Class warfare doesn’t mean 1917. Class warfare is what the rich are perpetrating against the rest of us, particularly the poor, right now.
The worst part of the American economic condition is not the inexorable rise of the ultra-wealthy. The worst part is that decades of eroding pay and political conditions for people at the other end of the scale put an unforgivable number of us into poverty, and that conditions continue to decline for them and for the middle class.
Almost all of the social ills plaguing us today derive from the long wasting disease afflicting wages for low and middle income workers, all while power manipulations by the rich have created a new class of ultra rich. Since the Reagan era, the anti-democratic trend has been to take increasing amounts of everyone’s money and give it to the rich. There is no doubt about this trend; it’s quite real. According to conservative Republican mythology, the rich would then use their wealth to bring prosperity to everyone else. There has never been a time in history when this was true, and now is no exception.
Health care, for example, is a basic need denied to increasing millions of people who can no longer afford private insurance, who are then forced to go to ER for non-emergency conditions, since we, alone among modern nations, don’t have an efficient medical system available to everyone. Who pays for the expensive ER visits? Not the ultra-rich. We pay for it, through higher taxes, which have far greater effect on the middle class than on the rich. The poor pay hugely through statistically proven declining health and early death.
Wage for the working poor, who perform valuable services, and whose work requires thought, understanding, and skills, has been falling for years, locking them into poverty. They reach retirement age, but income over their entire working life has been too low to save adequately for retirement, so they can’t retire. But the working life is hard on the body, and many cannot continue working either, and they are plunged into deep poverty, living only on Social Security, which conservatives want to abolish, and emergency help for the destitute.
Look at any aspect of American life and you will see the deleterious effect of the hoarding of our national wealth at the very top. These people are not the job and wealth creators they claim to be. They are Kali, the Hindu goddess, in her earth-destroyer mode. The ultra-wealthy control Congress through campaign donations and constant meddling in the legislative and regulatory processes. Proof is found in the 25% increase of net worth in Congress (half of whose members are millionaires) over the past two years, at the same time that millions of Americans saw their livelihoods ruined, savings wiped out, jobs and homes gone. Conservatives and the very rich have pressed persistently for destruction of laws and regulations for safety and environment whose effects they don’t personally feel, and the results are an eroded quality of life for everyone but themselves.
No branch of government, no political party, is doing nearly enough to restore basic wealth to all Americans, to restore any kind of balance we can claim is democracy. Republicans in particular have utterly failed to propose realistic steps to repair the damage they themselves inflicted. Their total effort has been to oppose Obama and the American people.
Ronald Reagan’s duplicitous pronouncement, after three decades of free market corruption, has been fulfilled: the government is now the problem.
But the proximate cause of our economic crisis was reckless gambling by Wall Street bankers, freed to wreak havoc by rich manipulators’ destruction of regulatory restraints. Yet we have seen only two convictions of investment bankers and two indictments of fraud-prone mortgage bankers. Were the regulations so thoroughly destroyed that trashing the world economy is no longer a crime? Perhaps, and the reinstatement of banking regulations also promises to be toothless and ineffective. Hundreds of these criminals should be serving prison terms already. Is there any doubt that Occupy Wall Street is at right place, the scene of the crime?
At the moment, the best we can do is to evade the clutches of the very rich by taking our lives and money as far away from them as we can. There are three things that may help: find jobs in worker-owned businesses; remove our money from the big banks; bring as many parts of our lives as we can to the local level. Moving our money to small banks and credit unions may be the single most effective thing we can do at this point. Then we must find ways to bring some semblance of sanity to politics, particularly to the Republican party, which has embraced programs that are a surreal mix of non-functional fantasy, distortion, and racism. Nothing they believe actually works. Most of what they say is simply ideological blithering and outright lies.