It seems to me that the “titans of industry” and politicians are living in an Alice in Wonderland world of their own making. Here is an example that is happening today in my own state. PA elected Republican Tom Corbett as governor. He took office last month and he is about to deliver a budget that is sure to be full of cuts to education, senior services, health insurance for low-income residents, child care, libraries, etc.
Meanwhile, one of Gov. Corbett’s first acts in office was to rescind the moratorium on drilling for gas in our state parks and he is about to lift a ban on drilling in state forests. He is a big proponent of of extraction of natural gas through shale that is across the state. Many people don’t even want the drilling to occur. However since it seems inevitable, a very large majority of residents want to see a tax on the extraction of the gas. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state without a tax on extraction.
Think about how easy a decision this should be for the governor.
- The majority of PA residents want to see a tax on extraction.
- The tax will help pay for many of the programs that the governor wants to eliminate.
- The tax will help pay for the impact of the drilling on local communities.
- It doesn’t put PA in a disadvantage to other states (the competition) as they all have the tax.
But, guess what. The Republicans led by Corbett oppose the tax. Why would they do that? Well, to begin with the gas industry has been throwing millions of dollars at all the states politicians. Corbett alone got $1 million in campaign contributions from the gas industry. Super Bowl tickets and trips to Dallas for the game were given out. (By the way, PA is maybe the only state that allows its elected representatives to take these kinds of trips and gifts.) The elected senators, representatives, and the governor has assured the public that will will not let their decisions be influenced by these contributions and gifts.
Here is what usually happens when voters/residents see these kinds of things going on. This type of bought and paid for government has been running wild since Watergate. As a result, instead of being aghast and mortified and bringing about an attitude of “never again,” people have developed the attitude of “Oh, look! Here’s more of the same old garbage.” And they do nothing.
A friend and I think that this happens because:
- We are still a wealthy enough nation that there has not been enough people really going hungry or homeless to create a serious uprising (and the corollary; the ruling class has been too smart to re-initiate the military draft.)
- The ruling class has spent their time and money since Watergate perfecting their ability to control public opinion and they are REALLY GOOD at it.
As long as people remain indifferent and believe they are powerless there will be no change.
How to bring about collective action amongst the diverse groups in this country is a huge challenge. Too many people (and I’m going to include most of my fellow Baby Boomers here) believe that everything will work out for the best because they think it always has. I wonder sometimes if there wasn’t some kind of magic drug in the fluoride we’ve been drinking all these years to make us immune to the theft of our way of life. The young don’t trust the Boomers, the poor don’t trust what was the middle class and the conservatives want to blame the poor for taking all those mortgages when they couldn’t afford them and now wanting social programs to feed them. And then there are those pesky immigrants living like royalty off the rest of us. Or so the liars and haters at Faux Broadcasting want you to think.
We need to come together and focus our outrage. If you’re not a politician or in the top 1% of the wealth holders in the country you need to understand you’re part of the same team. Understand this – the top 1 percent in our nation now controls 43 percent of all financial wealth. That is more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95%. That’s you, me and pretty much everyone else you know.
When the distribution of income and wealth is so skewed that 43 percent of all financial wealth is controlled by the top 1 percent of the population and when that 1 percent is intent on a long-term assault on our middle-class society we are a country in danger. Wake up! The assault is on the middle-class – not only the poor and those needing essential things like food, shelter, and medical care. The ruling class has been pumping us full of lies for over 40 years now trying to tie the loss of our way of life to the poor who are bankrupting us. It is a lie.
Is there an answer? Have you heard about US Uncut? They just came together and they are modeled after a group of a dozen friends like us in the UK who met in a pub one evening and said “Let’s do something about wealthy corporations owing millions in taxes while cuts were being made to education programs. They began UK Uncut and they got results.
It’s a start.