I don’t know about you, but it really bothers me that corporations and bankers run America. That such a small group of people is able to milk our collective resources, human and natural and greedily and without consequence take whatever they want…because they can. Ordinary people are constantly taxed and support the extravagant ways of the wealthy who contribute little to nothing to the improvement of the lives of over 99% of American citizens. It also deeply disturbs me that these wily and manipulative power-mongers, through their powerful lobbies and dizzying campaign contributions, are able to easily manipulate our elected officials, constantly lobbying to create legislation in their favor, reduce taxes in their favor, and to sell them at cost our natural resources. They are able to do this because they have convinced the majority that our economic health and stability relies on their wealth and well-being.
Currently, I am in the process of reading Nobel Prize winner in economics Joseph E. Stiglitz’s book, “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future”. (click link to read New York Times review of this book) Mr. Stiglitz explains in great detail how poverty, discrimination, the lack of responsible government, the decrease in labor unions, access to proper housing, medical care, and education are increasingly impoverishing the poor and middle class and enriching the wealthy. In a nutshell, the top 1% of Americans are unchecked in their quest to capture all of the wealth available, and no one is stopping them or trying to look out for the well being of ordinary citizens. The result is a weakened social fabric, ever-growing political and economic instability, and the creation of third world conditions in the country that is assumed to be the wealthiest and most powerful in the world.
Stiglitz explains how the specious “trickle-down” theory that conservatives repeatedly use to brainwash citizens into allowing them to endlessly trim away benefits, fire workers, and export jobs abroad while increasing their own astronomical salaries and bonuses. The truth is that the only direction in which the money is pouring is upwards, into the bulging but never satisfied pockets of the wealthy. These same conservatives are constantly promoting an irrational fear of “Socialism”, because they don’t want to pay taxes that will support programs for education, healthcare, and other necessities that allow people to create better lives for themselves and their children. They don’t want to share the wealth, and they simply don’t care about anyone but themselves. They are, in fact, so blind, that they don’t realize that they are endangering their own wealth. By impoverishing 99 % of the population, they are creating stress, despair, and hopelessness. Their opportunism is destroying the stuff from which a stable and prosperous civilization is built.
Our government, if it is to represent us properly, must support us and view us – the people – as our collective most important resource. Today, money and power are considered more important than people. A healthy society invests in its citizens and its government provides a system to support the well-being and growth of its citizens and enterprises as well as to protect and renew its natural resources. I am sure that I am not the only person living in America who is stressed by a feeling of hopelessness, struggling just to survive. It feels frightening to live in a country where the values of respect, integrity, accountability, and education are not valued, and where sociopathically non-empathetic and powerful corporate bullies are able to easily manipulate the officials that we, the people elect to represent us. It disgusts me to live in such a country where the rights and dreams of the majority are so blatantly disrespected. I live in a state where an employer can fire an employee for no reason, and where most workers are not allowed to become a member of a union.
If America is to recreate itself as a land of true opportunity, growth on all levels, and freedom, we will have to model ourselves after some of the European nations who invest in their people and their environment as first priority. There will always be people who are greedy and who seek riches and power. And it must be said that there is no perfect society. Still, if we want freedom, we all need to promote self-awareness, empathy and compassion, and accept to be held fully accountable for all of our choices and actions.
While it is the right of those who choose to do so to seek wealth, these individuals and corporations must also be held fully accountable and pay their share of taxes. There is no freedom without responsibility. Conservatives are constantly mouthing off about how the poor are not held accountable, and that social programs are robbing the country of its resources, but the truth is on many levels very different. It is very expensive to be poor, for all financial advantages are reserved to the upper middle class and very wealthy. Wall Street investors and corporate CEOs are stealing the wealth from the poor and the middle class and are often rewarded with enormous bonuses for their bad behavior. Instead of reinvesting their wealth by creating better paying jobs and by paying fair taxes truly based on their income that fund affordable healthcare, housing and education, they are hoarding the wealth for their own personal benefit. This greedy behavior is damaging our political system. By supporting this narcissistic behavior, our government is basically telling us that “we, the people” are so much less important than the uber-wealthy.
How did this happen? How did we lose the rights and social protections that so many fought for in the earlier part of the last century? How can we rebuild America on new terms and reinvest in our people? High quality primary and higher education needs to be accessible to all, as does decent housing, affordable quality food, affordable access to culture, and decent wages in exchange for quality work in all fields. We need to invest in our people, develop our resources, promote sustainability in all areas, and improve our infrastructures. The people should no longer be cowed and feel frightened of those who are in charge of running our government and businesses. We work hard, and we have a lot to offer. We deserve a better quality of life for ourselves, and we want to build a better world for our children and for future generations. The majority of Americans want to contribute their skills and talents to stop global warming and to provide affordable healthcare to all citizens. Our people is a great and diverse gift, with much to share. It is time that we come together against inequality. It is time that we work together to build a new America, based on new values.
(art by Slinkachu, London street artist)