They have managed to rig, to their vast benefit, the tax code, trade policies, and banking regulations to siphon money from the American people and into their pockets. They pay lower taxes (or none at all) than average American individuals and businesses. They trade with countries like China which can make products far cheaper than we can make it here, eliminating American jobs while flooding the markets with cheap goods (think Walmart). But the banking "industry" seems to have benefited to even more egregious levels.
Our US government has allowed a $700 trillion, completely invisible and unregulated swaps market to exist without requiring all of these transactions to take place on a visible (and regulatable) exchange. There are no capital requirements, which means they can trade without having anything of value to put up as collateral. And when their bets go bad, the Fed just sends them a check to the tune of $29.6 trillion of our tax-payer money so far since the crisis began. And I thought we had a deficit! Where are we getting all of this money from? Are we just printing it?
Meanwhile 1 in 15 Americans now live in poverty. 18% of us are unemployed (that's the "real" unemployment figures), and that's not even counting the underemployed. Incomes are falling, debt is mounting. People are left homeless while foreclosed homes sit empty. Income and wealth inequality are at their highest levels since the Great Depression. Meanwhile our elections are being put up for auction and neither political party will stand up to these powerful ruling interests. If this isn't a state of unjust affairs, then I don't know what is. These are issues that shouldn't even be restricted to the left, we are all being oppressed. But while we on the left are waking up, those on the right are drifting towards a libertarian philosophy which plays right into the hands of the rich. With no government around, who could possibly stand up to the rich?
We need to retake our government, not break it down into uselessness. And we need large-scale structural solutions to address these mounting problems. We need systematic and system-wide changes to our democracy and our government. We need to weed out waste and abuse of power at all levels. We need to eliminate subsidies for oil companies and stop sending money without strings attached to the bankers. We need to break up the banking cartels so that never again will an institution be "too big to fail". We need real regulations on the banking industry, and that begins with having capital requirements and putting the swaps market on a visible exchange. If we change the way Wall St. does business, they will make money honestly and contribute real value to America rather than being fueled by the need to create more and more debt. We need to restructure debt to help out students and homeowners. And to that end I would suggest literally bailing out the American people. If we are going to print money, why not give it directly to Americans so that they can use it to pay off their debts to the banks?
We need to eliminate superpacs and overturn the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that makes corporations people and money into protected free speech so that the rich can't talk more loudly than everyone else. We need a real energy plan, and we need to improve our energy efficiency so that we can approach a % in the 90's like other modern industrialized nations have rather than the 34% efficiency we are now sitting at. We need real environmental regulations, and we need to completely restructure our educational system so that we can keep up with the rest of the world. And we need to end privatized profit but socialized risk for the wealthy, and incentivize investment in America and it's people.
The political discussion has been framed by our politicians as being about ballooning debt. While certainly this is a huge problem, I am quite certain that if we address the real problems in America, our national debt problem will also be solved. If we stop war-mongering and being the arms-dealers to the world, we won't have huge costly wars to pay off. With an economy that puts people to work, our social programs will have plenty of funding to continue operations, keeping Americans healthy and financially supported throughout old age.
We are really running out of time. The changing environment is going to make all humanity come together, one way or another. We can come together now and make the necessary changes to our lifestyle and our society so that we can all live on this earth in peace, or the catastrophe to come will be marked by the most violence, starvation, and suffering the world has ever known. And the US needs to lead the way. When the catastrophe comes, humanity will largely blame Americans for it, and rightly so. There will be enough blame to go around, but the American people can do something about it now, while we still have time. If we do not raise our heads up out of the herd and take our country back from the oligarchs who hold us as slaves and hostages, the lion's share of the moral responsibility for the future of humanity will be ours to bear.
Andrew, now that isn't fair! MCT is an ideologue with nobody to the right of him. He also refuses to change any of his opinions, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. I say one admittedly contentious thing off the cuff and suddenly I am just as bad as he is? That's like saying "you know who else had some pretty extreme positions? Hitler."
I admit that, if we are slaves or hostages, it is to a far lesser degree than actual slaves or hostages are. And while we are not slaves or hostages in the literal sense, in a metaphorical sense I do consider the level of control exerted on the majority of Americans from above a form of slavery. The more well-off you are, the more you are free of their chains, to be sure. A friend of mine gave the example of keeping a minimum balance in his bank account. As long as he doesn't dip below $1500, his bank doesn't charge a maintenance fee. But a vast % of Americans simply cannot do this, as they are living paycheck to paycheck. So it's like a poor tax, and the poorer you are, the more the rich wrap their fingers around your throat and wring you dry. And this is just one example.
I was actually making more of an ideological point (perhaps that's why MCT came to your mind?). There are a lot of things that the American people would have none of, if they were able to exert their influence over our political system. The fact that the few have such a stranglehold over our political system that the majority opinions in many important policy debates goes unheard and even unvoiced seems to me to be a form of slavery. It is at least oppressive, you have to give me that, don't you? You may not feel personally oppressed, but certainly you hear the voices of those who do calling out?
> Andrew, now that isn't fair!
You're right, and thanks for not taking offense.
I agree that something needs to change. I'll go along with oppression for argument's sake, but I don't think that Americans are enslaved by bankers or government. I chose MCT as a comparison because he likes to write about being enslaved by the IRS. You are much more reasonable than that.
Well thank you Andrew, I do like to think I am more reasonable than "he-who-must-not-be-named" (lol, I'm in the midst of a Harry Potter marathon). And I didn't know that he he feels enslaved by the IRS - but a moments thought and that makes perfect sense. His only line is "taxation is legalized violence", or something to that effect.
I'll agree with you here and say that oppression is probably a much better fit. I'll walk away a bit from the slavery rhetoric. Hah, I was just reminded of Herman Cain talking about building an electrified fence across the border with Mexico. "And yeah, it might be electrified, I'm not walking away from that!"
I consider it a form of vampiric parasitism. Despite the propaganda the corporations and the banks don't actually create anything. They feed on the word of the creator and the laborer while making the creator and the laborer feel indebted to them. It is the same kind of power play that the priest use against the believers.
From the article "Auction 2012: Top 10 reasons to get the money out" (self-explanatory):
1) The Candidate With More Money Wins: From the 2008 elections: "In 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 94 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day Nov. 5, 2008 the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning."
2) Congress's Main Job Is to Raise Money, Not Govern "Here is a general rule of thumb for US House incumbents. They need to raise roughly $10,000 a week started the day they are elected."
3) 48 Percent Say Most Members of Congress Are Corrupt "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters believe that most members of Congress are corrupt. Just 28% disagree, and another 24% are not sure."
4) Voters Think That Cash is King "A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that 86 percent of the public thinks elected officials in the nation's capital are mostly influenced by the pressure they receive from campaign contributors."
5) No Trust in Elected Officials According to Pew Research less than 25% of people believe they can trust our government at all, particularly our elected officials.
6) Outsider Movements Are Quickly Coopted Headline: Tea Party House Members Even Wealthier Than Other GOP Lawmakers.
7) Faith in All Institutions Collapsing
- 83% say of American adults say they have less trust in "politics in general" than they
did 10 or 15 years ago;
- 79% say they have less trust in big business and major corporations;
- 78% say they have less trust in government;
- 72% report declining trust in the media.
- A surprising majority, 54%, "believe that my freedoms are being taken away."
Pew confirms this.
Gallup: Satisfaction with Government at All-time Low
Pew: Public Trust in Government: 1958-2010
9) Cash Determines Voting What shaped the House vote on the proposed Keystone Pipeline? Oil industry lobbying: "As important as the vote total in the House, however, was another number: within minutes of the vote, Oil Change International had calculated that the 234 Congressional representatives who voted aye had received $42 million in campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry; the 193 nays, $8 million."
Wanderer, this is clear indication the public does not like what our country has become. The problem, no one could see the collapse coming or see the basic flaws that created it. Keen offers a credible explanation and some ideas about what needs to be corrected.
Have you read any of Keen's materials or watched videos? Let me know what you think about his assessment.
:-) Joan I promise i will watch the videos and read the articles you linked to when I get back. I am going to be away for the next week and a half.
And that's not entirely true. There were quite a few people who foresaw the economic collapse, but they were ignored or hushed up as much as possible.
You can also check out Dylan's new website at www.greedybastards.com for a lot of cool information about how big money in politics is corrupting our government and eating our country apart from the inside out.
Thanks for the website. What I managed to read, before giving up with motion sickness, made sense. It kept scrolling around out of control.
Hah, yeah Ruth I had the same problem. :-)
Oh! my goodness, this is certainly a busy site! I suspect what he has to say is valid, but I am not able to keep my breakfast down. I shall send him a message to provide stills for me because I cannot get through all the motion.