Friday, March 18, 2011

The Reasons Why Class Warfare Is An Integral Part of U.S. Society


While an ongoing public debate rages over the social meaning and content of the issue of class in American politics and culture there is overwhelming evidence gathered from exhaustive scholarly and empirical research and investigation over a very long period of time that clearly demonstrates class conflict is indeed an integral part of our lives in this country in spite of a relentless media propaganda campaign by liberals and conservatives alike to deny its actual reality and its obvious impact on how and why various public concerns in everything from employment, education, and housing to healthcare, constitutional rights, and economic safeguards and security are inseparable from the manner in which class position directly and indirectly affects the actual status and life chances of the average citizen. The stark intensification of these issues and concerns over the past 30 years or since the rise of Ronald Reagan's regime in 1981 and the aggressive promotion of a toxic social and economic philosophy known as "Reaganism" (and which was ruthlessly expanded upon and implemented at an exponential rate by the notorious Bushwhacker regime of 2001-2009) has seen a gigantic spike in the political and economic domination, control, and reckless profiteering of the super wealthy elites on the backs of the poor, working, and middle classes that dramatically exceeds any other period in this nation's history.

In the brilliant essay below Michael Pirsch takes on this sordid legacy by examining class warfare as a very real and tangible aspect and structural dimension of our social, economic, and cultural institutions and its profound impact on our daily lives from both a theoretical and empirically measurable analytical framework. What Pirsch reveals in a rigorous historical and contemporary examination of data on this subject is crucial to understanding precisely how and why the stark reality of class divisions and conflict have been and continue to be one of the most important and enduring forces in this society that we all must seriously confront and deal with if we are to have and maintain any kind of real connection to building and sustaining a democratic society and culture in both the short and long term...


Class Warfare, the Final Chapter
by Michael Pirsch
15 March 2011

"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." -Warren Buffett to The New York Times, November 26, 2006

There is overwhelming evidence that we are entering the final chapter of class warfare in the US. Today, in the "public arena," it is forbidden to say class warfare, and many citizens do not regard themselves as working class. The assault on language comes compliments of the propaganda apparatus, which includes: public relations, marketing, corporate media and the entertainment industry, universities, think tanks and so on. Its purpose is to distract our attention from serious matters so we can focus on trivial matters - usually involving consuming. Edward Bernays, the founder of the modern propaganda industry, described the process:

"Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government. We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of ... in almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind."[1]

In addition to inventing the propaganda model still in use today, Bernays' model created support for World War I, first in England and then in the US, calling the war to save Morgan's billions the war for "making the world safe for democracy."

We have been overwhelmed by the propaganda apparatus to the point that it controls our thought processes, causing us to become relentless shoppers, even against our own interests. It controls our thinking in the public sphere so that we support the wealthy elite, even against our own interests. Far too many of us have been rendered thoughtless and clueless as to what it means to live in a democratic society. It is not democracy because the government says it is; it is democracy when the masses are informed and act through their delegates to develop policy that promotes the general welfare. Today there are two sovereign nations that exhibit more democratic tendencies than all others: Venezuela and Bolivia. Because of their efforts to build democracy, both sovereign nations have been under attack by the US. In Venezuela, the US sponsored a coup in 2002. In Bolivia, the US government has sponsored a secessionist movement made up of the wealthy elite, whose tactics includes murder of government supporters. The Bolivian government expelled the US ambassador for his role in the destabilization attempt. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have adopted new constitutions which were the result of a process that involved all citizens and especially both countries' indigenous populations, who were previously completely excluded from any role in government. Both countries have improved access to their medical systems, increased literacy and established local spaces where democracy can be practiced. This shift causes the US empire considerable distress, because the empire fears the spread of real democracy more than anything else.

An essential element in a democracy is the development of a critical consciousness that allows us to resist succumbing to the siren call of the propaganda apparatus. Hugo Chavez, in a 2003 interview, spoke of the need to develop critical thinking:

"It seems to be part of a larger social defect in the US - that's a society that should really develop some kind of response to the intellectual battering that seems to take place daily. I sincerely hope that one day the US public will develop some kind of critical consciousness, that they will remove the veil from their eyes and see the media powers for what they are. No part of the human community can live entirely on its own planet with its own laws of motion and cut off from the rest of humanity. They must be critical, and make it their personal responsibility to humanity and morality to discover the truth."[2]

Eduardo Galeano, well-known Latin American author and critical thinker, continued in the same vein:

"Never have so many been held incommunicado by so few. More and more have the right to hear and see, but fewer and fewer have the privilege of informing, giving their opinion and creating. The dictatorship of the single word and the single image, much more devastating than that of the single party, is imposing a life whose exemplary citizen is a docile consumer and passive spectator. Never before have so few fooled so many."[3]

What better time than now for the wealthy elite to crush any chance of developing any critical thought. A substantial majority in the US have been so overwhelmed by the consumer/celebrity culture that distracts from the real situation that they are now fearful of harboring a critical thought, let alone speaking critically about the surrender of democracy to the wealthy elite. No matter what outrage the wealthy elite throws at us all, every indicator suggests there would be little, if any, resistance to that outrage. In fact, now is the best time for the wealthy elite to finally win the war and put into action all the highly repressive measures passed by Congress this decade. The repression already authorized, if put into full effect, would make the US a recognizably totalitarian state.

The goal of winning the war is to control all of the wealth and all of the people in the US and in the rest of the world, including, of course, governments. This victory is being accomplished by the combination of the financial services and military-related industries, which, in addition to lobbying for the continuation of several wars in the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Iran, etcetera) is now also engaged in stealing government benefits from the citizens of Ireland, Spain, Greece, Latvia, England, France and the US. All governments are cooperating with the market (primarily Wall Street and London banks) by terminating long-running programs designed to promote the general welfare. The stolen money is being given by the governments to Wall Street and its felonious partners in European banks - however, large, passionate demonstrations and massive student and worker strikes mark the reaction in Europe.

Our time is coming. Soon, Congress will once again deliver more tax cuts to the wealthiest people on the planet, at a time when perhaps more than 60 percent of the American people is at severe economic risk. This time also marks the beginning of the process of ending Social Security and replacing it with mandated contributions to Wall Street, which - for a fee, and with no guaranteed return - manage individual workers' retirement accounts. Wall Street's management of what used to be Social Security will - through commissions and other fees that are not a cost in the present Social Security system - reap an obscene amount of money, maybe in the hundreds of billions annually.

In addition to depriving the federal budget of the income necessary to provide the most basic services by eliminating taxes for the wealthy elite, we have committed ourselves to conducting "endless war" wherever and whenever it suits the wealthy elite's purpose. The combination of tax cuts and funding for the endless wars during a "jobless" recovery ensures we will have a citizenry best described as desperate and clueless. The "endless" war is one of the greatest frauds perpetrated upon the citizens of the US. A failed trillion dollar intelligence and defense system results in 9/11; then, lies are perpetrated by the president, the Congress, the military and the intelligence apparatus; those lies are, in turn, supported enthusiastically by the propaganda apparatus, and we commit international war crimes by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. The US's empirical bullying has made the world much more dangerous, not safer. The more we terrorize people, the more terrorists we create. Our feeding of the financial services and military industries is sucking the spiritual, economic and physical life out of us - just as Dwight D. Eisenhower predicted.

During the summer of 2009, the Obama administration fired the first volley in the renewed battle led by the wealthy elite to eliminate Social Security. It announced a freeze in the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security recipients for the years 2010 and 2011. This was the first time in 30 years no COLA would be received. Never mind the cost increases in all necessities and the fact that no one was publicly calling for a freeze. The freeze was absolutely unnecessary and cruel. Social Security recipients are also required to pay more each month for basic Medicare coverage. Many elder workers are fired or laid off well in advance of their retirement age. It is cheaper to hire someone to work for less than the eliminated elder worker. The consequences of refusing increases to Social Security, raising the retirement age and lowering benefits is a recipe for eldercide.

Social Security is not a government-funded program. Employees' deductions are matched 100 percent their employers. There is simply no other tax money involved with Social Security. Medicare is something else, although funded with part of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. Private insurers and the pharmaceutical industry were allowed to participate in Medicare and could be considered somewhat responsible for the miserable shape it is in.

Obama is setting up this system on behalf of the wealthy elite, who were among his earliest and largest financial backers in 2008. According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Social Security Administration, with no changes whatsoever, Social Security will remain solvent until 2037. That is 27 years from now. Even with unemployment projected to remain at 20 percent or higher - which means FICA receipts will remain low or decrease further - Social Security is not the problem it is made out to be, especially considering all the current crises, such as endless war, global climate change catastrophes, jobless recovery and so on. So, why did Obama propose a two percent cut in FICA for employees? If you earn $1,000 per paycheck, you will receive a $20 "bonus" each payday. However, if Obama's proposal of a federal sales tax passes, that $20 will go right back to the US Treasury. That two-percent cut will definitely speed up the day when Social Security outgo exceeds income. At that time, the entire propaganda apparatus will be let loose to clear the way for Wall Street to take over Social Security. What a deal! You give me about $480 per year (unless there is a federal sales tax) and I give you several trillions of dollars to burn through. This is why critical thinking is so important. The wealthy elite dangle about $40 a month in front of debt-ridden, have-a-job-but-afraid-of-losing-it people, get hundreds of bought members of Congress to shill for it and, bingo, the door to steal Social Security is wide open.

On the other side of the coin, raising the dollar limit upon which FICA is taxable (right now, nothing above $106,000 is taxed) would keep Social Security solvent into the next century. A simple solution to a projected problem, but politically impossible because, although 70 to 80 percent of the population might support this, what counts is what the top one percent wants.

Why all this fuss over something that might pose a problem 27 years from now? The wealthy elite passionately hate Social Security because it represents a major victory by the rest of us during the classic battles of class warfare during the 1920's to the 1940's. It represents fruit from the tree of democracy. People who were in nearly the exact position we find ourselves today - except that they had no safety net at all - organized, agitated for and won a federal jobs program, a mortgage foreclosure moratorium, unemployment insurance, minimum wage and Social Security, among many other benefits they fought for and won. That era represents a major retreat for the wealthy elite in its relentlessly waged class war in the US. The wealthy elite hate democracy unless they can own it.

Another motive just might be the trillions of dollars Wall Street would like to get its hands on. Most private sector defined pension plans have been dumped on the federal pension guaranty corporation (which pays pennies to the dollar on what pensioners previously received). Public pension plans are also being targeted, feeding the insane position that goes something like this: "if I am down, I am going to drag down everybody like me." How else to explain the media and political flacks droning on and on about spoiled, bloated public workers with fat pension plans? Obama's cynical ploy of freezing federal employees' pay is a bow to these tactics. It is amazing how often we hear of the great financial sacrifices made by presidential appointees and how much more they could earn in the private sector. Of course, the benefits accruing from their corrupt behavior while in public office are not factored in. The fate of 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts must not be discussed as Wall Street awaits its chance to steal from the poorest citizens of the US.

Other crises that seem to be forgotten include: the Savings and Loan rip-off following deregulation by Reagan (cost: over $500 billion); the stock market bubble of the Clinton-Bush years (401(k)s and IRAs wiped out); corporate manufacturing's flight from about 1975 on (and the associated loss of middle-class jobs and status); and the most recent fraud visited upon us, the fraudulent mortgage-backed securities bubble made possible by Clinton administration deregulation (its related losses still unfolding).

Clinton's current financial situation is suggestive. When he left office in 2001, reports had him owing $10-15 million in legal fees. Since then, thanks to speaking fees, a salary from his nonprofit foundation and investments, he can afford to blow $5 million or more on his daughter's wedding. One is left to imagine Obama's hidden retirement plan should he deliver Social Security (after George W. Bush's failure to do so became the "greatest disappointment" of his presidency). All former members of Congress, the president, vice president and cabinet officials should be required to submit detailed financial reports for at least five years after they leave office. If it seems they have become unusually rich (like Clinton), they should be investigated and, if warranted, indicted.

The list of priorities that need to be addressed in the federal budget should not in any way, shape or form include Social Security, unless the real intent is to steal it. Once the deed is done, it is all over.

Tax cuts are vital to the wealthy elite. They hate the federal income tax and have opposed it since its enactment in 1916. Beginning in the Carter era, the wealthy elite have been blasting away at what remains of their meager tax rates (that is, the maximum marginal rate after custom-made individual deductions). Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama all have participated in the endgame for progressive taxation. Obama has even gone so far as to reduce the estate tax, which only applies to about 2 percent of taxpayers. Ironically, reducing the estate tax has come to be very important to many who will never inherit an estate that would qualify to be taxed: the power of the propaganda apparatus again.

There was a time when the wealthy elite actually paid substantial taxes. The purpose of taxing the extraordinarily rich is to prevent an aristocracy from developing and to maintain a true democracy, a feat Aristotle recognized as impossible in the face of great income inequalities. Now, after over 35 years of cut, cut, cut for the rich, we have the most powerful aristocracy in history, and they are waging war against the rest of us. If you follow the results of studies that show the disparity of wealth in the US, you will see the flow of money from the bottom 90 percent to the top 1 percent over the 60 years between 1950 and 2010. The statistical evidence of the existence of class war is the direct result of the wealthy elite's ownership of Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

Wealth is the value of everything you own minus debt.

Disparity of Wealth

In 1933, the wealthiest one percent of the population held 33.3 percent of the wealth. In 1974, the wealthiest one percent held 19.9 percent of the wealth.
In 2007, the wealthiest one percent held 65.4 percent of the wealth.
In 1933, the bottom 90 percent held 66.7 percent of the wealth.
In 1974, the bottom 90 percent held 80.1 percent of the wealth.
In 2007, the bottom 90 percent held 34.6 percent of the wealth.
Federal Tax Rates (after custom-made individual deductions)

1974 Capital gains tax rate: 35 percent
1950 Highest marginal tax rate: 90 percent
2005 Capital gains tax rate: 15 percent
2005 Highest marginal tax rate: 34 percent
Average Real Income Change 1973-2000

Average real income of bottom 90 percent: -7 percent
Average real income of top 1 percent: + 148 percent
Average real income of top 0.1 percent: + 343 percent

Average Amount of Wealth Held by Persons: 2009 Census
Single Black Women: $100
Single Hispanic Women: $120
All White Men: $43,800
All White Women: $41,500
All Black Men: $7,900
Amount of Wealth Held by Families: 2009 Census

1986 Black Family Wealth: $2,000
2009 Black Family Wealth: $5,000
1986 White Family Wealth: $22,000
2009 White Family Wealth: $100,000
Full-Time Minimum Wage, Adjusted for Inflation

1968: $18,262
2004: $10,712

There is a common thread running through these statistics: the events that have eroded our quality and quantity of life have been controlled and orchestrated by the wealthy elite, and they are not finished yet. The picture is one dominated by racism, militarism and corporate control of government - three vital ingredients of fascism. Post-racism, indeed.

The story of class warfare would not be complete without a look at the behemoth military-security apparatus. A bipartisan Congress has passed draconian legislation during the past nine years that essentially leaves our Constitution with rights intact - at least, the right to own guns, and the unlimited corporate right to influence elections. All totalitarian repressive tactics such as unchecked surveillance, imprisonment without charge, summary execution, the right to a lawyer, the right to know the charges brought against you and confront your accuser, and so on, have been destroyed by legislation and presidential fiat. In addition, the military and military tactics and equipment have been inserted into local law enforcement, with the purpose of shutting off avenues of dissent and/or dealing with dissent by the use of overwhelming force (think Pittsburg G-20). We live inside a nation that has already built the legal and physical infrastructure (the latter partly contracted to Halliburton) so that hundreds of thousands can be pulled off the street in a single day, imprisoned without charge and denied access to contact with family and legal representation.

When Obama announced his creation of the deficit commission, he suggested all military and domestic security spending were off limits for discussion. If a candidate proposes serious reductions in military and domestic security spending, that candidate is toast. The pols whimper that it is political suicide to propose serious cuts in military and domestic security spending; not doing so guarantees the slaughter of millions - as we have seen in the Middle East and every other place our war-happy generals practice their craft.

The US empire has expanded to include over 800 overseas military facilities, ranging from city-sized bases to single building outposts in 63 countries - not counting the bases in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.[6] The US empire military budget including cost of war (which is not included in the annual defense budget) is over $1 billion, slightly less than one-half (46.4 percent) of what all other countries on the planet combined spend.[7]

The power the US military wields is felt in every country on the planet. The US military is "supported," with hardly any dissent, not only by the Democrat and Republican members of Congress, but also, presumably, by over 90 percent of the electorate, if you count total votes in each Democrat versus Republican race for House, Senate and president. This one-party/war-party system has produced unconditional love of war and expansion of empire. Thus, a vote for Democrats or Republicans is an endorsement of empire. There is no question that the one-party system has consistently supported military expansion across the globe. While many of the people who voted for Democrats may be offended by a claim that their votes endorsed empire, that is the result, if not the intent, of their votes. Meanwhile, polls show that more than half of those polled do not support an American empire. Count one more success for the propaganda apparatus.

Perhaps you might remember the $12 billion "lost" in Iraq in 2002.[8] The money was shipped from the US to the Green Zone in Baghdad. The money arrived shrink-wrapped on pallets and disappeared. No real investigation took place, but why investigate what was already known? The scandal didn't get much play in the media either. A lack of media play creates a lack of concern by the masses. That $12 billion could certainly fill a lot of holes in a budget whose deficit is tirelessly evoked, alongside a "perception managed" campaign against Social Security, in one of the last gambits in the 160-year-long class war. But promoting the general welfare is not one of the wealthy elite's concerns.

That the wealthy elite hate democracy is beyond question. The WikiLeaks of State Department cables exposed that hatred over and over again. All governments are expected to do the bidding of the US empire, especially when those demands are contrary to the actions and thoughts of that government's own citizens. Specific examples of the hatred of democracy include: the 2000 vote in Florida; the kidnapping , during a US-backed coup in Venezuela, of President Chavez in 2002; the 1992 and 2004 kidnapping of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Aristide won the 2002 election with over 92 percent of the vote); the allowing of the criminalization of Aristide's political party, Famni Lavalas; the support for the ouster of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya and for the resultant coup government; the support for Israel's policies of overturning the most democratic election in Arab history in Palestine by jailing victorious Hamas legislators and exacting severe collective punishments against the Palestinians in Gaza by blockade, and, later, by a massacre.

Another example of elite disgust with democracy was offered during September 2008, when Congress was ordered to bail out the wealthy elite's bankers. Prior to the first vote, I called over 120 Congresspeople at their Washington offices. After the House rejected the bailout, I called about 20 Senators. The calls to the House revealed that each member's office was receiving a torrent of phone calls. These calls were not part of an organized effort, but came out of genuine and passionate opposition. I was informed by the staff of various members that over 90 percent of the callers opposed the bailout. After a few phone calls to Senate members, it became apparent that the senators would not listen to the people and would follow the orders of the wealthy and bail out the banks.

Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California's 27th District (comprising Sherman Oaks and Northridge) spoke on the House floor during the second attempt to pass the bailout. He revealed that more than one House member was told that martial law would be declared if the House failed to pass the bailout.[9] The obscene wealth of the elite was threatened by democratic activity of the nation's citizens. The bailout and how it was executed remains one of many examples that our wealthy elite hates democracy.

We really have very little space in our lives to practice democracy as it is meant to be practiced. The union movement has engaged in sporadic dances with democracy, but those were finished with the creation of mega-size "local" unions. Nearly all of the successes by the rest of us in this class warfare have been due in no small part to the extent that democracy still exists in the unions. Now, there are still a few locals that practice real democracy internally, and they are the most successful unions today. Our greatest achievement in the class struggle took place during the staggering increase in union membership that took place between 1933 and 1947. Our long slide to the bottom began with the anti-solidarity Taft-Hartley legislation that severely limited freedom of association and expression for all citizens except the wealthy elite. It continued with the Red Scare, which drove some of the most dedicated, compassionate organizers in the US out of jobs and careers - a brilliant tactic by their adversaries because it also effectively disappeared from our knowledge the notion of organizing for positive social change. The legacy of the Red Scare continues today as dissidents are conflated with terrorists. Fear and more fear keeps us under control.

Union members did not reject democracy. Rather, following the New Deal and World War II, an all-out attack was waged against union activists, with the assistance of Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)-affiliated leaders. This turnabout involved a self-cleaning of the CIO on behalf of the wealthy elite. Unions were kicked out of the CIO for being deemed too radical, and some of the radical unions changed their philosophy to get along. Union democracy has been the main victim, since union members are more radical than their leaders and allowing democratic decisions to be made would disrupt the leaders' cozy relationship with the wealthy elite.

So, today, we are left with no place to learn about and practice democracy except in our neighborhoods (the physical, not the virtual, ones). The rest of us cannot begin to compete with the wealthy elite for access to the media; we cannot compete with the wealthy elite in the ability to control the propaganda apparatus and the wealthy elite cannot compete with us in our neighborhoods.

A vital instrument in the propaganda apparatus' control of our thinking and thought processes is the television. More than 80 percent of the funds spent in the 2010 election were spent in the realm of television. Imagine what would happen if we didn't watch it. Billions of dollars would be wasted because the voters did their own research and, through discussions with their neighbors, decided on the candidate with the best program, not the best television ads. An achievable dream, as long as there is unfettered access to a neutral Internet?

Typically, in difficult times, it is neighbors who come to offer assistance. When floodwaters threaten your home and the military has come, not to help, but to provide "security." Our Internet and other long-distance friends will not be able to help in the wonderful way of neighbors who cooperate to help each other. We can organize in our neighborhoods to deal with our common struggles, and, from that, democracy will grow and grow, until it engulfs the whole nation.

Becoming informed, educating each other, agitating on issues and organizing can create a sustainable economy through ideas such as Gardens Not Lawns, Food Not Bombs, community radio, free health clinics (many doctors would be happy to volunteer), free legal clinics, transportation cooperatives - the list is as boundless as our collective imagination. Beginning in our neighborhoods, it is possible to form an organic, progressive political movement to sweep the land.

The question remains: will we allow the story to be "Class Warfare: The Final Chapter," or will we create the alternative by beginning the class struggle? The base of the wealthy elite has always been led by the House of Morgan (J. Pierpont Morgan) which lives as a corporate person in the forms of Morgan Stanley and Morgan Chase, preeminent leaders in the world's financial markets. Yes, the very markets that are "nervous" and "jittery" (real human traits) about countries that owe them money. Plagued by nerves and jitters, the markets are busy raiding old-age pensions, family assistance programs and the like all over Europe - the same prescription followed for years in the so-called third world and in the US right now.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand - it never has and it never will...." These are still powerful words spoken by one of our greatest Americans, Frederick Douglass. The sad truth is that we have not made any demands since the Civil Rights struggle and the anti-Vietnam War struggle during the 1950-1970's. We are at the fork in the road: to the right is class warfare - the final chapter - and to the left, the class struggle begins.

A grassroots-based movement, as opposed to the billionaire-controlled, top-down Tea Party, will be able to effect progressive rather than regressive programs. It is ironic that the wealthy elite recognize the value of neighborhood organizing while the left ignores this base. The Koch brothers-sponsored Tea Party was using tactics advocated by Saul Alinsky, one of our greatest radical neighborhood organizers. They used the tactics; what they did not do was hand out Alinsky's book, "Reveille For Radicals." If they had, the Tea Party could have transformed itself into a truly progressive force.

Finally, it is our right and our duty to replace the corrupted government with one that works for the public welfare, ensuring that the wealthy elite never again endanger all life on this planet or destroy our collective humanity. We are "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights ... among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We must recognize our government has become destructive of those ends and reform it. The Declaration of Independence goes on to say, "mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuse and usurpations ... reduce them under absolute despotism... " we must then accomplish wholesale change. Have you suffered enough, or do you want more?

[1] Sandy Leon Vest: "Consumers Are Sleeping With the Enemy - and Paying For It," Common Dreams, February 26, 2010.

[2] Mark Weisbrot: "Interviewing Chavez," North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA); February 12, 2003.

[3] Media in the Americas; (date unknown); NACLA Report on the Americas, page 14; (Ibid).

[4] G. William Domhoff: "Who Rules America? Wealth, Income, and Power," September 2005; (updated November 2010).

[5] Julie Hollar: "Wealth Gap Yawns and So Do Media: Little Interest in Study of Massive Race/Gender Disparities," EXTRA!, a publication of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR); February 6, 2010.

[6] Jules Dufour: "The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases: The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel," January 7, 2007; Global For Research on Globalization.




Additional Reading

Randy Stoecker: Defending Community: The struggle for alternative redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside; Temple University Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1994.

P.A. Payutto: Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way For the Marketplace; Buddhadhamma Foundation, Bangkok,Thailand.

E.F. Schumacher: Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered; Blond&Buggs Ltd., London, 1973.

Saul Alinsky: "Reveille For Radicals" and "Rules For Radicals," Vintage Books, division of Random House, Inc. New York, New York.

Source URL:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Fight For Unions and Democracy in Wisconsin Is A National Fight That We Must Win!


An inspiring example of what it's really going to take nationwide in the very near future to actually fight for and bring about real Democracy in this country...FOR REAL...Stay tuned...


The Dream Team in Madison: Unions, Progressives and Young People Jubilantly Celebrate Democracy, 100,000 Strong

Submitted by BuzzFlash on Sun, 03/13/2011 -. Guest Commentary


I headed to Madison from Minneapolis with a couple of friends for Saturday's massive rally against Scott Walker and the Republican legislature's move to do away with collective bargaining for public sector workers.

When we arrived at 11am, there were already tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounding all sides of the Capitol, watching the "Tractorcade" of farmers showing their support for workers' rights. The numbers only kept growing throughout the four hours I spent at the rally, as a constant procession of marchers, ten-people wide, circled the Capitol all day. Estimates put the crowd at over 100,000, the biggest demonstration in Madison yet.

Who were these 100,000-plus people? I saw thousands of teachers and plenty of their students; hundreds of autoworkers; members of just about every union imaginable: Teamsters (chanting "2-4-6-8, Walker sucks!"), laborers, boilermakers, social workers, service employees, dozens of fire fighters in uniform, sheriffs, and immigrant rights' activists. The crowd ran the full gamut in age, from babies dressed in union t-shirts to an elderly woman standing next to her wheelchair holding my favorite sign: "84-year old union thug."

There were thousands of these homemade signs, more than I've seen at any protest since the anti-war demonstrations in February and March of 2003. The right would have the rest of the country believe that this is a tightly controlled mobilization, manipulated by the union "bosses" to defend their own power and privileges. But these signs prove otherwise. They are always an indication of a real grassroots movement, one which has touched the hearts of everyone in attendance. They reflect the participants' anger as well as the creativity and bitter sense of humor of Americans (another one of my favorites read: "Dear Scott, Thanks for all your help. Love, Satan").

One of the best speeches of the day came from populist agitator Jim Hightower, who told the crowd, "They get to thinking they're the top dogs and we're the fire hydrants. But I think they're gonna find out there's a lot more power in a fire hydrant than in a few pissing dogs." He expressed the national significance of the Wisconsin struggle: "Because you stood up, people in Ohio, in Michigan, in New Jersey, in Indiana, all across the country, are standing up. Wisconsin is the spark that's igniting a new democracy movement all across America!"

This message was echoed in a moving speech by actress Susan Sarandon, who said, "Wisconsin is the front line in the war to restore democracy ... Wisconsin is the wakeup call for all of America in the 21st century, building upon the legacy of unions which brought dignity to working people - factory workers, teachers, firefighters, hospital workers, nurses, visible, invisible, who literally make this country. The Constitution gave no right to work less than 12 hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, defy the courts, to create a movement which won the 8-hour day and caused such a commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and the right to assemble and collectively bargain."

This is what's at stake in Wisconsin. The Kochs want to roll back history to a pre-New Deal era of unchecked corporate power. As one sign in Madison put it, "It's daylight savings tonight. Don't forget to turn your clock back 50 years." The right has spent the last 30 or 40 years laying the foundations for these attacks. They've developed a powerful conservative juggernaut made up of think tanks, media outlets, PR strategists, and fake grassroots organizations like the Tea Party.

Can this juggernaut be stopped? If Wisconsin has shown Americans anything, it's the depth of the opposition to right-wing politics. Wisconsin is another reminder that there is nothing innately conservative about the American working class, though it also shows that we are being badly out-organized by the well-funded right-wing attack machine. But the foundations have been laid for a potential resurgence of the left.

Where to now in Wisconsin? At the rally, the overwhelming emphasis seemed to be on the efforts to recall eight Republican state senators who voted for the bill, with petitions circulating and Democratic Party and union activists signing up volunteers for the recall effort. While these efforts have a reputation for losing steam, the outrage in Wisconsin and the historic protests are a hopeful sign that they may succeed, which would send an even stronger message to any legislators elsewhere considering similar bill.

There were also calls being circulated for the labor movement to implement its resolution in favor of a general strike now that the budget bill has gone through. This resolution was passed by Wisconsin's South Central Federation of Labor, a coalition of 97 unions, and recently support for this tactic voiced by the president of Madison's firefighters' union. But at Saturday's rally calls for a general strike seemed mainly limited to the youthful socialist organizations and radical labor groups like the Industrial Workers of the World, scattered on the fringes of the demonstration (although having played important roles throughout, including in the occupation of the Capitol and most recently the student walkouts on Thursday and Friday). Judging by the outpouring of workers and their enthusiasm at Saturday's rally, an organized general strike might very well succeed. But strikes - let alone general strikes - have become a lost weapon in labor's arsenal, with 2009 and 2010 two of the lowest years on record in terms of number of major work stoppages.

Still, at the end of the day, everyone has to return home and turn on their televisions, run by the innately anti-labor corporate media. Here is where much of the battle for public opinion is waged, as the right deploys its vast wealth into shrewd anti-union ads developed by Karl Rove-aligned Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies. I couldn't help but think, as I watched Amy Goodman and her small crew film Democracy Now in front on the Capitol, of just how tragic it is that the labor movement has yet to develop its own television station (run by Amy, of course!), or to even help fund the expansion of unionized websites like Truthout. The working people of Wisconsin were out in force on Saturday, expressing themselves in their thousands of homemade signs - don't they deserve a voice in the media?

Regardless, we can all take heart from the events in Wisconsin, which might just herald a progressive offensive in the years ahead, after so many years of a one-sided right wing class war. As Jim Hightower put it, "My message to you today is that it's not enough to be progressive - we've been progressive long enough - we've gotta become aggressive!" And thankfully, we've got some 84-year old union "thugs" on our side.

Chris Hedges On The Deadly Delusions of The Neoliberal State and the Fundamental Necessity of Fighting For Mass Democracy in the United States

Chris Hedges


Once again Chris Hedges eloquently cuts through the massive barrage of lies, brazen nonsense, and sheer madness that so often characterizes public discourse and social policy in the United States today and brilliantly goes to the very heart of what the nefarious--and pervasive-- philosophy of neoliberalism (the elitist tyranny of the so-called "free market") has been and is doing to our society and the general culture. The intellectual clarity, expressive lucidity, and fundamental truth of Hedges's scathing analysis cannot be denied even though its obvious implications are truly terrifying. But Hedges also reminds us that willful evasion, wishful thinking, braindead cynicism, fatalistic despair, and mindless nihilism are nothing but co-dependent enablers of these same oppressive and rapacious corporate forces and their major institutional protector and apologist--the state. Therefore, as always, any and all truly mass democratic alternatives and solutions rests with us and us alone, both now and forever...


Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand
14 March 2011

by: Chris Hedges
Truthdig | Op-Ed

Photo: Dan DiMaggio

The liberal class is discovering what happens when you tolerate the intolerant. Let hate speech pollute the airways. Let corporations buy up your courts and state and federal legislative bodies. Let the Christian religion be manipulated by charlatans to demonize Muslims, gays and intellectuals, discredit science and become a source of personal enrichment. Let unions wither under corporate assault. Let social services and public education be stripped of funding. Let Wall Street loot the national treasury with impunity. Let sleazy con artists use lies and deception to carry out unethical sting operations on tottering liberal institutions, and you roll out the welcome mat for fascism.

The liberal class has busied itself with the toothless pursuits of inclusiveness, multiculturalism, identity politics and tolerance—a word Martin Luther King never used—and forgotten about justice. It naively sought to placate ideological and corporate forces bent on the destruction of the democratic state. The liberal class, like the misguided democrats in the former Yugoslavia or the hapless aristocrats in the Weimar Republic, invited the wolf into the henhouse. The liberal class forgot that, as Karl Popper wrote in “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

Workers in this country paid for their rights by suffering brutal beatings, mass expulsions from company housing and jobs, crippling strikes, targeted assassinations of union leaders and armed battles with hired gun thugs and state militias. The Rockefellers, the Mellons, the Carnegies and the Morgans—the Koch Brothers Industries, Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart of their day—never gave a damn about workers. All they cared about was profit. The eight-hour workday, the minimum wage, Social Security, pensions, job safety, paid vacations, retirement benefits and health insurance were achieved because hundreds of thousands of workers physically fought a system of capitalist exploitation. They rallied around radicals such as “Mother” Jones, United Mine Workers’ President John L. Lewis and “Big” Bill Haywood and his Wobblies as well as the socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.

Lewis said, “I have pleaded your case from the pulpit and from the public platform—not in the quavering tones of a feeble mendicant asking alms, but in the thundering voice of the captain of a mighty host, demanding the rights to which free men are entitled.”

Those who fought to achieve these rights endured tremendous suffering, pain and deprivation. It is they who made possible our middle class and opened up our democracy. The elite hired goons and criminal militias to evict striking miners from company houses, infiltrate fledgling union organizations and murder suspected union leaders and sympathizers. Federal marshals, state militias, sheriff’s deputies and at times Army troops, along with the courts and legislative bodies, were repeatedly used to crush and stymie worker revolts. Striking sugar cane workers were gunned down in Thibodaux, La., in 1887. Steel workers were shot to death in 1892 in Homestead, Pa. Railroad workers in the Pullman strike of 1894 were murdered. Coal miners at Ludlow, Colo., in 1914 and at Matewan, W.Va., in 1920 were massacred. Our freedoms and rights were paid for with their courage and blood.

American democracy arose because those consciously locked out of the system put their bodies on the line and demanded justice. The exclusion of the poor and the working class from the systems of power in this country was deliberate. The Founding Fathers deeply feared popular democracy. They rigged the system to favor the elite from the start, something that has been largely whitewashed in public schools and by a corporate media that has effectively substituted myth for history. Europe’s poor, fleeing to America from squalid slums and workhouses in the 17th and 18th centuries, were viewed by the privileged as commodities to exploit. Slaves, Native Americans, indentured servants, women, and men without property were not represented at the Constitutional Conventions. And American history, as Howard Zinn illustrated in “The People’s History of the United States,” is one long fight by the marginalized and disenfranchised for dignity and freedom. Those who fought understood the innate cruelty of capitalism.

“When you sell your product, you retain your person,” said a tract published in the 1880s during the Lowell, Mass., mill strikes. “But when you sell your labour, you sell yourself, losing the rights of free men and becoming vassals of mammoth establishments of a monied aristocracy that threatens annihilation to anyone who questions their right to enslave and oppress. Those who work in the mills ought to own them, not have the status of machines ruled by private despots who are entrenching monarchic principles on democratic soil as they drive downwards freedom and rights, civilization, health, morals and intellectuality in the new commercial feudalism.”

As Noam Chomsky points out, the sentiment expressed by the Lowell millworkers predated Marxism.

“At one time in the U.S. in the mid-nineteenth century, a hundred and fifty years ago, working for wage labor was considered not very different from chattel slavery,” Chomsky told David Barsamian. “That was not an unusual position. That was the slogan of the Republican Party, the banner under which Northern workers went to fight in the Civil War. We’re against chattel slavery and wage slavery. Free people do not rent themselves to others. Maybe you’re forced to do it temporarily, but that’s only on the way to becoming a free person, a free man, to put it in the rhetoric of the day. You become a free man when you’re not compelled to take orders from others. That’s an Enlightenment ideal. Incidentally, this was not coming from European radicalism. There were workers in Lowell, Mass., a couple of miles from where we are. You could even read editorials in the New York Times saying this around that time. It took a long time to drive into people’s heads the idea that it is legitimate to rent yourself. Now that’s unfortunately pretty much accepted. So that’s internalizing oppression. Anyone who thinks it’s legitimate to be a wage laborer is internalizing oppression in a way which would have seemed intolerable to people in the mills, let’s say, a hundred and fifty years ago. … [I]t’s an [unfortunate] achievement [of indoctrination in our culture].”

Our consumer society and celebrity culture foster a frightening historical amnesia. We chatter mindlessly about something called the “American Dream.” And now that the oligarchic elite have regained control of all levers of power, and that dream is being exposed as a cruel hoax, we are being shoved back into the cage. There will be hell to pay to get back to where we were.

Slick public relations campaigns, the collapse of public education—nearly a third of the country is illiterate or semiliterate—and the rise of amoral politicians such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who posed as liberals while they sold their souls for corporate money, have left us largely defenseless. The last vestiges of unionized workers in the public sector are reduced to protesting in Wisconsin for collective bargaining—in short, the ability to ask employers for decent working conditions. That shows how far the country has deteriorated. And it looks as though even this basic right to ask, as well as raise money through union dues, has been successfully revoked in Madison. The only hope now is more concerted and militant disruptions of the systems of power.

The public debate, dominated by corporate-controlled systems of information, ignores the steady impoverishment of the working class and absence of legal and regulatory mechanisms to prevent mounting corporate fraud and abuse. The airwaves are saturated with corporate apologists. They ask us why public-sector employees have benefits—sneeringly called “entitlements”—which nonunionized working- and middle-class people are denied. This argument is ingenious. It pits worker against worker in a mad scramble for scraps. And until we again speak in the language of open class warfare, grasping, as those who went before us did, that the rich will always protect themselves at our expense, we are doomed to a 21st century serfdom.

The pillars of the liberal establishment, which once made incremental and piecemeal reform possible, have collapsed. The liberal church forgot that heretics exist. It forgot that the scum of society—look at the new Newt Gingrich—always wrap themselves in the flag and clutch the Christian cross to promote programs that mock the core teachings of Jesus Christ. And, for all their years of seminary training and Bible study, these liberal clergy have stood by mutely as televangelists betrayed and exploited the Gospel to promote bigotry, hatred and greed. What was the point, I wonder, of ordination? Did they think the radical message of the Gospel was something they would never have to fight for? Schools and universities, on their knees for corporate dollars and their boards dominated by hedge fund and investment managers, have deformed education into the acquisition of narrow vocational skills that serve specialized corporate interests and create classes of drone-like systems managers. They make little attempt to equip students to make moral choices, stand up for civic virtues and seek a life of meaning. These moral and ethical questions are never even asked. Humanities departments are vanishing as swiftly as the ocean’s fish stocks.

The electronic and much of the print press has become a shameless mouthpiece for the powerful and a magnet for corporate advertising. It makes little effort to give a platform to those who without them cannot be heard, instead diverting us with celebrity meltdowns, lavish lifestyle reports and gossip. Legitimate news organizations, such as NPR and The New York Times, are left cringing and apologizing before the beast—right-wing groups that hate “liberal” news organizations not because of any bias, but because they center public discussion on verifiable fact. And verifiable fact is not convenient to ideologues whose goal is the harnessing of inchoate rage and hatred.

Artists, who once had something to say, have retreated into elite enclaves, preoccupied themselves with abstract, self-referential garbage, frivolous entertainment and spectacle. Celebrities, working for advertising agencies and publicists, provide our daily mini-dramas and flood the airwaves with lies on behalf of corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party has sold out working men and women for corporate money. It has permitted the state apparatus to be turned over to corporate interests. There is no liberal institution left—the press, labor, culture, public education, the church or the Democratic Party—that makes any effort to hold back the corporate juggernaut. It is up to us.

We have tolerated the intolerant—from propaganda outlets such as Fox News to Christian fascists to lunatics in the Republican Party to Wall Street and corporations—and we are paying the price. The only place left for us is on the street. We must occupy state and federal offices. We must foment general strikes. The powerful, with no check left on their greed and criminality, are gorging on money while they busily foreclose our homes, bust the last of our unions, drive up our health care costs and cement into place a permanent underclass of the broken and the poor. They are slashing our most essential and basic services—including budgets for schools, firefighters and assistance programs for children and the elderly—so we can pay for the fraud they committed when they wiped out $14 trillion of housing wealth, wages and retirement savings. All we have left is the capacity to say “no.” And if enough of us say “no,” if enough of us refuse to cooperate, the despots are in trouble.

“Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reforms,” Frederick Douglass said in 1857. “The whole history of the progress of human history shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of struggle. ... If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. ...”

Chris Hedges, a fellow at The Nation Institute and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is the author of “Death of the Liberal Class.”