Friday, May 2, 2014

The Ultra-Rich are on the Wrong Side of History



ALEC, the artfully named American Legislative Exchange Council, is having its national meeting today in Kansas City. Warren Buffett has no doubt found reason to be out of town, lest his dinner and his equity-driven conscience be ruined. I don’t mean ‘equity’ in the sense one might naturally attribute to Warren (as in equity-investment), but in the more accurate sense of the last-man-standing among the rich and famous who have a true sense of social equity. Buffett believes it’s shameful that he pays 19% in taxes, while his staff swallows a 34% hit. Good for him. He’s truly an American patriot and understands that a healthy economy requires a healthy and thriving middle-class.


To understand what ALEC is all about, one has only to parse the language of their acronym. They exchange legislation that favors their one-percent for money. Their annual meeting is all about who to bribe by how much in order to achieve those goals. According to Wikipedia, ALECprimarily consists of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives,” a tight little group that’s sort of a Tea Party on steroids that "works to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public."

Whatever the hell we have come to that we now have a public-private partnership bribing elected officials? It’s anybody’s guess. But that’s where we are in today’s America and the Supreme Court is the official enabler, finding in case after case that money has an equal-but-louder voice than the citizenry—which is perfectly all right with them.

Thomas Jefferson had a word or two to say about that, some 230 years ago and, as usual, his remarks are amazingly prescient:
“It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war (1776) we shall be going downhill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in convulsion.”

Jefferson goes on to say:
“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

But Thomas Jefferson is not much in the thoughts of the ‘conservative majority’ on today’s iteration of what is supposed to be the highest court in the land. No matter that he had a steady hand in that Constitution they claim to ‘preserve and protect.’ The ‘tyrant’s will’ is being expressed in Kansas City on this 2nd of May in 2014, folks and we are damned close to ‘expiring in convulsion.’

Too distracted by trying to find a job among the smoldering ruins that have been left to us—and hoping the one we have won’t disappear off-shore—we’re not in the streets with pitchforks and barricades as we should be. But there’s a sweeping sense of things gone wrong, as student debt has outpaced the combined total of all credit-card debt held by individuals. The young may well be our last hope—those of us in (or well past) our mid-thirties have lulled ourselves into this madness on easy credit and the liar’s poker of trickle-down economics. These dudes in Kansas City are hell-bent on all money trickling up and what little government they have not yet bought, they intend to buy.

So, what are these bright young graduates, who owe an average of $29,000 and 52% of whom cannot find jobs, up to? They’re up to the OCCUPY movement, only a portion of which is OCCUPY Wall Street. They support immigration reform, fair wages at Wal-Mart and McDonalds, eliminating university investment in fossil-fuel energy, believe in labor unions and an end to usurious credit charges. They are on the side of prison reform, turning back the Supreme Court’s decision on unlimited corporate spending, putting industrial agriculture’s feet to the fire, eliminating the lobbyist-legislative revolving door and on Warren Buffett’s side in establishing fair and equitable taxes for the wealthy, along with the elimination of tax-havens for corporate giants.

They’re smart, well-educated and organized. The bought-and-paid-for media would like you to think they’re discouraged and turning away from the polling booth, but don’t believe it—they’re too angry for that. Meanwhile, those conniving in Kansas City to take the last scrap of meat off your and my table don’t even stop to realize the idiocy of their goal. A thriving, growing, healthy economy requires a robust middle class and a ladder to that middle class that still has some rungs left in it.

They thirst in Kansas City, absolutely drool over the financial possibilities of a rising middle class in China, while conceding their own to the dustbin. America, until the last three decades, was always its own best market and that market is increasingly unable to afford anything but cheap crap made in China and food you couldn’t bear to see processed. They’re poisoning our children with industrial agriculture, off-shoring what is left to Mexico for cheap labor, fracking for natural gas (and to hell with our fresh-water aquifers) and sending every job they can lay their hands on to wherever is cheapest, in a death-spiral race to the bottom. Collectively, while you worry at the ALEC meeting over polishing your golden egg, you’re about to kill the goose.

Listen-up, guys, Wall Street is not a barometer of American economic health, nor are the wobbly banks that purport to hold up—as in holdup and getaway car--that fragile economy. The history of world powers is a tale of eventual collapse. Collapse came slowly in the old days, but we’re in damned bad shape and moving at warp-speed.

The ultra-rich (in Kansas City and elsewhere) are on the wrong side of history.