“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
Donald Trump, as Naomi Klein suggests, is not the cause but rather a symptom of our dysfunctional republic. He didn’t appear overnight, and his removal from office will not change the trajectory of our country regardless of which establishment party holds office.
That’s a hard truth for my liberal friends. As long as the well-heeled Democratic leadership stubbornly holds a death grip on a failed neoliberal economic policy, nothing will substantially change. This failed policy is not only impoverishing the working class, which until recently made up the Democrats' rank and file, it is hollowing out the middle class an inch at a time.
Some Democrats voice a sentiment that has at its core a naive, stubborn faith in the existent Democratic Party leadership. This shows a woeful ignorance of the foundations of the economic fiasco we inhabit.
Our “winner-take-all” economy was created not by rank-and-file Republicans nor by rank-and-file Democrats. As Shah Gilani points out in a recent article, the middle class is disappearing because “greedy, neo-con, profiteering Republican crony capitalists hijacked their party, while greedy, limousine liberal, profiteering Democrat crony capitalists hijacked their party.”
Over the past 40 years these economic elitists have overseen a massive redistribution of wealth from working families to the top 1 percent. Something is terribly wrong when 20 people now own as much wealth as half of all Americans.
Financialization shifted the American economy from production and distribution of real assets (made-in-the-U.S. goods and services) to credit-driven banking and financial service products. As Gilani states: “at its core, financialization is the transfer of low-risk, low-profit debt into high-risk, high-profit products. The net result of the mass commodification of debt-based financial instruments and leveraged debt is rampant speculation.”
Increased financialization is a direct result of a major shift from an industrial to a post-industrial society. Post-industrial capitalists push politicians to make policies that accelerate the shift, serving the Wall Street monopolies that control them.
Some in the working class, in ignorance, fear and desperation, lash out at those more vulnerable than themselves who compete with them in a race to the bottom. Their cowardice is matched only by establishment Democrats’ inauthentic opposition to the economic elites.
Traditional safe investments cannot yield adequate returns; savers are forced to become investors (read that “speculators”) or watch their nest eggs get devoured by inflation and an increasingly fee-for-service economy that supplants their taxes needed to fund the perpetual war machine. The working class lacks the money or expertise to invest. They face layoffs or wage compromises that end up benefiting the economic elites, not to mention the debt amassed to maintain their living standards. The end result has been income inequality, increased household debt, slow growth and economic instability.
Our present unsustainable trajectory has been years in the making by elites in both parties: the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980, the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, all contributing to the crash of 2008. The crash was an opportunity to right the ship of state, however, both Republican and Democrat elitists decided the banks were “too big to fail.” The ill-advised rescue inspired a re-inflated housing market and a generation of grossly indebted college students.
We need citizens who believe in smaller government, fiscal conservancy, lighter regulations, and a fair economy where one can work hard and stand on one’s own two feet. We also need, however, citizens who believe that government must at times intervene with spending on social programs, with safeguarding workers’ rights and civil rights, with environmental protections and with a helping hand for those in need. We need citizens to shed whatever denial has kept them sleep-walking through the last 40 years. It’s time for Our Revolution.
— Andy Seles of Ashland is chair of Our Revolution Southern Oregon (ourrevolutionsouthernoregon.org).