(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.
Marlana, I agree with you, but I think you are coming at the problem from the wrong direction. Change doesn't happen because everyone suddenly starts doing the right thing - if that is what you are hoping for then you are completely right that "Change will not happen until disaster strikes, and it is too late." What I am arguing for, and what I think a lot of people would agree with me on, is that change requires good leadership. There are many people who, like myself, want to make the necessary changes to our entire culture, but if I only focus on what I can do as an individual, without trying also to lead people in the direction we should be heading, then little is going to change. I could definitely make changes in my own lifestyle, and I have and I am, but if that's all I can do then you are right and we are screwed. But if I could lead, and if others could lead, then we could make some real change. The BIG problem there is that the powerful players, the guys I have been talking about, the rich and the powerful, they do not want to share their power or their wealth, and they have a stranglehold on power so that trying to change things, trying to lead the country in the right direction has been made virtually impossible. We need change at the top, as a first priority. If we don't get that, then we can never get out from under their thumbs and start making the real changes to our society as a whole that we so desperately need.
Wanderer, I agree with you completely. My point is, how do you suppose that this change at the top is going to happen? Is there anyone running for office that you think has the power, or can resist the sway of the powerful players to make these changes happen? I do not, and I guess that is why my tactic is more from the bottom up. I have no faith in the political system as is..it is broken. Maybe a few changes that I make in my life that I feel would impact the industries that run this country wouldn't amount to a penny..if all Americans began making these changes, there would be an effect. Things that are being allowed to cotinually take place in this country such as allowing fracking water to still be pumped underground and all the other places it is allowed to go, after countless lives, acres, and water systems have been polluted beyond repair..just for one example, and none of our "leaders" will put a stop to it..I have no faith in the leaders or the system. How are the people who truly care about the future, and not just the dollars for today, going to get to the powerful top? They can't, because they are not going to be allowed..ever. Who runs our EPA and DEP? Those who have caused the most terrible environmental impacts. So what is the answer if it does not start from the bottom?
Marlana, I completely sympathize with your frustration and anger with both the system and its leaders. And the answer to your question is no, I don't see anyone running for office, except Buddy Roemer, who wants to change the system, and he is being shut out of the race by the GOP leadership, or by the media, or by whoever has the power, from having his message heard, and he is not invited to any of the debates, and since he is running on a platform of not taking campaign money from big corporations, he cannot put up the ads that the other candidates can, so it looks like he will have, excuse, me, I should say he will not be given a shot. So you are right again that such people are not being allowed to the top because the people with power aren't letting him. So the only way I can see the real change that needs to happen take place is through a big social movement like Occupy. The thing that most young people aren't aware of is that these movements take time, they don't happen right away. I think this movement is going to be just like the Civil Rights movement, or the suffragists, it is going to be a long and drawn-out battle so the only choice we really have is to dig in and reach deep down within ourselves to find the strength necessary to mount a full social movement of that magnitude. It's not like the anger isn't there - young people who voted for Obama are so disillusioned that they will not be returning to the polls this year, and I am one of them (unless i go vote for Roemer!). I don't even care anymore that Roemer is a Republican, he wants to break up the Unholy Alliance which is the topic of this discussion and that is the first step towards any meaningful change in this country. Plus he is not a whack-job like the other Republican candidates so I wouldn't be terrified of having him for President. So I guess we agree, the people have to initiate action, but that action should be directed at removing those in power and redistributing power to the masses. It shouldn't be just doing what we think is best as individuals, because the tactic of divide and conquer has worked so well for them for so long, that our only option is to unite against them.
Mariana and Wanderer, thank you for this wonderful conversation. I have goose bumps all over just reading your exchanges.
I shall chime in my opinon, just because I can, and I have one.
First, I see no one on the horizon that can qualify as the quality of human being we need to turn this country around and get it on a healthy, productive track. I would like to know about Roemer and why you feel so strongly about him, Wanderer.
Second, I see no difference between Democrats and Republicans; they have both been bought off by barons. In fact, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government are bought and paid for.
Third, history tells us that no change such as we are seeing now ever occurred without a massive effort on the part of people who produce goods and services. These people have all they need to confront the barons but things have to get really bad before they feel threatened and realize we need a very profound change.
Fourth, not all revolutions of importance are violent; those who declare they refuse to use violence often feel the sting of the billy club, tear gas, water hoses, and sharp teethed dogs, and some die or suffer serious injuries. When that occurs, the populous knows this is serious business and they have to get off the fence.
Fifth, A leader with vision that others can imagine, who has the ability to inspire and instruct, who can focus the minds of people toward a common goal has not arrived yet, but there will be one who will do so. Sadly, Obama had the first part right but inauguration day revealed his true colors. Fool us once, Obama, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us.
Sixth, and I am going to stop here because I am tired. The people need to know the history of how we got to this place and time, we need to understand the political, economic and religious forces that led us here and what we need from those elements of society to find our way out.
I am absolutely confident the United States of America has enough smart, wise, creative, resourceful people to pull off this huge needed change. It is fun to be part of it. It kind of makes me feel young again.
I completely agree that a large scale social movement is what is needed for change to happen. That was what I was saying originally, but maybe I got a little confusing talking about induviduals changing. It just scares me that so much is so wrong, and I know Occupy is going on, but its not enough. Not enough people yet care what is happening as long as they are leading their somewhat cozy little lives. I actually just left my facebook account because when you post anything there about issues that really matter, there are crickets..but lets talk about suzy's new scooter, or what wine you had with dinner at the swanky joint down the road..thank you for a thoughtful and intelligent discussion..I thought I may never find a place to have one!!
Mariana, may I encourage you to rest and recuperate and find some fun in this dreadful condition our nations has gotten ourselves into. You probably never heard of her but there was red headed lady from Texas named Molly Ivins who said, ""So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."—quoted by John Nichols for The Nation Original source: "The Fun's in the Fight" column for Mother Jones, 1993.
Mariana, about 99.99 % of the chatter is just that. But some jewels pop out now and then and they make it all worth while.
Late in the autumn I started getting threatening phone calls at my home and they referred to things I had written on Facebook. I left Facebook because I was afraid. I write about things one is not supposed to talk about in polite society. The other day while on another network we discussed my decision and I realized that my fear was real and it was justified. If I stop writing, the person/s who don't like what I say, win. I believe I have an important message that needs to be heard and so I returned and am I ever glad I did ... my old friends are finding me and we are getting into some real work. What is happening? Who is causing the problems? How can we respond in a mentally healthy, positive way? What is the cost of I do speak up? What is the cost if I don't?
So, if you want to dig deeper into surface problems, please join me in the inquiry. It's a bumpy ride and not boring.
Joan, and my name is Marlana lol..please don't get me wrong..I may come across as having very angry forward opinions about things, I think because I feel like I am finally in a place that i can say things exactly how I think them, and not have to worry about backlash, I am finally just voicing myself. I was going to tell you that the quote you put up from Molly Ivins pretty much describes my personality. I just haven't had alot of faith in mankind, because I have not had anyone who shares in my thinking in most all ways. I am most determined, despite whether I fight the fight all alone..and I love it, because I know it is right. It took me a long time to get here, but I am more full of hope and life than I have ever been, and I finally know what my life's purpose is. I finally have the courage to carry it out : )
Marlana, I am so sorry! I see it better now.
I didn't get the impression you were angry, frustrated perhaps, or overwhelmed possibly, but what ever you feel is OK with me. Yes, you are in a place where you can express your thoughts. I can't promise you safety, but I can promise you support for speaking your thoughts. I refer it to getting my thoughts into the ether. If the words go out and someone hears or reads them, he/she will respond based on his/her best knowledge and experience. Because others exist separately from you, they will generate their own reaction. The reaction is in them.
Whether a person believes a god exists or not is of no interest to me; what does interest me, and concerns me is when their beliefs impose upon me, when they trespass, inflict, or indoctrinate then I have no tolerance for them. And it helps that there are 7,000,000,000 people on this planet and I don't have to put up with any one of them.
I share your fear Marlana. And I know just what you mean about Facebook! Hah, crickets, that's exactly it. I also know how frustrating it is looking for a good conversation. Let's try to keep this discussion post at the top of the main page for as long as possible, maybe we'll keep the movement going here on A|N!
That's funny stuff Andrew. I don't want to get sucked into South Park!