Well, isn’t this is a fine kettle of toxic waste?
One day after our previous issue hit the streets, the Middle East explodes. The Gulf Stream is getting weaker faster than anyone had predicted, even as Antarctic ice is hitting scary new record lows. The world demands action, and it isn’t exactly waiting for us to get our act together.
Closer to home, the debt ceiling is steadily creeping up on us—yet again. Freddy Krueger and Lucy van Pelt have nothing on this predictable bogosity.
Will Congress act? No, it can’t, because they have no Speaker. The only way this gets more absurd is if they put George Santos in charge. It’s beginning to look as if designing Congressional districts so that only crackpots can win primary elections may not be the best way to achieve domestic tranquility.
Where in this godforsaken mess is there any cause for hope? We’re so glad you asked. It’s in the Class War.
What are you talking about? You can’t write that in a newspaper…oh, wait a minute. New evidence suggests that maybe you can.
The first rule of class war is: the winners don’t talk about it. They tell fairy tales instead. Like “Trickle-Down Economics.” It lulled the victims to sleep while Hoover-Up Economics was emptying their pockets.
The second rule of class war is: there are no non-combatants. You can only surrender, or find a way to fight back. If you try to play pacifist, you’ll just end up as collateral damage. To better understand this, let’s take a brief refresher course.
Folks never had it so good—white folks, anyway—as they did in the quarter century after WW II. Looking back, it was like a middle-class version of the old hobo song, “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Houses, cars, college educations, all were within reach. Wages rose steadily, right along with industrial productivity—up until the mid-1970s.
For Blacks it was different, naturally. Well, not naturally, but predictably. This is the U.S. of A., after all: built largely by the enslaved, on land taken from the dispossessed.
Let us do what the Democrats won’t though, and return our focus from identity politics to material conditions. Since the end of the war, corporations have continued investing in improved technology, and productivity has kept on rising. In the mid-1970s, though, the [Milton] Friedman Doctrine, published in 1970, began gaining traction: “the main responsibility of a business is to maximize their revenue and increase returns to shareholders.”
Workers? Pensions? Fuggedaboutit. Not our problem, man. It’s all about the next quarter’s bottom line. See to that, and all else follows.
Friedman’s belief in the magic of the market was so all-encompassing, he thought it could cure racism. The writer Zachary D. Carter described Friedman’s thinking: “Racism was irrational, he argued, so racist policies would put the companies that practiced them at a competitive disadvantage. When consumers favored products offered by more open-minded enterprises, bigotry and violence would fade from society.” The brewers of Bud Light can tell you how well that worked out.
What followed was not an age of shared prosperity and racial harmony. Last time we checked, it was American Carnage.
Today, no one even remembers, much less credits, Friedman’s junk idea about “open-minded enterprises” conquering American racism, but his junk idea about shareholder value is still widely accepted. Profits get plowed back into stock buybacks, CEO pay skyrockets—and workers’ wages barely rise, if at all.
As if all this were not enough, there’s also the matter of wage theft. The corporate media bombard viewers with horrifying tales of rampant crime: robberies, burglaries, car jackings, and the like. The natural effect is to milk everyone’s glands until their cortisol levels have them twitching. Yet all the loot from all those well-publicized crimes is less than the annual $50 billion that bosses steal from employees through the silent plague of wage theft. Meanwhile Congressional tax cuts have left workers with a safety net that’s all holes and no rope.
It’s not a pretty picture. Where’s that hope we promised? In Guatemala, of all places. And Poland. And right here at home.
Guatemala is one hard-luck story. Your basic Homo sapiens, just trying to stay alive amongst jaguars, crocodiles, poisonous snakes, poisonous insects…. Then along came Conquistadors, smallpox, gunpowder, &c. It was hard times even before United Fruit bought nearly all the land and threw the farmers off. The people’s choice then? Work for the man, or starve. In the early 1950s, Jacobo Arbenz got elected with promises of land-reform. At the request of United Fruit, though, Ike had Allen Dulles’ CIA install a right-wing dictator. Soon it was back to normal, i.e., misery. Thirty years later Ronald Reagan administered a booster dose of repression.
Despite all this, in August the Guatemalan people stood up and elected Bernardo Arévalo in a landslide. He’s “Tio [Uncle] Bernie” to his followers, because his policies align with the Vermont Senator’s.
Guatemala’s Attorney General is trying to derail Tio Bernie’s inauguration, but she is under U.S. State Department sanction for corruption. More importantly, the people are in the streets demanding that she resign. How will it end? No telling. But at least the people are in the streets, proving that they know what’s up.
Meanwhile, in Poland, voters threw out the right-wing party that’s ruled for eight years.
And UAW President Shawn Fain proudly wears an “Eat The Rich” T-shirt.