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Geez, why is the 99 percent so upset?

Gadfly | September 16th, 2015


Why the 99 percent is so pissed it isn’t going to take it anymore.

Why are Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson leading Republican polls for the 2016 presidential nomination? Why is Bernie Sanders beginning to overtake the “inevitable” Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Democratic polls? Only because Hillary is better known than Bernie.

Who in the hell is Bernie Sanders? He could be the local dogcatcher or pimp. Many don’t know he is another politician -- but anything that walks and talks is better than the whores in Congress and state capitals.

The 99 Percent is pissed and it isn’t going to take it anymore. Remember, all national news outlets are owned by huge corporations. TV, cable, radio and newspaper conglomerates publish what their bosses want them to publish.

Senator (yes, he’s an independent politician!) Sanders attracts big crowds because he hammers the One Percent and the Republicans about the insane economic inequality in the U.S., the flat wages that the 99 Percent have been surviving on for the last 40 years, the voracious predators in their bullrings on Wall Street screwing everybody on the planet, the billionaires buying politicians and candidates by the baker’s dozen at the annual auction with the corporation-dominated Supreme Court’s approval.

On Sept. 15 Bernie called for an investment of $1 trillion over five years to fix our roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure, which would create 13 million good-paying jobs during that period. The national press did not report that proposal. We all know why. It makes too much sense.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and reporter Chris Hedges spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent and bureau chief covering events in 50 foreign countries for The New York Times. His analysis of our political position in the world is based on his observations.

“Civilizations rise, decay, and die … As societies become more complex they become inevitably more precarious. They become increasingly more vulnerable. And as they begin to break down there is a strange retreat by a terrified and confused population from reality, an inability to acknowledge … fragility and impending collapse.

“The elites at the end speak in phrases and jargon that do not correlate to reality. They retreat into isolated compounds, whether at the court or at Versailles, the Forbidden City or modern palatial estates. The elites indulge in unchecked hedonism, the accumulation of vaster wealth and extravagant consumption. They are deaf to the suffering of the masses who are repressed with greater and greater ferocity. Resources are more ruthlessly depleted until they are exhausted … The Mayan elites, after clearing their forests and polluting their streams with silt and acids, retreated backward to primitivism.”

How far is the fall from democracy to feudalism?

ALos Angeles Timescartoon by David Horsey graphically illustrates what Hedges is writing about. A feudal castle sheltering the elites named Europe is surrounded by thousands of immigrants and refugees from Middle East wars, Arab Spring and Asian countries clamoring to break down the main gate. The caption is: “WE NEED A BIGGER MOAT.”

If things don’t change, our elites will have to hole up in their own castles. Hedges gives the reasons: “As food and water shortages expand across the globe, as mounting poverty and misery trigger street protests … the elites do what all elites do. They launch more wars, build grander monuments to themselves, plunge their nations deeper into debt, and as it all unravels they take it out on the backs of workers and the poor.”

The collapse of the global economy during the Great Recession of 2008 caused by greedy elites wiped out $40 trillion of world wealth (and a lot of it in the U.S.). Our “elite” Wall Street banks sold subprime mortgages gained by fraudulent means to pension funds, naive investors, smaller banks, university pension funds and state and foreign governments.

Then the elites looted the U.S. Treasury after their hands were caught in the till by getting hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts, pushed by former Wall Street execs occupying offices at the Treasury Department.

Now the elites are reinforcing their castles with survival rooms covered in armor plate and stocked with water and survival rations. They have almost succeeded in destroying the safety net started by FDR’s New Deal during and after the Great Depression. They have essentially destroyed the unions, which created the world’s first major middle class, slashed jobs, foreclosed on millions of homes, throwing millions out of their “American Dream,” and, according to Hedges, “created a permanent underclass of unemployed and underemployed.”

I thought it would take at least a decade to recover from the policies of the Republican elites who dominated the eight years of George W. Bush. Now it may be never.

We are still living under what Republicans call American exceptionalism.

The Republican Party has been bragging for decades about American exceptionalism — how we are really different from the rest of the world. In fact the current Republican political platform is headlined “American Exceptionalism.”

Boy, are we ever exceptional! But only in a negative sense. National defense is always a big deal with Republicans. The most important part of the platform has this pledge: “We pledge to our servicemen and women the authority and resources they need to protect the nation and defend America’s freedom.”

The Republicans now have a majority in both the House and the Senate. Why don’t they even try to keep their pledge to veterans? We currently have 1.2 million vets without health insurance. Out of the 22 million vets who have fought on five continents, only 8.9 million are enrolled in VA health benefits that are reserved for those who have been disabled through military service or are in poverty.

Most uninsured vets live in states that have Republican governors and legislatures that have refused Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. For example, Texas has 126,000 uninsured vets, Florida has 95,000, North Carolina 54,000 and Georgia 53,000. Almost 90 percent of these vets would be insured if their states were Blue Democratic instead of Red Republican. Now, that’s really “exceptional.” Combat vets of 12 tours in Afghanistan and Iraq come home and are uninsured.

If Republicans have pledged “resources” to take care of our military vets, why doesn’t the party in power clean up the mess in the VA? The VA has 900,000 applications from vets for access to VA health care, but things are so screwed up that many experts estimate that as many as 300,000 of them may be dead! The VA says it have no way to purge the rolls of the dead.

I assume the Pentagon has a list somewhere of all service people — with addresses. Why not send a letter to the last known address with the question, “Are You Dead?” Maybe some would answer!

As of June 30, 2015, the VA has contacted 302,045 vets and requested documents to establish eligibility for services. To date only 34,517 vets have enrolled. Maybe the rest are dead. Over 34,000 vets of Afghanistan and Iraq are losing their guaranteed five-year eligibility because all of their paperwork was not cleared in time. Now, that is truly exceptional!

The GOP platform states: “Our wounded warriors, whether still in service or discharged, deserve the best medical care our country can provide. The nature of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in an unprecedented incidence of traumatic brain injury, loss of limbs, and post-traumatic stress disorder which calls for a new commitment of resources and personnel for its treatment and care to promote recovery.”

Why does the VA have 41,500 medical personnel vacancies including 11,985 nursing positions? Ask one of the 535 members of The Best Congress Money Can Buy. Their answer should be interesting.

Some other little items that make Americans truly exceptional in the world:

  1. Income inequality is greater in the U.S. than in any other democracy in the developed world. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says income inequality results in political instability and is the greatest threat to world peace. World War III has already started between the rich and the poor on the five inhabited continents. The very rich just don’t seem to recognize they should be improving their security and their “secure” armored mansion rooms. Example: The cruise line Regent Seven Seas luxury liner Explorer will not float until 2017, but at $10,000 a night for 3,875 square feet suites the luxury suites are almost all sold out.
  1. Most rich countries by law provide between five and 13 vacation days per year plus many other paid vacation days. The U.S. guarantees none. Workers in the European Union are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days per year, with 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries. The U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays.
  1. For the first time in 50 years a majority of U.S. public school students pre-K through 12th grade come from low-income families. This means that a majority of kindergartners start school trailing their more privileged fellow students and probably will never catch up. Research shows that students born in poverty have up to 6 percent less brain surface area than children from high-income families. A person whose brain has been shrunk by poverty may suffer long-term behavioral and cognitive difficulties. Increases in family income could mean large differences in brain capacity.
  1. In about the last 90 days (Memorial Day to Aug. 28) 3,702 Americans were killed by firearms and 8,153 were wounded. We lead the world in firearm deaths, of course. We are really exceptional in shooting each other. It’s our gun culture. With over 300 million guns of all descriptions flooding the country, good people shoot good and bad people, and bad people shoot good and bad people. If we count four dead as the minimum in mass shootings, we have had 125 mass killings in the last ninety days. As a deadly example, on Father’s Day ten people were shot at a block party in West Philadelphia by two men who sprayed the party with a shotgun. A two-year-old and a ten-year-old fell dead. On a Detroit basketball court on Father’s Day ten people were shot when a gun fight started over a game. July 4th in Chicago was certainly exciting. Thirty people were shot. A seven-year-old boy was killed by a bullet meant for his father. In a Tribune letter John Clouse of Shoreview, Minn., wrote: “The gun culture pervades the country. Many people reason that if guns are so readily available and legally carried, they, too, should feel free to use them, to settle disputes, to wipe out school classrooms, or to just kill cops indiscriminately. Oh, and for cops to kill citizens without fear of prosecution.” The suggestion has been made that gun owners should be forced to carry liability insurance on every gun they own. Then, if a registered gun is used in a firearm death or incident, lawsuits for wrongful death or wounding should prevail. Sounds like a good idea to me.
  2. The top 25 hedge fund managers in the U.S. make more than all the 150,000 kindergarten teachers.

If we continue on this path of dysfunctional feudalism in this modern world, we should remind our rich what happened in France in the late 18th century when the poor had no bread and they couldn’t pick up any crusts from under the tables of the rich. The aristocracy and the rich were rounded up and their heads were removed by the “national razor,” the guillotine.

The U.S. must guarantee that a person who works 40 hours per week for 50 weeks a year for many years is assured of a livable income and retirement. It is reasonable — and certainly moral — to expect that in the richest country in the world.

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