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Monday the 29th of September 2008, was a memorable day: public sentiment swayed government action.
More precisely, public sentiment against the proposed Wall Street Bailout (WSB) swayed a majority of the members of the US House of Representatives to vote against the measure urged on them by the White House (occupied by a still un-impeached George W. Bush) and the leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Declared supporters of the measure include Barack Obama and John McCain, the Democratic and Republican nominees for the US presidency, respectively.
A 67 percent majority of the House Republicans, clearly the most fiscally conservative members, and a 40 percent minority of the House Democrats, obviously the most progressive and independent of their party, voted against the WSB. The vote was 228-205 (with one Republican abstention). This happened because despite the pressure by their partisan superiors to conform to a policy of protecting the underwriters of the two major-party presidential nominees, these representatives felt far greater heat from their constituents, scorching them five weeks before the election. Public sentiment trumped payola, what a day!
Is the camel’s nose under the tent? Is it conceivable that public anger could grow, as the "let them eat bailout" aristocracy bulldozes ahead with its bailout plans, which both the Wall Street Journal (newspaper) and Business Week (magazine) described as "delayed" by today legislative reversal?
We can assume that severe arm-twisting is going on right now, to try to blackmail or cajole about 15 House members to switch sides, so the next time they take a vote (for however many times that may be necessary) they finally get a majority. The Senate was bought outright long ago, so it is no problem.
The revulsion to the WSB cuts across all the artificial boundaries placed on the public, by: age, gender, region, ethnicity, occupation, and even economic class, except for the Robber Baron strata. This is the single most unifying issue at play in US national politics at this moment. It pits the mass of the American people, coast-to-coast, against our permanent-insider government aristocracy class (PIGAC). Four days ago, there were street protests against the WSB on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XreAnHG8xu4). Will there be more, as the aristocracy continues to thwart the general sentiment of the nation? Could we actually set in motion the unifying and energizing social dynamic of the General Strike?
What can any individual outside the "inner party" do to reverse the drive to proceed with the WSB? Call their congressional representative? Many have, and some congress-people report their calls run 50-to-1 against the WSB. That’s a voter pressure that overcomes the influence of payola, regardless of your party label, "political philosophy" and "principles."
But, not all congress-people feel this pressure, after all 47 percent of them voted for the WSB. Will the anti-WSB public sentiment wane, or will it build? The revulsion to the WSB is precisely the Nader-Gonzalez agenda (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-1Jj6YPYkQ), will this strengthen that campaign? Will the public’s resentment shift interest to anti-WSB Republican and Democratic contenders in other electoral campaigns? Today, it does not seem reasonable that the public revulsion to the WSB will dissipate soon, and the efforts of the aristocracy to keep pushing for this bailout of financial parasites seems, inevitably, to stoke that resentment.
Isn’t that the gravitational pressure behind most US electoral landslides, resentment? We should assume that astute party propaganda operatives are working out how to fix diversionary targets for the public to shoot its WSB resentment onto. Is it possible the public will arrive at a consensus on where to fix its resentment? Could that resentment mushroom if the PIGAC succeeds in bending the House to its will? Would the resenting public then just give up and keep watching TV, or would this be just one insult and just one theft too many? Would they get off their butts and take to the streets?
Given the size, armaments, and nastiness of the many police forces in the US, we can be sure that few would be willing to revolt too openly. However, massive non-violent walk-outs and demonstrations could be carried out to show public sentiment. What good would that do?, similar demonstrations did not stop the Iraq War. True, but anti-WSB walk-outs would strike greater fear in elected officials because the issue is rooted in the economic survival concerns of the public, which cannot be so easily draped out of view by fearful illusions of enemies abroad. Anti-WSB protests would appeal to a wider swath of the public than the anti-Iraq protests did, and the public is more likely to retain grudges against pro-WSB legislators, when voting.
People resent the ripoffs carried on by the debasement of the currency (a result of recent fiscal policy and inevitably from the WSB), and the rising costs and insecurity of their housing finances. They resent the prospect of seeing higher taxes in the future, with no new services and perhaps even fewer of them, solely to benefit the very industry that has abused so many of them: in little ways with many exorbitant "fees," and in big ways by adjusting them into foreclosure and without a bankruptcy escape hatch.
Yes, we have all heard the newest "social prep" propaganda reminding us of the Great Depression, and how this bogeyman may descend upon us unless we do as the PIGAC deems best. But, much of the public has been numbed to fear by the outworn fear mongering of the Iraq War promoters; and people are less moved by distant fears when they can see their own homes and purses under threat in the here and now. This refreshing resistance to fear was evident among a good fraction of the public who said "let it collapse!" to their House representatives, before the vote today.
So, we may be entering a period of social unity and resentment that is resilient to propaganda attacks based on fear, a pre-next Great Depression protest. If this is so, and if the PIGAC does not produce a substitute FDR (Obama?) and made-to-order social anger management program soon, then we could, indeed, enter a period of spirited public dynamics.
It may help your imagination to read about general strikes, here is a list from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_strike):
1842 – 1842 General Strike
1912 – Brisbane General Strike, Australia
1917 – Australian General Strike
1917 – Spanish General Strike
1919 – Barcelona General Strike, Spain
1919 – Winnipeg General Strike, Canada
1919 – Seattle General Strike, USA
1920 – German Kapp Putsch Strike
1922 – Italian General Strike
1926 – UK General Strike of 1926
1934 – West Coast Longshoremen’s Strike, USA
1934 – Toledo Auto-Lite Strike, USA
1934 – Textile Workers Strike, USA
1936 – Palestinian general strike
1936 – Syrian General Strike
1941 – February Strike, Netherlands
1942 – Luxembourgian General Strike
1956 – Finnish General Strike
1968 – French General Strike
1973 – Uruguan General Strike
1974 – Ulster Workers Council Strike, Northern Ireland.
1988 – Spanish General Strike
1992 – Nepalese General Strike
1995 – French Public Sector Strikes
1995 – Days of Action, Canada
2002 – Italian General Strike
2005 – Bolivian Gas Conflict
Notice the interesting entries for 1934, at the depth of the Great Depression. So, if the PIGAC tries scaring you with "Great Depression," to make you cower, acquiesce — and pay for! — the Wall Street Bailout, then buck them, scare them back with "General Strike!" Such an event may be a necessary step between the government we have and the government we want.
MANUEL GARCIA, Jr. is a retired physicist. E-mail = email@example.com