Friday, June 07, 2024

Can We Still Save America?

Today we're faced with a whole litany of troubles. It seems that we just jump from crisis to crisis every day. Sometimes it feels like its hour to hour! Many of us have all but stopped listening to the media's "Crisis du Jure", which attempts to tell us who to hate today and what causes or issues we should be for or against. We just can't take another minute of this negativity anymore. So, what do we do?

They whip our passions using fake patriotism, images of charred houses, and the ubiquitous impoverished children and heartbroken women. We turn to distractions like our "smartphones", video games, brain dead television programs which conditions us when to clap or laugh thanks to their programmed laugh tracks.

We even focus on sports to the point of obsession. Our discussions often become so intense you'd think we had a financial stake in the outcome. Why? Because we know that ultimately the outcome of some game doesn't really affect us. Our attention has carefully been turned away from the issues which truly matter such as rising prices, the declining value of our hard earned dollars or the loss of any benefits  we may happened to have had.

We work longer and harder and earn  less. Did you know that today's average worker's income, after adjusted for inflation,  has the same buying power as it did in 1979? Prices haven't remained the same, and hence finding households where both adults work, and some are holding down two or three jobs!

In fact, we now bring home less than our parents or even grandparents did in the 1970's! When adjusted for inflation, worker wages have only increased 15%. At the same time, the income of CEOs and their ilk have increased 1,209 % since 1979.At the same time taxes and prices continue to rise and yet multi-billion dollars conglomerates pay little or nothing. Do you think that's right?

Divisions among class, race, religion, and ethnic group are worse now than they have in decades. As long as we're divided and fighting among ourselves, it's so much easier to control us while they are free to pull the strings. After all, as long as we're fighting each other, the ruling elite can do as they please. Face it,  those with the real power are playing our manufactured fears like a fiddle from Hell. 

The mainstream media publishes or slants the stories the ruling class wants us to hear. Propaganda is all about perception. Wars, for instance, are usually framed in such colorful phrases  such as "freedom", "democracy", "free enterprise", "obligation " and "duty". They try to  connect our revolutionary war to whatever cause their pushing in order to create a link. It's almost always accompanied by imagery intended to play on our emotions and patriotism. But just how sincere is their message?

More often than not, the answer is it isn't.  Everything always comes down to economics. It's often about forcing a sovereign nation to open its markets to U.S. and Western corporations under the not so subtle veil of a U.S. military invasion.  If it weren't, then why do we prop up undemocratic autocracies like Kuwait or Saudi Arabia just as we did for South Vietnam, Iran, Cuba, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Nicaragua or Panama. Iraq and Nicaragua were praised as allies until they stopped following directions.

Take for instance Iraq. Saddam Hussein (who we helped into power) invaded Kuwait, a key provider of oil and gas. That triggered a rise in prices. So, after a propaganda campaign to manufacture consent by the American People, we were fed a bunch of BS about  promised democratic reforms by the Kuwaiti monarchy such as allowing women to vote and sharing power. You know what happened after we "liberated" Kuwait? Nothing.

Most of these were the result of coups following democratic elections in which we didn't like the outcome.  In their place, we installed ultra conservative military juntas who opposed anything democratic! However, invasion isn't always or even mostly the end result.

In the majority of cases good old bribery and kickbacks do the trick in the form of economic aid. Of course, this works both ways such political donations to various foundations, insider tips on stocks or seats on boards of directors, or being hired as a "consultant".  It's called "pay to play" and the typical American doesn't have the cash to feed the pot.

We talk about being the land of opportunity, yet so many family farms and "mom and pop" businesses are forced to close because of big box stores. Did you know that only 4 companies control 65% of the food market or that other four control 95% of the world's fertilizer and seeds? That represents 65% of the global food supply. Nationally only 5 banks dominate the U.S. financial market---Chase Bank, Bank of America, U.S. Bankcorp, Wells Fargo, and Citibank. 

Just six corporations dominate the pharmaceutical industry and can virtually dictate the price of medication (as an aside, several medical industry research studies have been published which show that 70% of the price increases of prescription medication are not supported by medical research or demand). Shareholders of "Big Pharma" stock saw a 400% increase in payouts from 2000 to 2018.  Government regulations attempt to regulate our ability to cultivate our own gardens or collect rainwater. It's all about dependence.

While the largest producers of oil and gas are Russia and OPEC, the U.S. is a strong contender, yet, when we talk about those companies with control over the spigot, 10 companies overwhelming dominate the market. Together they represent roughly 90% of oil and gas market.

Any new green technology is quickly bought up or "boo hooed" as unpractical  and back up using paid for research papers. That doesn't mean there aren't windmill farms and the like, but there are too few to make much of a difference. They use their influence to divert federal aid from projects that would improve mileage or lower energy costs.  

We now have five corporations controlling 96+% of our media from print and digital to radio and TV. They are behind the shows we watch nightly, the movies we see, the games we play, and even our access to the internet. Just five technology companies dominate 33% of the global technology market, and so the story goes.

Many of these conglomerates have more money than some countries. When comparing economies of size, Apple's revenue is larger than the individual economies of Italy, Canada, Brazil, Russia, Australia, Spain, and others. Microsoft is financially bigger than nine countries including Russia, South Korea, and Mexico. The same goes for Amazon, Facebook, and Saudi Aramco. Only seven nations still has economies larger than these corporations --- U.S., China,  India, and the UK, but that doesn't mean their governments are in control.  

Is it any wonder then that America has undergone a silent coup in slow motion and become a corporatocracy? It was done in such a way that most Americans never even noticed.  And the best part about this silent slow motion coup is that there are those who still denied it ever happened. That's when you know your coup was successful.

The "Republic" is held up as mask to pacify the naive. Our new "America, Inc" is managed by a handful of these meg-rich individuals --- aka "Oligarchs" (or plutocrats if you prefer).  They serve the interest of Wall Street, not Main Street America. Both political parties are quite literally bought and paid for. Consider the "Citizens United" blunder for instance.

Corporations are nothing more than legal fictions. But under Citizens United, they don't have just the same rights as you and I do (an absurdity in itself), but more. How so? Because money is now defined as "free speech" and  you can bet that they have far than we do. Secondly, these "fictional persons" can donate basically whatever they feel like to a issue, party or individual.

Ordinary citizens are capped at an insignificant  $1000 in donations per election cycle. Compare that to Bloomberg Lp which donated just under $93 million to Joe Biden in 2020. The Las Vegas Sands gambled $45 million on Trump . Congressional Leadership PACS (basically "slush funds") received a total of $40.5 million dollars from Big Business, with most of that going to the Republican Party. But what about unions?

The power of organized labor has been broken since the 1960's. Once, they were protected workers and were actively involved in social issues. Nowadays, they are more interested in keeping workers on production lines rather than picket lines. When it comes to donations, corporations give nearly ten dollars for every dollar unions give.

Look at illegal immigration. This has been a national security crisis since the 1980's. That's over 40 years ago. If government really wanted to resolve the issue you'd think four decades would be ample  time. The truth is that they never had any real intentions to resolve the problem. The influx dilutes the workforce, thus driving down wages and benefits (and in some cases, eliminating them altogether). 

It makes employees more concerned about keeping a job than improving their working conditions.  What the ruling class wants is a workforce just smart enough to keep their heads down, do their job, and don't ask questions, which happens to be exactly what public education has participated in creating--- a dumbed down workforce of economic serfs. An unengaged citizenry allows those in power the freedom to do as they please without interference.

Writing legislation has become increasing a corporate lobbyist function rather than that of Congress while using their large staffs to reviewing proposed bills and make recommendations to the House or Senate member on how to vote on any given issue. That frees up the elected representative to spend more time raising money for party leadership.

These corporate lobbyist are also known to provide first rate perks, grease palms, and most importantly, underwrite their elections and provide opponent research.  No wonder members of Congress  have a 98% reelection rate despite having an approval rating of 13% (in November 2013 it was 9%). Think about those numbers for a moment. These are Soviet Era rates! This is what you'd expect in the old Soviet Politburo, China's National People's Congress, or North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly.  They are the percentages of failed democracy.

It's obvious therefore why there's no shortage of willing takers! Why else would already wealthy individuals spend millions for a job that pays just $174,000 or less than what an medium size company president makes? A sense of civic duty? Noblesse oblige?  As the expression goes, the winners write the history...and the game rules. So, in case you're keeping score,  the American People aren't winning. Is there anything we can do to save any part of our remaining Republic?

Well, the answer is a qualified "yes", but there's very little time remaining in the hourglass of our once great nation. Key is that we have to stop bitching and actually do something. We need to stop voting for the "lesser of two evils". Evil is evil. We need to break up the political duopoly. We need to think and vote outside the box. 

While we may be too late to save the federal government, we should focus our efforts on local and state elections. We need to support third parties and Independent candidates in any way we can. We need to force state legislatures to permit citizen initiatives (if you already have one, count yourself lucky). We need to press for term limits, changes in our campaign financial requirements, adding third party and Independent representative to local boards of election.

We need to eliminate partisan offices on non-policy making offices such as county clerk or attorney, the offices of Secretary of State, Agriculture, or Treasure. Newly elected officials should be required to resign from whatever party they belong to and take an oath to represent everyone in the district, not just fellow partisans.

We must build stronger local communities and demand more from our boards of education, police department, as well as reforming our taxing authorizes. No rate or taxes increases without voter approval. While these are just a handful of changes we can make, to set back and do nothing is not an option any more. You don't have to do all of them. Pick one. Get involved. Be the change we must have. It's time to come home to our roots.

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