(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.
$17.8 million we (US taxpayers) spent in foreign aid in 2011... wait for it... TO CHINA. Yup.
A few other things I forgot to talk about which I don't have time to get in-depth about: slave labor in China, Confidence Men, the NDAA (National Defense Appropriations Act) bills Amendment 1301 which allows for the military detention of American citizens, redistribution of power, direct democracy, and the US prison population. Do we need any more evidence?
I believe I also failed to mention the breakdown of the wall between depositor banks and investment banks which was created with the Glass-Steagal act but has since broke down (disastrously!) with the Dodd-Frank bill.
canada's vatican henchment aka conslavatives.. .ugh hugh...
If you don't realize that this country has become a plutocracy, then your ideas are moronic. Defend the plutocrats if you must. You'll find out soon enough.
Remember Jeb Bush? No? Because he's more in bed with China n. Cartels in S.AMerica nah mean?!
I just don't get it. What is more reasonable to believe, that the poor are capable of realizing their interests if only they would work harder, that there's really nothing all that major wrong with our society that a few minor rule changes can't fix, or that the powerful are generally pretty good at restraining themselves from abusing their power?
Wanderer, Everywhere one turns one hears, "if only they would work harder ...". I like reading Steve Keen because he demonstrates so clearly that boom and bust, rich and poor are systemic problems and blaming the victim gets one nowhere. I would like to know what you think of his theories.
Steve Keen’s Debtwatch
“Bernanke doesn’t undertand the Great Depression
Jeez, this video sounds like the loss of union organizing, take over of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government, loss of family farms to agribusiness, and mom and pop stores to Walmart, and foreclosures on home loans, and jobs going to cheaper labor markets, and growth of bubbles in housing and financial and banking markets, and the takeover of science and technology in education to be replaced by faith based Intelligent Design, and growing gap between rich and poor. At least we can still buy tulips at an affordable price!
The Contrary Market View
Cool Joan, I'll take a look at those links when I get a chance, hopefully this weekend. Thanks for the response!
Well Joan, having just took a peek at the Stephen Keen link, I would say a few things. First of all I am not an economist, and I have really only very recently made any kind of effort at learning economics. When the Occupy movement started is when I really began in earnest. Since then, as a layman, I've picked up quite a lot, but I still consider myself a novice. And from this novice's point of view, he seems to know what he is talking about. My understanding of the economic problems here in the US is that it is driven by financial speculation. Everyone now knows about CDO's and CDS's, but I think fewer people are aware of what is going on in the swaps markets, or how much money is being funneled from taxpayers to the banks through the government. If people really knew what was going on I think there would be riots in the streets.
One quote I picked up from Keen was this: "
“public debt is not the problem, and attempting to reduce public debt now is the wrong policy—from my perspective, because it would add public sector deleveraging to private sector deleveraging, thus exacerbating the underlying problem of deleveraging. Rather than obsessing about public debt now, politicians and economists should have been concerned about rising private debt in the previous two decades.”
I agree. The politicians have framed our economic problems in terms of our ballooning public debt, and want to begin austerity measures like cutting spending on programs that average people depend on, like social security and medicare/medicaid. And how convenient that this distracts the American people away from the real problem building up in the private banks, fueled by putting average Americans deeper in debt and gambling with our money. And if they win, they get richer, and if they lose, we get poorer and the Fed just bails them out. It's a win-no lose situation for them. And they've got the government under their thumb, so no meaningful regulations are being put in their way from speculating away and siphoning America's wealth into their personal pockets. They are using us like milk-cows. Anyways, it has also become clear that the financial sector in London is also guilty of the same shenanigans, and they are looting the public there maybe even worse. This is why the UK refused to go along with the new European deal, because it would have forced London to become more transparent, and that would have meant the end of their fun little games. So I noticed Keen picked up on this as well. But that's as far as I've gotten. I'll look into it some more later, but was any of this what you were interested in? Happy New Years by the way!
Wanderer, you read it the way I do. It doesn't matter if we are in a boom or a bust, owners of labor pay the bills and owners of capital have become socialized ... taxpayers pay the bills.
Yeah Joan, the way I hear it phrased is that there is socialized risk for the capital owners, but privatized rewards. And then maybe we get it the other way around, with privatized risk, and because we feed out of the capital owners' hands, socialized reward.