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Letters from Downunder

Parting of the ways

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

"We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both." Lois Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1856-1941)

(10/2016) There is no question that a large proportion of the American population is suffering from loss of identity. Wage growth and parity, poorer health, high levels of anxiety, lack of answers, all leading to frustration and anger. Most seem not to know the reasons for this, and simply want a return to the days when their labour and skills were valued, their aspirations realized for the most part, the education of their children was reasonable and coherent, and life was more than bearable.

They see that their government has become ruled by big business, has perverted democratic values, the super elite sucking the last drop of moisture from the plant of life, with bogeymen lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce. The dream, having become nightmare, is confusing and cynical - with the one person who seems to be outside that camp promising, if not salvation, then revenge.

The things that accompany this, such as outright lies, the statements designed to shock, flimflam policies, and an appeal to xenophobia have been greeted with cheers; nothing is taken too seriously, because the picture is different enough from the establishment that it seems miraculous, like the Wizard of Oz, when turning a few levers, pushing some flashing buttons brought Dorothy back home, safe and sound with the wicked establishment witch dissolved in a bucket of water.

It would be nice if it were real, but Hollywood, the master of dreamscapes, is there to entertain, not enlighten. Reality, that sneaky thing, will not go away, and will not be ignored except by a few who have erected their own version. They remind me of the gods on Olympus, happy to be worshipped by the proles, fight and argue among themselves, send thunderbolts and hail, consign each other to the netherworld, but who are so far removed from daily life that they truly do not know what is going on below.

You may have read of tipping points – they’re often mentioned in the context of climate change – when a process cannot be reversed no matter the action taken. (Think trying to put the contents of a spilt glass of water back into the glass). Well, one of these has been reached in your society. When the tiny elite at the top have so much power and wealth that the base on which it rests starts to lean, it becomes a leaning tower - but unlike Pisa, it doesn’t stop, but keeps going until society is prostrate. It leans because the foundations have become eroded, the weight on them so great that they ooze out, and, like melting permafrost, release their stored up toxins into the air.

Like Rome, the city of American life will not survive, but will fall to the vandal hordes in due course. Like Rome, the armies will be withdrawn, the gold, the jewels, the bounties will cease, and only ruins will remain for future generations to visit and marvel at. The invaders will not be democratic, will not value individual freedom as it once was, will impose their will while smiling a little freedom, and will take whatever they choose. The first to the firing squad will be the elite, and the hoi polloi will be glad of the change, because any enemy of my enemy is my friend.

You don’t believe it? Here’s some facts and figures. Between 1979 and 2014 the per-capita GDP grew 77%, and productivity rose 75%. Over the last decade the wages of the bottom 80% of Americans has fallen or stagnated. Since the great recession of 2008 the richest 1% of Americans has seen 95% of the benefits of this growth. Larry Somers, former treasury secretary, points out that if the income distribution of 1979 was in place today, every family of the bottom 89% of the population would have $11,000 more. Eight Americans made at least 10 billion in 2013. That’s the amount 200,000 would have made between them.

As well, the Republican majority house recently voted to eliminate inheritance tax altogether, which will cost treasury $250 billion over ten years, and is part of a one trillion tax cut they want. This is aimed at the richest elite, the likes of Paris Hilton who has never worked a day in her life. At the other end of the idiocy scale is the practice of certain municipalities to indulge in for-profit policing. By falling foul of some minor infraction – mostly speeding - police can remove your belongings and sell them, keeping the profit for themselves, still leaving you with the fine.

The fall out from all this is truly appalling. For the first time in 100 years length of life is falling for the bottom 20%, not increasing; children’s nutrition is worse, with enormous rises in diabetes and obesity, general education is so underfunded that it may not be possible to effectively teach, vital infrastructure is almost past the point of being repairable, and the list goes on and on.

America is rapidly taking on the style of a lower third-world country while maintaining the glitz of sales success. You may not see it, just as you are not be able to explain the rise of rebellion as shown by the trump camp. It may take a while for the edifice to crumble, but starving kids on one side of the street with gun toting plutocrats on the other is not going to let it last. The French didn’t, the Russians didn’t, and the Americans proletariat will not.

Ivory towers are no match for a people prepared to sacrifice themselves in the cause of justice. Your friends, who you have infected with the same virus, are not likely to demur. It is impossible to have democracy when wealth is concentrated in the hands of just a few.

Vale equality.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker