The Stranglehold of the Rich
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workman who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James chapter 5, verses 1-6, NIV)
We have now arrived at a point in our nation’s history where the US is still clinging to its former status as a superpower and refusing to move on. In the process, the United States has committed one of our history’s most colossal mistakes while basking in the glory of the act, and forgetting the political and financial consequences for doing so. I’m talking about America’s ill-advised and poorly thought out invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 until the end of 2011. This was, for all practical intents and purposes, a war manufactured for the financial benefit of the 1% right wing elitists who have been ruling over us with an increasingly violent iron fist (such as police officers shooting unarmed civilians). The 1% elites want glory today, tomorrow, and forever. They want to be worshiped like gods, which is absurd to put it mildly. They want credit for being the heroes, for saving civilization. The irony is that their narrow-mindedness, their embedded lack of perspective, and their superficial view on world events dooms them to be a curse upon their own land. Little or nothing has been getting done because of almost constant bickering between Congress and the President. And what are Congress and the President fighting to defend? One of the worst situations this country has ever been in; the triple combination of an unprecedented economic crisis, the complete collapse of manufacturing, and what can only be described as a student loan ‘bubble’. The first of these three is a solvency issue, the second is due to what turned out to be the horrifically short-sighted out-sourcing of middle class American jobs, while the last is due to issues of excessive debt due to predatory lending practices. All three exist with the active participation of the US government. None of this happened by accident.
America has spent itself into oblivion, and this series of events – of which the economic crisis of 2008 was only a part – was engineered by the crooks on Wall Street and at the Federal Reserve, their lobbyists in Washington and the corrupt politicians who do their bidding, and the ‘Fortune 100’ multinational corporations who peddle the top 1%’s products and services. Clearly some very serious measures must be taken ASAP. There must be criminal prosecution of those responsible (which hasn’t even started as I write this), and a total overhaul of America’s financial and monetary systems is similarly overdue. So what should be done? That’s the problem, progress in this regard has been nearly nonexistent on the part of those who are charged with the task of overseeing it. Want reform of the financial markets? Screw you, we’re filibustering in the Senate. Want single payer health care? Forget it, we’re going to ram ‘Obamacare’ down your throats instead. Want an improved health care system? Nope, America will continue to allow forty thousand people a year to die so the rest can be charged twice as much as the rest of the world for inferior care!! Want jobs? You might as well forget about that, too, they have all been shipped overseas for pennies on the dollar, and they’re not coming back. Still need a job? No problem! You may choose between restaurants, fast food outlets, big box stores of various types, or door-to-door sales. Wow, isn’t this variety stimulating?? Or how about this one: Ready to retire? Not! Wall St. gambled your retirement away on derivatives and other B.S. Ponzi schemes, and so far nobody on Wall Street or at the Fed has served one single day. They took the rest of the money and paid cash for every foreclosed or abandoned piece of real estate they could find. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the balances on your 401K and your IRA are hovering at, or they are near, or well below, zero!
Of course, resisting any or all this is being painted as resisting big government and the military-industrial complex. People who resist can get arrested and jailed, as we all know too well. People like myself, who dare to openly express dissenting political and religious views, can be arbitrarily labeled as “domestic terrorists” by law enforcement. When that happens people can get locked up without being charged with a crime, and they can be held indefinitely in flagrant violation of the US Constitution (see the US Constitution, amendments 5, 6 and 7, and search ‘NDAA’ for details). Never mind that America’s leaders conduct speaks poorly to their skills as fiscal guardians. The US political establishment needs their dark enemies to highlight their glorious crusades. The problem with that is, the whole darn world is sick and tired of endless wars, wars that we never wanted to begin with. On the other hand, single payer health care – which would essentially be putting everyone on Medicare and eliminating Medicaid – has to be this great evil, ‘socialist’ health care reform purported to be government taking decisions out of your doctor’s hands. All I can say about that is to quote Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The first and primary purpose of any good government should be the safety and the general welfare of its people”.
Never mind the facts. They did this all along during the latter Bush administration plus the entire Obama administration. Everything was about defending what the President and Congress were doing, everything was about justifying colossal mistakes. Whether turning a soldier’s request for more armor into another chapter in the epic of the mainstream media, lying about the death of Pat Tillman, using Jessica Lynch as a PR stunt, or blaming hurricane Katrina’s death toll and the subsequent humanitarian disaster on the victims themselves, or coming up with a million different justifications for outing former CIA asset Valerie Wilson, the 1% elite right wing nuts and their conservative/neocon lap dogs devoted themselves to the task of rationalizing failure and mass murder on an enormous scale.
If I seem angry here, it is a righteous anger, and it reflects the anger of much of the American public. This is what I’ve fought against and wrote about for the last five years. I don’t want to live in a country where the government exists in an alternate universe, where the politicians are so oblivious to reality. I refuse to live in a country where 99% of the wealth is in the hands of 1% of the population. And I’m not freaking done, not by a long shot! Since I don’t have plans to leave this country that I love, I am an unofficial part of the Occupy and 99% Movements, and I write and publish nonfiction books about these movements, US civil rights, human rights worldwide, about economic inequality and how to combat it, and about ending the wars overseas and the drug war here at home. Whether it’s me by myself, or millions answering the call around my nation, our goal must be to make the government that runs this country a part of the reality-based community, which is the rest of us. I’m in favor of a government that is lean, agile and flexible, and it’s also time to make government Web-based and paperless, which would result in a tremendous reduction in costs and overhead. If the current government is unwilling to consider any of this, it is ‘we the people’ who will have to forcibly replace that government. This means mass civil unrest at best, or civil war at its worst. I would choose the latter only as a last resort. But the thing is, it looks like we’re nearly there already.
I wish our current government would finally coming to grips with the fact that America’s government is broken, and it has been for many years. They can keep their bogus two party system, keep on favoring only ultra-conservative ideas that trample everybody else underfoot, even keep on using the US Constitution for a door mat. But what gives Congress, the president, the Fed and Wall Street the right to let the whole country go straight to hell just to enrich themselves, or for political jockeying for position? These jokers are more out of touch with America than they’ve been in years, in no small part due to their failure to put politics aside and deal with a financial emergency America is faced with. The fortunes of the nation and its people come first, not the fortunes of political parties nor the needs of their political donors and their accompanying armies of lobbyists. This is what is meant by the term ‘people before profits’.
Failure is not an option for the American people. America’s future, and especially that of its children and grandchildren, is at stake. A government that allows things to fail just to score political points is guilty of willful dereliction of duty, and by extension criminal negligence. A government that justifies failure by scoring political points on the evening news is guilty of gross malfeasance in the course of their duties, a potentially impeachable offense. Such behavior is not worthy of governing this country in any capacity. For the last two decades since NAFTA was passed into law, America has been the victim of unwise policies, policies that naively presupposed a willingness for restraint from the financial sector, policies that assumed that perseverance in military campaigns whose very legality is dubious would somehow lead to success. These were people who looked at our economy in the summer of 2008 and said the economy was fundamentally sound, right up until the point where the economic and real estate crashes made the obvious truth unavoidable. Our government has proven itself to be incompetent, and so it must be taken out of the way and replaced.
I don’t want more government by people who are simply persisting in their policies until events overtake them and make it impossible for them to maintain the status quo. I want people who are adapting to our country’s problems in advance, and allowing the government that same flexibility. On the other hand, if the government continues to do nothing but public bickering while engaging in private deal-making in smoke filled rooms, the American populace will be forced to take matters into their own hands. How this situation turns out could depend on the reaction of authorities. The folks in charge need to know that our intentions are peaceful, and that we only wish to take up where Rev. Dr. King left off in April of ’68. We intend to maintain that peace even in the face of difficult odds or outside interference. The only exception would be if we were to be attacked by anyone, uniformed or otherwise. In that event we would be forced to fight back. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. We do not seek trouble, only justice and equality.
The last thing this country needs is another decade, or decades, worth of governance from political parties that cannot tell the difference between a defeat and a victory, and who resists all efforts to bring its attentions to the American people’s problems. There is at least a recognition among the rank and file that the current situation is not to be tolerated, or cannot be continued. The conservative ‘charge of the light brigade’ against the American people must end, and this country should be allowed to get back to deciding what the wise thing is for America’s 99%, not what is politically convenient and economically profitable to an undignified, money-and-power worshiping 1% minority.