“If they give it to the poor, they call it a handout; if they give it to the rich, they call it a subsidy.”
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Most politicians, when discussing the economy, both begin and end with the message that we need “jobs, jobs, jobs.” It’s important, however, to question why there are so few jobs to begin with.
Often in American politics, what appears to be the issue is merely a symptom of a deeper one. Nowhere is this truer than with our economy.
The social contract between the American people and their government has traditionally led to efforts that broaden the economic franchise for the majority of our citizens. When that franchise has been weak or diminished, we looked to our government to help expand it.
Beginning in the 1980s however, a fundamental shift took place: the American government itself, instead of working to broaden the economic franchise of the majority of Americans, began instead to broaden the economic franchise of a very small minority of Americans, usually at the expense of the majority.
This minority -- called in today’s nomenclature The One Percent -- has become the recipient of extraordinary government largess. From huge corporate subsidies, to tax breaks for the very wealthy, to deregulation of even the most fundamental economic protections (such as Glass-Steagall, which established a firewall between investment and commercial banking), to greater and greater permission given to moneyed interests to flood our political system, to the proverbial “revolving door” practice between corporate and government leaders, American social and economic policy has acted like a vacuum cleaner, taking the majority of our nation’s economic resources and sucking them into the hands of a very few.
Why would a huge multi-national corporation -- with no particular allegiance to the American worker given that it is after all a global institution -- feel any remorse about closing an American factory and relocating it in another country? Or fighting an increase in the minimum wage? Or cutting the health benefits of its workers? Or fighting fair labor practices? Or fighting labor itself? And the list goes on.
The question itself suggests that because corporations cannot feel, perhaps they should not be left to rule the world. An economic bottom line, while appropriate within a business context, is sociopathic when applied to social policy. For that which has no conscience has no business determining policies that affect hundreds of millions of lives.
Such determination, theoretically, is the government’s job. But in an age when our government has become for all intents and purposes but a handmaiden to a new corporate order – surrendering to those whom President Franklin Roosevelt called “economic royalists” -- it is left to the people ourselves to reclaim the fundamentals of economic fairness. A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” does not perpetuate the canard that by catering to its wealthiest donors it is somehow aiding the people it is meant to serve. The only way we will reclaim the U.S. economy for the benefit of the many as opposed to the benefit of the few is if we the people reclaim democracy itself.
The solution is not to redistribute wealth, but to redistribute opportunity. The solution is not to give people what they do not earn, but to return to people a fair chance of earning it. The solution is not to promote class warfare against the rich, but rather to soberly recognize that class warfare is what has been waged -- and successfully so -- against the middle and lower classes of our country over the last few decades. This is not merely unjust. It is a situation that has caused, and is causing, huge amounts of unnecessary suffering among the people of the United States, driving many middle class citizens into poverty and returning to our society the harsh reality of hunger, particularly among children, that had been drastically diminished just a few decades ago. It is time to reclaim the U.S. economy for the decency and righteousness at the heart of a true democracy.
Economic Facts to Consider:
- The 400 richest Americans are now worth a combined $2 Trillion dollars, more than the aggregate net worth of half of all Americans, with 95% of all income gains over recent years going to the top 1%.
- In 1913, Congress created our central banking system, deceptively named the Federal Reserve, although it is 100% owned and primarily operated for the benefit of its private banking corporation owners. Very few Americans understand that the banks were ceded the exclusive monopoly to create America's national money supply; and that every dollar in circulation today has been created privately, as a debt to the Federal Reserve or the banking system it heads. By so doing, Congress relinquished the US government's right to issue currency directly, making it necessary for the US government to pay interest to private bankers for the money they create virtually out of thin air.
- Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has created over $2 Trillion in interest-bearing new debt (for which American taxpayers are liable) and handed it over to Wall Street in exchange for their toxic assets. While richly rewarding Wall Street for the massive manipulations and recklessness, the Fed's zero interest policies have hurt savers, pensioners and people trying to live on fixed incomes.
- If the Fed were truly “federal” and not privately owned, it could lend the full faith and credit of the United States to state and local governments interest-free, greatly reducing the cost of infrastructure and enabling communities to address pressing local needs.