(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.
You could be right here, Andrew. 95 vs 106 is a whole standard deviation, but it is better to keep a healthy dose of skepticism when taking in reports such as these. Thanks for the cold water!
I guess it's safe to post this now... considering the...
well anyhew from Canada to America, there you go!
who is orlando bosch? and how do u spell his name?
This country has been very business-friendly over the years, perhaps too business-friendly. What it hasn't been of late is people-friendly.
Its all good and well to throw the blame on government and the corporate giants..they definitely deserve it. But what about the masses? We are drugged into a mindset of wanting and needing every new flashy car, house, and iwhatever that hits the store shelf..there is dust in its place in seconds, and you may see a good fight over it if you are quick. This disease is as bad as the religious disease that has overtaken good sensibilities in this country. We hand ourselves to the megamonsters every time we walk into walmart instead of trying to find something locally. Yes it may be more expensive, and for some, it would not be an option. But most people dispose of alot more of their income on these frivolous purchases than they admit. So when does America finally come together and start taking responsibility for what we have created? Not enough people care enough to actually make changes to their lives, they would rather lay blame. Change will not happen until disaster strikes, and it is too late. Then everyone will be scrambling to do what they should have been doing to prevent all of this in the first place. We are never prepared, because we never want to make the right decisions until it is too late. Then after the mania dies down, it is back to self indulgence and greediness. Why would our corporations or government act any differently? A change in mindset and spending habits of the citizens of this country most certainly would have an effect on corporations..they would have to adjust if suddenly we did not value what they were selling anymore.
Mariana, that is exactly how I read the trends. We want what we want when we want it. We don't have to work and save for downpayment on a house and prove our ability the pay the mortgage; when a mortgage payment is late, the interest rate goes up; people fall farther behind; before you know what hit you, the house is foreclosed, the car is repossessed and the credit card collectors camp on your door.
Now, tell me, who is at fault?
mortgage company who doesn't verify buyer's credit rating?
buyers who exagerate their earnings and charge more than they can afford?
government who stripped away the safeguards to prevent such things from happening?
companies who take their manufacturing to cheaper labor markets?
wage earner who no longer has a production job and has to settle for flipping hamburgers?
moms who had to give up their day job of homemaking/child rearing to help pay bills?
children who have to raise themselves because mom and pop are trying to pay for it all?
mayors who had to cut police and fire personnel because of budget shortfalls?
governors who don't have the money to fund education and other state services?
president who sends vast amounts of men and material to foreign shores to fight wars;
pentagon that wants more technology to fight wars?
or the mortgage company who doesn't verify buyer's credit ratings?
Is there a way to get off this merry-go-round?
Joan, you make a good point. We are in a vicious cycle, and the way you get out of a vicious cycle is by turning it into a virtuous cycle. But like I just responded to Marlana, you can't do it spontaneously by everyone on the bottom, everyone without power, suddenly changing everything they are doing. What everyone at the bottom can do is start protests and try to change things at the top, and this is why I am behind the Occupy movement. But even so, these are political problems, these are problems with deciding how power should be used in our society, and so they require political solutions. It is not just about what one individual is doing, it is about what everyone is doing. And the biggest obstacle in the way of any real change happening is the politicians who uphold the status quo, who keep the power concentrated in the hands of the few. They are bought and sold by the special interests. Obama is no different, as was made apparent in his handling of the banking crisis which has now only been aggravated. Buddy Roemer is the only guy out there running for President on a campaign reform platform, and he won't get invited to the debates! Why not? We need real leadership, but anyone who opposes the status quo is shut out of the discussion. He is a Republican, but you know what? If he had a real chance of winning, I might go out and vote for him. If he is on the ballots and it looks like there is a chance in hell of him winning, I'll make the effort, like I did when i woke up at 5 am to go vote for Obama, only to end up even more disappointed now then when I was when Bush got RE-elected in 2004 after the disastrous first 4 years of his sham of a presidency.
Wanderer, Thank you, I forgot the Occupy movement, and there needs to be a loud bullhorn calling to the police that they are as much a slave to the barons as we are and their buddies lost their jobs because of the decisions of the barons and they are losing access to health care and pension plans because of them. Challenge them to change sides. And then start on the mayor and city council members, and then on the county leadership, right on up to the state legislature and governor. Enough of these people get on our side of the yellow ribbon the more power we have when we load up the wagons, hitch up the horses and go to Washington. Well, that is a bit of a stretch. But I think you get my point.
> the banking crisis which has now only been aggravated.
I don't think that is an accurate statement. How has the banking crisis been aggravated vs. 2008? National unemployment dipped into the 8's this week, no banks have closed recently, foreclosures and evictions are down. Yes some people are still getting some very unfair treatment, but overall things are getting better.
BTW, I wish Obama had done different things too.
I think the banking crisis may have been aggravated because they were allowed to continue to do the very things that got us into the recession in the first place - lax capital requirements, no transparency in the swaps market, banks are over-leveraged to record levels, and debt and speculation still fuel the financial markets rather than investment and production. I am by no means an expert, but from the things I have been paying attention to, the next one could be much, much bigger. The same things our banks were doing which got us in this mess is going on in Europe, and the central banks there are still struggling to stay ahead of it before it all comes crumbling down around them. By the end of the year, many people are saying the Euro could be defunct, the Eurozone could start losing members or splitting up entirely. The next financial collapse, if it is coming, and which many people are saying it is, could bring the whole world down to its knees. It will be a right nightmare if the banks end up avoiding the worst of it while the people suffer once again, I think there'd be riots.
That is my thinking, Wanderer. If one puts a compass on present conditions, the arrow points to collapse. If that is so, those who do not know how to survive will have to learn very fast. For those of us who have been there and seen how people managed in the last Great Depression, we have some tools, even if our living standards have improved remarkably since then.
The fact that the ones who advised the last president Bush and created the mess and didn't see this coming are the ones who claim to know how to do the job of recovery under Obama. This is insanity!
Riots? ? Yes! by all means! When the people responsible for the spread between rich and poor, the ones responsible for taxing small businesses and wage earners, when the ones who bailed out the banks prosper, there will be riots. That is why the common man and woman must wake up to:
*how we participated in predatory lending,
*how living beyond our means is catching up with us,
*how to create a life based on real money income and real money expenses,
*how to hold corporations accountable for paying living wages,
*how to get our health care system managed and affordable,
*how we are going to educate the next generation,
*how we are going to protect elderly from fraud of raided pension funds,
*how to hold banking and financial institutions accountable,
*how to persuade the electorate to vote in their self-interests not banks.
> It is not just about what one individual is doing, it is about what everyone is doing.
When I read this, I realized what's wrong with this part of the discussion. None of our big social changes have been driven by leaders. The people changed their ideas of what's right, and that change bubbled up. Labor, especially, was fought hard by leadership, but eventually won out. Not because people "voted their interest," but because people had come to believe that it was right.
Like it or not, most people in the USA are center-right in temperament, and slightly religious. No strong leader is going to force that herd into radically changing their own lives. Any strong leader that does emerge is more likely to drive the country opposite the way you want to go.