(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.
Yeah sorry Joan, good stuff but bad presentation.
I know the young folk like this kind of motion, but these old eyes can't take it.
Wanderer, I understand your situation, I want people to read and offer an opinion on Keen's work, but his Australian-fast talk is hard to understand, and his presentation is rugged, but at least he gives a printed page and easy to write down citations.
have not checked who's runnin this but.. i guess:
It has been said that "America's business is business" (don't know who said it originally). Well, a society is more than a business - that is, a society is in business not merely to seek profit, but to seek justice above all else. This is why Plato thought that philosophers ought to be kings, because until such a day, justice would never walk hand in hand with power. The justice that laissez-faire capitalism metes out is "might makes right", or "to the victor, the spoils". Unless the attitude of our country changes from seeing society as a business, and we begin to follow a more enlightened path, power will be the only thing respected and any means necessary for getting it will find justification.
Wanderer, I looked it up and The chief business of the American people is business.
Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933), Speech in Washington, Jan. 17, 1925
Your description of laissez-faire fits my understanding and I see no compelling reason to want to continue such a philosophy. There are surely better ways to organize society and finding balance between capital and labor seems to be a persistent challenge. If you read any good ideas be sure to let me know, I am looking.
Oh cool, thanks Joan. I did just finish (finally!) reading Confidence Men by Ron Suskind. It was eye-popping for me, it was about Obama's first 2 - 3 years (beginning with the campaign and ending just after the midterm elections) and how royally he and his administration screwed up just about everything they attempted. Its a pretty damning indictment of Obama's first two years in office, it did help me understand economics quite a bit more, but it is not a book with any deep philosophical angle so if that's what you are looking for, well, let me know if you find one too!
Wanderer, thinks for the recommendation, Confidence Men ... it is now in my "Books to read" file.
> This is why Plato thought that philosophers ought to be kings
Have there been any successful philosopher-kings? Vaclav Havel? Jimmy Carter? Good King Wences?
> a society is in business not merely to seek profit, but to seek justice above all else.
That's not given. Maybe it's what you want, but it's not given. Unfortunately.
Not that I know of, and Plato was no exception - he was asked to take over the governance of some polis or something (don't remember which one or by who) and apparently things only got worse when he took over and he was shortly kicked out. But that is why I said elsewhere that we as a species have not developed enough to really figure out how to manage our societies well. That certainly helps to explain why you might be far from convinced that a society's essential responsibility is justice, because that has not been either claimed to be the goal of some societies or has not been achieved by some, or all. And we would need to come to some sort of agreement on what justice is first if we were to have this discussion, which would be guaranteed to be a long one. So I'll just have to leave that one alone.
I don't own a TV set because I couldn't find anything I liked. Get better information by searching the internet, with discernment.
I haven't given up on justice and ethics and morals in business and government.
I just heard the top news station is FOX. Oh! What chance does a good candidate have with the voters getting their news from FOX?!
as much as i hate to label; i mean ima blacklisted (in their romney-only minds) kinda geek atheist right?
zombies; they know no better; programmed to death...
seems I'd dub this 'socially terrorized by 24-7 propaganda kind of whites-only social terrorists them selves' but do the realize; ? i think not:
con'slave'ughtives too boot; borderline or complete fascist$ on top of it all:
thus the need for
REASONRally dot Org 2012 baby!