Monday, January 14, 2013

A Failed Peaceful Revolution

John F. Kennedy wrote, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."  This essay is about a very disturbing prospect, that the United States is approaching a point of no return in John Kennedy's equation.  We are on a collision course, after which it will be nearly impossible to prevent a broad deterioration of civilized society with an unpredictable course or outcome.  I am not alone in this view.  Policy analysts throughout the world have begun talking about political unrest and rioting in America unless something drastic is done about fair employment the economic inequality in the US.  Economist Joseph Steiglitz wrote a compelling analysis of why we are facing major political and societal upheaval in America.   What has failed, is a significant rational political economic realignment consistent with the views of the vast majority of Americans, what one might call the peaceful revolution about which Kennedy spoke. Instead, a massive, exceptionally greedy and brutal oligarchy has gained control of nearly all aspects of life in America, at the expense of democracy.

Housing for the 99% left and the 1% Right from
 Steigliz's Vanity Fair Article
Barrack Obama reminds me of William Pitt trying to persuade foot dragging Peers in the House of Lords or Edmund Burke in the House of Commons attempting to urge some accommodation by the British government with the American colonists.  Indeed, Lord North (a counterpart of Harry Reed) was in the process of developing his own plan.  But British Parliament was moving far too slowly, and events very quickly spun out of control, with British soldiers shooting, injuring and killing 273 colonists in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.   At that point, the colonists were no longer willing to hear any words of compromise.  As they say, the rest is history.

Failure of Democratic Processes: It is becoming growing increasingly apparent, our government is not capable if responding to democratically articulated public demands for meaningful reforms. Barrack Obama was elected in 2004 with such improvements in mind, and was re-elected with an even greater sense of urgency.  Regrettably he has turned out to be a Rockefeller or Colin Powell Republican on most Domestic issues. He has made some helpful strides in some social areas, but no meaningful progress on the economy.  His talk of moderation and compromise on the most significant domestic economic issues are code words for doing very little or nothing.  So far he had thrown some bones to his supporters to keep us from revolting. That will no longer work. 

Neither Gun Control or Butter:  American politicians are unable or unwilling to represent the people's interests because they are owned by the oligarchs. That includes most Democrats.  The recent gun killings is a concrete example.  By stonewalling. the NRA and their advocates in the Congress and Senate, including Democrats, will make certain no meaningful reforms occur. Oh, some legislation will pass the Senate and House limiting sales of gun magazines holding 100 bullets or more, and maybe outlawing some machine guns and hand-held rocket launchers, but nothing that will really make a dent in the out of control gun violence. The president will order some modest changes in various existing gun regulations, none of any real consequence. Then he will tell us its up to us to convince our representatives on the Hill to pass meaningful reforms.  You and I, who have written dozens of letters to our Congressmen and Senators about these and similar issues, are going to be made responsible. We have each received stunningly thoughtful replies from our elected representatives, "Dear First Name Constituent, Thank you so much for writing.  I always like to hear from people in my district about important issues..."   It will be up to us.  Mr. President, you may be very sorry that you say it is up to us, because eventually the people will realize you're right and take matters into their own hands. 

After some benign bill is passed into law which does very little to resolve the situation, Mr. Obama will stand before the podium with leaders of both parties and praise the bipartisan cooperation on gun control.   Gun killings will continue to increase with little change.  Opponents of gun control and news pundits will praise the new laws as "reasonable compromises" and an example of  "necessary moderation."  The law they are able to pass, by definition, will be next to worthless and accomplish nothing, desecrating the graves of the 21 children murdered in Newtown.  "Sorry Kids, we just couldn't do more... maybe next time," our leaders will basically be saying.  You and I will study the politicians’ concerned expressions on the television machine, as they stand behind their microphones, uttering vacuous platitudes about children's safety and the Second Amendment and ask ourselves, "God almighty, what does it take for these people to be something other than be an utter disgrace to themselves as representatives of the people?"

The Sham of Outsourcing: Most working class and poor, partially or unemployed Americans realize outsourcing of American jobs has been an utter disaster.  It is an outright tax-free gift to America's wealthiest corporations while taking work away from American workers.  It replaces American workers' jobs with outsourced jobs in foreign countries in vast numbers.   Several major American industries employ almost exclusively undocumented workers who receive very low pay and no benefits.  This has the combined effect of decimating employment for many blue color Americans.  Don't misunderstand me, immigrants should have the opportunity to be gainfully employed.  But currently in restaurant and commercial housekeeping services, for example, they are being employed nearly exclusively at or below the minimum wage with no benefits displacing most other workers.  Other workers can't afford to accept those jobs and support families.  We need an even playing field for all workers. Goods made in foreign low wage countries under contract with American retailers should receive an extremely high tariff when coming into the US.  Yes, prices will increase, but it is likely more American workers will also be hired.

SOCIALISM FOR THE RICH MUST STOP:  The outrageous tax loophole abuses of our tax system by wealthy individuals and corporations is unconscionable. Everyone knows that it is.  They are currently legal because wealthy corporations have paid Congress people and Senators to make certain the loopholes are part of federal law. This is the 600 pound gorilla in the room of reducing the federal deficit.  Those outrageous abuses, with corporations paying literally no taxes, must be addressed before our leaders bargain away ANY of the people's Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits whatsoever to Boehner and the Tea Party.   Barrack Obama has said he plans to do.  We citizens are told corporate abuses and private tax loopholes for the wealthy are far too complicated to tackle and "are off the table."  Reducing abuses by the wealthy is called too radical while taking health care away from our grandparents and children with autism is said by our distinguished political leaders "unfortunately necessary"  Bull Pucky!   Republicans and Democrats alike accept the shockingly diminished expectation that the American people should have essentially nothing to say about such political decisions. That has to change, sooner than later.

Strike breakers being attacked by striking
union members
WHEN DEMOCRACY FAILS:  Our elected officials are stone deaf.  They really are.  They are furtively watching over their shoulders as the storm clouds mount, but inexplicably, they continue humming a happy tune, as they check their foreign bank accounts and renew their passports, just in case.  They seriously need to pay attention to history's lessons.  Really, this has all happened before... many times, including in the US, but on a smaller scale.  In the past, our government eventually recognized severe impending disaster, as during the 1920s and the Great Depression, and acted to at least partially to address the people's grievances.  But not this time.   When any government fails repeatedly over a protracted period to address the people's legitimate grievances, snubbing their noses again and again at the voting population, civil unrest, civil disobedience and eventually violence occur.  This is not wild speculative talk, it is the reality of what eventually happens when elected officials in any democracy anywhere in the world, consistently fail to represent the people's interests. When that happens, it is time to pay the piper.

Democracy requires three fundamental conditions: 1) upward control, i.e. sovereignty residing at the lowest levels of authority, 2) political equality, and 3) social norms by which individuals and institutions only consider acceptable acts that reflect the first two principles of upward control and political equality.(Kimber, Richard (1989). "On Democracy". Scandinavian Political Studies 12 (3): 201, 199–219).  For the past 30 years US law makers have created the context for tearing apart the fabric of our democratic civilized society by systematically underming these most fundamental requisites of democracy. We no longer have a meaningful democracy in America. The crisis is reaching a crescendo.  Popular rule is a façade in America.  There is growing political and economic instability, and fraudulent elections are the seeds that are growing into widespread public dissent.  

Rational members of the Tea Party
expressing their views
LACK OF MEANINGFUL REPRESENTATION:  At present, there is no meaningful democratic representation for the vast majority of Americans. It us true that despite unconstitutional interference with free elections, Democrats win some elections, but few of them actually represent poor and middle class Americans once elected.   In the US we have a dominant extreme far right Republican party similar to the British National Party, Germany's Democratic National Party or France's National Front, which is currently in charge of our entire government, despite it's minority status. That party is being controlled by an amalgam of wealthy followers of the John Birch Society, The Ku klux Klan and an Ayn Rand Radical Libertarians.  The only other political party of note, is a Center Right Party, the Democratic Party, which currently has more in common with the British Conservative Party or the European Christian Political Movement, than most of Europe's liberal parties.  There is no liberal party in the US to represent the middle class and poorer Americans.   It is very difficult for Senator Bernie Sanders, with help from Rep. Keith Ellison, Raúl Grijalva, Jan Schakowsky, Sheila Jackson-Lee and a handful of others, to represent 95-98% of the people all by themselves.  

The Poor People's Crusade of 1968 on Washington Mall
THE COMING CHAOS: Several times per week for the past six months I've been waking up at 3:30-4am and can't go back to sleep.   Here is the nightmare scenario that is keeping me awake at night.

1. Obama has been hoping that gradually improving the economy will prevent widespread public unrest once more people are employed.  Nice idea but no cigar.   By very gradually increasing the number of much lower paying jobs, he bought himself some time and got re-elected.  But many of the jobs do not pay a living wage, and they have few or no benefits, which in effect amounts to very large cut in wages, while corporate profits go through the roof.  Combined with Obama's plan for bargaining away the social safety net, that is progressively strangling working Americans.  That just won't cut it Mr. President. Not at all.

2. The intolerable extreme inequities and unwillingness by our leaders to meaningfully address them will no longer be tolerated by the American people.  This situation has a very high likelihood of triggering first demonstrations, then boycotts and Occupy-type sit ins, and sooner than later, much more violent reactions.  This time, more boisterous demonstrations will occur and be joined in large numbers by labor unions and various other progressive and minority groups.  This time demonstrations will clearly be a unified 99% versus the 1%. Unlike the previous Occupy demonstrations, the next round will be accompanied by specific political and economic demands, an American People's Equality Plan.   

3. At first, most political leaders will sneer derisively and send in police to "breakup the trouble makers."  They will laugh at the demands as being absurd and childish.  When there is still no meaningful political response from our leaders, public demonstrations will escalate into local strikes, shutting down businesses that are financially supporting the do-nothing politicians and profiting most from the vast inequities.  There will be increasing skirmishes and injuries.  

4. With continued police harassment and police violence, and absence of any meaningful political response from our leaders, in due course, general strikes and shut downs of entire industries will take place, with crippling economic consequences.  Airports and ports will be closed so Wall-Mart, K-Mart, Target and other mega-retailers will have no way to get their dirt cheap (to them) electronic equipment, toys, games, furniture, lighting, footwear, and clothing to their retal stores.... we're talking billions of dollars lost.  Ouch, that will begin to hurt the 1%.

5. The Romney's, Koch's and Adelson's of the country REALLY WILL need to take refuge in their walled compounds and fortesses with their private security armies or leave the country to seek safety.  

Strikers and Police
6. Strike breakers will be hired by the corporations, but instead of rolling over and playing dead this time, union strikers and their supporters will confront the scabs, with force if necessary. That will up the ante, and the authorities will start arresting the strikers, who will passively resist in vast numbers.  So many will sit down and block roadways, warehouse entrances and airport runways, the police won't be able to arrest them all.  The police and National Guard won't be able to man-handle all of the thousands of protesters, many of whom will be their neighbors and friends, retirees, teachers,
laid off secretaries, sales people, not just bearded, long haired "weirdo" college students and tree huggers.  Cities will stink, especially in hot weather because garbage will go uncollected.  Public transportation will stop running in some cities or will operate only sporadically, and strikes by various airline employees will hamstring airlines.  Airline profits will go in the toilet.  There will be gasoline shortages because truckers will honor the picket lines.  Scab truckers will be brought in, but their vehicles will be sabotaged.  Curfews will be announced in major cities, with stores and restaurants closing at 8pm.  Tourism will drop to zero.  Conventions in most major cities will be cancelled. I wonder how that will affect the profit margin?

7. Finally, if our government continues to stonewall, eventually masses of people of all persuasions by the many, many thousands, will be in the streets, and the situation will be badly out of control.  It will be too late.  As politicians wet their pants, staring wide-eyed at one another in dismay, asking "What in the world is going on?"  They will act as though this all comes as a huge surprise instead of being exactly what should be expected of a free people. The President will nationalize the National Guards in an effort to regain control. But some States' Guards will refuse to serve against their own people. It will not be a pretty picture.

8. As they always do, the businesses will bring in corporate private paramilitary Blackwater-type goons and unleash the NRA and skin head crazies who have been waiting with bated breath for an excuse to use their Glocks and Bushmasters, who will attack demonstrators and strikers. In return, strike breakers and right wing fanatics will be attacked in retaliation.  Remember, almost everyonef has guns in the US, which was the way the business world seemed to want things.  General mele' will result, with various groups lashing out against one another, often indiscriminately.   There will be blood in the streets and constant sirens of ambulances.

9. Government officials will hole up in city halls, state capitals and in Washington and be utterly stunned. They will claim they had no idea this was coming.  "Where in the world did this come from?" they will ask.  "Why didn't someone tell us we were sitting on a powder keg?"

Actually, we have been telling you people this would happen for a very long tome, but you ignored it. We told you that if you keep dumping economic shit on the vast majority of the American people, and completely ignore their grievances, this is what is going to happen.  The American public is utterly fed up with your stonewalling and doing nothing to address their concerns. You are out of time.  You are a sorry excuse for elected leaders and representatives.  It is time you pull your heads out of the sand and make something of yourselves, so your lives as democratic representatives won't have been a complete humiliaton. You can prevent an impending disaster, but it will require immediately foregoing your self-serving ways.  You will need to stop talking and start listening.

Concluding Thoughts: This all sounds very melodramatic.  Similar events have occurred in tyrannical states and corrupt monarchies throughout the world, as well as in pseudo-democracies where a small ruling class controls nearly all the power, as in the United States.  Over recent years we have seen a wave of political discontent throughout the middle east, Africa and South Asia. Governments have been toppled.  In the United States the conditions are right for a similar public reaction, but unlike other more civilized countries, many people in the US own powerful high capacity guns, which will create an extremely dangerous situation once the authorities allow it to spin out of control.  Very similar events have occurred repeatedly throughout American history when the ruling corporations and extremely wealthy individuals have become outrageously greedy and brutal, with no concern for their fellow countrymen or indeed for their own country.

Unless there is a very significant change very soon, the present highly unstable situation will eventually reach a tipping point, most likely suddenly and without an immediate warning.  A random event will set it off, as usually happens in such situations.  It will most likely begin during warm weather and will rather quickly turn dangerously volatile.  It may not be this summer, but I sincerely believe it is coming unless more sensible leaders take the situation seriously, not in six months or next year, but right now.  When the political outrage finally explodes and our political leaders appear on television wearing their well-practiced earnest expressions, inanely trying to convince the public everything is under control, and... "We have been making such great strides, blah, blah, blah.  There is no need to resort to such means..., but it will take time.....".  That would amount to rubbing the people's noses in your malfeasance and incompetence.  When the Republican leaders in the Senate and House appear on television it should be to resign.  When President Obama appears on television to respond to the crisis, it should be to announce his plan to implement the basic elements of the American People's Equality Plan.  It would only require three to six months to pass major economic reforms with real leadership at the helm. Anything less would be too little too late.  John Kennedy will have been proven right.

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