Category Archives: Economic Inequality

Capitalism’s Suicidal Trajectory can’t be ignored

If we make it out of the climate emergency, we may come to view the few decades usually described simply as the Cold War that followed the Second World War as halcyon days – at least relative to what we are facing now.

The Cold War was a power struggle between two economic empires for global domination – between the United States and its vassal states, including Europe, on one side, and Russia and its vassal states lumped together into the Soviet Union, on the other. The fight was between a US-led capitalism and what was styled as a Soviet-led “communism”.

That struggle led to an all-consuming arms race, the rapid accumulation of vast nuclear arsenals, the permanent threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD), military bases in every corner of the planet, and the demonisation by each side of the other.

Not much has changed on any of those counts, despite the official ending of the Cold War three decades ago. The world is still on the brink of nuclear annihilation. The arms race is still at full throttle, though it is now dominated by private corporations making profits from “humanitarian interventions” based on “Shock and Awe” bombing campaigns. And the globe is still awash with military bases, though now the vast majority belong to the Americans, not the Russians.

‘End of history’

After the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, we moved from a bipolar world to a unipolar one – where the US had no serious military rival, and where there was no longer any balance of forces, even of the MAD variety.

That was why US empire intellectuals such as Francis Fukuyama could declare boldly and, with so much relief, the “end of history”. The US had won, capitalism had emerged victorious, the west’s ideology had prevailed. Having defeated its rival, the US empire – supposed upholder of democratic values – would now rule the globe unchallenged and benevolently. The dialectics of history had come to an end.

In a sense, Fukuyama was right. History – if it meant competing narratives, diverging myths, conflictual claims – had come to an end. And little good has resulted.

It is easy to forget that the start of the Cold War coincided with a time of intense international institution-building, flowering into the United Nations and its various agencies. Nation-states recognised, at least in theory, the universal nature of rights – the principle that all humans have the same basic rights that must be protected. And the rules governing warfare and the protection of civilians, such as the Geneva Conventions, were strengthened.

In fact, the construction of a new international order at that end of the Second World War was no coincidence. It was built to prevent a third and, in the nuclear age, potentially apocalyptic world war. The two new superpowers had little choice but to recognise that the other side’s power meant neither could have it all. They agreed to constraints, loose and malleable but strong enough to put some limits on their own destructive capabilities.

Carrot and stick

But if these two empires were locked in an external, physical struggle with each other, they equally feared an internal, ideological battle. The danger was that the other side might make a more persuasive case for its system with the opposing empire’s citizens.

In the US, this threat was met with both carrot and stick.

The stick was provided by intermittent witch hunts. The most notorious, led by Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, searched for and demonised those who were considered “un-American”. It was no surprise that this reign of terror, exposing “Communists”, focused on the ultimate US myth-making machine, Hollywood, as well as the wider media. Through purges, the creative class were effectively recruited as foot soldiers for US capitalism, spreading the message both at home and abroad that it was the superior political and economic system.

But given the stakes, a carrot was needed too. And that was why corporate capitalism was tamed for a few decades by Keynesian economics. The “trickle-down” effect wasn’t simply a talking-point, as it is now. It was a way of expanding the circle of wealth just enough to make sure a middle class would stop any boat-rocking that might threaten the wealth-elite running the US empire.

War of attrition

The Cold War was a war of attrition the Soviet Union lost. It started to break apart ideologically and economically through the 1980s – initially with the emergence of a trade union-led Solidarity movement in Poland.

As the Soviet empire weakened and finally collapsed, capitalism’s internal constraints could be lifted, allowing Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to unleash unregulated neoliberal economics at home. That process intensified over the years, as global capitalism grew ever more confident. Unfettered, capitalism anticipated its ultimate fate in 2008, when the global financial system was brought to its knees. The same will happen again soon enough.

Nonetheless, Soviet collapse is often cited as proof of two things: not only that capitalism was a better system than the Soviet one, but that it has shown itself to be the best political and economic system human beings are capable of devising.

In truth, capitalism looks impressive only comparatively – because the Soviet system was appallingly inefficient and brutal. Its authoritarian leaders repressed political dissent. Its rigid bureaucracies stifled wider society. Its paranoid security services surveilled the entire population. And the Soviet command-style economy was inflexible, lacked innovation and regularly led to shortages.

The weaknesses and atrocities of capitalism have been much less obvious to us only because the culture in which we are so steeped has told us for so long, and so relentlessly, that capitalism is a perfect, peerless system based on our supposedly competitive, acquisitive natures.

Installing dictators

History, remember, is written by the victor. And capitalism won. We who live in the capitalist west only hear one side of the story – the one about vanquishing Communism.

We know almost nothing of our own Cold War history: how the US empire cared not a whit about democracy abroad, only about extracting other people’s resources and creating dependent markets for its goods. It did so by cultivating and installing dictators around the globe, usually on the pretext that they were necessary to stop evil “Communists” – often popular democratic socialists committed to redistributing wealth – from taking over.

Think of General Augusto Pinochet, who headed a brutal dictatorship in Chile through the 1970s and 1980s. The US helped him launch a military coup against the democratically elected left wing leader, Salvador Allende, in 1973. He created a society of fear, executing and torturing tens of thousands of political opponents, so he could introduce a “Shock Doctrine” free-market system developed by US economists that plunged the country’s economy into free-fall. Wealth in Chile, as elsewhere, was siphoned off to a US elite and its local allies.

This catastrophic social and economic meddling was replicated across Latin America and far beyond. In the post-war years, Washington was not just responsible for the terrible suffering its war machine inflicted directly to stop the “Communists” in Latin America and south-east Asia. It was equally responsible for the enormous number of casualties inflicted by its clients, whether in Latin America, Africa, Iran or Israel.

Military-industrial complex

Perhaps the US empire’s greatest innovation was outsourcing its atrocities to private corporations – the emergence of a military-industrial complex Dwight D Eisenhower, the former US army general, warned about in his farewell address of 1961, as he stood down as president.

The global corporations at the heart of the US empire – the arms industries, oil companies and tech firms – won the war of attrition not because capitalism was better, fairer, more democratic or more humane. The corporations won because they were more creative, more efficient, less risk-averse, more psychopathic in their hunger for wealth and power than Soviet bureaucracies.

All those qualities are now unimpeded by the constraints once imposed by a bipolar world, one shared between two superpowers. Global corporations now have absolutely unfettered power to drain the planet of every last resource to fuel a profit-driven, consumption-obsessed system of capitalism.

The truth of that statement was mostly unspeakable 16 years ago when one was ridiculed as a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist for pointing out that the US had invented two pretexts – Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and its equally imaginary ties to al-Qaeda – to grab control of that country’s oil.

Now Donald Trump, the foolish, brash president of the United States, doesn’t even bother to conceal the fact that his troops are in Syria to control its oilfields.

Toothless watchdogs

The unipolar world that resulted from the fall of the Soviet Union has not only removed the last constraints on the US empire’s war-making abilities, the external battle. It has also had terrible repercussions for the internal, ideological battlefront.

Control of the media has grown ever more concentrated. In the US the flow of information is controlled by a handful of global corporations, often with connections to the very same arms, oil and tech industries so keen to ensure the political climate allows them to continue pillaging the planet unhindered.

For some time I have been documenting examples of the corporate media’s falsehoods in these columns, as you can read here.

But US elites have come to dominate too the post-war international institutions that were created to hold the superpowers to account, to serve as watchdogs on global power.

Now isolated and largely dependent on funding, and their legitimacy, from the US and its European allies, international monitoring agencies have become pale shadows of their former selves, leaving no one to challenge official narratives.

The combined effect of the capture of international institutions and the concentration of media ownership has been to ensure we live in the ultimate echo chamber. Our media uncritically report self-serving narratives from western officials that are then backed up by international agencies that have simply become loudhailers for the US empire’s goals.

A coup becomes ‘resignation’

Anyone who doubts that assessment needs only to examine the reporting of last week’s military coup in Bolivia, which overthrew the democratically elected leader Evo Morales. Corporate media universally described Morales’ ousting and escape to Mexico in terms of him “resigning”. The media were able to use this preposterous framing by citing claims by the highly compromised, US-funded Organisation of American States (OAS) that Morales’ rule was illegitimate.

Similarly, independent investigative journalist Gareth Porter has shown convincingly how the International Atomic Energy Agency, the body monitoring states’ nuclear activities, has come under the US imperial thumb.

Its inspectors produced gravely misleading information to help the US make a bogus case justifying Israel’s bombing in 2007 of what was claimed to be a secret nuclear reactor built in Syria.

The deceptions, it later emerged, included the IAEA violating its own protocols by concealing the results of the samples taken from the site that showed there was no radioactive contamination. Instead the IAEA highlighted one anomalous finding in a changing-room that was almost certainly caused by cross-contamination from an inspector.

Head-choppers humanised

Another stark illustration of how international agencies have been captured is the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It has played a central role in bolstering an unproven US narrative, echoed by the western corporate media, that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has been responsible for a spate of chemical weapons attacks on his own people.

That narrative has been vital to western efforts at justifying regime change in a key Middle Eastern state resistant to US-Israeli-Saudi hegemony in the region. The narrative has also been useful in “humanising” the head-chopping extremists of Islamic State and al-Qaeda – which were in control of the areas where these alleged attacks took place – making it easier for the west to support them in a proxy war to oust Assad, a battle that has created untold misery for Syrians.

But the OPCW is no longer the independent, respected expert body it once was. Long ago it fell under effective US control – back in 2003 when its first director-general, Jose Bustani, was forced out by Washington in the run-up to the attack of Iraq. That was when the US needed to manufacture a false pretext for invasion by suggesting that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction. US official John Bolton even threatened Bustani’s children, so desperate was George W Bush’s administration to cow the agency.

In Syria, the post-Bustani OPCW has been the lynchpin of the US narrative spin against Assad. Basic investigative protocols have been discarded by the OPCW, such as the requirement of a “chain of custody” to ensure any samples handed to it can be properly attributed. Instead the OPCW has implicated the Syrian government in the alleged chemical attacks based on samples collected by Islamist extremists desperate to justify more western meddling against Assad to bolster their own rule in Syria.

The first real test of the chemical weapons narrative came last year in Douma, where the Islamists argued that they had again been attacked. That claim led to the US, Britain and France launching missile strikes on Syrian positions in violation of international law.

Days later the Islamists lost control of the city to Assad’s forces and for the first time OPCW inspectors were able to visit the scene of an alleged attack themselves and collect their own samples.

Douma findings distorted

The official report into Douma, published earlier this year, appeared to confirm the US narrative. It hinted strongly that the Syrian air force had dropped two bombs located by the OPCW and that those sites had tested positive for the chemical chlorine.

But thanks to two separate whistleblowers from the OPCW, one of whom was an investigator in Douma, we now know that the official report was not the one submitted by the investigators and did not reflect the evidence they unearthed or their scientific analyses of the evidence. It was rewritten by the OPCW officials in the Hague to suit Washington’s agenda.

The official report was, in fact, a complete distortion of the evidence. Investigators found that levels of chlorine at the supposed bomb sites were no higher than background levels, and less than found in drinking water – nowhere near enough to have killed Douma’s victims shown in photos produced by the Islamist groups.

The investigators’ findings suggested an entirely different narrative: that the Islamists in Douma had placed the bombs at the two sites to make it look like a chemical attack had taken place and thereby provide a pretext for even deeper western interference.

It was not difficult to understand why officials in the OPCW’s head office had decided to conceal their expert inspectors’ findings and submit to US intimidation.

The real findings would have:

  • undermined the official narrative unquestioningly attributing the earlier chemical weapons attacks to the Syrian government, in turn making a mockery of western claims to humanitarian concern in aiding and funding years of a devastating proxy war in Syria;
  • revealed the politicisation of the OPCW, and the corporate media’s supine treatment of the Islamists’ claims;
  • intimated at the collusion between western governments and Islamist groups that have been slaughtering non-Sunni populations in the Middle East and launching terror attacks in the west;
  • highlighted that the US-British-French military attack on Syria in response – a violation of Syria’s sovereignty – was not simply a war crime but the “supreme war crime”;
  • and bolstered the case for the Syrian government to be allowed to regain control of its territory.

Down the memory hole

The leaks from the OPCW whistleblowers paint a very troubling picture, where our most trusted international institutions can no longer be relied on to seek out the truth. They are there to serve the world’s sole super-power as it seeks to manipulate us in ways that accrete ever more power to it.

It is quite extraordinary that the mounting evidence that OPCW officials conspired in the falsifying of evidence to help the US empire overthrow another government is not considered news, let alone front-page news. There has been a complete media blackout on these revelations.

In an unguarded moment back in May when she heard about the first whistleblower, the BBC’s much-admired chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet responded to a Twitter follower that it was “an important story” and that she would “make sure programmes know about it”.

Six months and another whistleblower later, neither Doucet nor the BBC have uttered so much as a squeak about the discrediting of the OPCW report. This “important story” has been collectively plunged down the memory hole by the corporate media.

In this confected unipolar reality, we, the public, have been left compass-less, exposed to fake news not only from wayward social media sites or self-interested governments but from the large media “watchdogs” and the very global institutions supposedly set up to act as dispassionate arbiters of truth and justice. We have been returned to a world where might alone makes right.

Environmental destruction

Things are bad enough already, but all the evidence suggests they are going to get a lot worse. Capitalism’s problems go beyond its inherent need for violence and war to acquire yet more territory and open up new markets. Its economic logic is premised on endless growth, based on unremitting resource extraction from a finite planet.

That causes two major problems.

One is that as the west runs out of resources – most obviously oil – to fuel its endless consumption, resource extraction will become ever more difficult and less profitable. Markets are shrinking and the ramifications can now be felt at home too. Youngsters in the west have no hope of being as successful or wealthy as their parents, or even grandparents.

In a world of diminishing resources and no serious ideological or economic rival, Keynesian economics – the basis on which western elites won over their publics by enlarging the middle class – has been discarded as an unnecessary indulgence. We are in an era of permanent austerity for the many to subsidise the further enrichment of the already fabulously wealthy few.

But second, and much worse, capitalism is being exposed as a suicidal ideology. In its compulsion to monetise everything, it is polluting the oceans with plastic and choking the air with particulates. It is rapidly extinguishing insect life, the main barometer of the planet’s health. It is destroying habitats necessary for larger animals and for biodiversity. And it is creating a climate that humans will soon not be able to survive.

Capitalism isn’t unique in degrading the environment. Soviet economies were quite capable of it too. But as with everything else it touches, capitalism has proved to be uniquely efficient at destroying the planet.

Sinking boat

It is no longer just poor people out of sight in far-off lands who are being made victims of capitalism, though for the time being they are still the worst hit.

They are fleeing the lands we helped to degrade with our weapons, and the crop failures that resulted from the climate change our industries fuelled, and the poverty we increased through our resource grabs and addiction to consumption. But in our continuing arrogance we block their escape with tougher immigration policies and “hostile environment” strategies. We trivialise the plight of those we have displaced through our globe-spanning system of greed as “economic migrants”.

It is gradually becoming clearer – with the environmental emergency – that we are all ultimately in the same boat. It is only the supremely efficient propaganda machine created by the capitalist elite that still persuades too many of us that there is no way to get off the boat. Or that if we try, we will drown.

But the stark reality is that we are in a sinking boat – the sinking boat of capitalism. The hole is growing and water rushing in faster by the day. Inaction means certain death. It is time to be brave, open our eyes and search for dry land.

The Widening Gap Between the Super-Rich and Other Americans

Despite the upbeat words from America’s billionaire president about the “economic miracle” he has produced, economic inequality in the United States is on the rise.

In August 2019, the Economic Policy Institute reported that, in 2018, the average pay of CEOs at America’s 350 top firms hit $17.2 million―an increase, when adjusted for inflation, of 1,007.5 percent since 1978.  By contrast, the typical worker’s wage, adjusted for inflation, grew by only 11.9 percent over this 40-year period.  In 1965, the ratio of CEO-to-worker’s pay stood at 20-to-1; by 2018 (when CEOs received another hefty pay raise and workers received a 0.2 percent pay cut), it had reached 278-to-1.

An AFL-CIO study, released in June 2019, had similar findings.  Examining compensation at Standard & Poors 500 companies, the labor federation reported that average CEO pay in 2018 had increased by $5.2 million over the preceding 10 years.  This resulted in an average CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 287-to-1.

These figures, of course, are only averages, and at numerous major corporations the economic gap between boss and worker is much greater.  According to the AFL-CIO, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio at Walmart (America’s largest private employer) is 1,076 to 1, at Walt Disney Company 1,424-to-1, at McDonald’s 2,124-to-1, and at Gap 3,566-to-1.  At 49 S&P 500 firms, noted an Institute for Policy Studies report, half the work force―that is, 3.7 million employees―received wages below the official U.S. poverty line for a family of four.

Thus, despite the soaring incomes of top corporate executives and other wealthy Americans, the median household income in the United States grew by only 0.2 percent during 2018―a decline from the three previous years.  Commenting on U.S. wage stagnation, Sam Pizzigati, co-editor of inequality.org, observed that “average Americans have spent this entire century on a treadmill getting nowhere fast.  The nation’s median―most typical―households pocketed 2.3 percent fewer real dollars in 2018 than they earned in 2000.”

Although President Donald Trump has claimed that “inequality is down,” federal data released this year show that in 2018, the nation’s income inequality reached the highest level since the U.S. Census Bureau began measuring it five decades before.

U.S. economic inequality is even greater in terms of wealth.  During the Democratic presidential debate in late June 2019, Senator Bernie Sanders reminded Americans that just three U.S. billionaires (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett) possessed as much wealth as half the people in the United States combined.  And the three richest U.S. families―the Waltons (owners of Walmart), the Mars candy family, and the Koch family (owners of a vast fossil fuel conglomerate)―possessed a combined fortune ($348.7 billion), which is 4 million times the wealth of the median U.S. family.

Although the median net worth of U.S. households has declined (after adjusting for inflation) since the late 1990s, the fortunes of the wealthy have skyrocketed.  The American billionaires sharing their ostensible wisdom at the World Economic Forum in Davos at the beginning of 2019 made enormous gains in wealth over the previous decade.  They included Jamie Dimon (275 percent), Rupert Murdoch (472 percent), Stephen Schwarzman (486 percent), Marc Benioff (823 percent), and Mark Zuckerberg (1,853 percent).

According to computations made by Forbes in October 2019, the ten wealthiest Americans (with riches ranging from $53 billion to $107.5 billion each) had combined wealth of $697 billion―or an average of $69.7 billion each.  Assuming that, henceforth, they had no further income and had limitless longevity, they could each spend a million dollars a day for approximately 191 years.

Most other Americans possess far fewer economic resources.  In 2018, 38.1 million Americans lived below the U.S. government’s official poverty threshold, including many people working at multiple jobs.  Furthermore, another 93.6 million Americans lived close to poverty, bringing the total of impoverished and near-impoverished people to nearly 42 percent of the U.S. population.

Naturally, economic deprivation has serious consequences.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14.3 million households in America have difficulty providing enough food for their families.  Low income families are also plagued by inadequate education, alcohol and substance abuse, and poor housing, health, and life expectancy.  The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported in September 2019 that poor Americans die at an earlier age than rich ones.  Indeed, in 2019, for the first time in a century, life expectancy in the United States declined for three consecutive years.  Suicide rates, which closely correlate with poverty, increased by 33 percent since 1999.  Even what is left of the dwindling middle class faces the crippling costs of health care, college education, and debt payments.

This situation bears no resemblance to that of America’s ultra-wealthy, who, in addition to pouring money into the campaign coffers of politicians that safeguard and expand their fortunes, continue purchases like one multi-billionaire’s acquisition of a $238 million Manhattan penthouse―a supplement to his two floors at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Chicago ($30 million), Miami Beach penthouse ($60 million), Chicago penthouse ($59 million), and additional apartment in Manhattan ($40 million).  Other recent purchases by the ultra-rich include a $100 million, 305-foot “super-yacht” (complete with helipad and IMAX theater), private jet planes ($65 million), and (of course) gold toilet paper.

The latest attraction for America’s ultra-affluent is Manhattan’s 131-floor Central Park Tower building which, when completed, will become the tallest, most expensive residential dwelling in the United States.  It will feature 179 luxury condos ranging in price from $6.9 million to $95 million and a seven-story Nordstrom flagship store with six restaurants, plus three floors of “amenity space” (dubbed the Central Park Club) spanning 50,000 square feet, with an outdoor terrace, pools, a wellness center, and a massive ballroom.  The immense height of the structure will underscore the vast power of the super-rich, as well as enable them to avoid noticing the many “losers” left behind on the teeming streets below.

Gender Neutral Pronouns While Nukes Go Unregulated

Charlie Hill, Oneida-Mohawk-Cree: “A Redneck told me to go back where I came from, so I put a tipi in his backyard.”

What exactly is the size and shape and breadth of that infamous straw that broke the camel’s back? One thousand more African-American youth murdered by cops this year in US of A? One million more people this year leaving homelands because of climate change? One billion more people making less than $2 a day? Flotilla of icebergs floating down the Baja coast? Epstein-Trump-Clinton-Woody Allen on tape raping boys and girls?

See the source image

Yet, well, how many toxins, how many chemicals, how much sewage in freshwater and how many oil spills on beaches, and how much radioactivity, and how many EMF’s will it take for that camel’s back to crack? Oh, those great white men and women telling you how many cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting, DNA-morphing, chronic illness-producing poisons should be allowed on the corn flakes and potato chips! Read on:

*Health harms

Human exposure to atrazine is linked to a number of serious health effects. A potent endocrine disrupter, atrazine interferes with hormonal activity of animals and humans at extremely low doses.

Endocrine Disruption: The science on atrazine’s effects on the hormone system continues to grow. It alters the levels of key hormones in rats and can delay puberty. In male frogs, exposure to atrazine causes a kind of “chemical castration,” causing them to develop female sex characteristics. Researchers hypothesize that atrazine signals the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, demasculinizing the frogs.

Reproductive Effects: Because atrazine disrupts hormones, it’s not surprising that epidemiological studies find associations between exposure to the herbicide and reproductive effects including increased risk of miscarriage, reduced male fertility, low birth weight, increased chance of any birth defect, and higher incidence of abdominal defects;

Cancer: Evidence for the carcinogenic potential of atrazine is growing — exposure has been linked to elevated risk of breast and prostate cancer. The recent President’s Cancel Panel Report notes that atrazine has possible carcinogenic properties. In response to concerns, U.S. EPA is currently re-evaluating atrazine’s carcinogenic potential.

[or….]

See the source image

Scientist Dr. Emily Marquez, who spoke at the DARTIC hearing in Sacramento, said this:

The committee made the right decision in light of the scientific evidence. Chlorpyrifos is neurotoxic and the Prop 65 listing affirms what scientists, doctors and communities have been saying for years – children’s developing brains are incredibly vulnerable to low amounts of the chemical during critical windows of development. State regulators should follow today’s decision by finally taking this chemical off the market.

15 years later . . .
It’s not new news that chlorpyrifos harms brains, particularly children’s developing brains. Research showing this was the impetus behind banning the chemical from home use more than 15 years ago. But progress on getting this chemical out of agricultural fields, and off of food crops, has been slow thanks in large part to the focused attention of its manufacturer, Dow Chemical.

On the national stage, Dow’s influence was made clear earlier this year when, after closed door meetings with the company’s CEO, newly appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made the surprising announcement that he wasn’t going ban the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops — as the agency had previously announced it would do based on its own scientific analysis.

I was on the radio yesterday, SOS Spokane with KYRS-FM, my old radio station when I had an hour show, Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge, a weekly public affairs show where I had all sorts of guest on, a veritable list of greats (a few so-so’s) both local and national. Winona LaDuke, Bill McKibbeon, David Suzuki, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, and so many more whose names are not household names, but amazing authors and scientists and literary types — James Howard Kunstler, Novella Carpenter, Richard Heinberg, Richard Wrangham, Tim Flannery, so-so many more!

It was a look back (and forward) on my 10 years in Spokane organizing, writing columns, doing special reports for magazines and newspapers, teaching college, and more-more, including another graduate degree (urban planning), helping raise a child, literary and non-literary publishing, and environmental organizing. A fellow named Paul Potocky hosts it, and  it was both fun and frustrating to be back on the air.

Big issues, like, how do we fix our education system, how to fix the mush and propaganda of Media, how to deal with cities like Spokane spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paid shills/people rallying the rest of the country to move to the town (how many other big and small communities do the same?), how to get lefties off their asses and to quit griping over other lefties’ nuanced beliefs, climate change, etc.

Here’s my beef — Paul is an old lefty, and he’s retired, and he is in a community within a community — left-leaners but people who will never ever criticize the powers that be or the town itself. In the end, the new black is green or social services or legal aid, or what have you. People in the left-leaning arena are not willing to go full blast on criticizing America, the white supremacist threads of heavy gauge wire binding the minds of the left-leaners. They are not there to put stops on growth, to really look deeply at the embedded capitalists in the colleges that are part of Spokane, and the rah-rah small town folk but mean as cuss people who love a good Trump sexist, racist, wacko Christian joke. Spokane wants growth, Spokane wants a fulfillment (sic — a devil’s den) center from head Devil, Jeff “Amazon-Monopoly-and-Slaver” Bezos, and Spokane wants more roads, no public transportation. Spokane has a drug, depression, drop-out, decaying neighborhoods, dragging intellect problem, and the city wants to forget about the dispossessed, the near-homeless, and aging, chronically ill peeps.

When you go to a county or city meeting, the people that are the movers and shakers are developers, builders, and a few in various city-county departments. The town, like many towns, is non-responsive to we the people, but rather, we the money bags.

The very idea of “fixing things” means getting rid of things, stopping this digitalization of everything, this new disruptive and demeaning economies of scale, economies of hate, economies of monopolizing pigs who run the show. Paul and I quibbled over the media, or really, the Press. I posit that we need small rags back, more neighborhood and community broadsheets and newsletters and monthlies and weeklies — grassroots — on the streets. We need more readers. He thinks that since the cat is out of the bag, that there is no going back to a newspaper-newsprint hard copy time.

I disagree, and now is the time to teach young people how to resurrect mimeographs and typesetting, cold or hot. Time to have groups go after all levels of bad government and worse than bad business and those chamber of commerce felons.

Imagine, ten thousand or more people hitting the streets of a town like Spokane. Snap-snap-snap of maleficence, and more and more prying into the problems facing its citizens, with no salvation or solutions coming from the top, the ones who love those trendy Portlandesque bars and food emporiums and bad ass cafes.

There is no rabid, frothing, scabies-infested cat out of the bag we can’t stuff back in and gas back into euthanasia heaven.

We could say that, well, now that the cat is out of the bag in PK12 education — the common “killing” core/standardized testing brought to us by Gates-Pearson-Eli Brand — there’s no turning back. Or, now that we are completely surveilled and our lives dictated by a few chosen people vis-a-vis their schemes of anti-democratic info-biometric-history-DNA collecting, there’s no putting that black plague infected cat back in the bag. Same with all the toxins being foisted on us all, daily, and all the illegal wars not-in-our-name; all the illegal financial-real estate-insurance fraud, those distemper filled cats are out of the bag, so why attempt to change those systems of penury and structural violence? Universities that are colonized by the Koch Brothers and Fortune 1000 Companies of Fraud, well, those leukemia-finished cats are also out of the bag, so also give up?

Nope — Zapata: I would rather die on my feet than to live on my knees.

In fact, the foundation to any revolution and radical (root) change in this un-Democracy is more robust discourse, discussion, and coverage — by local entities, by local various forms of media!

This chipping away at America, or putting in better wires and cloud servers just to say new is new and better is in the mind’s eye, just allows the oppressors to do their dirty deeds quicker, more pervasively, and with a Nazi’s efficiency and Eichmann cold heart and Goebbels collective double- and triple-tap to the human brain and eco-landscape to completely confuse the population.

My thesis is to have these conversations many many more times, daily, and with more radically truthful concepts, with gusto, no holds barred, and to ram the facts down their throats — both sides of the manure pit called US Politics-Law Making-Legislative Governing.

Every single hour, now, I receive emails and texts from friends who are becoming more and more fatigued — as in Stockholm syndrome or abusive-battered spouse syndrome —  with not just the deplorable stories and vapidity of the press reporting (stenographing) on the people running the country, running the corporations, or those in the throw-a-trillion-dollars-at-their-talentless celebrity culture, or those rally goers with their chronic illnesses and vicious Christian ideology of hate thy neighbor, BUT absolutely drained with the entire project that they believe was a possibly decent American way of life in some mythical golden period of prosperity (for the rich, the white), as in post-WWII? That magical time when all things were in place —  all the bells and whistles, all the “Kum ba yah” (African spiritual song of slaves, meaning, come by here), and two cars in every driveway and smart, adorable, handsome/beautiful offspring with prominent college degrees and a trajectory that might be the envy of a Chelsea or Ivanka.

Truly, the amount of information that floods our corpuscles and demands dendrites and synapses to fire simultaneously while also filtering out the reality that this country has ALWAYS been warped and bad hombre-like puts most average people into a tailspin: spiritual, guilt-laden, fearful, hypocritical and circling the wagons kind of multivariate predicament.

Not acknowledging the U.S. as a white supremacist settler-state translates into a fundamental error.

I am sorry, but there are more white nationalists in the U.S. than folks want to admit. Not acknowledging the U.S. as a white supremacist settler-state translates into a fundamental error. AOC along with other liberals and most of the Eurocentric left are not calling for a break in the history of the U.S. state. They are not calling for authentic de-colonization. By not doing so, they are embracing the perspective of the invader.

Really, what is this “America” that the squad loves and claim to be a part of? AOC’s family is from the colony of Puerto Rico. Tlaib’s America is probably the most Islamophobic country on the planet. Omar’s native land of Somalia became one of the first of the so-called “failed states,” those states where U.S. and Western imperialism plunders and then pretends that the state failed as a result of its internal weaknesses. Pressley, as an African American, is part of a captive population subjected to 243 years of enslavement, 100 years of post-slavery apartheid, and 54 years of benign neglect.

These are the practices and policies of a state and society committed to upholding white colonial/capitalist power. The squad must understand that if one’s people are part of the working class and nationally oppressed, you don’t beg to become part of that de-humanizing and degrading machine. You don’t call for integration or for the recognition of your rights, which is not going to happen. No! You fight and struggle for your inherent dignity, understanding that human rights are not going to be granted by the oppressor.They have to be won through ferocious struggle.

Ajamu Baraka, national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace

More people in the USA, according to the “pollsters” like Gallup, say they want to leave than even under Obama or Bush, and their number one choice? Again, so American of them, so elitist and exceptionally ignorant of them, but it makes sense these Yankee Doodle Dandy defectors hands down see the white land to the north, Canada, somehow is in their sights as the number one choice from where to skedaddle. As if Oh Canada is this gilded, vaunted place of harmony, endless socialized this and that, and non-bigoted, pro-woman, highly respectful people! Just read the pages of Dissident Voice by putting “Canada” into the search box and you will get a virtual house of horrors/whores list of the not-so-good, bad and ugly of that land of my mother’s birth!

But, truly, so many friends have known the CIA-WTO-Skulls&Bones-MilitaryIndustrialComplex-Fortune500 fix has been in for decades; some, however, go back to this “union’s” roots and realize that the foundation of this country (forget that there were hundreds of First Nations here) —  invaded by undocumented Puritans, illegal aliens the lot of them: thieves, slave- traders, rum-runners, suckah-born-every-minute — is/was/continues to be based on land theft, raping women, enslaving women, children, men, robbing granny blind, flimflamming, scamming and bilking, polluting, lying, marketing, stealing the public coffers.

Even with this knowledge — sort of like knowing a vote for the Democrats is the same as a vote for the Republicans — one is not so steeled from succumbing to a type of despair and fatigue and paralysis even if you knew the jig was up two centuries ago. The younger ones are skeptical and so jaded — cynical — they have little push toward any sort of reckoning for the kings of this rape-thy-neighbor culture. They put noses down and push through this rotting capitalist culture, hoping that something really bad happens collectively, regionally and nationally (heat waves, tornado’s, hurricanes, earthquakes, plagues, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, viral outbreaks, war, invasions) to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. Cynics, man, cynics. Then, the older people are shaking fists at Trump, forgetting to mind their P’s and Q’s, forgetting recent and old history. Trump is Obama is Bush is Clinton is Reagan is Carter is Ford is Nixon is Kennedy . . . . and so on. Trump a racist? Open racist, for sure, in the same bad hombre company —  Jackson, Fillmore, Buchanan, A. Johnson, Wilson, Nixon. We have to really watch those politicians and presidents who are never openly racist or misogynistic — like Willy Clinton and Joey Biden!

Oh those good old days in the 20th Century:

Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List by William Blum

Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. (* indicates successful ouster of a government)

China 1949 to early 1960s
Albania 1949-53
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
Syria 1956-7
Egypt 1957
Indonesia 1957-8
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
France 1965
Brazil 1962-64 *
Dominican Republic 1963 *
Cuba 1959 to present
Bolivia 1964 *
Indonesia 1965 *
Ghana 1966 *
Chile 1964-73 *
Greece 1967 *
Costa Rica 1970-71
Bolivia 1971 *
Australia 1973-75 *
Angola 1975, 1980s
Zaire 1975
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Seychelles 1979-81
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Suriname 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Libya 1980s
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Iraq 1991
Afghanistan 1980s *
Somalia 1993
Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *
Haiti 2004 *
Somalia 2007 to present
Honduras 2009 *
Libya 2011 *
Syria 2012
Ukraine 2014 *

Q: Why will there never be a coup d’état in Washington?

A: Because there’s no American embassy there.

So, yeah, these are rough times, but what point in history do we see the good times rolling for the majority of people on planet earth? How were those wars waged from time immemorial? All-volunteer and well-treated armies of the Roman Empire, Alexander’s? How were those cities and pyramids built? Union jobs? How were those lands acquired, plots laid out, cattle drives perpetrated? Who got to “have” Canada or “have” Australia? Whose Hawaii is it?

I know, I know, it’s tough actually living in and fighting within and struggling inside because of everything this society stands for when it comes to all those self-delusions. I know, one out of four Americans say they will never retire . . . just work themselves to the grave or hospital gurney or care facility (streets). I know, there are a million jobs — professions — that are not worthy of the print their descriptions are printed upon, yet we continue to let the chosen few determine the futures of young and old with their a suckah (mark, fool, patsy, money-train, fall-guy/gal) is born every nano-second schemes.

The world burns, the crops desiccate, the water dries up, the diseases are spreading, the neo-natal units are busting at the seams, infrastructure’s collapsing, minimum wage blocked ($7 and change man, in 2019 — yep, we are a failed and failing and falling down nation), housing and rentals costs sky-rocketing, debt increasing, mental duress and illness burgeoning, the few gaining more and more by stealing from the many, more toxins and nuclear particles streaming into our daily lives, and yet, we now no longer can have printed on sewer and stormwater plates — manhole. It’s a they-hole, or them-hole, maybe a shit-hole cover.

See the source image

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Berkeley, California, has adopted an ordinance to replace some terms with gender-neutral words in the city code.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Wednesday that “she” and “he” will be replaced by “they.” The words “manpower” and “manhole” will become “workforce” and “maintenance hole.”

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed the measure to replace more than two dozen commonly used terms. There will be no more “craftsmen” in city code, only “craftspeople” or “artisans.”

Berkeley has a long history of leading on politically and socially liberal issues.

The sponsor of the ordinance is councilman Rigel Robinson, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He says his time in college expanded his awareness of gender issues.

Robinson says critics suggested the council spend time on more important matters.

We talk about these prescient and emblematic moments in this essay forum I deploy to stave off my own insanity and the likelihood of going postal. You know, one vote here by the prostitutes of politics, or one headline or story there crafted by the presstitutes, or this or that “scientific” claim/report promulgated by this or that biostute (biologist bought, paid for and wrapped up by The Industry). It is more than just a Mad Mad Mad World, where I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore people running around.

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’

Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. (shouting) You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’

I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’

— Peter Finch in the 1976 movie, Network, playing newscaster, Howard Beale!

I am staving off that Howard Beale moment by putting into perspective everyone’s insanity and my own slippage here. That spillage is my own frustration trying to help guide others who are seeking justice, balance, perspective and answers to “how the hell did we get to this place” and “why have I failed my children and my children’s children’s children’s futures. Indeed, even making a few shekels out here on the coast for a column I pitched (and I got) Deep Dive with Paul Haeder, I get to interview people I want to get to know and learn about; some of them are powerhouses, these individuals who in a lifetime make people who have become so cynical and rotten in their lack of push forward and against the powers that be really pause.

Carol Van Strum, captured here — A real-life Toxic Avenger

Carol Van Strum

Early in her book, A Bitter Fog:

A Bitter Fog

“Where the road skirted the riverbank, overhanging shore and water, they directed their hoses into the water, inadvertently spraying the four children fishing down below. The truck moved on, leaving the children gasping in a wet mist that clung to their skin and clothing. With smarting skin, tearing eyes, burning mouths, throats and noses, they stumbled home. By nightfall, all four were sick.”

Fighting against Dow, against the Forest Service, against the Timber Companies, against the OSU biologists, against the media/Press, against the powers that be, and against ignorance. Monsanto and 2,4,5-D, that fine ingredient as one baseline poison that made  Agent Orange another gift that keeps on giving. She lost four children in a fire in their cabin, and Carol was not afraid to point to the FBI, the thugs of the herbicide companies, or the timber companies. And she keeps going, man.

Vietnamese Girl Writes With Foot

Project 1 C

Spraying Agent Orange Ranch Hand

Vietnamese Before Billboard

Carol Van Strum in my interview: All the legal wranglings have reinforced my chronic intolerance of lies. Ditto the never-ending battle against poisons — that is an industry that could not exist without lying about its products; therefore, it should not exist.

One person can’t save the world, or even see the other side of it. When I was four years old, I set out to see the world — thinking it was a special place like the World’s Fair with carousels and Ferris wheels. After the cops found me asleep in a pile of leaves by the street, my mom asked why I had run away. I told her I didn’t run, I walked, because I wanted to see the world, and she laughed and said, ‘It’s been right here all the time — the world begins at home.’ Lessons you never forget. I can’t save the world but I’ll fight tooth and nail to save this little corner of it.

So, my fine people, friends, aging folk who are going to more and more memorials, or visiting the cancer wards and Alzheimer’s facilities; those people who can’t understand this America, the one We Have Always Had America, I love you for the work you attempt.

I know people like me stir the pot and wack the hornets’ nest. I understand that in a world of spitting, cursing, lying, shooting, imprisoning, raping, stealing, a guy like me opening yet more floodgates on how much we are cooked climate-wise, civil liberties-wise, sanity-wise might be too too much. For that, I hope I do not push anyone over anyone’s edge point. You can do that all on your own, or not!

We can’t go back to some mythical time, but we can put all those polluting, infecting, scratching and biting cats back in the bag, man.  The market knows best, and below, Chomsky’s quote,  just replace “fossil fuel extraction” with any of the following — coal, mining, medical malpractice, banking, computer engineering, chemical making, big pharma, real estate, stock market, artificial intelligence, big ag, big anything, big retail, big guns, big nukes, big energy, big marketing, big ed, big prisons, big fat planned and perceived obsolescence manufacturing-marketing-retailing-delivering (think Amazon).

The logic of the capitalist market rules — what Joseph Stiglitz 25 years ago called the “religion” that markets know best. The same reasoning extends beyond, for example to the major banks that are pouring funds into fossil fuel extraction, including the most dangerous, like Canadian tar sands, surely in full awareness of the consequences.

CEOs face a choice: They can seek to maximize profit and market share, and (consciously) labor to undermine the prospects for life on earth; or they can refuse to do so, and be removed and replaced by someone who will. The problems are not just individual; they are institutional, hence much deeper and harder to overcome.

There is no need to review record of interventions, subversion and violence, particularly since World War II, which established the U.S. in a position of global dominance with no historical precedent. The record includes the worst crime of the postwar period, the assault on Indochina, and the worst crime of this millennium, the invasion of Iraq.

Like most terms of political discourse, “imperialism” is a contested notion. Whatever term we want to use, the U.S. is alone in having hundreds of military bases and troops operating over much of the world. It is also unique in its willingness and ability to impose brutal sanctions designed to punish the people of states designated as enemies. And its market power and dominance of the international financial system provide these sanctions with extraterritorial reach, compelling even powerful states to join in, however unwillingly.

Noam Chomsky: “Worship of Markets” Is Threatening Human Civilization

U.S. 2020 Presidential Election: A Watershed Moment for Humankind and the Planet

The 2020 presidential election in the United States may be the most critical political event in human history. At no time in the history of global civilization have human beings faced existential crises on a global scale. Regional crises of the past 10,000 years reveal that economic regimes have often outstripped local and regional resources, but these crises remained regional in scope. Today, however, the excesses of global capitalism have driven all of humanity to the brink of ecological and civilizational collapse.

Our addiction to fossil fuels has significantly warmed the global atmosphere and accelerated the loss of polar ice caps faster than predicted. Capitalism has fueled industrial activities that have ravaged large portions of the planet, destroying habitats and endangering innumerable animal, plant and insect species worldwide, according to a recent UN report on global biodiversity. Our oceans are contaminated with heavy metals and plastics. Global population pressure, inefficient and wasteful industrial practices combined with climate change have placed enormous pressure on fresh water sources.  Destructive superstorms, wildfires and persistent drought will likely bring profound economic instability and declining food production in coming decades.

Global capitalism has also generated vast disparities in wealth distribution, destabilizing social systems as well as ecosystems. As global and national wealth concentration grows rapidly, the poverty of billions and declining living standards for millions more strain social relations throughout the world. These injustices give rise to disillusionment, desperation, terrorism and mass migration, to epidemics and resistant bacteria and fungi. Armed conflict is endemic in many of the world’s poor regions and wars have brought invasions of poor countries by wealthy countries to stem perceived terrorists’ threats and protect geopolitical interests.

In less than a year and one-half the 2020 U.S. presidential election will occur and the candidate and policies the majority of Americans embrace will help lead the world in one direction or another.  American voters will decide whether the most powerful leader in the world will aggressively tackle the world’s unprecedented and unfolding environmental and social crises or will exacerbate these crises by facilitating unrestrained capitalist exploitation and accumulation. Working Americans are primed for an alternative to global economic system, having recently lost millions of jobs and much of their modest wealth during the Great Recession. Universal healthcare and child care, a higher minimum wage and equal pay, student debt relief, tuition-free higher education, climate change and a green economy as well as a truly progressive tax policy to fund social and environmental initiatives are on the minds of ordinary Americans, if not the majority of them. This is an opportunity for progressive voices across the nation to demonstrate that unregulated capitalism threatens American families and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Certainly, ingrained capitalist ideology and vested institutions present formidable political obstacles leading to the 2020 presidential elections. Donald Trump and the Republican Party actively resist reform of capitalism, rejecting the Paris Accords and enacting severe cuts in domestic regulations restricting corporate activity and protecting the environment. Conservative strategists are clearly framing the 2020 election to protect the advantages in wealth and political power conservatives have gained in the global economy. Trump’s abject disregard for global warming and the failure of Republicans to address it is a clear threat to the future of the planet. His nuclear war-mongering, with the tacit endorsement of the Republican Party, has flirted with planetary annihilation. For these reasons renowned linguist and ferocious political critic Noam Chomsky has stunningly and aptly dubbed the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history”.

While it will likely take decades and even generations to rein in and reform our global economy enough to achieve some practical level of global sustainability, the magnitude and urgency of the challenges we and the world face make the 2020 U.S. presidential elections an extraordinary watershed moment. This is no time for a program of tepid, incrementalist reforms.  If the Democratic Party fails to embrace an agenda of far-reaching regulation of global capitalism that focuses on climate change and wealth disparity, it risks losing the presidency. Should a moderate Democratic candidate lacking the necessary vision and resolve be elected president in 2020, it may prove to be a kind of hollow victory.

The fundamental questions before American citizens could not be more crucial to the future of our nation and the world: Can we afford to ignore the ravages of climate change and the deleterious impact of our unsustainable production and consumption on the planet’s health? Can we fail to confront the concentration of wealth in fewer hands while poverty, lack of opportunity, ill health and violence driven by these realities rob generations of their potential as human beings? Should we discount, or even underplay, the fact that environmental degradation and wealth disparities on a global scale are exacerbated by inadequately regulated global economic regime?

New Culture, New Constitution, New Everything

North, Central, and South America were named after Amerigo Vespucci.  In “Letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici,”1 Amerigo Vespucci describes the New World.  Lorenzo de’ Medici is a member of the Medici family, a stupendously wealthy family of bankers and importers, who ruled the city of Florence, Italy for most of the 1400s.  The Medici family’s patronage of the arts promoted the Renaissance by sponsoring many of the most significant artistic achievements. They also gave financial loans to the Church.  Moreover, in 1513, another Medici, Giovanni de’ Medici, became Pope Leo X, which shows how influential and powerful this family was.2

Amerigo Vespucci referred to Lorenzo de’ Medici as “Your Excellency.”  He told Lorenzo how he and his crew in the Americas discovered “a very large village, the houses of which were built over the sea, like Venice with much ingenuity.  While we were struck with admiration at this circumstance, we determined to go see them; and as we went to their houses, they attempted to prevent our entering. They found out at last the manner in which the sword cuts, and thought it best to let us enter.”  The document also mentions that after entering, Amerigo Vespucci and his crew took a great quantity of cotton and dye-wood and returned to the ships.3 Apparently their religious motto of “do unto others, as you would have them do unto you” does not apply when the others are considered to be subhuman savages.

Niccolo Machiavelli was famous for writing the book The Prince which gave advice to political leaders of Florence that they must be ruthless, expedient, strong, and clever.  He also said, “It’s better for a ruler to be feared than loved.” The Prince is a treatise explaining how to gain and hold absolute political power.  Machiavelli dedicated The Prince to Giuliano de’ Medici, another member of the Medici family.4

If we examine the Middle Ages, as a contrast to the Renaissance period, the perfect ruler was Louis IX of France who was so virtuous that he was made a saint.  But with the Renaissance, men like Cosimo de’ Medici and Cezare Borgia took power boldly. It was considered a realistic politics that often meant a brutal disregard for ethics.4

In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn on page 1 mentions that Columbus wrote “They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…They would make fine servants.”  On page 2 of the People’s History, it mentions that Columbus wrote, “As soon as I arrived in the Indies on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”5

The Medici family, Machiavelli, and Columbus represent the foundation and mentality upon which our nation and culture were built. You could also say that our oligarchical founding fathers imbued this same commercial spirit of capitalistic enterprise.  The Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias explained the purposes that drove men to sail their ships across uncharted oceans: “To serve God and the King, to give light to those who are in darkness, and to grow rich, as all men desire to do.”6

Even today many people have the false hope that becoming rich is what will make them happy and fulfilled.  It is hard to fathom that the world’s billionaires do not seem troubled by the fact that half the world lives on less than $5.50 per day, according to the  World Bank. Many people aspiring to be millionaires and billionaires themselves see no justification in taxing the super rich at a higher rate.  Considering the needs of the planet and the rest of the world, I think the ratio of rich to poor annual incomes should be about 10:1, which means that any income above $120,000 would be taxed at 100 percent, based on the lowest wage being $15 per hour, about $30,000 a year. Moreover, everyone above the age of 18 could be guaranteed a basic annual income of $12,000 per year.  Reducing military spending by 90 percent would allow us to use tax revenues in a more humanistic way. After other nations reciprocate, we can reduce it even more.  I believe the other nations would reciprocate. It is the United States that is promoting outrageous military spending!

Instead of creating a survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog society, we can create a civilization that fosters cooperation and altruism.  If someone has the entrepreneurial skill of making a lot of money, that skill and motivation could be redirected and channeled into making the local community and the world a better place.  In a materialistic culture, the more we give, the less we have; it is a win-lose relationship. However, in an altruistic culture, the more we give the more we have; it is a win-win relationship.  Children learn what they live. We can teach different values to our children.

Today, as some of us complain about the never ending wars, a cursory study of history reveals that there have been many, many territorial and religious wars for very selfish and foolish reasons. Throughout history, in every age, there has been a small ruling class that has exploited the masses through the forces of hierarchy and domination.

Some would argue that the wars and hierarchical control are both just expressions of human nature, but you can also argue that humans just took a major wrong turn in the history of our so-called “civilization.”  We could have built a culture based on cooperation and sharing rather than competition and greed. We could have built our culture from the bottom-up, rather than from the top-down.  Even non-Western cultures and some primitive cultures have had their share of social problems, but now we know so much more.  We should be able to learn from history.

In hindsight, we must realize that we can still work to reverse the 9 social sins that have developed in the West, and especially in the United States: imperialism, nationalism, racism, corporate capitalism, anti-environmentalism, speciesism, materialism, patriarchalism, and the discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  Some of us are sickened by the never-ending wars of our national leaders who wreak havoc on the world — though few average Americans seem to be aware of it or troubled by it. Moreover, some of us no longer feel comfortable saying the “Pledge of Allegiance,” even though we deeply care about the other people who share this land.

To create a new culture, we have to have a democratic constitutional convention to create a new constitution.  But how do we select the delegates for this constitutional convention? Our current federal and state legislators or their chosen representatives should not be the delegates.  That is the main reason most people are fearful of a constitutional convention: they do not trust our current leaders. But a more democratic, bottom-up approach to having a constitutional convention would be to have the delegates come from the largest national political parties, as determined by proportional representation. This method would not create a new government that inherently favors the left or the right.  However, in time, if either the left or the right attracts more people into their fold through persuasion and argument once the playing field has been completely leveled, so be it.

A new culture and a new constitution created through a maximum level of democracy will not create an ideal society at first, considering all the pejorative influences of the last 5,000 years, but in time our society can gradually get better.  Moreover, we can become collectively wiser if we create a constitution that makes it much easier to create new laws, new amendments, and new future constitutions in a democratic and fair way.

Through the scientific studies of consciousness and meditation and the mounting evidence about Near Death Experiences and the New Physics which bridges science and spirituality, and through new research into ayahuasca as a form of therapy for problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which used to be called “shell shock” — all of the above can help us realize that we are one — we are interrelated ecologically and spiritually — one earth, one world, one humanity. We are all connected to the Source Energy at the deepest level of our being, which may be the same Source Energy that created the universe.

When we realize that an intellectual understanding of history and a psychological understanding of ourselves are far more fulfilling than a materialistic lifestyle; when we realize that the earth has an ecological carrying capacity that we must honor; when we realize that world peace is hampered to the degree there is a disparity between the rich and the poor; when we realize all of these things simultaneously — then the social sins of nationalism, imperialism, racism, and patriarchalism will no longer be the dominant themes of our culture.  Moreover, with a focus on internationalism, we will see the need for a democratic world government  built from the bottom-up,  not from the top-down through fascist oligarchs, also referred to as the one percent.  If we can create a constitutional convention in a democratic way, it can ultimately promote a new way of looking at the world and our human potential; it can merge science and spirituality; it can promote more loving-kindness, cooperation, sharing, honesty, and transparency in our personal, social, and international relationships.

Archetypically, the seven largest national political parties are the Republican, Democratic, Constitution Party, Libertarian, Green, Democratic Socialist, and Revolutionary Socialist.  Now imagine if these political parties were represented at a constitutional convention based on proportional representation. What would be even more democratic would be to have the national political parties that have garnered at least one percent of the national vote be represented at a constitutional convention.

At this link, I show how it can be done:  “The Most Democratic Way to Have a Constitutional Convention.”  I also share “15 Proposals that Could Make Our Nation and the World a Better Place.”  Not everyone will  support the proposals that you or I will recommend, but we have to realize that once we broaden the political spectrum and drastically reduce the influence of money in politics, citizens will have an opportunity to become better educated.  Creating a new constitution in a fair and democratic way may not create an ideal society — at least not immediately — but it will be a society that is much better than what we now have.

• First published at OpEdNews.com

  1. Sherman, Dennis and Salisbury, Joyce. West in the World: A History of Western Civilization, fourth edition, (2011), p. 388.
  2. Muntone, Stephanie. European History DeMystified, (2012), pp. 7-8.
  3. Sherman, Dennis and Salisbury, Joyce. West in the World: A History of Western Civilization, fourth edition, p. 388.
  4. Ibid. p. 323.
  5. Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present, (2003), pp. 1-2.
  6. Sherman, Dennis and Salisbury, Joyce. West in the World: A History of Western Civilization, fourth edition, (2011), p. 381.

In the U.S. they are never called human rights violations

Trump’s 2020 budget proposal reflects another significant increase in military spending along with corresponding cuts in spending by Federal agencies tasked with the responsibility for providing critical services and income support policies for working class and poor people. Trump’s call for budget cuts by Federal agencies is mirrored by the statutorily imposed austerity policies in most states and many municipalities. Those cuts represent the continuing imposition of neoliberal policies in the U.S. even though the “A” word for austerity is almost never used to describe those policies.

Yet, austerity has been a central component of state policy at every level of government in the U.S. and in Europe for the last four decades. In Europe, as the consequences of neoliberal policies imposed on workers began to be felt and understood, the result was intense opposition.  However, in the U.S. the unevenness of how austerity policies were being applied, in particular the elimination or reduction in social services that were perceived to be primarily directed at racialized workers, political opposition was slow to materialize.

Today, however, relatively privileged workers who were silent as the neoliberal “Washington consensus” was imposed on the laboring classes in the global South — through draconian structural adjustment policies that result in severe cutbacks in state expenditures for education, healthcare, state employment and other vital needs — have now come to understand that the neoliberal program of labor discipline and intensified extraction of value from workers, did not spare them.

The deregulation of capital, privatization of state functions — from road construction to prisons, the dramatic reduction in state spending that results in cuts in state supported social services and goods like housing and access to reproductive services for the poor — represent the politics of austerity and the role of the neoliberal state.

This materialist analysis is vitally important for understanding the dialectical relationship between the general plight of workers in the U.S. and the bipartisan collaboration to raid the Federal budget and to reduce social spending in order to increase spending on the military. This perspective is also important for understanding the imposition of those policies as a violation of the fundamental human rights of workers, the poor and the oppressed.

For the neoliberal state, the concept of human rights does not exist.

As I have called to attention before, a monumental rip-off is about to take place once again. Both the Democrats and Republicans are united in their commitment to continue to feed the U.S. war machine with dollars extracted — to the tune of 750 billion dollars — from the working class and transferred to the pockets of the military/industrial complex.

The only point of debate is now whether or not the Pentagon will get the full 750 billion or around 733 billion. But whether it is 750 billion or 733 billion, the one sector that is not part of this debate is the public. The attention of the public has been adroitly diverted by the absurd reality show that is Russiagate. But this week, even though the budget debate has been disappeared by corporate media, Congress is set to begin debate on aspects of the budget and specifically on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Raising the alarm on this issue is especially critical at this moment. As tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf, the corporate media is once again abdicating its public responsibility to bring unbiased, objective information to the public and instead is helping to generate support for war with Iran.

The Democrats, who have led the way with anti-Iran policies over the last few decades, will be under enormous pressure not to appear to be against enhancing military preparedness and are likely to find a way to give Trump and the Pentagon everything they want.

Support for Human Rights and Support for Empire is an Irreconcilable Contradiction

The assumption of post-war capitalist order was that the state would be an instrument to blunt the more contradictory aspects of capitalism. It would regulate the private sector, provide social welfare support to the most marginal elements of working class, and create conditions for full employment. This was the Keynesian logic and approach that informed liberal state policies beginning in the 1930s.

The idea of reforming human rights fits neatly into that paradigm.

As seen, a state’s legitimacy was based on the extent to which it recognized, protected and fulfilled the human rights of all its citizens and residents. Those rights included not only the right to information, assembly, speech and to participation in the national political life of the nation but also the right to food, water, healthcare, education, employment, substantial social security throughout life, and not just as a senior citizen.

The counterrevolutionary program of the late 60s and 70s, especially the turn to neoliberalism which began in the 70s, would reject this paradigm and redefine the role of the state. The obligation of the state to recognize, protect and fulfill human rights was eliminated from the role of the state under neoliberalism.

Today the consequences of four decades of neoliberalism in the global South and now in the cosmopolitan North have created a crisis of legitimacy that has made state policies more dependent on force and militarism than in any other time, including the civil war and the turmoil of the 1930s.

The ideological glue provided by the ability of capitalism to deliver the goods to enough of the population which guaranteed loyalty and support has been severely weakened by four decades of stagnant wages, increasing debt, a shrinking middle-class, obscene economic inequality and never-ending wars that have been disproportionately shouldered by the working class.

Today, contrary to the claims of capitalism to guarantee the human right to a living wage ensuring “an existence worthy of human dignity,” the average worker is making, adjusted for inflation, less than in 1973; i.e., some 46 years-ago. 140 million are either poor or have low-income; 80% living paycheck to paycheck; 34 million are still without health insurance; 40 million live in “official poverty;” and more in unofficial poverty as measured by alternative supplemental poverty (SPM).  And more than half of those over 55 years-old have no retirement funds other than Social Security.

In a report, Philp Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, points out that: the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan combined.

However, that choice in public expenditures must be seen in comparison to the other factors he lays out:

  • US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.
  • Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the US and its peer countries continues to grow.
  • US inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries
  • In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.
  • The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.

For African Americans in particular, neoliberalism has meant, jobs lost, hollowed out communities as industries relocated first to the South and then to Mexico and China, the disappearance of affordable housing, schools and hospital closings, infant and maternal mortality at global South levels, and mass incarceration as the unskilled, low-wage Black labor has become economically redundant.

This is the backdrop and context for the budget “debate” and Trump’s call to cut spendings to Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even the State Department.

The U.S. could find 6 trillion dollars for war since 2003 and 16 trillion to bail out the banks after the financial sector crashed the economy, but it can’t find money to secure the human rights of the people.

This is the one-sided class war that we find ourselves in; a war with real deaths and slower, systematic structural violence. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can be depended on to secure our rights or protect the world from the U.S. atrocities. That responsibility falls on the people who reside at the center of the Empire to not only struggle for ourselves but to put a brake on the Empire’s ability to spread death and destruction across the planet.

Marx Still Prevents the Progress of Society

If one searches “theory of alienation” in Google, predominately Marx’s theory comes out because other theories of alienation in a political and economic level do not exist. The question is why? What is so incredible in Marx’s statement that workers get alienated from the products of their labour, which alienates them from themselves? It just does not hold much water because everyone who produces for the market gets alienated from the product at the moment of purchase.

Marx strongly contributed to the scientific understanding of capitalism. He stated that capitalists profit from the production, while their workers only receive a fraction of the capitalist’s profit as wages. Capitalists exploit workers by paying them low earnings. Marx was right about this. He believed that exploitation of workers might be eliminated through socialist revolution only. Marx was wrong here because a violent revolution cannot better society. Although a revolution may replace a certain social injustice, it has always been replaced with a new kind. To ensure the lasting effect of revolutions, new leadership are generally autocratic, and therefore spread alienation throughout society with all the unfavourable dictatorial phenomena that are well-known throughout history. Revolutions have never contributed to the improvement of society as it was desired by people. Marx did not have enough data to be able to build his vision of socialism scientifically. As a result, his vision of socialism failed.

Thanks to social scientists, it is still not known what exactly creates exploitation of workers even though the answer is straightforward – unemployment creates exploitation. Unemployed workers are pressured to accept poorly paid jobs to feed their families. When we eliminate unemployment, we will create a fair market for work. The lack of workers will increase their demand on the market so that employers will have to pay them more. This will create a chain reaction in which workers’ salaries will grow, while employers would still make profits. We may say this would eliminate exploitation. There is no formula which would determine what exploitation is, only workers dissatisfied with their earnings may present it. A fair market of work will remove this dissatisfaction.

The rise in workers’ salaries in the fair market can be proved. In the 14th Century, the Black Death killed one-third of the European population which suddenly increased demand for workers. The shortage of workers increased the workers’ wages. At Cuxham (Oxfordshire, England), a plowman demanded from his Lord a payment 3.3 times greater in 1350 than in the previous year (The Economic Impact of the Black Death, Economic History Association). “In Parliament, in 1351 the Commons petitioned Edward III for a more resolute and effective response. They complained that “servants completely disregard the said ordinance in the interests of their ease and greed and that they withhold their services to great men and others unless they have liveries and wages twice or three times as great as [prior to the plague] to the serious damage of the great men and impoverishment of all members of the said commons.””1

According to this, if a political party wins an election offering a reduction of work to 5 hours per day; the lack of workers would increase workers’ salaries 2-3 times per hour in one year. The daily wages would rise 30-90% for just a 5-hour shift. Workers would work shorter hours and earn more. It has already happened, and it is much easier to accomplish than raising a revolution.

So who is going to pay for such an increase in salary? The wealthy employers, of course! Right now they collect this money as profit for themselves. Can employers refuse to increase worker salaries? They can, but then their workers would find a new employer who would pay more, and that means they will lose the possibility to maintain their businesses. When workers earn more they will purchase more which will, in turn, increase the employers’ profits. So, why have we not created a good economy so far? Because the more workers earn, the less they depend on the rich. The rich keep their power in society by maintaining the fear of unemployment. More about it is presented in my article: Let’s remove unemployment.

*****

Marx thought that the market economy caused the exploitation of workers, so he proposed the elimination of the market economy by a centrally planned economy. Marx knew that the elimination of market economy removes the indicators of economic efficiency so he called upon for worker conscience to replace it. It revealed a consistency problem of Marx’s philosophy. Human conscience belongs to idealism and it was never able to improve society because it was never accepted on the social level. The planned economy was supposed to produce goods and services in quality and quantity to satisfy people’s needs. But the leaders have never learned how to gather people’s needs, so they decided it for them. Such economy alienates itself from the people. The socialist economy also deteriorates because revolutions replace experienced entrepreneurs with inexperienced theorists. The socialist ideology overprotects workers while also taking their freedom which does not stimulate them to work enough. The planned economy is not able to make the balance between production and consumption leaving people unsatisfied. As a result, the Marxist’s economy failed to satisfy people’s needs sufficiently.

The planned economy was tried in the USSR and China. It has significantly reduced material exploitation of workers which exists in capitalist countries but also, it decreased the efficiency of the economy. The economy in the USSR and China had much lower productivity than capitalist economies. The USSR collapsed due to the inefficiency of the planned economy. Thus, Marxism failed. China has learned on their own mistakes, abandoned the planned economy in 1980, and accepted the regulated market economy. From that moment it has become the fastest growing economy in the world, threatening to take the number one place soon. This explains everything about the Marxist economy.

Taking into account the failures of Marxism, why does it deserve such a significant presence in science, media, and in hearts of Marxists? It would not be possible without the approval of the owners of corporations. Without it, Marxists would not be able to participate in political elections. Neither would they be able to teach Marxism at universities and get media support. Why do the rich help the Marxist ideology which promotes violent confiscation of their property? The rich simply knew Marxism could not be a threat to capitalism. Otherwise, it would be banned. They knew that Marxism is on the wrong track and support it because Marxism prevents the progress of society. If Marx proposed reducing work hours instead of revolution, his philosophy would not be supported, and hardly anybody would know he has ever existed.

This is how the conspiracy of the rich works. By supporting Marx, the rich have successfully prevented a better society for 100 years. Now capitalists know they cannot cheat people by supporting revolutions and planned economy anymore, but they do not abandon Marxism because a large number of people are romantically and emotionally still connected to Marx. Most Marxists accepted Marx’s ideology when they were young. Youthful rebellion based on dissatisfaction and injustice in society made them easy prey for the manipulation of the rich. The rich hid the cause of the exploitation and promoted Marx’s philosophy as the escape from the problem. Marx made revolution scientifically acceptable, and people acknowledged it through the study of his excessive work.

Marxists recognize the failures of Marxism, but they still believe they need to find the right method to implement Marx’s philosophy correctly. By accepting Marxism they cannot change their opinion significantly anymore, especially not if a simple idea like shorter work hours tries to break it. The rich are masters of deception and Marxists cannot admit they have been deceived. Helped by the rich, Marxists got a strong influence in the political Left and by promoting the ideology which does not work, they help the rich. They are also helping the rich by preventing new left ideas from coming.

*****

This is precisely what has happened to me. I have presented how to create a good society in the book Humanism – A Philosophic-Ethical-Political-Economic Study of the Development of the Society. It is available free of charge online. The book is based on an original theory of alienation. It states that subjectivity alienates us from objective reality. Subjectivity puts us on the wrong path so that we cannot satisfy our needs. The escape from all problems of humankind lies in the building of objective vision of reality. Democratic acceptance of equal human rights will do it. The implementation of equal human rights will solve all social problems. Nothing else we need for building a good social life and nothing else can make it.

Marx was right when he called upon for equal human rights among people, but he did not see the scope of its development. The ultimate stage of equal human rights will create an equal possibility for the employment of every worker at every public work post at any time. It will be necessary to open a permanent competition of workers for every public work post. The best worker would get the right to work at any time. I know it sounds impossible because such a division of labour never existed. But the realization of it is just a technical problem. The system I have developed will effectively evaluate the productivity of work offers, define the job responsibilities of workers, and harmonize rewards for work. In short, the workers who offer the highest productivity and responsibility, and demand the lowest salary will get the job. No economy can be more productive than the one where each job gets the best available worker. Public companies will become more productive than private ones so that the latter will go down in history. Only this should be called socialism. I wrote more about it in the article: The Failures of Marxism and the Right Path to Socialism and Communism.

The market is the best choice for the economy. The market of goods allocates every good to the most capable purchaser who needs and loves it the most. The producers profit from it the most as well. The further development of the market will improve the economy much more. The market of work will eliminate work privileges which will make each job equally demanded. Such a market will allocate every job to the most productive worker who needs and loves it the most. Shorter work hours will eliminate unemployment while less desirable jobs will be compensated with higher incomes. The market will help society to reach the best life possible. I have presented the bright future of humankind also through stories in three screenplays: Good Capitalism, Good Socialism, and Good Communism.

Even if my ideas are wrong, which they are not, my effort deserves to be noticed, but I have experienced a total refusal by media, science, politics, and film industry. The people who hear me offering increasing salaries for shorter work time, which is the first step in developing the economy and society, think it is too good to be true no matter what arguments I give. Public discussion may help, but it is prevented. One of the reasons for that is Marxists do not like my work.

However, the rich cannot hide the truth forever. It will break through one day. Then people will accept the benefits of full employment and request shorter work hours. The rich will resist it, of course, but they cannot win against united people. This will be the hardest part of creating a perfect society.

  1. Michael Bennett, The Impact of the Black Death on English Legal History, Australian Journal of Law and Society, 1995, Page 197.

Meritocracy is a Lie

In 2017, Sociology Professor Rachel Sherman wrote Uneasy Street: The Anxiety of Affluence, a book which drew upon 50 in-depth interviews with Uber-wealthy New Yorkers in order to obtain a picture of just how they perceived their status.

Sherman found that her interviewees, all in the top 1-2 percent of income or wealth or both, had thoroughly imbibed the narrative of meritocracy to rationalize their affluence and immense privileges. That is, they believed they deserved all their money because of hard work and individual effort. Most identified themselves as socially and political liberal and took pains to distinguish themselves from “bad” rich people who flaunt their wealth.  Although one unselfconsciously acknowledged “I used to say I was going to be a revolutionary but then I had my first massage.”

One striking characteristic was that these folks never talk about money and obsess over the “stigma of privilege.”  One typical respondent whose wealth exceeded $50 million told Sherman, “There’s nobody who knows how much money we spend. You’re the only person I’ve ever said the numbers to out-loud.” Another couple who had inherited $50 million and lived in a penthouse had the post office change their mailing address to the floor number because PH sounded “elite and snobby.” Another common trait was removing the price tags from items entering the house so the housekeeper and and staff didn’t see them. As if the nanny didn’t know…

Her subjects (who remained anonymous) readily acknowledged being extremely advantaged but remained “good people, normal people,”  who work hard, are careful about ostentatious consumption, and above all, “give back.”  They spend considerable time trying to legitimate inequality and Sherman concludes they’ve largely succeeded in feeling “morally worthy.”

As a follow-up to this study, Prof. Sherman has been conducting similar in-depth interviews with young people whose parents or ancestors accumulated sizable fortunes, wealth they now have or will soon inherit. Sherman’s recent piece, “The Rich Kid Revolution,” (The New York Times, 4/28/19)  reveals a stark contrast in self-perception from her earlier findings.

First, her interviewees totally “get” the lie of meritocracy as they ruefully skewer family myths about individual effort, scrimping and saving and the origins of wealth. One young woman who’s in line to inherit a considerable fortune told Sherman, “My dad has always been a CEO, and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that.”

Sherman discovered that whether the immense fortunes came from “the direct dispossession of indigenous people, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt.” One response has been that some wealthy people under age 35 have formed organizations to fund social justice initiatives.

Second, many of her respondents have read about racialized capitalism and harbor no illusions about their own success. From access to the “right” schools and acquiring cultural capital to social networking and good, high paying jobs, they readily acknowledged that it’s all derived from their class (and race) privilege. Third, they are convinced the economic system is “immoral,” equality of opportunity does not exist and their wealth and privileges are absolutely “unearned.”  Finally, they grasp, often from personal observation, that traditional philanthropy is primarily about keeping those at the top in place, obtaining generous tax breaks and treating symptoms while ignoring the causes rooted in the very social structures from which they benefit.

Beyond the article’s hyperbolic title and a certain vagueness about where this new consciousness may lead, the piece — whether intentionally or not — does raise issues that  demand much wider public discussion.

First, a note about philanthro-capitalism or as Peter Buffet (Warren Buffet’s son) terms it, “conscience laundering.”  In Chris Rock’s pithy phrase, “Behind every fortune is a great crime” and given what we know about the sources of great wealth —the collectivity— these monies should be supporting public needs that are democratically determined not the cherry-picked, pet projects of billionaires. And this reveals another motive behind private charity: the desire to stifle any enthusiasm for an activist government responsible to the public will.

I should add that whenever I hear a philanthropist piously proclaim, “I just wanted to give something back,” my first impulse is to shout “Why not give it all back?”  That is, I’ve always been partial to the moral injunction, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48). And although I won’t attempt to improve on scripture, I might suggest “From whom much is taken, much is owed.”

Second, one might ask about the case where a person of modest means succeeds at something and accumulates a fortune? We’ve all heard or read ad infinitum, someone exclaim,  “Damn it! Nobody even handed me anything. I did it all on my own. I’m entirely self-made.”  Isn’t that evidence of individual merit?  No. For starters, as Chuck Collins, heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune,  once put it, “Where would wealthy entrepreneurs be without taxpayer investments in the Internet, transportation, public education, the legal system, the human genome project and so on?” Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, has calculated the societal contribution at ninety percent of what people earn in Northwest Europe and the United States.

In addition to the sources mentioned above, just off the top of my head I can list many other factors that belie this powerfully seductive but wholly fictional narrative, one that’s also touted to and embraced by many members of the working class: Child labor, Chinese and Irish immigrant labor (railroads), eminent domain, massacres of striking workers, state repression of unions, Immigration Act of 1864, public land grabs, corporate welfare, installing foreign dictators to guarantee cheap labor and resources, inheritance laws, public schools and universities, public expense mail systems, property and contract laws, government tax breaks incentives to business, Securities and Exchange Commission to ensure trust in the stock market, the U.S. military, and a police state to keep the rabble from picking up pitchforks. Another factor that almost merits its own paragraphs is pure luck. By any objective criteria, we can conclude that absent this arrangement there would be no accumulation of private wealth.

Finally, meritocracy is the classic American foundation myth and provides the basis for an entire array of other fairy tales. Foremost, this illusion serves to justify policies that foster economic inequality and hinder the development of social movements. After so many decades of neoliberal ideology, this lie is now firmly lodged in the public’s collective consciousness but I’m convinced that with effort and relying on the evidence, it can be expunged.