Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Disunited States of America

The Disunited States of

We have taken a wrong turn
And GPS is no concern
We are lost and may not return
To where our cities burn
And our hearts are torn
As we face the occupying force
That fills us with remorse
Yet tells us to stand by
But cannot tell us why
Justice remains so blind
And the planets are aligned
To rip us all asunder
With home made fire and thunder
Cut the budget and inflict pain
It’s 1928 again

The news of Baltimore in flames is yet only the latest case of holding on with force instead of justice.  This happened in the “good old days” of the 20s when the gap between rich and poor became more than money.  It became the time of excesses.  We like to think of it in terms of the naughty speakeasies and the true grit of the poor.  The reality was something different.  It was hell.  Lives were shortened.  Workers were commonly shot by police and private hired guns to enforce the social contract that if you had a job, you should be on your knees thanking your benefactors.  Property and corporations were valued above life; at least the lives of the lower classes.  The widening social gap was emphasized by the numbers of poor.  We have grown.  We now speak of the “one per-centers” and the ever-increasing skewed distribution of wealth with far more poor than we had in the 20s.  The Supreme Court has again favored corporations and has taken the step with “Citizens United” to create permanent political reality to support the social developments of our time.  Historically, the Supreme Court even ruled in favor of child labor in 1918 and 1922 despite the good efforts of Congress.  The current Supreme Court continues to rule in favor of corporations over workers as in the case of Lily Ledbetter where discriminatory wages were upheld because Ms. Ledbetter did not file “on time” although she filed as soon as she discovered the facts that were previously denied her.  Corporations are not only “people,” but they appear to be favored people when compared to those of us who breathe and have colonoscopies.  We cannot depend upon the highest court in the land to adjudicate for the common man.

President Obama is no FDR and his latest maneuver to fast track TPP has made him a darling of ultra conservatives.  What could be better than to ship more jobs overseas while our cities like Baltimore have an unemployment rate above 50%.  Perhaps he wants corporate responsibility to suddenly break out among our multinational corporations.  Unfortunately, from history, he is far more likely to be setting the table for the feast to come for multinational Pharma and manufacturing firms.  The Disunited States will again cede sovereign powers to multinationals who/which will again preclude any nation from altering their control of labor and taxes.  If anything could bring on the “end days,” then widespread poverty, pain and social distortion will do it while we await the next financial collapse by those who are the heirs of the creators of the Great Depression and the 2007 Great Recession.  A recent essay by Tina Depuy lays out the hypocrisy of our legal system which has gone further to deny reality by jailing “deadbeat dads” as though by jailing them, we can get them to cough up money they do not have.   Reality indicates that our society will not likely hire anyone with a conviction.  So we perpetuate poverty for the deadbeat dad and for his family or former family.  It is a social stigma that cannot be erased that seems to be a return to the days of Dickens.  The same is true for student loans in the sense that they cannot be used in a discharge of indebtedness through bankruptcy.  The obvious irony is that people taking student loans are generally trying to better themselves through education but end up in deep debt.  There must be a better way to close the gap between rich and poor, because our laws and tax system do not do it.

We have become an occupied nation where local police now dress and equip like military forces, complete with armored vehicles and automatic weapons for the street cop.  To “protect and serve” has become a distant memory and police abuse of their neighbors is highlighted daily in the media while we seem to focus on ethnicity instead of the common bond of poverty that gives ordinary people little opportunity for redress of grievances or opportunity for fair living wages.  The result is a natural outcome.  Once people have nothing to lose, then demonstrating and even rioting in the streets is happening and will worsen until and after the core issues are recognized.  Baltimore is largely a black city, but note that the demonstrators and protestors are a mix of races.  Poverty affects everyone.  At some point, the one-percent will be adversely affected, too.  Will corporations and the wealthy hire guns as they did in the 20s?  Bet on it, especially when the police tire of beating up on their families and friends.

Allow me to speculate further on the ways this nation can address our huge disparity in wealth and opportunity.  There are a few things that a nation can do to deal with the symptoms.  We can ignore them completely.  We can go all out on “law and order” and incarcerate still more citizens.  We can have a major distraction such as another war.  That approach seems to be broadly similar to the Roman “bread and circus” method of controlling unrest.  It requires increased labor and feeds the masses while supporting the military-political-industrial complex.  (To then ignore the injured warriors.) We can return to the policies just after WWII when wealth and opportunity equality was at its greatest in modern memory and act in the interest of the afflicted instead of the affluent by returning to taxes and education costs that help the poor.  That would require massive investment in infrastructure and people.  With the conservative grip on power and the false notion that the wealthy corporations and people will trickle down enough wealth for survival of the poorest among us, that seems unlikely.  It is perhaps the only way that real change can come about, but the reality is that, especially with Citizens United and with the Koch brothers alone spending nearly a billion dollars to elect extreme conservatives, reason will not prevail and unrest will worsen and erode the resources of a once great nation.  The mere fact that the conservatives have both power and the notion that war is good for profits may push us to the point where our military can no longer support a pretense of invincibility and will hasten our tendency to squander our power in foreign ventures to mirror the Iraq disaster.  At that point, we will become vulnerable to leaders like Putin testing our NATO forces in places like Estonia and when others will test us in areas such as Guam or any detached American geography.  We will concede power in ways that reflect our internal conflict as well as our real reduction of power.

Now if this view of our current condition seems pessimistic, and perhaps it is, there are not many options given the continued acceleration of the concentration of wealth in the wealthy.  The 20s and 30s proved that Communism was no answer, but there are failures in our current approach that are not yet repaired. The recent vote to eliminate the estate tax affected perhaps 1500 families but will cost these Disunited States of America perhaps $200 Billion over the next 20 years that might have been a down-payment toward balance.  There is no political will to change and there is power in the money that speaks volumes to describe our national priorities.  Money is virtue.  Money is real.  Money is spiritual.  Money is us.  The GOP has promised us they will take away healthcare and lower still more taxes for the wealthy.  Maybe Congress is the Circus.  Where is the bread?


George Giacoppe

3 May 2015

No comments: