Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Real State Of The Union

After reading an online poll about whether people support capitalism or not in this country it lead me to do some delving into the real State of The Union, circa 2005. When reading the poll I was surprised that the no votes were quite high. That at least means that the wool is not being pulled over everybody eyes. First off has there ever been a time in this country's history where capitalism was fair? The answer to that is no, but there were times when we were heading in the right direction.

There are three periods in our history where real attempts were made to change things. The first was Teddy Roosevelt. His interest in busting the trusts and especially going after Standard Oil set the standard for trying to break up companies that get too powerful for their own good. Since then the results have been quite mixed, but it was a good start. The New Deal was the next great movement. So many of what we take for granted today was formulated in that period. Things like Social Security, FDIC protections, Banking Reform. It was the beginning of the modern welfare state. The 1960s Great Society was the last great attempt to move our capitalism toward a more European model, but it utterly failed. In no small part due to Lyndon Johnson's problems with the Vietnam War. The rich and powerful, using their friends in the media then began an attack on the welfare state. They managed to make even the word "welfare" a dirty word.

Since 1968 There has been a steady erosion of everything that was gained since Teddy Roosevelt decided to start shaking things up. Now in 2005 I feel we have a lot more in common with 1880 or 1895 rather then 1968. The new deal and great society is being wiped off the map one program at a time.

The labor movement was the first casualty. Today only 10% of workers are even in a union of some kind and their power in Washington is on the wane. They can not even protect their members these days from all the rules that allow companies to file for bankruptcy and screw the workers wholesale. Wall Mart workers are being forced to work off the clock, paid a very low wage, and generally are treated poorly. Who in labor is there to represent them? For the people who want to try the deck is stacked against them. They would not have gotten away with this even 30 years ago, but today it’s accepted as the cost of doing business.

Next is the gap between the top of the income ladder and the bottom. I was reading in the NY Times a while back that Manhattan now had the world’s largest gap between the top and the bottom, moving ahead of the poorest nations and even a leper colony. That’s a total disgrace and makes me ashamed to be a New Yorker. In this category we are so much like the late 19th century it’s not even funny. Look at all the rules that have come about just in this year alone. Bankruptcy filings are harder for individuals starting next month, Property rights took a huge hit with the Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain. Now if the rich developer wants your property, he can get it a lot easier and then build his big hotel. The protections of the Rich and what is important to them is becoming a huge wave sweeping over the entire legal and economic system.

The past 20 years has seen a revolution in this country in medical care but how much do the people at the bottom really benefit? Tens of millions of people with no coverage, and millions more with limited coverage. Seniors having to sacrifice other things just to get medications? It’s a total disgrace. Watch TV for any amount of time and get deluged by advertisements from drug companies pushing the "latest pill". The Drug companies get outrageous deals on Patents which limit the use of generics. Prilosec worked fine for acid reflex, but as the patent ran out what did they do? Make Nexium so they can get another patent for essentially the same drug and rack up more billions. It’s disgusting. Have assets? Then you can go into a nice and expensive private nursing home when you get elderly, while the folks at the bottom are lucky to get into a state home where we all have heard of the horror tales. Even at the very end of our lives the divide between rich and poor is evident and becoming worse year after year.

Our justice system is totally and 100% broken. If you are rich it’s far easier to get away with murder-and that’s in the literal sense. O.J. Simpson is the tip of the iceberg but it’s a wonderful example. You can buy your way out of trouble in criminal court, and in civil court the costs of litigation means the little guy gets stomped on, or forced into settlements that run contrary to their interests. I have seen that one up close and personal as an Attorney and it sickens me.

Then there is the Greed Factor. The media and Madison ave have convinced the people of this country that you are defined by how much you have relative to your neighbors. Promoting this attitude makes it far easier for the Rich to get away with the stuff I have been mentioning above. Everybody is supposed to get as much as they can in the short time they spend alive. Even the idea of giving something back when you pass on to the country that gave the rich so much opportunity is on the verge of being eliminated. The estate tax elimination will further promote the greed and hoarding of the almighty dollar.

Then we have the main obstacle to any meaningful change. The rich have access to just about the entire political system. Big corporate money flows into campaigns at a shocking rate. People are assumed to be "corruption free" if they are wealthy and do not have to take the dirty money when they run for office. Does anybody else see how moronic that seems? The filthy rich guy is going to win and then turn the other cheek? Sure tell me another one. The public is so deluded to allow all this to happen. What do you think the bigwigs are getting for all that money? Well for one thing, everything I have mentioned above and other wonderful things like Enron’s, and the moving from high level gov jobs to high paying lobbying work. As long as so much money is allowed to flow freely into the system of gov, we will never get any changes at all.

Monday, September 05, 2005

America's Dirty Little Secret Is Out For All To See Now

I was talking to a friend in India today. People there are shocked by what they are seeing on TV. The media in this country, the entertainment industry, madison ave.....all of them. They promote the idea that everybody here is doing just great. People never have to face some of the awful truths that they would have to face in a country like India for example. Then disasters like this strike and the truth is laid bare for all to see.

We never see the poor in this country except when there is a disaster, and even then its more like media rubber-necking at the scene of a bad accident. Now everybody can see the poor, how they live, and what happens to them when something goes wrong. I think it has been a rude awakening to many people all over the world about the true situation in this country and the exposing of the simple truth.

That we are not special, we are not all swimming in oceans of gold and we are a super-power in name only. People have been saying over and over "this should not happen here" well why not? We treat the poor like dirt, make them live like animals all while telling them to take advantage of what society has to offer. I can only hope that this tragedy opens the eyes of the public to what really goes on around here.

There is a great article about the media response to this crisis in general at the BBC. Maybe times will change and we will get back the independent and aggressive media we really need in this country? Only time will tell