Who Do Republicans Work For?

Why have no Republicans turned on Trump? A corrupted Supreme Court

By Thom Hartmann/ Raw Story/ December 4, 2019

GOP

There is a very simple reason why some Republicans voted for the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, but none have so far broken ranks against Trump.

That reason is a corrupted U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1976 (Buckley v. Valeo) and 1978 (First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti), the Supreme Court ruled that when corporations and billionaires purchase their very own politicians, it is constitutionally protected “free speech” rather than “bribery,” which is how we defined it from the beginning of our republic until 1976. In 2010, the Supreme Court doubled down on its betrayal of American democracy with its Citizens Uniteddecision.

After those twin decisions in the 1970s, money from corporations and the morbidly rich began to flow into the coffers of the Republican Party, hoisting Ronald Reagan into the White House. (Democrats were then still largely funded by unions, and thus not so easily up for sale.)
As a result, today’s Republican politicians are wholly owned agents of corporations and the billionaire class, stoking extreme anger over a few social issues (immigration, guns, God, gays, race) and using it to bring in the Fox rubes that the billionaire Murdochs kindly hand them.

Prior to this betrayal of America by the Supreme Court, politicians generally felt a need to respond to the wants and needs of their constituents. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s people-powered election in 1932 to Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, politicians’ proposed legislation and votes tended to reflect what the people in their districts or states wanted.

Nixon’s impeachment hearings happened in 1974, before the Supreme Court legalized bribery—and so the Senate voted 77-0 to forward the investigation, and the House voted 412-3 to accept the Judiciary Committee’s report showing “clear and convincing evidence” of Nixon’s corruption. Republicans were more concerned about their voters than about their donors back then.

From the 1980s to today, though, as a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page shows, the political desires of the economic bottom 90 percent of Americans are completely irrelevant to the introduction or passage of legislation. But the desires of the top 10 percent of Americans are consistently passed into law and policy.

Republicans don’t want the money to stop, so they have to keep supporting Trump as he pushes the corporate- and billionaire-friendly policies of deregulation and tax cuts supported by their donors.

When the billionaires abandon Trump, so will the GOP.

It’s really just that simple.

As long as the Supreme Court continues to assert that there is absolutely nothing wrong with billionaires and corporations owning politicians, the GOP will continue to be an extension of the lobbying industry and the morbidly rich. In exchange for deregulation and tax cuts, that bunch would work to keep a gerbil in the White House, if that’s what it took.

And as long as their owners and funders continue to pay Republicans to keep Trump in office, they’ll continue to say, “How high?” every time Trump yells, “Jump!”

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of “The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America” and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

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Climate Change Is Not the Problem

Why climate change is an irrelevance, economic growth is a myth and sustainability is forty years too late

By Kevin Casey/ Global Comment/ November 20, 2019

As someone who has been exploring the world’s most isolated wilderness regions for nearly half a century, I have some insight into the state of the planet and the human race’s current environmental befuddlement. I’ve watched the condition of the earth plummet before my eyes within my own lifespan, to the extent that I no longer recognize it as the beautiful, diverse supporter of all life it once was.

So let me start by addressing a few key points of confusion that seem to affect both keen activists and head-in-the-sand deniers in equal measure:

Climate change is not the biggest threat to the world’s environment – we are. The world’s rivers and seas aren’t choked with floating piles of rubbish, toxic chemicals and plastic waste because of climate change. They’re that way because we have 7.7 billion people crammed onto a planet that’s dying under the pressure of our greedy, selfish abuse. Two decades from now, the earth’s oceans are on target to contain more plastic in them (by weight) than fish. Climate change didn’t do that. Way too many people did that.

'They sed to be thought of as crackpots.' (Sign reads - civilization is doomed due to overpopulation, pollution, misuse of energy and resources.)

Climate change hasn’t covered the world with concrete or replaced healthy ecosystems with canal estates and shopping malls – we and our ever-increasing numbers are the culprit. Climate change is only one of many symptoms of an out-of-control disease – human overpopulation. The irreversible environmental damage stemming from having too many people on a finite planet is already painfully evident. Our bloated population is diminishing our children’s futures in ways that have very little to do with the planet’s temperature.

I keep hearing people say “Humans have always found a way to solve difficult problems, so don’t worry – it’ll all work itself out”. Alas, the problem the earth faces now is one it has never dealt with before – a plague of nearly 8 billion humans. It can’t cope anymore.

We’ve been so distracted making money, embracing our agendas and spreading myths about ‘growth’ and ‘progress’ that we forgot to notice we’ve turned our only viable planetary home into a spherical garbage dump. Humans may be impressively intelligent, but they’re also profoundly self-focused and short-sighted.

No politician talks about our population epidemic. All you hear from them is ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ and ‘more growth’. You don’t hear climate change activists talking about overpopulation, either. It’s too dangerous a subject, too painful a reality. It permanently occupies the ‘too hard’ basket.

Instead, we’ve all jumped on the global warming bandwagon. We stridently blame governments for lack of action on climate change – while secretly hoping that whatever they decide to do doesn’t adversely affect our consumer lifestyle.

Let’s not confuse activism with action – they’re not the same. One is about social inclusion and feeling good about your outrage; the other is about doing something tangible to make things better.

I hate to burst this old-school bubble, but there’s no longer such a thing as economic growth – not in this century. There’s no true sustainability, either – not any more. The ‘environmental tipping point’ everyone loves to talk about was actually reached around 1980, when science tells us that humanity began to consume more of the earth’s resources than the planet could possibly regenerate. We’ve gobbled up more of our planet’s resources in the past fifty years than in all previous human history combined and polluted our way to prosperity in the process. Climate change had nothing to do with any of that – and still doesn’t.

Economic growth needs population growth to sustain itself. But when a depleted planet can no longer carry the burden of an existing population and its endless demands, growth is nothing but a dangerous illusion. Today’s ‘healthy economy’ is tomorrow’s dystopian misery.

In this century, what we still mistakenly call economic growth is environmental destruction, pure and simple. Nothing we do today can be called sustainable on a planet that has already endured four solid decades of irreplaceable resource use. The 1970s were the last sustainable decade for mankind. Unfortunately, at the time, no one took notice that a tipping point had been reached and passed.

Our current environmental woes have almost nothing to do with the climate and everything to do with how we’ve been treating the earth – not just recently but for many centuries. We’ve always abused the earth horribly and managed to get away with it because our numbers weren’t significant enough to cause lasting damage. Now our numbers are out of control, and that presents us with limited options.

In hindsight, we should have addressed rampant overpopulation shortly after WW2, when the global population was still around 2.5 billion – less than a third of what it is today. But we were in the midst of jubilant post-war optimism and still believed in the delusion of ‘nature’s endless bounty’.

If you could go back in time to around 1604, to the spot where Manhattan now sits, you would see a tiny settlement of about 150 people enjoying a pristine coastal wilderness with superb growing soil, ample wildlife and rich timber forests – a genuine paradise on earth. Back then, whales would wander up the clean, fish-rich Hudson River and you could pull lobsters out of the sea half as long as a man. Huge flocks of passenger pigeons blackened the sky.

Today, that same place is wall-to-wall concrete, with one of the highest human population densities on earth. We’ve been so busy ‘improving’ things that we’ve destroyed practically everything. In the end, our legacy as a species won’t be about all the wonderful things we’ve created while we’ve occupied the earth. It will be about all the wonderful things we’ve destroyed.

The most astounding explosion of human population in history happened on my generation’s watch, so we need to take ownership of that lack of foresight. Our own children are now paying the price for our blunders and have every right to be worried about the earth’s future – and theirs. But let’s not heap all the blame on baby boomers. Previous generations helped the planet’s degradation along just as blindly, and today’s young people still expect the sort of prosperous lifestyle that a dying planet can now only provide in the very short term.

So, I would patiently urge all climate-change activists to direct their environmental concerns at those who really deserve it. They can start with the economists, developers and politicians who blissfully believe that the status quo of ‘perpetual growth’ still works. They can then move on to the religious zealots who still spout the mantra of ‘man’s dominion over nature’ and abhor the idea of contraceptives. After that, they can apportion a hefty dose of blame to the world leaders who purposefully sidestep the overpopulation issue like the political hot potato it is, despite the fact that it’s killing our planet and robbing future generations of the spectacular biodiversity and viable ecosystems that older generations took for granted. And finally, they can look in the mirror and ask themselves what they are personally doing (besides protesting in the streets) to make their planet a better place for all the life that dwells on it.

What are the solutions to an overcrowded planet? Firstly, to stop getting sidetracked by the climate change industry and recognize that the problem is our sheer numbers and blatant disregard for the planet’s health – not the climate. We must replace political and economic agendas and warped ideologies with better education (especially in science). We need more global promotion of family planning, more female empowerment and government incentives to have fewer children – not more. And sadly, we should have been proactive about all this stuff at least 60 years ago, instead of just waking up to our self-inflicted predicament now.

While it’s reassuring that today’s young people are increasingly aware of the seriousness of their environmental plight, they are protesting up the wrong tree. They should direct their passionate attention to the real enemy – a greedy, arrogant, two-legged species that’s in furious denial and has become far too adept at making excuses for the inexcusable.

Posted in Climate, climate change, environment, overpopulation | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Life of the Potty

My silly and quirky children’s book is now available at Amazon as an ebook and a paperback….

newest-cover-2

Click Here: Amazon.com: Now in Paperback.

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OLIGARCH NATION

Revenge of the Billionaires: How an Oligarchy of the Morbidly Rich Can Take Down Democracy

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ November 22, 2019 

 

The current issue of the Atlantic magazine founded itself in the years just before the Civil War, is ominously titled, “How to Stop a Civil War.”

If we are, indeed, on the brink of a second Civil War, it’s already being waged as a “cold war,” with the occasional armed skirmish being provoked by the so-called alt-right movement. And, as in the past, this will be a war by the very, very rich against the rest of America.

This is not the first time we’ve faced such a crisis as a nation.

 

Each time, forces of massive accumulated or inherited wealth have nearly succeeded in taking full control of our nation, replacing a democracy, where the will of the people is accomplished through their elected representatives, with a form of government where most government functions reinforce the power, wealth and control of the morbidly rich.

 

This system of government is among the most ancient, stretching back 7,000 years, and is known to political scientists as oligarchyAristotle put it in context: “Tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy…”

For oligarchy to totally take down democracy, only three things are initially needed:
  • Control of (or substantial influence over) a critical portion of the media
  • Legalization of bribery of public officials, so oligarchs can achieve majority control of the legislative process
  • Control of the most critical parts of the court system so they can control legal processes

A fourth element, once the oligarchy is well established, is the formation of a police state, principally using selective prosecution against those agitating for a return to democracy.

Arnold Toynbee is said to have noted that “When the last man who remembers the horrors of the last great war dies, the next great war becomes inevitable.” Most warriors are in their late teens or early 20s; by the time they’ve died, three more generations have come of age, suggesting, if Toynbee was right, a four-generation gap between “great wars.”

In their book The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous With Destiny, William Strauss and Neil Howe apply the theory to the United States. The Revolutionary War began in 1775; 86 years later in 1861, the Civil War began; 78 years later in 1939, America was combatting “the twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II,” write Strauss and Howe, adding: “Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with” these crises.

The three crises did not simply come out of nowhere; cycles of events had been building for the preceding generations to create the context for each.

In the 1770s, foreign-aligned oligarchs controlled what we now call America; believers in democracy fought a war to overthrow that British oligarchy.

Four generations later, in the 1850s, massive wealth was controlled by a few thousand very large plantation oligarchs in the South. The South was politically and police-wise run as a full-blown oligarchy, while the North was still largely democratic (the “Gilded Age” Northern oligarchs wouldn’t fully emerge for another 30 years). The Civil War could thus be recast as a war between oligarchy and democracy, where democracy won by a whisker.

About four generations after that, in 1921, Warren Harding and his oligarch supporters took control of our federal government, leading to the “Roaring Twenties” (in which working people’s wages stagnated, but people at the top made out like bandits), and the Great Crash of 1929. The Republican Great Depression (what they called it until the 1950s) opened the door to Franklin Roosevelt’s “war” against the “economic royalists” (oligarchs), which succeeded in putting them, at least temporarily, in a box despite their explicit efforts, exposed by Marine General Smedley Butler, to overthrow him by force.

In 2019, it’s been about four generations since that battle—and the groundwork has been laid for another crisis.

In the 1970s, America’s oligarchs succeeded in getting enough of “their guys” placed on the Supreme Court to, in 1976 and 1978, legalize political bribery for the first time in American history. This opened the door to oligarchic control of all three branches of government via the Reagan Revolution.

All that was left was to get the populace to support a final transition to oligarchy, a task undertaken by oligarchs who controlled the media, largely Clear Channel/Rush Limbaugh and billionaire Rupert Murdoch with Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

As a result, we are no longer a functioning democratic republic; we are now operating as an oligarchy.

The argument for oligarchic control is the same argument that’s been made by “conservatives” through history, from Thomas Hobbes to Sir Edmund Burke to Warren Harding and Donald Trump.

“With us in charge, we will keep you safe and happy and you really don’t need to concern yourself with the complicated work of governance. You don’t want to ‘tear down’ or ‘shake up’ the system: having a stable group of very wealthy people control the government has always led to the greatest level of stability and peace—look how stable Europe was for a thousand years when royal families and their landed gentry ruled. We’re the ones chosen by God or a brilliant DNA lineage to lead. Just go shopping and leave things to us.”

Starting in the 1980s, oligarchy was sold to us by “conservative” religious figures (“Saint Reagan,” G.W. Bush was a godly man, Trump is King Cyrus, John Calvin was right that being rich is a sign of God’s blessing so nations are best run by rich people), as well as oligarch-owned media.

Starting in the past decade, this sales pitch has extended itself to a massive social media ecosystem majority-owned by a handful of American oligarchs, some of whom have expressed confusion about democratic governance and all of whom have directly or indirectly bought control of large numbers of local, state and federal legislators.

This led us from the “oligarch-friendly” President Reagan, to the conversion, in 1992, of the Democratic Party via the Democratic Leadership Council to become “oligarch-friendly” itself (a legacy it’s today struggling to undo). In 2016, oligarchs like Robert Mercer and Charles Koch finally put an oligarch himself, Donald Trump, in the White House.

When, in 2015, I asked former President Jimmy Carter what he thought the consequences were of Supreme Court decisions like Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United that made all this possible, he replied:

“It [the Citizens United decision] violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and Congress members.

“So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”

That same year, then-Vice President Joe Biden said, “you have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached. … It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position, then you conclude they’re wrong [and] vote no.”

As former Vice President Al Gore wrote in his 2013 book The Future: “American democracy has been hacked. … The United States Congress … is now incapable of passing laws without permission from the corporate lobbies and other special interests that control their campaign finances.”

And, in 2015 while campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, oligarch Donald Trump candidly said, “I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.”

In 2014, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page (Princeton, Northwestern) demonstrated that we ceased to be a functioning democracy by classical definitions sometime in the late 20th century, and have been, as President Carter said, an oligarchy (my term, not theirs: they call it “Economic-Elite Domination”) since then.

The difference between now and the 1860s is that the oligarchic control is no longer regional; it’s national. Instead of the North and the South fighting each other, it’s now Free Speech TV viewers facing off with their Fox News–viewing neighbors.

The Koch oligarchy machine, for example, has branches in every state, and pretty much every county. Oligarchy-supporting media are ubiquitous.

And now Very Serious People are talking about the possibility of a second Civil War.

What they’re not pointing out, though, is that it won’t just be a war of white supremacists and Trump cultists against the rest of us, as they generally narrate, but a war between those comfortable with oligarchy (indeed, embracing it, as it promises them safety and stability) versus those who believe in democracy.

This is a crisis point for our nation as real and critical as those we hit in 1776, 1861, and 1932. In each of those three cases—roughly four generations apart—the oligarchs lost the battle. This time they could win.

America needs an honest discussion of what’s really going on in this country right now, what the real conflict is, and who the real players are (and why they’re playing). The conflict is playing out on a series of meta-layers (race, class, religion, regionality), all designed to conceal the real war the oligarchs are waging against democracy itself, and those conflicts will continue to intensify until one side or the other has won what is now still a “cold war.”

Then comes the threat of a real Civil War breaking out, and an informed populace is the best defense against it.

If the forces of democracy can succeed in seizing enough power to temporarily hobble the oligarchs, then they need to immediately restore local control to the media (undoing the 1996 Telecommunications Act and breaking up the media conglomerates) and reinstate a ban on the “right” of oligarchs to own politicians and political parties by overturning several Supreme Court decisions since 1976. Repairing the damage done to our court systems will take longer, but needs to begin immediately.

On the other hand, if the oligarchs decide to promote an actual “hot” Civil War on the forces of democracy—as Southern oligarchs did in 1861—then parts of America that are still functioning democracies (California comes to mind—there has been discussion of various “compacts” between the three West Coast states, possibly joining with a few Eastern Seaboard states) must consider some form of independence, whether it be “soft independence” like California declared when they established their own air quality standards or some form of partial independence or succession.

This moment of oligarchy-caused crisis is a time of great danger to America, and, thus, also to still-functioning democracies all over the world.

As oligarchs reach out and extend their control over nation after nation (now having seized, in just the past few decades, either soft or hard control over Russia, India, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Brazil, and dozens of other nations) the battlegrounds are shifting to Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France.

Because the oligarch’s campaign is now international, a third world war is not impossible, particularly as China allies itself with the oligarch-controlled nations against those that are still functioning or nearly functioning democracies.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

billionaires

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

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Impeachable: Denying Climate Change

Trump’s Worst Impeachable Offense Hurts the Whole World

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan/ Democracy Now/ November 7, 2019

climate

You can run from the climate crisis, but you can’t hide. On the front lines of this global environmental calamity, entire communities are being consumed by fire, submerged by typhoons and hurricanes, or baked under the sun amid historic droughts. President Donald Trump, the climate change denier in chief, has formally begun the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. Originally signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, the accord established a cooperative, global path to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) above preindustrial levels. The United States is now the only nation on the planet that has pulled out of the agreement. A new statement signed by over 11,000 scientists from over 150 countries warns of “untold suffering” unless global society undergoes a “major transformation.” Trump’s denial of the climate crisis is unconscionable and should be added to the articles of impeachment against him.

One Trump official with a role in both the climate crisis and in the impeachment proceedings is Wells Griffith, currently a special assistant to the president and senior director for international energy and environment for the National Security Council, serving under departing Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Griffith is a longtime Republican operative who served as deputy chief of staff to Reince Priebus when Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee.

Wells Griffith’s appointment to the Department of Energy makes sense; his family has run a gas station in Mobile, Alabama, for over 50 years. Griffith moved from pumping gas to pushing coal, successfully negotiating the sale of 700,000 metric tons of coal from Pennsylvania to Ukraine in 2017.

He then showed up as the top representative of the Trump administration at the U.N.’s “COP 24” climate conference in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018. The U.S. held just one public event during the two-week summit, which Griffith chaired, promoting fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Amid mocking laughter and a walkout by protesters, he stated, “We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.”

Afterward, we approached Griffith in a large central hall of the convention center (which was designed to look like the coal mine that it was built on top of) to ask questions for the “Democracy Now!” news hour. To our shock, rather than answering, he bolted, first walking quickly, then running away. Cameras rolling, we ran after him, asking questions as we weaved in and out of the crowd of climate negotiators, scientists and activists.

“Do you agree with President Trump calling climate change a hoax? Can you talk about why the U.S. is here, since President Trump is saying he’s pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord? Can you talk about why you’re pushing coal?” He dodged our questions, but did accuse us of harassing him. “A reporter asking you a question, sir, is not harassment,” we replied.

Just this Tuesday, Wells Griffith continued his refusal to answer questions when he failed to appear before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s closed-door session of the Trump impeachment inquiry.

While public testimony is expected to begin next week, an unrelated court case is wrapping up in a New York state courtroom. New York is suing ExxonMobil, alleging the fossil fuel giant defrauded its investors for years by understating the risk that climate change posed to shareholder value. Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil and Trump’s first secretary of state, testified at length under oath. He repeatedly claimed he could not recall details when grilled by the New York state attorneys.

Outside the courtroom, 30 children participating in the Fridays for Future weekly climate strike engaged in a die-in. Thirteen-year-old Maria Riker told us, “We held the die-in for 42 minutes, one minute for each of the 42 years that Exxon was aware of the dangers of climate change but lied about it.”

Tillerson’s successor, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announced Monday, via tweet, “Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.” Trump declared that the U.S. would withdraw in June 2017, but legal procedures in place when the agreement was signed have prevented the formal exit until now.

In response, 350.org founder and author Bill McKibben said on “Democracy Now!,” “The fossil fuel industry had its most profitable years in the last three decades. On the other hand, we’re now missing half the sea ice in the summer Arctic. The Great Barrier Reef is half-dead. The oceans are 30% more acidic. California is on fire more weeks than not. We’re in deep, deep trouble.”

The climate crisis imperils the planet. To deny it is impeachable, the highest of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Amy

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Media Madness

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The Non-Sunshine State

Has the climate crisis made California too dangerous to live in?

By Bill McKibben/ The Guardian/ October 29, 2019

As with so many things, Californians are going first where the rest of us will follow

The San Francisco skyline is shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the north part of the state.

The San Francisco skyline is shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the north part of the state. Photograph: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Associated Press

Monday morning dawned smoky across much of California, and it dawned scary – over the weekend winds as high as a hundred miles an hour had whipped wildfires through forests and subdivisions.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened – indeed, it’s happened every year for the last three – and this time the flames were licking against communities destroyed in 2017. Reporters spoke to one family that had moved into their rebuilt home on Saturday, only to be immediately evacuated again.

The spectacle was cinematic: at one point, fire jumped the Carquinez Strait at the end of San Francisco Bay, shrouding the bridge on Interstate 80 in smoke and flame.

Even areas that didn’t actually burn felt the effects: Pacific Gas and Electric turned off power to millions, fearful that when the wind tore down its wires they would spark new conflagrations.

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Intergalactic Exchange Student

Just in case anyone is interested…..Now on Amazon as a Kindle ebook…….

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CAPITALISM WORKS GREAT–EXCEPT WHEN IT DOESN’T

By Arlen Grossman

Published at OpEd News, October 5, 2019

 

Democracy, if we ever truly had it, is rapidly disappearing in America today. If most people want background checks for guns, universal health care, a higher minimum wage, action to limit climate change, and higher taxes for the wealthy, which they do, the government will not allow these to happen. Same for most other important issues, both locally and nationally.

The reason is because our favored political system, capitalism, and its inevitable corollary, greed, has increasingly devoured what we used to call democracy (or republic, if you prefer). As everyone knows, money is power, as well as being the symbol of success in our consumer culture.

America's Value System
                                                            America’s Value System

                                                                (Image by 401(K) 2013)   Details   DMCA

Here’s a challenge: name an important problem in America today that is not caused or exasperated by capitalistic greed. I maintain it will be very hard to do. That is because those who control our country, big corporations and billionaires, dominate Congress and other decision-making institutions in the United States. They make the rules.

Let me make clear that capitalism, also called free enterprise or the free market, the basis of our economic system, is not inherently bad. In fact, there is no other economic system that has proven to be more innovative, creative, and productive than capitalism. But without the necessary checks and balances, unrestricted capitalism becomes out-of-control capitalism, which has led us to where we are today, an America that has lost its bearing and is floundering in a sea of debt, poverty, injustice, and fear.

Think about it. Climate change, poor health care, mass shootings, environmental destruction, computer breaches and hacking, easily available pornography, election fraud, financial crimes, poverty, and of course, nuclear weapons and wars, can be instigated or worsened by greed. There may be a few problems and issues unrelated to money and greed, but not many.

Being essentially amoral, and human nature being what it is, an unregulated free market will invariably fall prey to the forces of greed. It will inevitably spin out of control and turn into a voracious monster, plundering everything in its path. That is what is happening right now in this country, with a few powerful corporations and billionaires accumulating an unprecedented and disproportionate share of this great country’s wealth, leaving the rest of us scrambling to pick up what few crumbs we can find.

All the little stuff, the outrage of the week, the big news story of the day, the latest screw-up by a famous politician or celebrity, it’s all a distraction (don’t forget, the major media is owned by a few big corporations). If we don’t fix the systemic problems, our slide into the junk heap of history is inevitable.

More than just our smaller paychecks, failing schools, bloated military, and the other results of the Darwinian drift of our economy, the worse damage out-of-control capitalism has done has been to our psyche. It has eviscerated our collective soul, purging Americans of our most decent instincts and values. We have been left with a country that is no longer offering the promise of the Great American Dream, and is no longer a beacon of hope and possibility for the rest of the world. Instead, America is all about greed, materialism, and the accumulation of wealth.

Where once Americans cared about each other, we now distrust one another. Where once we strived to erase poverty, we now ignore or disdain it. Where once peace was a priority, we now unquestioningly accept perpetual war. Where once we were concerned for civil liberties, we now look the other way as our privacy and rights disappear. Where once we valued truth and facts, we now ignore them in favor of winning an argument or scoring a political win. Where once we cared about improving lives, we now give priority to accumulating money and cutting taxes.

Can this be changed? I wish there were an easy answer. Unfortunately, the billionaires and big corporations seem to have already won. They have the most power and influence in our country and, because of lobbying and legalized bribery in government, control the media and the politicians who can effect change.

A major overhaul of our political and economic systems is desperately needed. Where it will come from is, at this time, unclear. But if we don’t rein in the excesses of capitalism, we will become like the Romans, just one more failed empire for future students to read about in history books.

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Scary Word

Socialism

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