Class Warfare, the Final Chapter – Part 1

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by: Michael Pirsch, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis, Tuesday 15 March 2011. (Emphasis added.)

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” -Warren Buffett to The New York Times, November 26, 2006

          There is overwhelming evidence that we are entering the final chapter of class warfare in the US. Today, in the “public arena,” it is forbidden to say class warfare, and many citizens do not regard themselves as working class. The assault on language comes compliments of the propaganda apparatus, which includes: public relations, marketing, corporate media and the entertainment industry, universities, think tanks and so on. Its purpose is to distract our attention from serious matters so we can focus on trivial matters – usually involving consuming. Edward Bernays, the founder of the modern propaganda industry, described the process:

          “Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government. We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of … in almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.” [1]

          In addition to inventing the propaganda model still in use today, Bernays’ model created support for World War I, first in England and then in the US, calling the war to save Morgan’s billions the war for “making the world safe for democracy.”

          We have been overwhelmed by the propaganda apparatus to the point that it controls our thought processes, causing us to become relentless shoppers, even against our own interests. It controls our thinking in the public sphere so that we support the wealthy elite, even against our own interests. Far too many of us have been rendered thoughtless and clueless as to what it means to live in a democratic society. It is not democracy because the government says it is; it is democracy when the masses are informed and act through their delegates to develop policy that promotes the general welfare. Today there are two sovereign nations that exhibit more democratic tendencies than all others: Venezuela and Bolivia. Because of their efforts to build democracy, both sovereign nations have been under attack by the US. In Venezuela, the US sponsored a coup in 2002. In Bolivia, the US government has sponsored a secessionist movement made up of the wealthy elite, whose tactics includes murder of government supporters. The Bolivian government expelled the US ambassador for his role in the destabilization attempt. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have adopted new constitutions which were the result of a process that involved all citizens and especially both countries’ indigenous populations, who were previously completely excluded from any role in government. Both countries have improved access to their medical systems, increased literacy and established local spaces where democracy can be practiced. This shift causes the US empire considerable distress, because the empire fears the spread of real democracy more than anything else.

          An essential element in a democracy is the development of a critical consciousness that allows us to resist succumbing to the siren call of the propaganda apparatus. Hugo Chavez, in a 2003 interview, spoke of the need to develop critical thinking:

          “It seems to be part of a larger social defect in the US – that’s a society that should really develop some kind of response to the intellectual battering that seems to take place daily. I sincerely hope that one day the US public will develop some kind of critical consciousness, that they will remove the veil from their eyes and see the media powers for what they are. No part of the human community can live entirely on its own planet with its own laws of motion and cut off from the rest of humanity. They must be critical, and make it their personal responsibility to humanity and morality to discover the truth.” [2]

          Eduardo Galeano, well-known Latin American author and critical thinker, continued in the same vein:

          “Never have so many been held incommunicado by so few. More and more have the right to hear and see, but fewer and fewer have the privilege of informing, giving their opinion and creating. The dictatorship of the single word and the single image, much more devastating than that of the single party, is imposing a life whose exemplary citizen is a docile consumer and passive spectator. Never before have so few fooled so many.” [3]

          What better time than now for the wealthy elite to crush any chance of developing any critical thought. A substantial majority in the US have been so overwhelmed by the consumer/celebrity culture that distracts from the real situation that they are now fearful of harboring a critical thought, let alone speaking critically about the surrender of democracy to the wealthy elite. No matter what outrage the wealthy elite throws at us all, every indicator suggests there would be little, if any, resistance to that outrage. In fact, now is the best time for the wealthy elite to finally win the war and put into action all the highly repressive measures passed by Congress this decade. The repression already authorized, if put into full effect, would make the US a recognizably totalitarian state.

          The goal of winning the war is to control all of the wealth and all of the people in the US and in the rest of the world, including, of course, governments. This victory is being accomplished by the combination of the financial services and military-related industries, which, in addition to lobbying for the continuation of several wars in the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Iran, etcetera) is now also engaged in stealing government benefits from the citizens of Ireland, Spain, Greece, Latvia, England, France and the US. All governments are cooperating with the market (primarily Wall Street and London banks) by terminating long-running programs designed to promote the general welfare. The stolen money is being given by the governments to Wall Street and its felonious partners in European banks – however, large, passionate demonstrations and massive student and worker strikes mark the reaction in Europe.

          Our time is coming. Soon, Congress will once again deliver more tax cuts to the wealthiest people on the planet, at a time when perhaps more than 60 percent of the American people is at severe economic risk. This time also marks the beginning of the process of ending Social Security and replacing it with mandated contributions to Wall Street, which – for a fee, and with no guaranteed return – manage individual workers’ retirement accounts. Wall Street’s management of what used to be Social Security will – through commissions and other fees that are not a cost in the present Social Security system – reap an obscene amount of money, maybe in the hundreds of billions annually.

          In addition to depriving the federal budget of the income necessary to provide the most basic services by eliminating taxes for the wealthy elite, we have committed ourselves to conducting “endless war” wherever and whenever it suits the wealthy elite’s purpose. The combination of tax cuts and funding for the endless wars during a “jobless” recovery ensures we will have a citizenry best described as desperate and clueless. The “endless” war is one of the greatest frauds perpetrated upon the citizens of the US. A failed trillion dollar intelligence and defense system results in 9/11; then, lies are perpetrated by the president, the Congress, the military and the intelligence apparatus; those lies are, in turn, supported enthusiastically by the propaganda apparatus, and we commit international war crimes by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. The US’s empirical bullying has made the world much more dangerous, not safer. The more we terrorize people, the more terrorists we create. Our feeding of the financial services and military industries is sucking the spiritual, economic and physical life out of us – just as Dwight D. Eisenhower predicted.

          During the summer of 2009, the Obama administration fired the first volley in the renewed battle led by the wealthy elite to eliminate Social Security. It announced a freeze in the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security recipients for the years 2010 and 2011. This was the first time in 30 years no COLA would be received. Never mind the cost increases in all necessities and the fact that no one was publicly calling for a freeze. The freeze was absolutely unnecessary and cruel. Social Security recipients are also required to pay more each month for basic Medicare coverage. Many elder workers are fired or laid off well in advance of their retirement age. It is cheaper to hire someone to work for less than the eliminated elder worker. The consequences of refusing increases to Social Security, raising the retirement age and lowering benefits is a recipe for eldercide.

          Social Security is not a government-funded program. Employees’ deductions are matched 100 percent [by] their employers. There is simply no other tax money involved with Social Security. Medicare is something else, although funded with part of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. Private insurers and the pharmaceutical industry were allowed to participate in Medicare and could be considered somewhat responsible for the miserable shape it is in.

          Obama is setting up this system on behalf of the wealthy elite, who were among his earliest and largest financial backers in 2008. According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Social Security Administration, with no changes whatsoever, Social Security will remain solvent until 2037. That is 27 years from now. Even with unemployment projected to remain at 20 percent or higher – which means FICA receipts will remain low or decrease further – Social Security is not the problem it is made out to be, especially considering all the current crises, such as endless war, global climate change catastrophes, jobless recovery and so on. So, why did Obama propose a two percent cut in FICA for employees? If you earn $1,000 per paycheck, you will receive a $20 “bonus” each payday. However, if Obama’s proposal of a federal sales tax passes, that $20 will go right back to the US Treasury. That two-percent cut will definitely speed up the day when Social Security outgo exceeds income. At that time, the entire propaganda apparatus will be let loose to clear the way for Wall Street to take over Social Security. What a deal! You give me about $480 per year (unless there is a federal sales tax) and I give you several trillions of dollars to burn through. This is why critical thinking is so important. The wealthy elite dangle about $40 a month in front of debt-ridden, have-a-job-but-afraid-of-losing-it people, get hundreds of bought members of Congress to shill for it and, bingo, the door to steal Social Security is wide open.

          On the other side of the coin, raising the dollar limit upon which FICA is taxable (right now, nothing above $106,000 is taxed) would keep Social Security solvent into the next century. A simple solution to a projected problem, but politically impossible because, although 70 to 80 percent of the population might support this, what counts is what the top one percent wants.

         Why all this fuss over something that might pose a problem 27 years from now? The wealthy elite passionately hate Social Security because it represents a major victory by the rest of us during the classic battles of class warfare during the 1920’s to the 1940’s. It represents fruit from the tree of democracy. People who were in nearly the exact position we find ourselves today – except that they had no safety net at all – organized, agitated for and won a federal jobs program, a mortgage foreclosure moratorium, unemployment insurance, minimum wage and Social Security, among many other benefits they fought for and won. That era represents a major retreat for the wealthy elite in its relentlessly waged class war in the US. The wealthy elite hate democracy unless they can own it.

         Another motive just might be the trillions of dollars Wall Street would like to get its hands on. Most private sector defined pension plans have been dumped on the federal pension guaranty corporation (which pays pennies to the dollar on what pensioners previously received). Public pension plans are also being targeted, feeding the insane position that goes something like this: “if I am down, I am going to drag down everybody like me.” How else to explain the media and political flacks droning on and on about spoiled, bloated public workers with fat pension plans? Obama’s cynical ploy of freezing federal employees’ pay is a bow to these tactics. It is amazing how often we hear of the great financial sacrifices made by presidential appointees and how much more they could earn in the private sector. Of course, the benefits accruing from their corrupt behavior while in public office are not factored in. The fate of 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts must not be discussed as Wall Street awaits its chance to steal from the poorest citizens of the US.

          Other crises that seem to be forgotten include: the Savings and Loan rip-off following deregulation by Reagan (cost: over $500 billion); the stock market bubble of the Clinton-Bush years (401(k)s and IRAs wiped out); corporate manufacturing’s flight from about 1975 on (and the associated loss of middle-class jobs and status); and the most recent fraud visited upon us, the fraudulent mortgage-backed securities bubble made possible by Clinton administration deregulation (its related losses still unfolding).

Clinton’s current financial situation is suggestive. When he left office in 2001, reports had him owing $10-15 million in legal fees. Since then, thanks to speaking fees, a salary from his nonprofit foundation and investments, he can afford to blow $5 million or more on his daughter’s wedding. One is left to imagine Obama’s hidden retirement plan should he deliver Social Security (after George W. Bush’s failure to do so became the “greatest disappointment” of his presidency). All former members of Congress, the president, vice president and cabinet officials should be required to submit detailed financial reports for at least five years after they leave office. If it seems they have become unusually rich (like Clinton), they should be investigated and, if warranted, indicted.

           The list of priorities that need to be addressed in the federal budget should not in any way, shape or form include Social Security, unless the real intent is to steal it. Once the deed is done, it is all over.

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