Big Lie: America Doesn’t Have #1 Richest Middle-Class in the World…We’re Ranked 27th!

AlterNet [1] / By Les Leopold [2]  June 18, 2013  |

Excerpt

America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet’s riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years! This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that’s what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us. Unfortunately, it’s a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people. Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27….Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc.) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity…

Full text

America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet’s riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years!

This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that’s what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us.

Unfortunately, it’s a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people.

Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27.

The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution—50 percent of the adult population has more wealth, while 50 percent has less. You can’t get more middle than that.

Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc.) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity. While the never-ending accumulation of wealth may be wrecking the planet, wealth also provides basic security, especially in a country like ours with such skimpy social programs. Wealth allows us to survive periods of economic turmoil. Wealth allows our children to go to college without incurring crippling debts, or to get help for the down payment on their first homes. As Billie Holiday sings, “God bless the child that’s got his own.”

Well, it’s a sad song. As the chart below shows, there are 26 other countries with a median wealth higher than ours (and the relative reduction of U.S. median wealth has done nothing to make our economy more sustainable).
Why?

Here’s a starter list:

  • We don’t have real universal healthcare. We pay more and still have poorer health outcomes than all other industrialized countries. Should a serious illness strike, we also can become impoverished.
  • Weak labor laws undermine unions and give large corporations more power to keep wages and benefits down. Unions now represent less than 7 percent of all private sector workers, the lowest ever recorded.
  • Our minimum wage is pathetic, especially in comparison to other developed nations [3]. (We’re # 13.) Nobody can live decently on $7.25 an hour. Our poverty-level minimum wage puts downward pressure on the wages of all working people. And while we secure important victories for a few unpaid sick days, most other developed nations provide a month of guaranteed paid vacations as well as many paid sick days.
  • Wall Street is out of control. Once deregulation started 30 years ago, money has gushed to the top as Wall Street was free to find more and more unethical ways to fleece us.
  • Higher education puts our kids into debt. In most other countries higher education is practically tuition-free. Indebted students are not likely to accumulate wealth anytime soon.
  • It’s hard to improve your station in life if you’re in prison, often due to drug-related charges that don’t even exist in other developed nations. In fact, we have the largest prison population in the entire world, and we have the highest percentage of minorities imprisoned. “In major cities across the country, 80% of young African Americans now have criminal records” (from Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness).
  • Our tax structures favor the rich and their corporations that no longer pay their fair share. They move money to foreign tax havens, they create and use tax loopholes, and they fight to make sure the source of most of their wealth—capital gains—is taxed at low rates. Meanwhile the rest of us are pressed to make up the difference or suffer deteriorating public services.
  • The wealthy dominate politics. Nowhere else in the developed world are the rich and their corporations able to buy elections with such impunity.
  • Big Money dominates the media. The real story about how we’re getting ripped off is hidden in a blizzard of BS that comes from all the major media outlets…brought to you by….
  • America encourages globalization of production so that workers here are in constant competition with the lower-wage workers all over the world as well as with highly automated techonologies.

Is there one cause of the middle-class collapse that rises above all others?

Yes. The International Labor organization produced a remarkable study (Global Wage Report 2012-13) [4] that sorts out the causes of why wages have remained stagnant while elite incomes have soared. The report compares key causal explanations like declining bargaining power of unions, porous social safety nets, globalization, new technologies and financialization.

Guess which one had the biggest impact on the growing split between the 1 percent and the 99 percent?

Financialization!

What is that? Economist Gerald Epstein offers us a working definition [5]:

“Financialization means the increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economies.”

This includes such trends as:

  • The corporate change during the 1980s to make shareholder value the ultimate goal.
  • The deregulation of Wall Street that allowed for the creation of a vast array of new financial instruments for gambling.
  • Allowing private equity firm to buy companies, load them up with debt, extract enormous returns, and then kiss them goodbye.
  • The growth of hedge funds that suck productive wealth out of the economy.
  • The myriad of barely regulated world financial markets that finance the globalization of production, combined with so-called “free trade” agreements.
  • The increased share of all corporate profits that go to the financial sector.
  • The ever increasing size of too-big-to-fail banks.
  • The fact that many of our best students rush to Wall Street instead of careers in science, medicine or education.

In short, financialization is when making money from money becomes more important that providing real goods and services. Here’s a chart that says it all. Once we unleashed Wall Street, their salaries shot up, while everyone else’s stood still.

 

Do we still know how to fight!

The carefully researched ILO study provides further proof that Occupy Wall Street was right on the money. OWS succeeded (temporarily), in large part, because it tapped into the deep reservoir of anger toward Wall Street felt by people all over the world. We all know the financiers are screwing us.

Then why didn’t OWS turn into a sustained, mass movement to take on Wall Street?

One reason it didn’t grow was that the rest of us stood back in deference to the original protestors instead of making the movement our own. As a result, we didn’t build a larger movement with the structures needed to take on our financial oligarchs. And until we figure out how to do just that, our nation’s wealth will continue to be siphoned away.

Our hope, I believe, lies in the young people who are engaged each day in fighting for the basic human rights for all manner of working people—temp workers, immigrants, unionized, non-union, gays, lesbians, transgender—as well as those who are fighting to save the planet from environmental destruction. It’s all connected.

At some point these deeply committed activists also will understand that financialization both here and abroad stands in the way of justice and puts our planet at risk. When they see the beast clearly, I am confident they will figure out how to slay it.

The sooner, the better.

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Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/americas-middle-class-27th-richest

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/les-leopold
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_wages_by_country
[4] http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_194843.pdf
[5] http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/programs/globalization/financialization/chapter1.pdf
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/middle-class
[7] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

The Middle Class Faces Extinction—So Does the American Dream

Stewart Lansley, Los Angeles Review of Books, Alternet.org,  June 3, 2013

This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books

Excerpt

Inequality is now one of the biggest political and economic challenges facing the United States…The return of inequality to levels last seen in the 1920s has had a profound effect on American society, its values, and its economy….One of the most significant effects…has been the capping of opportunities and the emergence of downward mobility amongst the middle classes, a process that began well before the recession. Around 100 million Americans — a third of the population — live below or fractionally above the poverty level. A quarter of the American workforce end up in low-paid jobs, the highest rate across rich nations, while the wealthiest 400 Americans have the same combined wealth as the poorest half — over 150 million people…The nation is at last waking up to what has been reality for years — the vaunted American Dream (the ability of citizens to go from rags to riches, and one of the country’s most enduring values) is increasingly a myth…The stagnating incomes of the bulk of Americans, along with the shrinking of the middle, are the mirror image of the rise of the plutocracy and the return of the gilded age…the long wage squeeze and the growing concentration of income at the top led to record corporate surpluses and an explosion of personal fortunes…the effect was the upward redistribution of existing wealth and the fueling of the bubbles — in property and business — that eventually brought the global economy to its knees. That inequality is also acting as a profound drag on the prospects of recovery…But unless Obama can find a way of breaking the firewalls created by the new plutocrats to protect their wealth from economic collapse and political interference, the likelihood is that the American middle class will go on shrinking, the American dream will further erode, and the nation’s economy will continue to stumble from crisis to crisis.

Full text

Inequality is now one of the biggest political and economic challenges facing the United States. Not that long ago, the gap between rich and poor barely registered on the political Richter scale. Now the growing income divide, an issue that dominated the presidential election debate, has turned into one of the hottest topics of the age.

Postwar American history divides into two halves. For the first three decades, those on middle and low incomes did well out of rising prosperity and inequality fell. In the second half, roughly from the mid–1970s, this process went into reverse. Set on apparent autopilot, the gains from growth were heavily colonized by the superrich, leaving the bulk of the workforce with little better than stagnant incomes.

The return of inequality to levels last seen in the 1920s has had a profound effect on American society, its values, and its economy. The United States led the world in the building of a majority middle class. As early as 1956, the celebrated sociologist, C. Wright Mills, wrote that American society had become “less a pyramid with a flat base than a fat diamond with a bulging middle.”

That bulge has been on a diet. The chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers — Professor Alan Krueger — has shown how the size of the American middle class (households with annual incomes within 50 percent of the midpoint of the income distribution) has been heading backwards from a peak of more than a half in the late 1970s to 40 percent now. The “diamond” has gone. The social shape of America now looks more like a contorted “hourglass” with a pronounced bulge at the top, a long thin stem in the middle, and a fat bulge at the bottom.

One of the most significant effects of America’s hourglass society has been the capping of opportunities and the emergence of downward mobility amongst the middle classes, a process that began well before the recession. Around 100 million Americans — a third of the population — live below or fractionally above the poverty level. A quarter of the American workforce end up in low-paid jobs, the highest rate across rich nations, while the wealthiest 400 Americans have the same combined wealth as the poorest half — over 150 million people.

With a growing percentage of the current generation facing a lower living standard than their parents, more and more US citizens express a “fear of falling,” worried about a further loss of livelihood and their relative income status. The nation is at last waking up to what has been reality for years — the vaunted American Dream (the ability of citizens to go from rags to riches, and one of the country’s most enduring values) is increasingly a myth.

In a poll conducted for The Washington Post before the 2012 presidential election, respondents were asked which was the bigger worry: “unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy” or “over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity.” They chose unfairness by a margin of 52–37 percent. The mostly pro-self-reliant American public are perhaps coming to recognize that their much-heralded virtues of hard work and self-help are no longer an effective means to economic advancement.

The most damaging impact of growing inequality has been on the American — and global — economy. It has been one of the central rules of market economics that inequality is good for growth and stability. The idea was enshrined in the postwar writings of the New Right critics of the model of managed capitalism that emerged after the war. “Inequality of wealth and incomes is the cause of the masses’ well being, not the cause of anybody’s distress” wrote the Austrian-American economist Ludwig von Mises, one of the leading prophets of the superiority of markets, in 1955.

It was a theory that gained traction during the global economic crisis of the 1970s and with the publication in 1975 of a highly influential book, Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff, by the late American mainstream economist Arthur Okun. This theory — that you can have either more equal societies or more economically successful ones, but not both — has been used to justify the growth of inequality in the United States, a trend that has since spread to a majority of the rich world. One of the telling by-products of the current economic crisis is that this theory is now being challenged. It is now being increasingly argued that the levels of income concentration in recent times have had a significant negative effect on the economy, bringing slower growth and greater turbulence and contributing to both the 2008 crash and the lack of a sustained recovery.

Perhaps the most significant convert to these ideas is President Obama. A year ago, he remarked, “When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom.” Addressing delegates at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos in January 2013, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, endorsed this view, “I believe that the economics profession and the policy community have downplayed inequality for too long […] [A] more equal distribution of income allows for more economic stability, more sustained economic growth.”

This view goes against the grain of the economic orthodoxy of the last 30 years. As the Chicago economist Robert E. Lucas, Nobel prizewinner and one of the principal architects of the pro-market, self-regulating school that has dominated economic strategy in the Anglo-Saxon world, declared in 2003, “Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most poisonous is to focus on questions of distribution.”

A growing body of evidence and opinion now holds that this idea is wrong. In fact, the “distribution question” — how the cake is divided, between wages and profits on the one hand, and between the top and bottom on the other — is critical to economic health. Over the last 30 years, the rich world, led by the United States, has steered a growing share of national output first to profits and ultimately to the top one percent. Across the 34 richest nations in the world, the share going to wages has fallen from over 66 percent in 1990 to less than 62 percent today. The result is a growing detachment of living standards from output. The stagnating incomes of the bulk of Americans, along with the shrinking of the middle, are the mirror image of the rise of the plutocracy and the return of the gilded age.

This decoupling of wages from output creates a critical structural fault that ultimately brings self-destruction. First, a growing pay-output gap sucks consumer lifeblood out of economies. To fill this growing demand gap, levels of personal debt were allowed to explode. In the US, the level of outstanding personal debt rose almost threefold in the decade from 1997 to $14.4 trillion. This helped to fuel a domestic boom from the mid-1990s, but one that was never going to be sustainable.

Secondly, the long wage squeeze and the growing concentration of income at the top led to record corporate surpluses and an explosion of personal fortunes. Instead of being used to create new wealth via an investment and entrepreneurial boom (as predicted by market theorists), these massive cash surpluses were used to finance a wave of speculative financial activity and asset restructuring. The effect was the upward redistribution of existing wealth and the fueling of the bubbles — in property and business — that eventually brought the global economy to its knees. That inequality is also acting as a profound drag on the prospects of recovery.

A central feature of the President’s annual State of the Union address on February 11 was its call to “grow the economy from the middle out,” to “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.” In his call for more active government to reduce inequality — from a 25 percent hike in the minimum wage to higher taxes on the rich — Obama was adding some meat to his earlier call “to restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share.” Yet, despite a succession of lofty speeches, the best evidence is that since 2008, growth has continued to be very unevenly shared. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have shown that over nine tenths of growth in 2010 was captured by the top one percent. This is in stark contrast to the 1930s, when the big gainers from recovery were most ordinary Americans and the big losers were the superrich.

Obama’s program for change fails to match the radicalism of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s or that of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty three decades later. Of course, creating a more equal America is hardly a cakewalk. The United States has rarely been more divided on the politics of change. Before Congressman Paul Ryan became Mitt Romney’s controversial running mate, he had blasted Obama’s proposed (and modest) tax measures on the rich as “class warfare.” Other global leaders seem equally disempowered in the face of the might of a global billionaire class determined to preserve its privileges, muscle, and wealth.

But unless Obama can find a way of breaking the firewalls created by the new plutocrats to protect their wealth from economic collapse and political interference, the likelihood is that the American middle class will go on shrinking, the American dream will further erode, and the nation’s economy will continue to stumble from crisis to crisis.

See more stories tagged with:

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economy [6],

state of the union [7],

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Alan Krueger [10],

depression [11],

poverty [12]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/income-inequality-defers-american-dream

Links:
[1] http://lareviewofbooks.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/stewart-lansley
[3] http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?id=1657&fulltext=1
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/income-inequality-0
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/american-dream
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/economy-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/state-union
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/obama-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/council-economic-advisers
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/alan-krueger
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/depression
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/poverty-0
[13] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Ayn Rand’s Gospel of Selfishness and Billionaire Empowerment Is Plaguing America

Thomhartmann.com / By Thom Hartmann [1], Sam Sacks [2]  February 7, 2013

Thirty years after her death, Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness and billionaire empowerment rules the world. It’s a remarkable achievement for an ideology that was pushed to the fringes for most of her life, and ridiculed on national television in a notorious interview with Mike Wallace.

But, it’s happened. And today, the United States and other independent governments around the world are crumbling while Ayn Rand’s billionaires are taking over.

With each new so-called Free Trade agreement – especially the very secretive Trans Pacific Partnership, which has less to do with trade and more to do with a new law of global governance for transnational corporations – Ayn Rand’s reviled “state” (or what we would call our democracy, the United States of America) is losing its power to billionaires and transnational corporations.

Ayn Rand hated governments and democracy. She considered them systems of mob rule. She grew up in Russia, and as a child watched the Bolsheviks confiscate her father’s pharmacy during the Russian Revolution. Likely suffering from PTSD from that incident, Ayn Rand devoted her future writings to evil government, including the “evil” of its functions like taxation, regulation, and providing social services to the poor and sick.

She divided the world into makers and takers (or what she called “looters”).

On one side are the billionaires and the industrialists. People like Dagny Taggert, a railroad tycoon, and Hank Rearden, a steel magnate. Both were fictional characters in her book Atlas Shrugged, but both have real-world counterparts in the form of the Koch Brothers, the Waltons, and Sheldon Adelson. According to Rand, they are the “Atlases” holding up the world.

So, in Atlas Shrugged, when the billionaires, tired of paying taxes and complying with government regulation, go on strike, Ayn Rand writes that the American economy promptly collapsed.

On the other side are the “looters,” or everyone else who isn’t as rich or privileged, or who believed in a democratic government to provide basic services, empower labor unions, and regulate the economy. They are the leeches on society according to Rand (and according to Mitt Romney with his 47% comments). And, as she told Mike Wallace in in 1959, they do not even “deserve love.”

To our Founding Fathers, looking out for the general welfare of the population was an explicit role of the government, one of its most important and the reason this nation was created when we separated from Britain.

But to Ayn Rand, a government that taxed billionaires to help pay for healthcare and education for impoverished children was not just unwise economically, it was also immoral.

Nature abhors a vacuum – both in the wild and in politics.  So, when people, organized in the form of a government, are removed from power, then money organized in the form of corporations and billionaires moves into the vacuum to take power – which is exactly what’s happening today, worldwide.

In the thirty years after her death, the United States crept closer and closer to Ayn Rand’s utopia. Reagan dramatically slashed taxes on the rich and went after labor unions. Clinton deregulated financial markets for the rich, ended welfare as we know it, and committed our nation to one globalist corporate free trade agreement after another.

And, under Bush and Obama, we’ve seen the rapid privatization of our commons, the further erosion of social safety nets, and more losses of national sovereignty with more so-called free trade agreements.

In Europe, we’re seeing sovereign governments neutered by Conservative technocrats. According to Ayn Rand, the rich can never be asked to sacrifice. So instead, it’s working people across the Eurozone who have to pay for the bad investments that the banksters made in the run-up to the global financial collapse.

As we saw in Greece in 2011 with the deposing of Prime Minister George Papandreou, and all across the state of Michigan over the last few years with financial managers laws, when democratic governments are unwilling to do the bidding of the rich, they’re immediately replaced by corporate lackeys who will.

The Taggerts and the Reardens are holding the reins of government today.

Which explains why Corporate America paid an average tax rate of just 12% in 2011 – the lowest rate in 40 years. It explains why 400 billionaires in America now own more wealth than 150 million other Americans combined. And it explains why fewer impoverished Americans are getting less federal assistance than at any time in the last half-century.

Ayn Rand envisioned a world without governments – a world where the super-rich are free to do as they wish.

We tried that during the so-called Gilded Age of the late 19th Century – before Ayn Rand was alive. If she’d watched the ruthlessness of the Robber Barons like she did the Bolsheviks, she may have reached different conclusions.

She may have realized that American Presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower were right when they made sure that wealth was more evenly distributed and the Billionaire Class was held in check.

Or she may have come to understand that corporations and billionaires owe their wealth to the state and not the other way around. Without favorable patent and copyright laws, a court system, an educated workforce, and an infrastructure to move goods about the country, then no one would be able to get rich in America.  We’d be like the Libertarian paradise of Somalia.

As Harry Moser, the founder of the Reshoring Initiative,argued [3] in The Economist, “Corporations are not created by the shareholders or the management. Rather they are created by the state. They are granted important privileges by the state (limited liability, eternal life, etc). They are granted these privileges because the state expects them to do something beneficial for the society that makes the grant. They may well provide benefits to other societies, but their main purpose is to provide benefits to the societies (not to the shareholders, not to management, but to the societies) that create them.”

Sadly, this understanding of how democratic republics work – and why – has been lost this generation.

And Ayn Rand’s disciples are making sure the next generation never finds it again.

Idaho State Senator John Goedde, who chairs that state Senate’s Education Committee, introduced a bill this week that would require all students to read Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” before they can graduate. Goedde explained that the book made his son a Republican and that it “certainly gives one a sense of personal responsibility.”

Between stupidity like this, and the re-birth of Ayn Rand through corporate-funded think tanks and Hollywood movies, the Billionaire Class wants to make sure the next generation buys into a toxic ideology that’s quite literally destroying the world as we know it.

They don’t want the 21st Century to be “America’s Century.” They want it to be the “Billionaire’s Century.” And if they succeed, then the middle class in America – and through most of the developed world – will go extinct.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/ayn-rands-gospel-selfishness-and-billionaire-empowerment-plaguing-america

Teaching People to Hate Their Own Govt. Is at the Core of the Project to Destroy the Middle Class

By Dennis Marker, AlterNetAugust 21, 2012

The following is an excerpt from Dennis Marker’s new book 15 Steps to Corporate Feudalism [3], published this year. In the text  below, Marker shares one of the steps he sees as central to the destruction of the middle class since Ronald Reagan took over. 

Mini-excerpt

…Teaching the middle class to hate their government was an essential part of the [conservative] plan… A middle class cannot exist without a strong government. This is because only a government has the power to stand up to the giant corporations of today’s world …Thirty years ago at the onset of the Reagan Revolution, the middle class basically appreciated and respected their government…the basic message of Reagan and the conservatives was that everyone would be better off if the federal government just disappeared. They were smart enough not to say this directly, however. Instead, they just landed one body blow after another without openly expressing their desire to destroy the government….

Excerpt

…Teaching the middle class to hate their government was an essential part of the plan to implement Corporate Feudalism. A middle class cannot exist without a strong government. This is because only a government has the power to stand up to the giant corporations of today’s world, or the powerful individuals and private armies of earlier times…If you want to put an end to the middle class and replace it with a feudal republic, you would need to change people’s perception of their government…

Thirty years ago at the onset of the Reagan Revolution, the middle class basically appreciated and respected their government and believed that living in the United States was good for the middle class. They took their status for granted. The connection between what was good about the United States and its government was clear to the American public … government is very different from what it was when Reagan took office. It is much weaker, no longer able to offer the protections or provide the services the middle class took for granted thirty years ago… And in its weakened state the US government has lost the support of the very citizens who depended on it the most, the middle class.

How did this happen? When Ronald Reagan got to Washington, he set out to convince the middle class that their government was their enemy, using his considerable powers of persuasion. The basic message of Reagan and the conservatives was that everyone would be better off if the federal government just disappeared. They were smart enough not to say this directly, however. Instead, they just landed one body blow after another without openly expressing their desire to destroy the government….

Full text

Your goal for this step is to figure out how to teach the middle class to hate their own government using a strategy that takes into consideration the political climate of theUnited Statesof thirty years ago.

Teaching the middle class to hate their government was an essential part of the plan to implement Corporate Feudalism. A middle class cannot exist without a strong government. This is because only a government has the power to stand up to the giant corporations of today’s world, or the powerful individuals and private armies of earlier times. It is the government that enforces the laws to protect the middle class from those who would like to become their economic rulers. That is why prior to the Industrial Revolution and the creation of the middle class all economies were run according to some version of the feudal system. If you want to put an end to the middle class and replace it with a feudal republic, you would need to change people’s perception of their government.

Obviously a government does not have to be on the side of its people, as can be seen by the existence of countless dictatorships and oligarchies throughout the world. Even the corporatocracy that currently exists in theUnited States falls far short of being on the side of its middle class. But US history shows that a government committed to serving its citizens can, in fact, help create and maintain a healthy middle class even in the face of powerful corporations whose only interest is maximizing their own power and profits.

It is like the story in old westerns of a big bad landowner who takes what he wants when he wants it, ruthlessly terrorizing a town without a strong sheriff. Any individual who tries to stop the landowner is beaten into submission or killed. The situation continues until the town finds a strong enough sheriff to regain control over the landowner and his gang. This is the Old West version of the feudal system. In westerns, the feudal lord comes first and the sheriff comes later. But in the United States of thirty years ago, the government was the strong sheriff keeping the late-twentieth-century feudal lords from taking what they wanted. As long as the government was supported by its citizens—particularly its middle class—no one could ride into town and steal what belonged to the people. But if the government were weakened or destroyed, a different situation would arise. The intent of the plan for Corporate Feudalism was to convince the middle class to fire their sheriff. And that’s just what happened.

Thirty years ago at the onset of the Reagan Revolution, the middle class basically appreciated and respected their government and believed that living in the United Stateswas good for the middle class. They took their status for granted. The connection between what was good about the United Statesand its government was clear to the American public. For the most part, people believed the government was on their side and largely responsible for the high standard of living they enjoyed. Their government built the roads that made transportation easy. Their government made the laws and regulations that kept US workers safe at their jobs. Their government ensured that their food was safe. The labor strife that had empowered the middle class was now decades old, and the Vietnam War had ended, although not well. In many ways the United Statesof thirty years ago was a happy place, and most people understood their government’s role in keeping it that way. While there were problems, including the energy crisis, they seemed manageable. Not everyone was happy with everything the government did, of course, but there was general agreement that the USgovernment was the best government anywhere.

Then the US government found itself in the crosshairs of the brand-new Reagan Revolution with no way to understand why it was under attack and no way to defend itself. For thirty years, it took blow after blow. Now, while still standing, that government is very different from what it was when Reagan took office. It is much weaker, no longer able to offer the protections or provide the services the middle class took for granted thirty years ago—the same kinds of services that many European democracies have continued to provide for their citizens during the period of US economic and social decline. And in its weakened state theUS government has lost the support of the very citizens who depended on it the most, the middle class.

How did this happen? When Ronald Reagan got to Washington, he set out to convince the middle class that their government was their enemy, using his considerable powers of persuasion. The basic message of Reagan and the conservatives was that everyone would be better off if the federal government just disappeared. They were smart enough not to say this directly, however. Instead, they just landed one body blow after another without openly expressing their desire to destroy the government.

For example, Reagan attacked government workers, contending they were lazy, they wasted taxpayer money, and they involved themselves in issues they knew nothing about, like regulating large businesses and corporations. Within the first few years of Reagan’s election, the morale of the federal workforce plummeted as these employees saw their image shift from being considered public servants trying to make life in the United States better for everyone to being seen as lazy, despised bureaucrats wasting taxpayer money. Far from being a place where committed public servants worked to help the public,Washington,DC, became known as the place where crooks, thieves, and lazy workers stole taxpayer money for foolish purposes or their own personal benefit.

While federal workers had unions to protect their jobs, they did not have high-priced lobbyists and media consultants to safeguard their image. The unions representing federal workers came under the same harsh attack as the workers themselves, but the attacks went largely unanswered. The nation’s first movie star president had intentionally created this negative image of government workers, and he was convincing.

Following Reagan, other conservatives continued to lead the charge against the government, often using the same language the Reagan administration had employed. Few found language more effective than the Reagan one-liner, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” but they didn’t need to. The leap from John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” to Reagan’s cynical and supposedly frightening “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” had been successfully made.

In addition to waging a full-scale campaign against the government and its employees, the Reagan administration also implemented another practice that was equally destructive to the image of government—filling government positions with people who hated government, a practice that continues to this day. For those seeking to change theUnited States from a middle-class democracy to a corporate feudal republic, there are three major advantages to this practice. First, you give government jobs to your conservative friends and cronies. Second, you keep dedicated public servants who want to see government succeed out of government. Third, and most importantly, you have a cadre of conservative ideologues working inside the government to sabotage and destroy the government at every turn.

The advantages for conservatives of sabotaging and destroying the government are almost limitless. Looking at a few examples from George W. Bush’s administration shows why. Thirty years ago the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a government agency committed to protecting the public by monitoring the safety of toys and other products, made a positive difference in people’s lives. However, during George W. Bush’s administration conservatives who filled many of the civil service positions and all of the politically appointed slots did not believe the government should be in the business of helping to protect the public, and they did everything in their power to avoid carrying out their responsibilities. When Congress tried to give the CPSC more money to do a better job of regulating products imported fromChina, for example, the Bush-appointed agency head refused. She said they had plenty of money to do their job, although in reality they weren’t doing their job at all. Then reports started coming in about unsafe toys originating in China. People were outraged, as they should have been, and blamed the government. By failing to do their jobs, the conservatives were encouraging people to give up on their own government, which was exactly what conservatives wanted.

Thirty years ago, in an effort to make their point, conservatives often exaggerated the examples of government corruption and waste, but during George W. Bush’s administration scandals involving everything from toys to military contracting became the norm. And who were the perpetrators of most of these crimes against the United Statesand its taxpayers? They were government-hating conservatives working inside the government, placed there for this very reason. Each time one of these conservatives was caught in another scandal, the American public’s view of government deteriorated a little more. If you believe in a government that helps its citizens, this seems bad. But if you believe that the best government is no government this seems great, so the people who wanted to establish Corporate Feudalism couldn’t have been happier.

That was the plan used by Corporate Feudalists to convince millions of middle-class people to hate their own government. Did you think of a more effective way to accomplish this goal? Or do you believe the plan that was used was the most effective one available?

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/teaching-people-hate-their-own-govt-core-project-destroy-middle-class

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