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Is the Plantation (Corporation) the Model for America?
By Horace Coleman
Kevin Phillips, formerly a conservative Republican and now a moderate one, was a political analyst for Nixon's 1968 Republican presidential campaign. His 1969 book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," predicted the future very well. His latest book ("Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich") is about money, how it's distributed and its effect on American politics and democracy.
Borrow this hefty book (472 pages) from a library and look at the pictures in it (charts and tables, in this case). Columnist Paul Krugman wrote about it for the New York Times ("Plutocracy and Politics," June 14, 2002). Krugman described a table that shows the pay of CEOs this way:
In 1981 those captains of industry were paid an average of $3.5 million ... By 1988 the average had soared to $19.3 million ... But by 2000 the average annual pay of the top 10 was $154 million. It's true the wages of ordinary workers roughly doubled over the same period, though the bulk of that gain was eaten up by inflation. But earnings of top executives rose 4,300 percent.
The rising tide may lift all boats, but it doesn't turn a rowboat into a yacht. Remember Ronald Reagan's "trickle down" theory of economics? I didn't mind the trickle as much as the painful snatch-up. Has your 401K been acting like a raisin in the sun lately? How's your pension plan doing? We all know the stock market goes up and down - that's natural, mostly. Our folding money has "In God We Trust" printed on it. Many of us have heard: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. We've figured out that also applies to the lords of the land whose cards and dice are used in the economic gambling game. Kevin Phillips firmly says, "Sit down, you're rockin' the boat!"
Remember these lines from a moldy oldie ("For What It's Worth," by Stephen Stills)?
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a
gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
It's very clear what's happening here:
Too many CEOs and corporations are cooking their books as they do the old flim-flam of "draggin' the till" and 'fessing up to "accounting errors" when caught.
Bush wants to privatize social security, while sidestepping question such as: "What happens if your investments don't pan out? What happens if the market is waay down when you need the money? How will the shortfall in the current Social Security Ponzi scheme's revenues be made up if people put part of their SSI payments into the stock market?
Stock analysts and racetrack touts often act alike.
The class war of rich against everyone else is in high gear; the rich are winning - as usual.
Congress is bought and paid for - as usual.
Illegal immigration is totally out of hand and beloved by those who love cheap labor. They ignore petty issues such as: "Can the country provide enough housing, education, jobs and medical care for the population already here while avoiding the inevitable clashes between citizens, non citizens and those who'll be given amnesty if they hang around long enough?"
Dubya is pushing for a war with Saddam Hussein because he wants a war just like the war that harried dear ol' Dad. Hussein has no long-range bombers or ICBMs nor is doing or planning evil to the United States - directly or indirectly. We know he's not "nice." If he's an "evildoer" with a desire to put a cloud of doom over us, Bush (or someone) better verify enough of his dirty deeds toward that end to justify spilling American blood in sand and running up the national credit card. If you keep fat-mouthing about how you're going to beat someone's butt, the other party is often considered totally within his rights and right mind if he jumps out of a bush and tries to give you a fat lip.
You don't have to be a leftie, socialist or communist to ponder some things. You don't have to be a Marxist to know that, in ol' George Wallace's phrase, "there's not a dime's worth of difference" between slaves, indentured servants, wage slaves or "independent contractors." Unless you're like Bob Dylan's "Mr. Jones":
Because something is
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
In one verse of his "Ballad of a Thin Man," Dylan says:
You hand in your ticket
And you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks
up to you
When he hears you speak
And says, "How does it feel
To be such a freak?"
When they were old enough to know some history and understand it, I told each of my children that:
The United States was founded on three things: Indian (Native American) land, black chattel slavery and white indentured servitude (voluntary short-term slavery). The Bureau of Indian Affairs is still ripping off the sovereign aboriginal nations it made treaties with - and continually violates both. Also, some early English settlements and colonies were started as royal charters and/or plantations - in other words, as proto-corporations. The worst thing about capitalism is corrupt and greedy capitalists.
America is well worth defending, but a lot of its wars aren't worth fighting.
A woman I've corresponded with recently asked me what I thought of the flap about the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase "under God." She sent me a copy of the way she thought the pledge should go. Marianne Hart's words:
I pledge allegiance to
Of the United States of America
And to the democracy for
which it stands:
One nation, respecting
Indivisible in its desire
For liberty, justice and
equality for all.
That's accurate enough and good enough for me. We need to work at making those ideals real.
I recently bought a paperback book for a quarter at a public library: "Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, A Modern Abridgment." I immediately skipped to the short last chapter where Gibbon sums up the four reasons why Rome fell:
1. "The injuries of time and nature." Natural disasters. We have fires, floods, droughts, AIDS and E. coli.
2. "The hostile attacks of the barbarians and Christians." He explains this by saying, "In simple truth, the northern conquerors were neither sufficiently savage, nor sufficiently refined, to entertain such aspiring ideas of destruction and revenge." A few sentences later, Gibbon says, "From these innocent barbarians the reproach may be transferred to the Catholics of Rome. The statues, altars, and houses of the demons were an abomination in their eyes; and in the absolute command of the city, they might labour with zeal and perseverance to erase the idolatry of their ancestors." In other words, a domestic Taliban ran wild; religious fundamentalists helped ruin Rome.
3. "The use and abuse of the materials." They paved Paradise, put up a parking lot, as Joni Mitchell sang in "Big Yellow Taxi."
4. "I have reserved for the last the most potent and forcible cause of destruction: the domestic hostilities of the Romans themselves." Gibbon explains, "In a dark history of five hundred years Rome was perpetually afflicted by the sanguinary quarrels of the nobles and the people." In other words - Pogo's will do: "We have met the enemy and he is us." The nobles forgot they were people too; the people weren't as noble as they thought they were.
Why we think we can win a vaguely-defined global "war on terrorism" is beyond me. Especially when we don't even have the will, common sense or ability to maintain our own borders. In California illegal immigrants are routinely: found in Conex boxes shipped from Asia, caught wading ashore after being dropped off by small ships, killing themselves and U.S. citizens while driving the wrong way on highways, fleeing to Mexico after committing crimes in California, etc. We're not even 500 years old and we're at war with ourselves (domestic terrorists, homophobes, abortion clinic bombers, freelance lynchers/racists, police brutality), while more ingredients are put into the overflowing American stewpot.
The "war" we have to win is a long-running series of battles. Its tactics and strategy shift but the end objective is constant: a just and decent society. We know how that struggle goes, don't we? Long, slow, consistent, persistent. It's funny how the biggest hawks tend to be people who've never smelled cordite and rotting flesh. In the meantime, police and the FBI can't keep up with an Egyptian immigrant who sold phony IDs to two 9/11 hijackers and anyone else who wanted them. We have one more hitch to do.
Horace Coleman is a member of VVAW .