People who know me well know that I’m not a significant math whiz.
Truth be told, when I have taken mathematics courses in college, I caught on quickly, but was bored at how slow it went. Sitting around waiting for the rest of the class to “get” quadratic equations, sines or cosines, and other mathematical concepts that I no longer remember distressed the crap out of me. I’ve often lamented, though, that I didn’t stick with it, because mathematics is a) important and b) something like pool or golf or tennis — the more you play with it, the better you get; stop playing, and your skills flush right down the poo-poo pot. (Sorry. I just really wanted to use that phrase.)
You don’t need incredible skill with mathematics, though, to understand my oft-repeated fear that the United States is headed for the Dark Ages and the average American is headed for serfdom. Anyone who manages their own household finances can figure it out.
Rowan gives an outline of how that’s happening and what it will look like by discussing the looting of Russia by capitalists after the end of the Cold War. It’s plausible, scary and the rich oil corporations that milked Russia are doing the same thing right now to America as well.
His post reminds me of the nightmares I had as I struggled through Peter Peterson’s Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It (2004). If you look at that book, do not make it — as I did — the last thing you read at night.
The shame of it is that only “average Americans” working together can stop this. And the possibility of that happening is extremely unlikely, particularly when you consider that the people who are ultimately responsible have successfully brainwashed those average Americans into helping with the project. Like the Borg, they have assimilated most of us. As with those assimilated by the Borg, those assimilated by Corporate America, a.k.a., the Bush Administration, no longer are capable of free and independent thought, let alone action.
At the risk of sounding like a 1960s-style pinko, a.k.a., commie-bastard, a.k.a., socialist sympathizer, this is why the founding generation of Americans were individualists. Unfortunately for us, they believed that the laws that controlled corporations — including limitations on corporate “lives” — would endure forever. So they didn’t build safeguards into the Constitution to protect us — the owners of the government — from corporate take-over. (No doubt, they thought the fact that the government they created was limited to its “enumerated powers” and that the people were clear that they had certain unalienable rights — and, under the Ninth Amendment, all other rights not expressly given up to the government — protected us. Consequently, corporate seizure of governmental powers would be pointless, because it could not be used against the people. As we’ve come to learn, the government refuses to be limited by the Constitution and not even our unalienable rights are unalienable.)
Corporations are unconstrained naturally by the infirmities of mere mortals. They don’t have to die because, in reality, they don’t have lives. They can’t be physically wounded or catch colds. Unless we build them into the corporate charter, as the Founders of our Great Nation did, they don’t have handicaps. When you combine that with the legal evolution of the last 70 to 100 years or so, wherein they seized our government, obtained “artificial personhood” complete with the creation of the legal fiction that the protections of the Bill of Rights are applicable to them, ordinary human beings are incapable of competing. We die. We get sick. We have natural handicaps. And most of us cannot acquire huge amounts of capital with which to purchase advertising to brainwash and squash those who might otherwise hinder us.
I used to think that my wife and I didn’t really have to worry about this, because we don’t have any kids to leave behind to suffer what’s coming. And it’s been clear for decades that it’s coming.
Unfortunately, I no longer believe that it’s going to wait to hit until after we’re gone. It could very well be the thing that does us in.
This is where a little skill with mathematics — and common sense — would help us. Add up the costs of things like the war in Iraq (and I’m not even talking about the human costs; just add up the money for now). Look at the obscene profits being drained away from the poor by the rich. Consider the huge tax cuts they’ve received.
On that last point, take a serious look at your own tax return. After the Bush Administration’s 2001 tax cut, the Treasury Department reported that “91 million taxpayers will receive, on average, a tax cut of $1,126.” Wow. That’s almost enough to rent an apartment in Fresno for two months. Sounds like a lot.
Did you know there are approximately 295 million people in the United States? So “91 million taxpayers” means less than one-third of Americans got that whopping huge tax cut of $1,126. And, by the way, if those folks are home-owners, forget what I said about paying the rent for two months. That $1,126 won’t even cover one month of the average mortgage in my neighborhood!
Half the people of the United States earn less than $43,000 per year. (That, by the way, has not changed much since the mid-1960s.) And it’s dropping according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau in August 2004. That same report says that the number of people living in poverty in the United States has increased since 2002. I guess those tax cuts really helped, nu? To cap things off, “the official poverty definition uses money income before taxes” so some people are above the poverty line — until they pay their taxes. (Carmen DeNavas-Walt, et al. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003 (August 2004) U.S. Department of Commerce/Economics and Statistics Bureau/U.S. Census Bureau.)
The tax cuts benefited people depending upon their level of income. In terms of real dollars, it’s easier to understand if you divide the United States taxpayers up into five groups. The middle group received about $217. Yep. That’s right. Two-hundred and seventeen dollars. That buys a couple of nights in a hotel. In 2005, tax cuts are expected to bring the middle fifth another $162. (Robert Greenstein and Isaac Shapiro Many Middle-Class Families Likely Will Wind Up as Net Losers From The “Middle-Class” Tax Cut Legislation (September 28, 2004) Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.) So there. You get another night in a hotel.
Even those with incomes between $200,000 and $500,000 are expected to get back only $2,390 actual cash in 2005. Meanwhile, those making over $1 million per year will receive breaks worth as much as $136,398! (William Gale, et al. The Ultimate Burden of Tax Cuts (June 2004) Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)
As the Gale report says in its opening paragraph,
Popular discussions about the advisability of recent tax cuts have frequently ignored a simple truism: someone, somewhere, at some time will have to pay for them. The payment may be in the form of increases in other taxes, reductions in government programs, or some combination of the two; the payment may occur now or later; it may be transparent or hidden. But iron laws of arithmetic and fiscal solvency tell us that the payment has to occur. (William Gale, et al. The Ultimate Burden of Tax Cuts (June 2004) Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)
“Iron laws of arithmetic and fiscal solvency tell us that the payment has to occur.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, when I use my credit card, I ultimately have to pay the bill. Right now, the government is borrowing like mad. It costs money to run a government. It costs money to have an army of bureaucrats, politicians, congresspeople — not to mention an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corp to handle both our defense and the war in Iraq. Throw in Social Security, MediCare and other government programs and “someone, somewhere, at some time will have to pay for them”!
Why do you think the Bush Administration is so eager to do away with Social Security through the pretense of “privatizing” it? Sound like a good idea? Ask Enron employees how well-protected their privatized retirement plans were.
This is what “deficit” means, folks! When there’s a deficit it means you’re spending more money than you have. So you can either cut spending or find a way to increase the amount of money you have. It’s really that simple. It doesn’t change just because it’s the government doing the spending. “Iron laws of arithmetic and fiscal solvency tell us that the payment has to occur.”
The Bush Administration has given so much money to the rich through tax cuts that even cutting social programs isn’t enough. That’s why Congress recently raised the limit on the government’s credit card to $800 billion. (Associated Press Congress OKs $800B debt limit increase (November 19, 2004) via MSNBC.) We have to borrow more!
And think about it: All this is so the middle-fifth of taxpayers receive a few hundred dollars in tax cuts while the richest people receive thousands — depending on financing calculations, over one-hundred-and-thirty thousand. Who do you think is going to bear the brunt of the ultimate pay-off? I’ve heard people say, “It’s about time the government gave back some of my money.” They didn’t give back your money! They gave back your kids money! They gave you money they don’t yet have!
Just because Americans have never been serfs before, folks, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Look to the so-called Great Depression. What’s happening today has the potential to make that look like a great big workers’ vacation. At least some of those folk could run into the hills and forage or grow their own veggies.
Try that in the middle of a city of a million people.
Unfortunately, allowing all this to happen is as easy as shopping at Wal-Mart. Preventing it won’t so easy. Especially since most of us don’t know that it’s happening, let alone how.
What we need is to develop a little healthy fear of corporations and more loathing for the Bush acolytes who support them above real people.