(Author’s Note: The following is a working draft.)
“The beginning is the most important part of the work” Plato
I submit for the purposes of this article that the founding of the Americas was accomplished by those immigrants who walked across the then accessible Bering Straits (c. 17,000 years ago), eventually inhabiting what is now called North, Central and South America. Like all throughout history, those first immigrants came to find a better way of life for themselves and their descendants. So the history of the North, Central and South America began as a progenitor to the America notion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Almost immediately, those who had the power to take land and property from others did so, and those who could appropriate unclaimed or uncontested land and property likewise did so with every increasing force, frequency and the sanctioning by self-serving customs, laws and mores to benefit the few at the expense of the many. America has not only imported, but actually perfected the cornerstones of the world’s previous empires; namely, the elite and powerful control all political authority and established religions through manipulation, coercion and fear and when deemed necessary, by force.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana
Our republic is constructed upon the fact that there are haves and have not’s, and all of our political, economic, and legal constructs are informed by this reality. The systematic genocide of the indigenous peoples, the enslavement and exploitation of Africans, the cynical creation of a working and a middle-class to serve as the expendable labor force for captains of industry, and the universal degradation and callous disregard for the poor and powerless, but the most devastating aspect of the American experience is the fact that millions are diluted into believing the great lie that with hard work and effort anyone can achieve success and wealth. To this I say bovine excrement!
Since the founding of our republic, plutocrats have always controlled, manipulated and exploited the masses. Over the decades it hasn't gotten any better, it just gets more sophisticated! Most recently Wall Street defrauded millions in America and millions more world-wide while enriching themselves. Mortgage bankers have likewise devastated life savings, yet our government bailed these criminals out with our money. I submit that our elected officials and their major financial supports (both corporate and individual) have no interest in our welfare other than our periodic vote to allow them to stay in power and further enrich themselves.
The so-called middle and working-class - or more accurately described today as the working-poor - have always been the fuel for the engine of American capitalism providing the requisite blood, sweat and tears, both intellectual and manual. Unfortunately, they have also been the primary source of income to enrich that same capitalistic engine.
Does it not set a tone as to our government’s position on capitalism that a nation that was formed in large part as the response of white, rich, land, and often slave owners to the tyranny of British taxation as one of its’ first official acts, dispatches federal troops against its’ own citizens to enforce taxation on distilled spirits? It is mere coincidence that the President who dispatched these armed federal troops against its’ own citizens just happened to be the single largest distiller of spirits in the United States of America?
The excise tax on whiskey was the brainchild of the true father of our republic - Alexander Hamilton - who fittingly is buried in the graveyard of Trinity Church at the very foot of Wall Street! Hamilton was the architect and most ardent advocate of our adherence as a nation to the sanctity of trickle down capitalism. A wonderful example is Hamilton’s founding of the New York Stock Exchange which met indoors for a small group of personally approved members, leaving the next level of capitalist to form the American Stock Exchange literally outdoors, and the rest to fend for them. Hamilton was also fountainhead for creating a national debt to establish our nation’s credit worthiness, and a standing national army to protect our economic interests. Yet we continue to believe in a romanticized account of our nation’s founding. Need convincing, mull these facts over which like in all previous empires most historical facts have been revised, rewritten or totally modified:
George Washington was a disaster as a general losing 6 of the 9 Revolutionary War battles he served in as commander-in-chief;
Paul Revere was charged with cowardice and disobedience resulting in his dismal from the militia while serving as an officer in the worst naval defeat in American history prior to Pearl Harbor;
Thomas Jefferson was the Dominique Strauss-Kahn of his day who most likely raped, or at the very best, used his political and economic power over his slave Sally Hemings as opposed to an being an enlighten and benevolent lover;
Without the French, we would never have won the Revolutionary War;
After the ratification of the Constitution, and before passage of the Bill of Rights, there were State sanctioned and funded selected religions while harassing and imprisoning others. Unitarians and Congregationalist were in, Baptists and others were out;
President Jackson, who had a genocidal rage against Native Americans, ordered their forced relocation of once gold was discovered on their lands;
We have romanticized the Civil War to make it something it was not! It was a civil war over the rights of some states to continue and expand the enslavement and exploitation of millions of Africans. In the antebellum South the economic value of slaves was greater than all of the railroads, factories, and businesses of the entire nation. If the Emancipation Proclamation was intended to rectify the sin of slavery, why is racism and at the very least economic segregation still pervasive? Yes, we have made progress, but following is a summary of what it has taken over the past 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation to get to where we are today:
Thirteenth Amendment (1865),
Civil Rights Act of 1866;
Fourteenth Amendment (1868);
Fifteenth Amendment (1870);
Civil Right Acts of 1870;
Civil Rights Act of 1871;
Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871;
Civil Rights Act of 1875;
Civil Rights Act of 1957;
Civil Rights Act of 1960;
Civil Rights Act of 1964;
Voting Rights Act of 1965;
Civil Rights Act of 1968;
Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970, 1975 and 1982; and,
Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987.
Even after all of that, we are segregationists by our actions and deeds, and a substantial and influential minority still cannot fully accept that an African-American is our President! So much for freeing the slaves, but doing so was never in the economic interests of those in power; namely, the plutocrats.
All political authority and all established religions in the world are designed to manage, not govern, their constituents through a three-tiered strategy of manipulation, coercion and fear and when necessary, force! This is true of all previous empires, but we Americans have perfected this form of control by dangling the most infinitesimally minute hope that anyone can succeed through hard work and persistence. This is the same strategy and fallacious logic employed by lotteries, casinos, and con-artists.
Finally, we Americans have been duped into the regularly inhaling the narcotic of capitalism; namely, conspicuous consumption and comparative happiness are two of our God given, inalienable birth rights. We need to spend more in order to consume more, and the more conspicuous this consumption is, the more privileged we appear to be, and the more blessed we should feel. Even though this hoax has been dispelled by the recent uncontrolled greed of the few who were ultimately protected, and in most cases fully compensated for any of their loses, by our elected officials using our money!
Our nation was envisioned, designed, codified and constituted by a small group of wealthy, white, landholders, slave-owners and entrepreneurs who instigated a rebellion against Britain’s repression of their capitalistic interests with the middle, working and poor classes of the colonies serving as necessary pawns to provide the blood, sweat and tears to realize their goal while begrudgingly allowing just enough capital to trickle down to the 99% of us who do all of the work!
This group of political and financial elites are as incestuous as any plutocrats the world has ever known, What are the odds in a democracy with millions of citizens that the highest office in the land, and many in the upper echelons, would be held by scions, spouses, relatives and close business and personal friends just like in those countries we often deplore, and all too often invade?
The Amalgamation of Capital
“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate” Bertrand Russell
There are countless examples America’s plutocrats committing crimes, both societal and environmental, in order to enrich themselves at the expense of others while enjoying the protection from any reasonable consequences by the political system that they in large part fund. For example, the primary reason for the Great Depression (1929-1941) was the fact that a small cartel of rich investors conspired to run up the value of certain stocks causing the masses to invest only to find that the rich had cashed in and they were left holding the (empty) bag – sound a bit familiar?
History repeats itself, especially in America! Case in point: our current economic melt-down. The underlying cause of the Great Recession of 1999-2008 was an intentional fraud with accounting as the preferred weapon of choice. At first this fraud was conceived and committed for the enrichment of mostly the top leadership of the banking industry. The elements of the fraud were:
Fast growth fueled by bad loans with high yields;
Extreme leverage (debt/equity);
And my personal favorite, no lose reserves.
The primary goal of this fraud was to guarantee reports of astronomical profits by being allowed to report income without reporting the related loses. All of this was done not only with the blessing, but with the absolute insistence, and unfettered facilitation of our government and its regulatory bodies.
Now years after these fraudulent acts were committed, these same bankers have been bailed-out, and yet, most of these institutions are still under the control of the same CEO’s, and best of all – they get to do it again!
This fraud’s foundation was laid down in the so-called liar’s loans which first surfaced in California in the early 1990’s. Here is a perfect example of American style capitalism at it’s all too often worst; namely, working to enrich the few at the expense of the many. These were the days before the mortgage banks, and we still lived in a world of savings and loans banks which were regulated by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
A liar’s loan uses a really bad mortgage loan to generate a high yield. These were those wonderful times when no verification of the borrowers’ income, employment and debt were required first became commonplace in applying for a home mortgage loan. The savings and loan banks did not do the underwriting; that is to say, they did not check the credit worthiness of the borrower. The underwriting was done by a loan broker who had a great deal to gain financially by ensuring the combination of a high volume mortgage loans with an accompanying inflated property appraisals.
Corruption, like a rotting fish, always starts at the head, and the goal of this government sanctioned fraud was to report record profits which at first directly resulted in enriching the CEO’s involved. One thing capitalism does particularly well is never to waste a good fleecing, so next enter the pivotal role of the loan brokers who often were flipping hamburgers a day before starting in their new capacity. They were necessary to rapidly expand this fraud in order to maximize the gains to the few by fleecing and defrauding the many. These loan brokers learned their new trade’s rubrics in the few minutes it took to consume their overpriced morning latte; namely, lie about debt/income and loan/value. This is what countless loan broker lied about as this fraud was being broadened out. Appraisals needed to be inflated, so loan brokers cultivated, without much effort, appraisers willing to knowingly inflate a property’s value. In our form of trickle down capitalism, sanctioned by American style special interest democracy, cheaters always prosper!
Saving and loan banks learned valuable lesions from the savings and loan scandal of the 1980’s. They learned to insulate themselves, and in order to do this they acquired or created a new element of their corporate structure; namely, a mortgage bank. A mortgage bank became the vehicle to advance the greatest criminal enterprise in the history of the world! Our government made all of this possible. Here are some low-lights:
During this time, Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve 1987-2006, refused to regulate mortgage banks. Keep in mind that mortgage banks were regulated by the Federal Reserve not the FDIC. Game on;
Facilitation by the Clinton administration, especially by barring anti-fraud laws from applying to mortgage banks, and continued by the subsequent Bush and Obama administrations;
Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 that effectively removed the separation that previously existed between Wall Street investment banks and depository banks. This repeal directly contributed to the severity Great Recession of 2008;
The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 is federal legislation that officially ensured the deregulation of financial products known as over-the-counter derivatives essentially permitting over-the-counter derivatives and credit default swaps to exist outside of the law; and,
Maintaining essentially the same government oversight leadership that first facilitated this fraud to oversee its resolution to this very day;
To everyone who has mocked a person, couple or family for seemingly getting into a mortgage that they ultimately could not afford, listen-up, the lenders, not the buyers were the liars under this scheme! Now we have the most common second level of capitalism’s trickle-down effect. It has now become possible for a larger group than just the captains of industry (CEO’s) to engorge themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens. The feeding frenzy now was opened up to loan brokers, property appraisers and the legions of support characters such as the now infamous robo-signers who committed as many as 10,000 perjuries per month. Bundling and selling off world-wide these fatally flawed mortgages expanded the Doppler-like progression and expansion of the raping and pillaging of American’s and much of the Western world’s middle and working-classes.
The bundling purportedly offered low risk mortgages with high yields with a fabricated small debt/income ratio while the arbitrarily inflated property appraisals made for a seductive loan/value ratio. This fraud did not go unnoticed. The FBI as early as 2004 reported that there was an epidemic of mortgage fraud, but the Bush Administration in 2008 called this report the equivalent of white collar street crime and not worth the time to investigate.
Regulations and regulators are key to even beginning to remediate this fraud, but both existed at this time in fewer numbers than ever before. After the savings and loan crisis of the 1980’s, the regulatory body at that time – the Office of Thrift Supervision – made more than 10,000 criminal referral. The regulations were put into place, and an adequate and dedicated number of regulators were assigned to address and remediate this fraud. How many have been made regarding our current crisis?
The Military, Industrial and Congressional Complex
"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporality embarrassed millionaires."
The primary purpose of America’s military, industrial and congressional complex is to advocate for, and protect the vested interests of its’ most affluent and powerful capitalists at the expense of the rest of its’ citizens. As a result of this uniquely American form of capitalism, freely explored under the façade of governmental regulation and oversight, the rich have become significantly richer by committing criminal acts, and in some cases, such as the Great Recession of 1999-2008, millions of times. The Great Recession was only possible because of government sanctioned and facilitated criminal enterprises that permanently destroyed the livihoods of more than 10,000,000 Americans, relegated another 10,000,000 to a permanent status of part-time employment at the very best, not to mention the world-wide ramifications (Iceland, Greece, et al) that make our own national disgrace almost pale in comparison.
What do we expect when the formulation of our democracy was made by an exclusive club of rich land owners who initially codified in our democracy’s seminal document that some humans were less valued than others, the right to vote was not universal, and the requirements for elected office precluded the overwhelming majority of our nation’s citizens? Expediency, commerce, capitalism and the right of the plutocrats to get richer is the engine the powers our nation. It is government by some people, for some people and of some people – the rich, the powerful and the influential.
Yes, America is a better place to live, work and grow old than almost every other country in the world, but let’s pull back the curtain and openly admit that although we enjoy a better system of government than most, America’s form of democracy was started by plutocrats, designed by plutocrats, run by plutocrats, and any and all benefits of capitalism are first and foremost informed by what is good for the few, and what remains, including democracy itself, should trickle down as the normal and natural order of things.
Stewardship of Planet Earth
“Midgley had a greater impact on the environment than any other single organism in world history” - J.R. McNeil
With the exception of a few organisms such as flesh eating bacteria, America’s plutocrats are without doubt the most destructive life form to inhabit our planet over the past four billion years! As a nation, we act as though the earth and all of its resources whether plant, animal, or mineral are here to be exploited without exception. We tear tops of mountains off to gouge coal from the earth. We are willing to permanently degrade and pollute our oceans and lands to extract petroleum, we contaminate our own potable waters to dispose of our biological, agricultural and industrial wastes, yet we disproportionately consume and pollute more than any other nation in the history of humankind.
All of this devastation is done in the name of progress. In America, progress is measured by material possessions. All of this devastation is justified by our democracy’s most inviolate constructs – capitalism and conspicuous consumerism, and no nation in the history of planet Earth has pursued both capitalism and conspicuous consumerism more ardently than America, but fear not, because despite the best (and the worst) intentions of those who predict environment and ecological collapse, the planet has absolutely nothing to fear. Planet Earth will survive!
The salient question is what state planet Earth will be in the near and long-term future, and how the planet’s condition will impact the continuation of the human species. Humanity has a vested, self-interest in making every effort to be a good steward, and to not only maintain, but sustain the planet in a state that will be conducive to our survival as a species. If we were to pursue our own self-centered interests for a quality life than being good stewards of our planet would be a fundamental fact and guiding goal in all of our political, economic, religious and cultural calculations.
Democracy as envisioned, especially in America, encourages the exploitation of the Earth’s resources as the primary engine to jobs, and in turn, these jobs create consumers. Unfortunately capitalism as perfected in America has diluted its’ citizens to believe that conspicuous consumption is the most accurate barometer’s of one’s self-worth, happiness and status. Capitalism requires consumerism. Consumerism is a never ending pursuit that extols excess, and a democracy is the politic construct that encourages, supports, subsidizes and protects both capitalism as engine to rape and pillage Earth and conspicuous consumerism as the fuel that feeds that engine.
Remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico? Remember the fact that to this day, the eleven lives lost in the initial explosion are merely footnotes. Remember the fact that despite much gnashing of teeth, outrage and promises of holding the responsible parties accountable, really not very much happened other than the overwhelming majority of hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and millions of gallons of chemical dispersals still pollute our the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.
There are countless examples of how American-style capitalism and a democratic approach to its fullest expression are designed to enrich the few rather than provide for the greater good. One of my personal favorites is that of Thomas Midgley, Jr. Midgley was an American mechanical engineer and chemist. Midgely was a key figure in a team of chemists that developed the tetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline (leaded gasoline) as well as some of the first chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs aka Freon).
The destructive effects of CFCs in the atmosphere have since become widely known. Another adverse effect of Midgley's work was the release of large quantities of lead into the atmosphere as a result of the large-scale combustion of leaded gasoline all over the world.
As a species, we are rather stupid, and as a nation, we are rather arrogant. I say this because even the most rudimentary understanding of the human species reveals that there are certain things humanity cannot exist without. Take oxygen for example. Of the oxygen produced everyday here on planet Earth approximately 50% comes trees and other plants on terra firma, and the other 50% comes from phytoplankton in Earth’s oceans. Yet everyday thousands of acres of forests are destroyed and countless trillions of phytoplankton are killed as a direct result of pollution.
As long as our trickle down system of capitalism rewards large corporations whose primary goals are enriching their corporate leadership and stock holders without any serious actions (mind you here, I am making actions, not rhetoric the operative word) to preserve, protect and defend the well-being of our water, air, plants and animals than what sort of future are we leaving for the generations to come?
Earth has survived since its formation as a lifeless sphere with a molten surface, through brackish, lifeless oceans, to literally being a giant snowball, and despite our worst efforts our planet will continue in some condition. There will be an Earth in 500, 5,000 and most likely 5 million years from now, but what will it be like and will there be humankind?
A Revolutionary Idea
“…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln
Since our Republic’s founding power, control, authority, and capital have mostly been held by a very few, and today, the smallest percentage of our nation’s citizens control almost all of our nation’s wealth. America has perfected the vision of our founding fathers who themselves were for the most part fully invested in keeping their wealth while cynically working to convince their fellow citizens that we all have an equal opportunity at realizing the America dream.
Can a gifted child born in abject poverty, in a single family home, with limited (if any) access to a quality education can rise up to be a captain of industry?
Unless there is a level playing field, there will never be equal opportunity. The plutocrats of America are no different than the tyrants throughout all of humankinds’ history. They use the middle, working and poor classes to enrich themselves.
What is the point of exercising the opportunity to vote when at the very best you are voting for the lesser of two evils? What is the purpose of voting when the two party system is not designed to advance the interests and general welfare of its constituents, but to gain and maintain political, and therefore, economic power? What is the purpose of voting when most of the legislation passed every year is written by lobbyists and special interest groups not by our elected officials? What is the purpose of voting when every election’s candidates make promises designed to speak to our needs and desires, but yet after being elected, they pander to those large donors who made their election possible?
If your goal is not to overturn, but to perfect our democracy, I have a solution. If your goal is to hold our local, state and national leaders to the beautiful words in both our Constitution and the subsequent Bill of Rights then withhold you vote on a local, state and national level if there is not a candidate that at least appears to be interested in your welfare by their actions and deeds, not just their words and slogans. Do not vote just to exercise your right to do so, but vote because you have made the best informed decision for a person who by their words, or better still deeds, has demonstrated that they have your welfare at heart. Not voting because there is not a minimally acceptable candidate is one of the most powerful actions a citizen can take in a democracy.
A democracy by definition should work from the bottom up, not from the top down. Let’s demand a republic in which the role of government is to protect and enhance the welfare of its citizens. Let’s demand a democracy that puts the beautiful words of our nation’s founding documents into actions and deeds not the usual talking points, rhetoric and false promises. Let’s hold our elected officials to realizing the profoundly compelling words of Abraham Lincoln “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”