Stories don’t have to be true. They just have to hold our interest. The American story has held our interest for a long time, and it’s even partially true. The early settlers found it tough going, but that was in comparison to an English way of life. They found plenty of people here who were born here. Well, not quite people. Savages. The distinction accounts for all subsequent actions of the one toward the other.
The founders drew up a beautiful set of laws, but that was also to keep in place property arrangements commensurate with position. Liberty was deemed to be the province of all, with the country run by the people who own it.
The westward push was adventurous and heroic, but it also pushed southward some weaker, brown skinned people. The yellow skinned built the railroads and the black skinned built the economy, but the landowners built the legal structure. In this “nation of laws”, nothing has the lasting strength of the legal structure.
There’s a lot of wonderful things about America, the many freedoms, the informality, the modernity, and the special way we associate (sometimes) with the underdog. And it’s not a society where a peddler or clerk can’t chat up a bank president. But the story of America as a classless society is only partially true.
Missing are rigid, caste-like separations. Lines are more subtle and smeared out by a lifetime of ingesting bureaucratic illusion, played out like national theme music, and a relatively good living standard. And even where we openly speak of the “great middle class” it contains a touch of lording it over third world and autocratic countries that have a great “poor class”.
Over the ages class distinctions have been put in place by easily recognized fiat. In America they are infused by corporate law. You can’t step into an airport without hearing over and over again, “Federal law prohibits…dadadadadadadada” , but federal law does not prohibit corporate law, and it is this that helps create the orbital compulsion whereby the lightweights cannot escape from the pull of the heavyweight. Put in relativistic language (for accuracy and with the gain of an apt psychological overtone) the lightweights simply follow the easiest path in distorted space.
Differences in Americans’ status along class lines are internalized, and therefore partially discounted, but there are indications people are beginning to keep closer score, as evidenced by the Occupy movement. Its second stage engines haven’t fired yet. More is going to be needed because a vital Left presence is the only bulwark against nascent fascism, very hospitable to capitalism. It certainly isn’t going to come from our two monopoly political parties. The class disparity between rich and poor is manifest in the way government policy is slanted.
Before becoming president, Barack Obama had a lot to say in favor of single-payer healthcare, actually a very bad name. It’s confusing to people and possibly purposely so. How many people actually care about how many entities pay for their healthcare so long as it is paid for by someone other than them? The better name is national healthcare, the model already existing in Medicare.
Perhaps because the very idea of socialism has been crapped on for so long in this country, even proponents of single-payer choose their words carefully, avoiding terms like “socialized” and “nationalized”. That’s why we hear the euphemism, “universal healthcare”.
State propagandists coined the expression “godless communism”, as if this was a property of communism. If it is, the implication is that we have a system of “godly capitalism”. Gets pretty silly. Except that all our state managers take a virtual oath to that god.
Obama actually had a very good chance to move to national healthcare. He had described, and passionately, our present health system as being in a state of “crisis”, not only for its being behind the rest of the developed countries that have nationalized but for being a drag financially, physically, and mentally upon already burdened working people who either didn’t have insurance or couldn’t afford what they did have.
The record shows that when he had the chance to make a change he dealt in the insurance companies, the HMO’s, the drug companies – make that the entire health profit industry – but zero advocates for national healthcare.
Once in the White House, Obama continued his strong support of TARP, bailing big banks out of crisis. What distinguished this crisis from the healthcare crisis was the class of people waiting to be rescued. The rich and powerful are not used to waiting and in a week’s time Wall Street and its enablers in Washington got their dream fix, essentially a massive socialization of trillions of dollars in guarantees to finance capital. One crisis adverted, at least temporarily, the other morphed into the tepid Affordable Care Act, written with the pen and ink of the healthcare industry.
Another example of the ongoing class war is the jobs situation and how it is being dealt with. There are not enough good paying jobs for the people who need them, largely because the people who don’t need them have pinched the availability of good paying jobs in the interest of maximizing shareholder profits. That’s through plant closings, downsizing, outsourcing, offshoring, union busting, and taking wage advantage of a surplus worker pool.
It’s bad for the country when there are too few good paying jobs. At the extremes it leads to disillusionment, anxiety, depression, despair, and social unrest. It’s bad for government coffers also because of decreased payroll taxes. And when it comes to a certain point it is detrimental even to finance capital that expects and relies on working class consumption. No money, no spend.
Domestic needs are taking a back seat to our imperialism, a psychopathic use of American power bent on world domination. If you can beat them, why join them? All this national treasure, manpower, and brainpower could be directed toward repair and replacement of our 20th century infrastructure. A modern layer of this infrastructure is high speed internet. Access to fast broadband connections are the new necessity for the 21st century and many countries are putting the U.S. to shame in this department, the NSA notwithstanding.
What happens if we put these two desirable things together? 1) Putting people to work 2) Rebuilding infrastructure. What comes to mind and what came to mind at the beginning of the Obama presidency is a public works program on a grand scale, the template of which was created in 1933 as part of the New Deal. Whatever consideration Obama gave to the much talked about idea it is certainly not part of the present deal.
But it’s not too late. It may even be a better time because efforts to boost the economy with easy money have proven inadequate. Federal Reserve bond buying and low interest rate policy have done wonders for Wall Street and corporate profit and loss statements but, again, that’s just the impatient rich and powerful. The jobs aren’t coming back even with real negative interest rates.
Obama and his advisors are aware of predictions of economic stagnation into the foreseeable future, but they are also aware of the nervousness of finance capital whenever a socialist idea is advanced. Maybe it’s time for the president to convince them that it’s in everyone’s interest. More realistically considering Obama’s penchant for pleasing the owners, maybe it’s time for finance capital to convince the president that the government is the employer of last resort. FinCap wins anyway.
James Rothenberg can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org