Fighting Back … Ballroom Days are OverPosted: April 5, 2011
May take a week, and it may take longer.
They got the guns, but we got the numbers.
Gonna win yeah, we’re taking over.
Your ballroom days are over, baby.
Night is drawing near.
Shadows of the evening
Crawl across the years.
Jim Morrison, from “Five to One”
I’ve spent the last six months watching this country’s policy makers throw all common sense and empirical evidence on the US economy to the wind. My jaw just drops when I consider what the Republicans have proposed under the flag of austerity and how the Democrats entertain them.
BostonBoomer and I spend a lot of time on the phone with each other. We’ve been each other’s support system having much in common as older, divorced women gone back to school and social justice activists feeling exiled in some kind of shared virtual gulag. We remember the protests and actions that we took at a younger age to demonstrate against war and the treatment of minorities and women. BB was active in antiwar protests. I was an avid women’s rights activist in the 70s and 80s, having found out that just getting good grades and hard work weren’t going to be enough for me to break into white male dominated bastions. It’s maddening when you think of all the time you spend on your education and doing the right thing and find out that what really gets you ahead is your ability to fit certain biological characteristics and social status. All those things I tried to change back then are being undone. All over the country, privileged, wealthy people and corporations are using political donations and power to seek advantage like never before. This is not healthy for our country or our future. We need to end their Ballroom Days.
It’s heartened both of us to see union workers in the US and many citizens in the MENA region stand up to authority and demand their right to participate in policy decisions that impact their lives. All over the world, the immense transfer of wealth and national assets to a small elite–the uberwealthy few representing mostly inheritance dynasties–has occurred with the help of political lap dogs seeking donations and parochial interests. It seems we may have reached a tipping point. Some yearning-to-be-free democracy contagion has created a new call for activism to protect the interests of the many against the pillaging of the few. It’s brought people to the streets all over the world and created scapegoats for rapacious states. From whistle blowing of war crimes by Bradley Manning to shouting for no more political or economic prisoners in Northern African nations, we see ordinary, educated, middle class people taking to the streets and shouting enough! We’ve fed the cheats long enough!
It’s about time.
Allison Kilkenny at The Nation has a new article up called “The Resistance Has Begun” that lists recent political demonstrations and unrest. Her article was inspired by a post by Chris Hedges–This is What Resistance Looks Like–on the increasing number of political protests occurring around the country. Hedges writes on the importance of the protests. Are we looking at renewed activism from the people who’ve been hurt by the power class-enabling policies of the last 30 years?
Chris Hedges has this to say.
The phrase consent of the governed has been turned into a cruel joke. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs. Civil disobedience is the only tool we have left.
We will not halt the laying off of teachers and other public employees, the slashing of unemployment benefits, the closing of public libraries, the reduction of student loans, the foreclosures, the gutting of public education and early childhood programs or the dismantling of basic social services such as heating assistance for the elderly until we start to carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience against the financial institutions responsible for our debacle. The banks and Wall Street, which have erected the corporate state to serve their interests at our expense, caused the financial crisis. The bankers and their lobbyists crafted tax havens that account for up to $1 trillion in tax revenue lost every decade. They rewrote tax laws so the nation’s most profitable corporations, including Bank of America, could avoid paying any federal taxes. They engaged in massive fraud and deception that wiped out an estimated $40 trillion in global wealth. The banks are the ones that should be made to pay for the financial collapse. Not us. And for this reason at 11 a.m. April 15 I will join protesters in Union Square in New York City in front of the Bank of America.
“The political process no longer works,” Kevin Zeese, the director of Prosperity Agenda and one of the organizers of the April 15 event, told me. “The economy is controlled by a handful of economic elites. The necessities of most Americans are no longer being met. The only way to change this is to shift the power to a culture of resistance. This will be the first in a series of events we will organize to help give people control of their economic and political life.”
I’ve written recently about the Social Contract of 20th century America and how that contract has been broken by politicians seeking to empower the monopolies and oligopolies that fill their political accounts with booty. Things have gotten so blatantly amoral that the very same folks that destroyed the Gulf ecosystem and took 11 lives and many livelihoods through careless management decisions rewarded themselves with bonuses and ‘best safety’ records with no concept that people might find that appalling. This was a repeat performance of the situation where executives of investment and commercial banks took huge bonuses right on the back of their bad management decisions that brought near US economic collapse and massive bail outs with federal funds. Also, BP is right back applying for drilling rights having really not made things right on either the human or the environment accounts for their last cost-cutting, profit gouging adventure in ignoring safety for the sake of quick profits.
When the social costs of doing business exceed the benefits of doing that business for every one but a few, the society needs to take a hard look at why it tolerates such behavior. Forcing other people to bear the costs of your business or your consumption is wrong and that’s exactly what most business subsidies and lax regulations do. When businesses can push their costs off on society or consumers of certain goods can push their costs off on society, that market becomes distorted and dysfunctional. The market price does not reflect true costs. It will overproduce harmful goods and drain resources that would be better placed elsewhere. The only way to push these costs back to the producers and consumers of costly activities and end the dysfunction is through legal prosecution or tough regulation. The idea that’s been propagated that regulation serves no purpose in a market system is part and parcel of the problem.
Opaque, vague markets do no one any good. They serve as breeders of Ponzi schemes like that of Bernie Madoff. Markets that don’t force the true cost of doing business back on the producer are no good either. They take precious scarce resources and allocate them to activities that are not worthwhile because prices and costs are understated. There are mounds and mounds of microeconomic studies that show how insidious markets can be when they are distorted by things like information asymmetries or supply-enabling protection. All of these activities set up winners and losers. In most cases, ordinary people are the losers. It takes money and power to access the special treatment offered by politicians and their laws. You only get those huge passes and benefits if your get to call yourself a corporation in this country. You can collect a lot of money for being inefficient for some reason. Businesses in this country are considered to be ‘individuals’ for freedom of speech issues but they go unprosecuted for murder every day. Just talk to grieving families of those 11 workers who died on the Deep Water Horizon in the name of increased production and lower costs. Only a sociopath could murder 11 people with safety shortcuts then provide incentives for good safety records to the instigators of the bad decisions. The only offset that we have to the kind of power and access achieved by lobbyists and corporate interests is civil disobedience and protests. Protest we must!
Kilkenny’s article lists a number of protests that are brewing around the country. These include examples in New York State, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other average cities with average US citizens. Is this a Middle Class Awakening going viral? Here’s some more from Chris Hedges on how concentration of power and money in monopoly banks has warped our policy agendas and priorities. Our incomes from hard work are being skimmed by paper shuffling fees paid as bonuses to agents with no productive purpose but market distortion.
The 10 major banks, which control 60 percent of the economy, determine how our legislative bills are written, how our courts rule, how we frame our public debates on the airwaves, who is elected to office and how we are governed. The phrase consent of the governed has been turned by our two major political parties into a cruel joke. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs. And the faster these banks and huge corporations are broken up and regulated, the sooner we will become free.
Bank of America is one of the worst. It did not pay any federal taxes last year or the year before. It is currently one of the most aggressive banks in seizing homes, at times using private security teams that carry out brutal home invasions to toss families into the street. The bank refuses to lend small business people and consumers the billions in government money it was handed. It has returned with a vengeance to the flagrant criminal activity and speculation that created the meltdown, behavior made possible because the government refuses to institute effective sanctions or control from regulators, legislators or the courts. Bank of America, like most of the banks that peddled garbage to small shareholders, routinely hid its massive losses through a creative accounting device it called “repurchase agreements.” It used these “repos” during the financial collapse to temporarily erase losses from the books by transferring toxic debt to dummy firms before public filings had to be made. It is called fraud. And Bank of America is very good at it.
There is nothing free market about government-installed and enabled monopolies. We achieve nothing as a society by buying into the delusion that all government does is destroy the business environment when all evidence points to their enabling of the worst business practices. There is nothing remotely efficient about markets that can use public resources on the cheap to underprice goods and services, hence making them more marketable than they should be. There is no efficiency in letting producers of products and services pass the costs of their bad management decisions on to middle class and working people. You cannot blame government workers for the current economic failings. You can however, blame Bank of America, Republican Governors who hand out tax cuts indiscriminately, and federal subsidies of inefficient businesses. Huge corporations and rich people gobble up tons of public resources via subsidies, tax breaks, and use of infrastructure. Many governors have literally given away their states treasury and resources courting businesses that cost them more than they bring to that state in jobs or revenues. The big lie is that corporations are overtaxed and receive no benefits from state, local or federal government. We can’t afford to enable that big lie. We must protest it.
Ordinary Americans cannot band together to hire lobbyists to help repair our broken Social Contract. The only thing we have are our feet, our voices, and our votes. Paul Ryan’s budget Anthem is just the latest in a line of assaults on reason and common sense. It is the very definition of pennywise and pound foolish and it’s insulting. It hypes unnecessary tax cuts and increases in pentagon spending while removing funding for public health, public education, and public information programs. It continues the effort to redistribute the incomes and the resources of the country to the very few at the cost of the very many. The only way to stop this is to protest. Protest frequently. Protest openly. Protest now. Public Policy should not be based on badly written dystopian fiction novels.
It is not illegal immigrants that have broken the American Dream. It’s not bands of stereotyped Muslim Bedouins hiding out in caves a world apart from Main Street that’s threatening the livelihoods of American workers. It’s not poor Cuba’s last vestiges of Marxism or crazy-like-a-fox Hugo Chavez. It’s time to stop falling for their straw men enemies. What has taken the American Dream away from so many is the greed and power lust of a few people that have completely usurped the nation’s policy makers. It’s time to remind them that they may have the guns, but we have the numbers.