Saturday, January 27, 2024

Let Them Eat Cake! The Decline of the American Voter

We're all familiar with the phrase "let them eat cake". Legend has it that French Queen Marie Antoinette was said to have uttered as she looked out over her balcony at Versailles Palace and watched the revolution unfold.  Of course, historians debate to this day whether or not she actually said those words or something similar.

But, nevertheless, what has never been in doubt was her attitude toward the masses (along with the rest of the ruling elite), nor its outcome, the loss of her head along with that of her husband, King Louis XVI and hundreds of exceedingly wealthy aristocrats.

By the time the "Reign of Terror" was over,  almost four hundred thousand were dead, exiled, or imprisoned. Some were part of the upper crust, including members of the clergy. However, many hundreds of others were simply caught up on the wrong side of "Monsieur Guillotine".  

The French Revolution represented a seismic shift in French society, born out of many of the same ideals which prompted our own revolution just a few years before such as the notion equality under a common law, taxation with representation and, of course, the impact of the Enlightenment.

The America which came out of our little "dust up" with Great Britain in 1783 was intended to be a democratic Republic based on a written Constitution and  backed by a Bill of Rights. It replaced the Articles of Confederation which was seen as to weak. It served as the first constitution from 1781 until 1789.

France adopted their constitution in 1791, which created a constitutional monarchy. In 1789, France ratified the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which served as its national Bill of Rights and served as the preamble to their constitution. Nevertheless, the damage was done and a dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte, waited in the wings for his moment to arrive.

As an aside,  while the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, it wasn't the oldest constitution. That honor belongs to San Marino, a tiny country in northwestern Italy. Their constitution was ratified in 1600. Poland's constitution was ratified shortly after ours in 1791. England had the first Bill of Right, which was signed into law in 1689 following the "Glorious Revolution" which ousted King James II. Ours was adopted in 1791. 

America  also differed from other nations in that its creation was organic, meaning that instead of evolving into a nation over time, as other countries had, America, like the mythical Athena who was born fully formed from the brow of Zeus, burst into existence as a wholly formed nation based on the lessons gleaned from ancient Greece and Rome, the indigenous Algonquin Federation, and the ideals of the Enlightenment. 

Today, America is no longer a democratic Republic. It's a neo-fascist Corporatocracy under the leadership of a handful of mega rich Oligarchs. Congress no longer represents the average citizen. It serves the needs of Wall Street. What the average citizen want or need is of little interest to Congress. Academic research has shown that ordinary citizens have virtually zero impact on issues as far as Congress is concerned while the elites have significant input on issues they regard as important.

 Corporate money openly fund both political parties and their candidates. They sponsor getaways, hold fundraisers which regularly raise millions of dollars.  Corporate lobbyists routinely write or help write legislation while federal contracts worth billions are awarded with alarming regularity. The government is no longer our own.

The media is controlled by just five corporations. Worse, they've come to operate more as propaganda machines whose aim is to frustrate, confuse, and manipulate the masses. They distract us from the real issues with manufactured news and mindless entertainment. Once upon a time, the media was seen as the purveyors of truth. Today the media has become the profaners of truth. 

So, what do you suppose our "overseers" think of us (not that it really matters)? According to a recent Scott Rasmussen survey conducted (ironically) on behalf of the "Committee to Unleash Prosperity", a conservative " economic supply-side" think tank with close ties to a number of libertarian leaning organizations as well as the Koch Brothers, Steve Forbes, Arthur Laffer, and Steve Moore,  the ruling elites don't think much of us.

The report starts out be defining who the "elites" and "super elites" are based on their incomes, zip code, and academics. It should be pointed out that the report erroneously classifies the "elite" as those making over $150,000 annually, having at least one post-graduate degree from a leading college like Columbia or Harvard, and living in a zip code where the population density exceeds 10,000 per square mile.

A majority of other studies identify "elites" as those with income levels of at least $600,000 and a net worth of $10 million or more (compare that to a median U.S. household income of $55,000 and a net worth of about $70,000).  Those in the top 5% tend to have annual incomes of $335,000, while the top 1% pull down around $820,000 a year and those at the apex---the 0.1%---bring in over $3 million annually.

Nevertheless, according to the Scott Rasmussen survey, the elites  or top 10% are seeing their earnings grow. They are also happy with the performance of economy and Biden. Meanwhile, roughly 40% of average Americans report that they are financially struggling. An article by Business Insider takes it further by saying that by mid-2024, 99% of Americans will be financially worse off than they were pre-Covid.-19.

The article, written in conjunction with JP Morgan, added that most Americans have already gone through most of their savings.  22% of Americans don't have enough money for emergencies.  43% couldn't cover an emergency over $1000. Bloomberg backed that up by pointing out that as of November 2023, 80% of Americans were already worse off than they were pre-Covid-19.

The article pointed out that only the top 20% were doing well financially. It should be mentioned that according to a October 2023 Harris Poll, 65% of Americans acknowledged living paycheck to paycheck. 35% regularly have more month than money!

The Rasmussen report goes on to point out that 77% of the top 10% and 89% of the top 1% believe that there should be "strict rationing of meat, gas, and electricity" for the average American family.  Approximately 81% would ban the use of gas power cars, forcing the "masses" to use battery powered vehicles, but that's not all. 55% of the top 10% "elites" and 70% of the "super elites" would restrict non-essential travel for average Americans. I guess that keeps them from having to rub elbows with the "unwashed masses" at all the resorts.

When it came to politics, it shouldn't come as a surprise that to learn that over half of the elites believe that government affords average Americans "too much freedom". Their solution? Some surveys suggest increased usage of surveillance cameras, increased use of facial recognition software, improved tracking devices on cell phones and cars,

Many favor tighter internet access such as limiting search engines, greater restrictions on gun/ammo ownership, further restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, and of course, closer "cooperation" between Big Business and government (which is the definition of fascism). Although often overlooked, we can't forget eliminating the use of cash in favor of electronic accounting.

Perhaps we'll soon see a day where government will electronically take out its estimated taxes and fees before you ever received your electronic paycheck. Utility and credit card companies will require payments be automatically deducted along with your rent or house payments and insurance. What's left (if anything) is what you'll use to buy groceries, clothes and whatever...all electronically so it can be tracked, recorded, and anticipated.

Your medical, financial, and employment history will all be collected and stored in a "super cloud". Businesses will know your medical and credit history before deciding to hire, promote, or retain you. Even your school grades will be recorded, along with what clubs you belonged to. No doubt your aptitude scores will be kept with your actual or estimated IQ score, Myers Briggs profile, or Enneagram.  

Every late payment, work infraction, and traffic ticket will be linked to your "national security data"  on the super cloud, which will monitor the sites you visit, the books or magazines you read, comments you made online, and even your buying preferences.  

These are just a few of the ways your freedoms can curtailed with you barely noticing if the elites have their way. Scary isn't it?  Yet the technology is already there, and in many instances, already being employed. Welcome to the machine.

We also need to bear in mind that the top 1% ---or about 735 billionaires--- have more money than the entire bottom half of American households. That's about $43.45 trillion dollars. According to a 2021 Credit Suisse report, the top 1% globally controlled nearly half of all the wealth on the planet or roughly 46% while one in ten individuals globally get by on just $2 dollars a day.

As for Congress, its job is to represent the American People, and yet numerous surveys show that Congress regularly vote in favor of what various organized special interest groups and the wealthiest top 10% want while the interests of the remaining 90% are typically ignored. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

The majority of Congress---50%---are millionaires (compared to only 5% of Americans in general). Even those who aren't millionaires when they enter Congress, nearly all are by the time they leave despite a annual salary of just $174,000. Both political parties are heavily funded by Big Business. 

Political campaigns, "leadership" PACs, "educational" junkets, and so forth receive nearly unlimited funding by Big Business thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 "Citizens United" blunder; a decision which gave corporations nearly unlimited financial influence over government.

In 2022, both parties received a combined $8.9 billion dollars from Wall Street for midterm congressional races. About 45% went to Democrats while 55% went to Republicans (the National Association of Realtors was the largest donor at $36. 4 million).

Legislation is often written entirety or at least partially by corporate lobbyists. These same lobbyists help navigate bills through the maze of committees, often chaired by members whose campaigns they funded. As an aside, these lobbyists typically provide members of Congress (or their staff) with bill summaries and "recommendations" on which bill to support. They also help legislators with a little "under the table" wheeling and dealing, which gives them firsthand knowledge on all the dirt.

When members of the 115th Congress (or key staffers) decided to leave office in 2019, over 59% took a short drive over to "K" Street and signed on as a corporate lobbyist (some making three times what they did in Congress). Some become a consultant or adviser while others land very lucrative positions on various boards of directors or as senior partners in  high dollar law firms. This is the nefarious revolving door of politics, and it's why government serves the interests of Wall Street, not Main Street.

We have more wealth and income inequality than at any time over the last one hundred years. Company CEO's are making 350 times more than their average employee earns, and nearly 50% of all new wealth goes to the top 1%. The top three richest individuals in America have more wealth than the entire bottom half of America households, which adds up to over 160 million Americans.

Washington D.C.  bears a striking resemblance to the politically decadent and corrupt world of the ill fated Queen of France,  Marie Antoinette, and her husband, King Louis XV. Like the elites of her time, 72% of elites  today say they are superior to average Americans. Washington has developed a presumptive "ruling class" mentality by virtue of their education, family connections, and access to immense wealth, but are they our "betters"?

When we see the likes of a Barack Obama, Joe Biden, George W. Bush, Bill or Hillary Clinton, do we honestly believe these are the best America can produce to guide our nation? Given that the approval rating for Congress  is in low 30's and Biden's approval rating is lowest of any president in 15 years, the obvious answer is "no", and yet Congress has a 98% reelection rate. Do you think that's by accident?

Our political system isn't broken, it's been changed to suit the needs of a ruling class; an oligarchy which has substituted our democratic Republic for a neo-fascist corporatocracy. It's past time that the American People embrace the strength and courage of our Founding Fathers and do something about it.


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