We all seek the health and wellbeing of our children and grandchildren so we can watch them grow and prosper. We want our homes, cars, roads, food, water, medicine, and air to be safe. We expect to be treated fairly in our personal and business lives. We all work for economic security for ourselves and our families, especially as we approach or enter our retirement years.
We take the guarantee of these for granted, but there was a time inAmericawhen none of them was assured. For the republic’s first one hundred years or so, it was anything goes, do as you please, don’t worry about the consequences.
In that political and economic climate, only a few managed to thrive. For everyone else, there was slavery and child labor; hunger; exploitation of workers; illiteracy; poverty; polluted rivers; disease; dangerous work places; ravaged landscapes; fraudulent financial markets; unstable banking; contaminated food and medicines; unsafe products.
Americans were not created equal in those days. Nor was everyone entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It took a Republican president to see the inequality of a system rigged to favor the wealthy and privileged. So Teddy Roosevelt pushed for reform. He broke up monopolies, advocated environmental conservation, fostered banking reform, protected food and drugs, and demanded railroad regulations.
Naturally Teddy was attacked, not by the many Americans he sought to help, but by the few who benefitted under the rigged system. Did TR succeed? His is one of the four faces onMt.Rushmore.
We’ve seen ample evidence that the system is once again rigged to benefit the few. The most glaring example was TARP. The banking and financial institutions that caused the economic disaster through reckless, unregulated practices were saved with hundreds of billions of tax dollars paid by the rest of us.
But it was we and not the perpetrators who suffered the consequences; tens of millions of lost jobs, foreclosed homes, drained bank accounts, and wrecked retirement savings.Many of us are understandably angry. But much of our rage seems blind and misdirected and the few who cashed in on the rigged system this time around want to keep it that way. They know if we ever open our eyes, we’re going to realize who the culprits are.
So media surrogates belonging to the few stoke our anger with nonsense about fake birth certificates, fictitious “wars” on (fill in the blank), and phony conspiracy theories. Anything to deflect our attention away from the things we should really care about, like the future of our kids, our health and wellbeing, and our economic security.
Meanwhile, to maintain political and economic power, the few benefitting from the rigged system relentlessly push two demands. First they want bigger tax cuts for themselves because they claim to be “job creators.”
So-called “trickledown economics” will benefit every American, they say, but there is scant evidence to support what George H.W. Bush once called “voodoo economics.” In the decade since Bush Junior’s tax cuts were enacted, we’ve seen the slowest period of job growth in decades.
The few also insist regulations kill jobs. Yet, most if not all regulations aim to preventAmericafrom sliding back into the dark days of anything goes. The few reject regulations, not because they kill jobs, but because they cost money.
Remember when the car companies claimed seat belts were too expensive to install in every automobile? They managed to avoid regulation for years. It turned out they weren’t too expensive and millions of lives have been saved since seat belts were made mandatory.
Thus, these two arguments in favor of the few are deceptive. Tax cuts for the few don’t benefit the many, and regulations are necessary to protect the many from the few.
So, what are the things we should support?
Our tax code is a good place to start. Do any of us really want to pay a higher percentage on income taxes than somebody making millions or billions? The few think we should.
New banking and finance laws protect you from the predatory lending practices of banks and credit card companies. Do you really want to see them repealed so you can pay higher interest rates and fees? The few would like that.Is your college graduate seeking a job? Do you really want your child going without health insurance while he or she looks for work? The few would prefer they do.
Is your teenager earning money for college? The few want to do away with the minimum wage.
Counting on Social Security and Medicare for yourself or a loved one? The few would like to eliminate both as we know them, the sooner the better.
Before you shout “class warfare” or “Marxism,” take a moment to consider what Teddy Roosevelt had to say more than a century ago:
“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.”
TR knew the American Dream could never be fulfilled for the many as long as the playing field was tilted in favor of the few. So, one last question: What are your own best interests and who is trying to serve them?