We are at the brink. I’ve seen the enemy, and it is us. We are experiencing a financial meltdown the likes of which hasn’t been seen in this country since the Great Depression.
Think about it. We are bailing out private multinational, multi-billion dollar corporations on a daily basis with taxpayer dollars. We saved Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and just recently bailed out Bear Stearns and AIG while Lehman Brothers went under. AIG is a private insurer who was apparently too big to fail because they have our mortgages, European and American banks, airlines, other corporations and even motion picture companies in its coffers.
What we are witnessing is the fall of democratic capitalism and the beginnings
of a socialist democracy. With the bailouts of these companies, we’ve agreed to privatize gains and socialize losses. That doesn’t work unless both gains and losses are socialized.
Isn’t it funny, in retrospect, that when many hard-working Americans availed themselves of creative mortgage agreements and then were about to be foreclosed on, the government and financial institutions told them to speak to the hand: “You’re on your own.” “You’re not our responsibility!”
So when did bailing out multinational corporations become our responsibility? It’s the equivalent of waking up one day and finding out that someone paid off all of your credit card debt, home mortgage obligations and your car note. It’s a literal “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
When are Americans going to say, “Enough!”? We cannot continue to live in our collective ignorant bubble, while millions go bankrupt every year from health costs due to a lack of universal healthcare insurance. Millions more continue to finance “luxury lifestyles” with trips to exotic and tropical locales, flat screen plasma TVs, high-end foreign cars and frequent fine dining with credit cards. What happens when the institutions issuing the plastic go bust?
I think that is the point when Americans realize that there is no comfort zone and that it doesn’t matter who the president is when there isn’t enough to eat, nowhere to sleep, and we’re dying of disease because we can’t afford to see a doctor.
For years, conservatives scared Americans with the concept that capitalism was going to be overcome by communism. But what happens when Americans realize that both concepts were utopian theories that could never hold up indefinitely within real world dynamics?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have stated throughout history that this country would not be able to continue to exist without a radical redistribution of the wealth. Ronald Reagan redistributed the wealth upwards. The Bushes continued to bookend that disturbing trend after an eight year cool-off period with Clinton.
However, the wealth was never meant to be and should never have been redistributed upwards. That’s called greed. It needed to be distributed downwards. The middle class is paying a disproportionate share of the tax burden relative to their collective income. There are actually wealthy individuals in this country who pay zero taxes. And now we are bailing them out? Get real.
Who’s bailing out the little guy? Who’s bailing out the single mother of three who is working two jobs just to make ends meet and suddenly finds herself laid off? She gets vilified by Republicans for even taking unemployment insurance. Since there are no jobs, she eventually has to draw a welfare check and finds herself demonized by the same people who pay zero taxes and also believe that if you make over $250,000 a year you should get a tax cut.
This is absurd, people. This goes beyond race. This is about class. There is genuine class warfare going on right under our noses. Who has the courage to step up and finally say, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”? And if you’re not going to take it, what then will you do?
“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. They can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or dismember it, or overthrow it.” So said Abraham Lincoln. Jefferson stated that “Every generation needs a new revolution.”
It’s not a matter of if we will have socialism in this country; in many ways that train has already left the station. We have Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment Compensation, the federal postal system, and now new corporate ownership of multinational means of production. It’s about what kind of socialism and who the beneficiaries are. We shouldn’t be setting up a socialist system that creates more haves at the expense of the have-nots.
If we’ve moved to socialism, let’s get on with it. I want universal health care and subsidized national education. I want everyone provided with a decent place to live and enough nutritious food to eat. I want jobs that pay a living wage and respect for organized labor with a guaranteed right to organize.
The irony in this financial turn of events is that it’s the Republicans in power who have seized the means of production. Republicans have ushered in socialism. Can you imagine if this were the other way around? The name-calling that Republicans would deliver against a Democratic administration would be relentless.
But it’s too late for finger pointing. The one overriding truth is that America was built on a myth that the market can eventually sort it all out. Clearly the market has failed. Now, what are you gonna do about it?
Ralph Remington is the Minneapolis 10th Ward city council member. He welcomes reader responses to Ralph.Remington@ci.minneap olis.mn.us.