In the three years of the Great Recession, more than 5 million families have lost their American Dream. Through foreclosure or short sale, another 6 million face the same fate during the next 3 years. As more than 10% of us endure this particular type of “homelessness”, with its anxiety, shame, and loss, no one has gone to jail. The few who protest openly are mocked or ignored.
Corporate profits are at record levels, driven primarily by the increased productivity of now-ubiquitous computer chips in every tool and appliance and a change in the geography of business. Even taxpayer-bailed-out General Motors sells more vehicles and employs more workers outside the U.S. than in. Bank of America, recipient of over US$45 billion of our [printed] money, uses computers to identify incremental arbitrage opportunities to make money from trading stocks. The illusion that the stock market “rally” indicates “recovery” continues. While your own retirement accounts shrink, and pensions are stripped either by fiat or by neglect [that’s what “unfunded” means], no one has gone to jail. The few who protest openly are mocked or ignored.
And despite these record profits, workers (you and I, in other words) are paid less today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than 40 years ago. The illusion that our standard of living has increased, as measured by our ability to consume meaningless bits of plastic and evermore oil, is generated by our working more hours, leaving our children in day care or at home alone, and borrowing more funds, not increased pay. Outsourcing, the target of our wrath over our current level of unemployment, is not the sole reason that only 47% of people aged 18 – 65 have full-time employment. Automation, poor education, and greed also play a part. While others lose their job, and you work harder to take up the slack, or as a robot takes over your manufacturing job, or as your own higher salary is replaced by a worker fresh out of college at starter wages, lower labor costs contribute to the corporate bottom line and no one has gone to jail. The few who protest openly are mocked or ignored.
Precisely because of this pattern: “no one has gone to jail. The few who protest openly are mocked or ignored”, the corporate power structure, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in early 2010 has begun new assaults on the poor and middle class. Here are two examples from March 2011:
- Michigan has just passed a law giving the Governor the power to dissolve any local government structure, and replace it with a person or corporation. This dissolution can be of duly elected Mayors, City Councils, or school boards. The replacement serves at the whim of the Governor, and citizen protests are not allowed. This is the end of democracy. Let me repeat that; now that a state official can nullify your ability to vote for local leadership, we no longer live in a democracy. We will live under the dictatorship of the last elected official for as long as he or she desires; we will serve our corporate masters openly even in government, as we have for decades behind the façade of democratic capitalism. Protesters will go to jail, therefore no one will protest.
- There is a drug, referred to as “Makena”, which is custom-compounded by pharmacists; targeted to each individual that will receive it. It delays labor in pregnant women who would otherwise give premature birth. Because each dose (currently costing $10 – $20) is slightly different, depending on the doctor’s instructions, the dose is not “FDA-approved”. Pregnancies may require as many as 20 doses. As of 15 March, it can no longer be dispensed in this way, per FDA mandate. The single pharmaceutical company who now has the legal authority to make up this prescription has announced its retail price: $1500 per dose. The cynical among us see this as a ploy to force the poor and middle class to endure premature births, with their attendant death or crippling infirmities, while the rich afford to carry their babies to term. The forgiving among us worry that our compassion for the poor will lead to taxpayer dollars, already becoming scarce, will have to be printed in order to cover the costs of this drug for those citizens who are part of government-funded health care programs. Although no one will go to jail, babies will die. Although a few will protest, mourning will be the order of the day.
While a few will celebrate their new-found profits stolen from citizens, the rest of us are left to grieve our loss of freedom, loss of democracy, and loss of life. Think about it: if you were “them”, the corporate profiteers, why wouldn’t you do this? No one goes to jail for these crimes, the few who protest are ignored or shamed, most people tweet about what they are eating for lunch or zone out watching TV or video. Why hide behind the façade of democracy any longer? Our Masters are finally coming out into the light. It may be too late to stop. If we fail to protest, we get down on our knees before Them.