Plutocratic Discourse and the American Proletariat
Many United States citizens fail to question the standard beliefs of, and conventional wisdom about, our nation. And who can blame them? Too many people barely make ends meet, don’t have the time needed to read or question the misinformation spewed from your average media outlet and are educated in a system that no longer has “critical thinking” in their curriculum.
The unquestioned beliefs include: “we have a free market economy”, “competition is good”, “an adversarial justice system is just”, “socialism is bad”, “our nation is exceptional”, “a rising stock market helps everyone” and “with hard work, everyone can make it.” If you look beyond the sloganeering for the status quo in the United States, you realize how unjustified and false these beliefs are. I address a few of them here.
The corporate owned media focuses on the interests of corporations and fails to report on the fundamental problems of our economy and political system. Why would corporate media challenge corporate dominance of our nation? And largely corporate funded NPR does little better. For example, NPR reports on the raising of the minimum wage by quoting a restaurant industry official’s false statements that raising the minimum wage would cost jobs. They failed to question, or apparently talk to, economists who study the minimum wage. What we get from NPR and other outlets is the corporate take on the issue, the unproven and historically inaccurate idea that a raise in the minimum wage costs jobs.
The Elite Don’t like “Free Markets” Like they Say they Do
The commonly promoted idea is that the United States has a free market economy. We don’t, nor is a free market possible. Corporatists in Congress pass laws that control the market for the benefit of the wealthy: lower taxes, low rent on public land, reduced regulations, tax exemptions and other forms of corporate welfare. But if it is a raise in the minimum wage, protections for workers, collective bargaining, equal pay, it is suddenly an attack on the free market.
Plutocrats promote the idea of a free market because it means if you’re poor, it’s your fault. The markets are free, so why can’t you make it? It is the character of the poor that makes them poor. The myth is that rich people make it on their own merit, so why don’t you? Thus, the radical right-libertarian Koch brothers, members in Congress and governors across this nation beholden to corporations are calling for an elimination of the minimum wage. The only free market they really like is the market that allows them to pay starvation wages and not pay their share of taxes for the benefits they receive.
“ ‘It’s not about tax policy, it’s about benefiting the political class and the well-connected and the well-heeled in this country,’ Said Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. The Senate approved tax benefits for Whirlpool and a host of other corporations early on New Year’s Day, a couple of hours after the ball dropped over Times Square and champagne corks began popping. A smorgasbord of 43 business and energy tax breaks, collectively worth $67 billion this year, was packed into the emergency tax legislation that avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff.’’ ” Yes, it is a happy free market for those that can control it. That is the kind of welfare the rich like, for it makes them richer.
A free market would create uncertainty, and it is the job of CEOs and portfolio managers to reduce uncertainly. They want to control the market, like the robber barons of the late 19th Century did.
Our Democracy is not About Ideas as We Broadcast
Our elections are not free and fair as is demonstrated by wealthy individuals and corporations donating millions of dollars to win elections for their candidates. And after their time in Congress, Senators and House Members often get high paying jobs with corporations (Wall Street, banks, and consulting for military contractors and other industries) that they were once supposed to regulate. Despite this and other problems with our electoral system, we pretend that our elections are free and fair. It is against the interests of major media outlets to report on how elections are bought and paid for since their owners, GE, Disney, Viacom, and a few others, benefit from this arrangement.
Vote purging also makes our elections less than democratic. Republicans are particularly enamored of purging voter rolls of suspect voters, voters they suspect will vote Democratic such as African Americans, youth, Latinos and women. Congressional candidates with the largest campaign coffers win 90% of their elections. Moreover, Republicans control the House by 33 seats with 1.4 million fewer votes than House Democrats received due to the gerrymandering of seats by Republican controlled state legislatures. Getting elected to national office is not about ideas; it’s about money and rigging the system to win.
Even if we are informed, able to vote, and not fooled by advertising, there is another problem with voting: limited choices. If we want to vote for candidates that win, we vote Democratic or Republican. Certainly, many of us vote for a third party, but they rarely win. And too many people vote for one party out of spite or fear of a victory by the "crazy party", not because they feel good about their choice.
The two corporate funded and run parties will stay in power as long as our current electoral system is in place. As I wrote elsewhere, “Democrats and Republicans get millions of dollars in donations from corporations and wealthy individuals to NOT change the inequality in this nation. By voting, you are deciding what party will do less harm, not which party will make our nation a better place.”
In our nation, socialism is demeaned as “anti-American” by power brokers. The problem is that few people know what socialism really is. The label has become malleable, so like the term “evil”, it can be placed on those we disagree with even if it is inaccurate. Fox News is especially happy to use the socialist label to attack things they dislike, like a Black President.
Socialism is the sharing of common resources to benefit the whole, thus the U.S. has many socialist enterprises. We have the post office, national highways, libraries, public schools, unemployment insurance, Medicare among other public goods that pool economic resources, taxes, to help people. Everyone in this nation benefits from some of the socialism (public spending) in our economy. We are also fundamentally a capitalist nation, promoting the idea of free enterprise in farming, production of consumer goods, and big box stores. We are a mixed economy, like all others nations in the world. You wouldn’t know that listening to the main stream media where “socialism” is seen as evil or something only dictators like Stalin, Mao and Kim Jung-Un practice.
If the economic rulers of this nation can make us believe that “socialism is evil”, they can sell the idea that all public spending is evil and must be eliminated. Of course they are talking about Social Security, food stamps and other programs that help individuals and families, not military spending or corporate welfare. Therefore, Obama is a socialist who is trying to push socialized medicine down our throats. People don’t call the President a socialist when he signs a farm bill that doles out billions of dollars to factory farms.
The Poor are Entitled; the Well Bred earned their Wealth
Another term that conservatives have captured the meaning of, much like “liberal,” is the term “entitlements.” Somehow programs like Social Security, programs Americans have paid into all their lives, are now an “entitlement.” And entitlements are bad. The truth is, we are entitled to the money we put in the program and we earned with our labor. Even the New York Times buys into the right’s use of the term “entitlements” when discussing Social Security.
The wealthy believe they earned the rich families they were born into. The nation’s attention is focused on entitlements for the poor and how we can cut them instead of looking at social welfare as a social benefit. “Alot of that has to do with how the Democrats (including the President) use the word, which isn't surprising given how the Dems buy into the right-wing framework on deficits and the economy as a whole.” Then again, the President and Democrats are one half of the two party monopoly that work for the wealthy in this nation.
Like the word socialism, entitlement has taken on a negative connotation through the ways it is used, “…the word "entitled" has been used almost exclusively as a cudgel-word by the right wing, perhaps it is easier to see why using the term "entitlements" to describe SS and Medicare is done deliberately to maximize the negative connotations commonly associated with that word in society today. It's attaching the "moocher" stigma to Social Security.” (ibid) Today, helping people live a decent life is seen as a bad idea while giving largess to wealthy corporations and individuals who don't need the help is seen as good. We have heard the false, negative language about “entitlements” (handouts, stealing, giveaways, creating dependency) repeated for so long that it is now easier to cut Social Security and other programs that benefit much of the public.
The Stock Market is A Leading Indicator of the Health of a Nation, or so we are told
Every afternoon on NPR, CNN, Fox News and a multitude of networks and cable outlets, we hear the stock market report. The market rising is touted as an indication of a healthy economy, at least on the air and from portfolio managers. However, many economists are more circumspect about the benefits of the stock market to the whole economy.
Whenever there is a sharp rise in the market, there is a dangerous rise in credit to buy stocks, people buying on margin. That was one of the main causes of the crash in 1929, the latest “readjustment” in 2008 and throughout our history. It’s happening now. So in reality, a rising market isn’t necessarily a sign of economic strength; it’s more likely a sign that a market crash is coming.
“Nobel economists like Joseph Stiglitz…and other modern thinkers all warn us that traditional economists (and the banks, businesses and government agencies they work for) are addicted to bad economic theories…The worst offender, GDP is a narrow, misleading measure of America’s long-term growth. And second, our obsessive focus on short-term numbers, daily stock closings, quarterly earnings, annual returns, is stunting America’s long-term growth.”
A better indicator of economic health would be real unemployment, ALL people out of work that want to work, and not the misleading government statistic on unemployment that counts only people receiving unemployment payments. Other and better indicators of economic health include poverty levels and economic inequality. But you won’t hear those reports every afternoon in the mainstream news. The rulers of the nation wouldn’t want to panic people.
Shut Up You Libtard! No, you shut up you Conservatard!
One of the most successful techniques for dividing the people is the supposed liberal/conservative divide in our politics. However, this is false bifurcation, and it keeps the lower classes fighting useless arguments amongst themselves while the rich work to advance their economic and political positions.
Do you think the CEO of Walmart cares if you are liberal or conservative? Do you think the Koch brothers care? They only care that these labels keep the people divided against each other and not against them. In reality, the divide is between the haves and the have nots and have somes. So the public fights over abortion, guns, party politics, Hillary versus Warren or Biden, Tea Party versus “traditional” Republicans and other useless nonsense when what we all want is a job, a home, food and security. Those peripheral arguments prevent people from uniting in common cause.
The plutocrats are running the debate that keeps their talking points as the only acceptable option. Don’t buy it. Republicans promote the myth of the self-made man, trickle-down economics, tax cuts creating jobs, and many more falsehoods they use to justify cuts in social programs while pushing for privatized schools, prisons and other public works.
What the Democrats do is more insidious. They take donations from their base, workers, union members, environmentalists, and other less well-off people and turn around and take money from most the same corporations and billionaires the Republicans take from. Then Democrats proceed to find excuses for why they “have to be reasonable” and work with the Republicans to defund public programs and increase funding for the military and corporate largess. It is time to take back the discourse and challenge the lies. One way to start is by only supporting candidates that truly support the people while working to change the electoral system.