Lately, we’ve been told the system is “broken,” but the truth is, it’s not. The “system” that has slowly been slipped back into place over the last 30 years – one supported by all Republicans and some CONservative Democrats – has cultivated exactly the economic environment it was designed to create – one where the rich own and run everything and everyone else is relegated to their “natural place” as cheap labor serfs who (hopefully) compliantly await their rewards in Heaven.
Since the rumblings that eventually became the Occupy Wall Street movement were heard, Republicans are feigning outrage and attempting to shame those who question the rigged system as lazy, envious and engaging in the “class warfare” Republicans themselves have inflicted on workers for generations. The true offenses have been committed against the workers who have simply been trying to live their lives in dignity despite the ruling class’ rapacious desire to exploit their lives for all they’re worth.
The fact is, the rich only whine about “class war” when the workers finally fight back. They know what they hoped the workers would never catch on to – that government policy as it stands primarily favors the rich and keeps the middle class and poor forever in the grips of their power.
As Jake Blumgart wrote for Truthout,
the rich “…are able to preserve their wealth from the forces that decimate the earning power of your average American. While government programs for working or jobless Americans are under constant attack, the state frequently intervenes on behalf of the rich, or at least lets them keep their earnings, tax free (leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab).
Republicans in Congress, and to a lesser extent the Obama administration, seem to believe that austerity is the best way to deal with our recessionary woes (despite all economic evidence to the contrary). Instead of unraveling the safety net, voters should consider all the ways the government aids and abets the one class of people who clearly don’t need help”
Blumgart lists 4 ways government policies blatantly favor the rich:
1. Protectionism for high-income professionals, free trade for everyone else
…But while many Americans are forced into low-wage work with no benefits, our doctors are thehighest paid in the world. (Every year the medical profession dominates the Forbes list of best paying jobs in the U.S.) How did this happen? They protected themselves from overseas competition…
2. Rich and own a big house? Here’s some money!
…Rich people have larger mortgages and higher income taxes. Therefore, they get the most out of their mortgage interest tax deductions. Households earning more than $250,000 annually enjoy 10 times the remuneration of households with income between $40,000 and $75,000. Those homeowners earning $30,000 basically get nothing (check out the chart). Those without the income to buy a home, or who just choose to rent, are probably a bunch of impoverished Communists anyway, so they don’t get a damn thing…
3. A sales tax for bread but not for bonds (or stocks or futures)
…Sales taxes, which disproportionately hit low-income families, are in force across the nation. Taxes on financial transactions, which would disproportionately affect the rich, barely exist…
4. Tired of payroll taxes? The wealthy aren’t because they don’t have to pay
…When most people get their paychecks, income taxes are taken out up front, before they ever get their hands on the money. Not so the super-rich, that blessed class of executives, movie actors, big business owners, hedgefund managers, and star athletes. Through a variety of byzantine loopholes, they get to pay their income taxes years, if not decades, in the future. (There’s no interest on this late payment either)…
read the entire article with expanded explanations here.
So… you’re not imaging things. Our entire system is rigged to keep the rich in their catbird seats, and to limit the power of the working class. It’s no accident that most societies throughout history have been defined by small pockets of vast concentrated wealth who run everything and a small mercantile (middle) class, ruling over large pools of cheap – and exploitable – labor.
As George Carlin famously said, “The upper class keeps all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The middle class pays all of the taxes, does all of the work. The poor are there… just to scare the shit out of the middle class. Keep ’em showing up at those jobs.”
As Thom Hartmann wrote in 2006,
“There is nothing “normal” about a nation having a middle class, even though it is vital to the survival of democracy.
As twenty-three years of conservative economic policies have now shown millions of un- and underemployed Americans, what’s “normal” in a “free and unfettered” economy is the rapid evolution of a small but fabulously wealthy ownership class, and a large but poor working class. In the entire history of civilization, outside of a small mercantilist class and the very few skilled tradesmen who’d managed to organize in guilds (the earliest unions) like the ancient Masons, the middle class was an aberration.
A middle class can only come about in one of two ways.
The first is by a sudden change in the relationship between population and resources. After the Black Death wiped out more than a third of the population in 14th century Europe, the increased demand for labor drove up the price of labor to the point when a middle class emerged in some places. Many historians identify this as one of the factors that brought about the Renaissance.
Another example came four hundred years later, when a second European middle class (and the first European middle class in North America) emerged because of the “discovery” of “resources” (e.g. “we can steal gold, wood, furs, and land from Native Americans) in The Americas. Some historians suggest that increasing the overall wealth of Europe (and Europeans living in North America) while the overall population was relatively stable produced not just a second middle class, but brought about The Enlightenment and the American Revolution as well.
But as the population of North America increased in the years leading up to the Civil War, the middle class began to vanish. From the 1830s until the 1930s, outside of family farms, the American middle class was again small and limited to shop owners and specialists.
Thus, when the Republican Great Depression hit America, Franklin Roosevelt was faced with a dilemma: how to create a middle class without killing off a third of the population or discovering gold in a distant land?
What he came up with – largely by pragmatic, trial-and-error work – was a synthesis of controls on previously-uncontrolled capitalism which, quite literally, saved American capitalism from itself. The Wagner Act of 1935, mandating unions when 51 percent of workers voted for them. The Social Security Act. Minimum wage and maximum hour laws. Child labor laws. The government as employer of last resort through the WPA, CCC, etc.
Republicans are fond of arguing that World War II ended the Republican Great Depression, not FDR’s policies, but in that argument they ignore a central economic reality: When money is invested in infrastructure like roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, and schools (as FDR did), that infrastructure produces a return on that investment for generations to come. When the same number of dollars are put into bombs and then dropped on Dresden or Tokyo, those dollars vanish along with the bombs, never to be recovered.
While gearing up for the war did stimulate and alter the American economy, it’s much easier to argue that WWII actually slowed our recovery from the Republican Great Depression, because it forced FDR to shift so many resources from infrastructure and into disposable instruments of warfare.
When Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981, he set about to undo FDR’s New Deal. For 26 years now, economic conservatives have run this country, and the result has been the steady deterioration of the middle class, a rise in the wealthy elite, and a massive transfer from infrastructure investment to war expense. The result could easily be another Republican Great Depression (or, more likely, given the massive debts run up by Reagan and both Bush’s, a Republican Weimar-style Hyperinflation).
The idea that turning a nation’s economy over to “free market” corporatists is idiotic isn’t new. Thomas Jefferson laid it out in an 1816 letter to Samuel Kerchival.
“Those seeking profits,” Jefferson wrote, “were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge.”
He added: “I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. … We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. … [Otherwise], as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, … and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers.”
A totally “free” market where corporations reign supreme, just like the oppressive governments of old, Jefferson said could transform America “…until the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia, which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man.”
To stimulate our economy after the collapse of the Republican Great Depression, FDR also instituted progressive taxation, which gave workers more to spend, thus stimulating demand for more goods and services.
Progressive taxation, too, has a long history: As Jefferson said in a 1785 letter to James Madison, “Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.”
As Jefferson realized, and FDR proved, with no government “interference” by setting the rules of the game of business and fair taxation, there will be no middle class.
And as history around the world proves, when the middle class vanishes, democracy often goes with it.”
Read Thom’s original article here.
The fact is, when we speak of “The American Dream”, we refer to the middle class that came about deliberately as a result of FDR’s New Deal. A living wage, affordable education, humane working conditions and a retirement in dignity and economic security. This New Deal-created American Dream has been vanishing rapidly by design of the Republican war on the middle class.
To Republicans (and CONservative Democrats, for that matter), an empowered middle class is “chaos.” If the people get too uppity they say, “Hell no we won’t go” to their stinking corporate wars… they demand a seat at the table… they demand rights and decent working conditions. They demand to be treated like human beings. To greed-centered corporatists, having to treat a worker like a human being cuts into profits – so corporatists weaken a worker-centered system by attacking the only institution powerful enough to get in the way of big-moneyed greed-centered interests – namely, the government of “We The People.”
It’s no accident Ronald Reagan started the “government is the problem” mantra. Faux News and CONservative media continuously amplifies the “government is bad” myth along with outrageous conflation that a person isn’t “free” unless they can be ridden mercilessly to the bank unfettered by pesky government.
It’s no coincidence that the decline of the middle class began 30 years ago – and can be traced right to the doorstep of Reagan’s White House.
Conversely, when speaking about the FIRST Republican Great Depression, in 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Yes, we are on the way back — not by mere chance, not by a turn of the cycle. We are coming back more soundly than ever before because we planned it that way, and don’t let anybody tell you differently.”
Yes, the middle class was planned through regulations and policies that made it possible… but as soon as the Republicans (mostly) got a chance, they began to dismantle New Deal regulations that made it possible. They began to re-write the rules of the game to favor the rich, shift the tax burden to the middle class, de-regulate business and media, bust unions and spread fear and division to get the working class fighting amongst each other about social issues… all while their propaganda outlets blared fairy tales about “trickle down” prosperity… and convinced the “small people” to align their interests with that of the billionaires they hoped would one day meet them for a beer.
The one ironic tragedy of FDR’s New Deal was that it created economically stable middle classes who, with the aid of these incessant Right Wing misinformation machines, were convinced their interests and the interests of billionaires were one in the same.
The Congressional Budget Office recently released a major report showing that that the rich have seen their income rise much more quickly than middle to average households. In fact, the income for the top 1 percent increased 275 percent from 1979 to 2007 while increasing the bottom 20 percent of earners saw income rise just 18 percent.
With Americans finally taking to the streets in the nationwide Occupy movements, it seems we’re reaching the inevitable outcome of policies that have turned America into the least upwardly mobile with the widest income gap of all industrialized nations. We’re at the point where Faux News propaganda can’t blare loud enough to drown out the dismal reality that CONservative policies have created, and people are waking up to the fact that they’ve been played – and remedying rapacious Capitalism with unfettered democracy.
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