Yes, It Really Does Depend On Us

We cannot depend on the kindness of the rich to redress the wrongs of the current economy, because it is the rich who have purposely created it.

The desire for more money and possessions can never be satisfied: it is infinite. Wall Streeters have no problem at all with annual bonuses hundreds of times greater than the average lifetime earnings of most of the rest of us—a total of 91-billion dollars this year—although there is nothing significant they can do with this money to improve their own lives. Because they don’t care, they will not be the ones to say that perhaps some of the money recently shunted to them by the laws and other matters they arranged for their own useless enrichment might better be restored to the many millions of people who can’t live on what they are paid for full-time work.

It is very clear that the plutocrats have no intention of restoring our democracy, since the present inequality feeds their infinite greed now. They are not interested in improving equality. In fact, the fiction they tell themselves is that the poor can’t make a living because they are lazy, so there’s no reason to feel concerned for their fate, or the fate of democracy. The fact that the rich actually believe this nonsense is supported by recent research, as well as earlier studies. That this belief is nonsense has been proven many times. The fact is, you will be poor if you can’t find work, and you will still be poor if your full-time work doesn’t pay enough to live on, which is all too common. We have a severely damaged country.

It is very clear
that the plutocrats
have no intention
of restoring equality.

We should have no compunctions about re-conquering our basic freedoms from the usurpers. This, after all, is one of the reasons we became a country, and the rich right has so distorted the founding principles that they don’t even know what these principles are. Many Republicans claim that the US is a Christian nation, for example, and this should be reflected in official religious observations, somehow forgetting that the Constitution says the opposite, and that there are nearly 100-million non-Christian Americans.

The poor have always been with us, but so have the rich. What’s different today is the global market. With markets equivalent to whole large nations, and whole nations of workers paid slave wages, there are many billionaires. This money going exclusively to the rich means it cannot go to anyone else, yet it is socially useless, like hoarded gold, and it results in decaying democracy and gross inequality.

When people have a billion dollars it merely means that they arranged for that to happen. Nobody can actually earn a billion dollars by working. Such wealth requires managing the money of the nation for the benefit of the “natural leaders”—i.e., the rich—and shorting the rest of us, who are assumed to be lazy and without talent.

Adam Smith, whose writings around the time of our revolution launched the modern study of economics, appears to have placed too much faith in the idea of a benign economy as a result of individual pursuit of self-interest. I say “appears” because that’s not quite so. There is no “guiding hand” that allows benign greed, something he suggested briefly, and only once, that has been seized upon to represent his entire approach to economics. His beliefs were far more complex than that.

Personal responsibility is nearly identical
to self-interest, which is is selfishness.
Those who worship Personal Responsibility
reject compassion and charity.

“Personal responsibility” is one of the touchstone beliefs of the conservative religion, but in fact personal responsibility as they use the term is nearly identical to self-interest, and another word for self-interest is selfishness. This is because those who worship at the altar of Personal Responsibility reject the virtues of compassion and charity. Our own age is a good example of why this faith is less than benign: inequality is at an all time high in spite of our great national wealth, and it can be readily argued that the entire reason is that the very rich have used their money and power to enhance their own wealth. Personal responsibility had nothing to do with it. This is moral corruption, and the result is a society of too much poverty, suffering, unequal opportunity, and diminished democracy, even in the wealthiest nation in history.

Poor people in the US die—more than a hundred a day—when they cannot afford medical insurance, and can find no work that pays enough to live on, often because they have lost their jobs to overseas workers who earn a pittance. Having lost their jobs, the unemployed suddenly become irresponsible and lazy in the eyes of the rich, who believe they must not be helped because they need only to snap out of it to become affluent.

It boils down to a question of whether we want to live under a plutocracy of people who believe in their own superiority, who believe the non-rich are inferior. Or do we want a democracy? If it’s democracy we want, as our fundamental laws might seem to suggest, then we are forced to retake it from the usurpers. To seize it one way or another. My personal preference, which I’m sure is like most others’, is to take back the government and the laws that have become completely beholden to people whose entire goal is endless wealth. There are a few benign ways to do that, but not many. All of them require the intelligent action of millions of us working together. Successes can be achieved, but bitter experience shows us that politicians usually behave exclusively for their own benefit and ignore the opinions and needs of large majorities of the population.

Do we want to live under a plutocracy of
people who believe in their own superiority?

The alternative is revolution. Nobody wants that, but how bad will things have to be before they do? A new study by Spanish economists Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth looked at civil violence from 1919 to 2009. What they found was that, while economic hard times caused anger, violence did not arrive until politicians took the hateful steps that harm those with the least money and the least power. And as austerity escalated, so did violence. Don’t buy it? Check this. Austerity is what characterizes most of the EU now, and the US as well, but fortunately not as severely. The stupidest part of austerity is that it universally makes everything worse in a depressed market, yet conservatives pursue it persistently in spite of years of definitive proof that it simply doesn’t work in a contracting economy. 

Austerity fits right in with conservative Republican plans to punish the poor, whom they are convinced are poor because they are lazy and inferior. They don’t appear to have given thought to what happens when people have nothing left to lose.

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