By David Michael Green
Information Clearing House
October 02, 2009
What if the Russians invaded?
It’s not so far-fetched an idea, you know. We spent half a century and trillions of dollars to make sure that it would never happen, so it’s really not such a strange notion.
So what if the Russians invaded?
What if they came and stole all of our money?
What if the Russians invaded and enslaved our children as cheap worker bee drones locked in dismal dead-end jobs?
What if the Russians invaded and excavated all of our natural resources, leaving only mountains of toxic debris in their wake?
What if the Russians invaded and they ruined our infrastructure, thrashed our educational institutions, and stuck us with a grossly inadequate healthcare system?
What if the Russians invaded and incarcerated a huge percentage of our people in for-profit jails? What if they ruined our military by sending it off on big-money colonial expeditions? What if they cut the legs out from under the middle class?
What if the Russians invaded and turned us against each other, tricking this tribe of Americans into hating that tribe, in order to keep any of us from realizing that they were looting our country?
If the Russians did any of these things, we’d kill ‘em. Dead.
If the Russians invaded, we’d send our army to crush them in defense of our country (or, at least, we hire somebody to do it).
If the Russians invaded, we’d be furious and raging and hateful and destructive – for good reason, too – and we would bring to them the full measure of American organized violence in order to take back our country from their plundering rampages.
Of course, the Russians haven’t invaded. But what’s astonishing about the moment we live in is that America has in fact been subjected to all these travails. We have essentially been invaded by those who wish us ill, and our national and private resources are being stripped bare. This country is being looted, and everything in it that isn’t nailed down is being carted away and sold off.
Our children are being saddled with enormous financial burdens. Our educational and healthcare systems, sucked dry as mere revenues sources, are falling to pieces. Our infrastructure is approaching ruin.
Our jobs, our industries and our community resources have been bundled up and exported to where the work can be done far cheaper, and the workers are compliant. Increasingly we are scrambling just to survive. Admittedly, our government remains absolutely dedicated to making sure that some of us do extremely well. It’s just that that ‘some’ doesn’t include anyone you know.
What is absolutely astonishing about the moment that we live in is that we have been essentially invaded, we have been absolutely looted, and yet we don’t seem to be the slightest bit angry about that.
If the Russians had done it, we would be absolutely furious. But in fact, it was our own overclass that did it, and not only are we not furious at them, we don’t even notice the crime. Or, if we do notice, we’re furious at some ridiculously inappropriate target, like a ‘liberal’ president who isn’t even remotely liberal.
America has always been a country with its full and fair share of flaws, but for quite some time during the middle part of the twentieth century, we got one thing reasonably right. There was a bargain then, between elites and the government and the public. According to the terms of the deal, the aristocracy would still be fantastically rich, but there would be limitations on their wealth, because some of that wealth, some substantial amount, needed to be shared with the working people and the middle class, and it was the role of government to make sure that that happened. Many among the well-to-do even shared that consensus.
Since Ronald Reagan rode into town, however, that deal is off the table, replaced by what is essentially a new New Deal – or, more accurately, simply the Bad Old Deal. Under the terms of this new/old arrangement, the unregulated wealthy grab absolutely everything they can get their hands on, the middle class scrambles for whatever bare existence it can maintain, and the rest of America, the working class and the poor, fall deeper and deeper into third world-style poverty. Under the terms of this new system, the role of the government is no longer to provide for the welfare of the people, nor to ensure that there are limitations on what the plutocracy can liberate from them. Under the terms of this new arrangement, the function of the government is simply to serve as a tool, assisting that plutocracy in depriving America’s own people of everything that can be taken from them.
That means that in the last thirty years we’ve entirely restructured the economy so that the super-wealthy have become obscenely-super-wealthy, and the middle class are lucky to have stood still, and haven’t really even managed that. If one examines the destination of the considerable GDP growth that America has sustained over the last three decades, it’s gone entirely to the richest of Americans. The middle class has actually lost ground. That’s an astonishing fact, but think about it: Despite robust economic growth, workers today actually make less than they did back in the 1970s.
Even more amazing, it wasn’t that hard to pull off. All you had to do was to fool the people and divert their attention to other circuses to go along with the remaining crumbs of bread. Meanwhile, unions were decimated by changes in government policy. Jobs were exported – first to the south, then to Mexico, then to China, now to Thailand or Vietnam, and probably soon to Africa – in a never-ending search for the cheapest possible way to wring value out of the working people of the world, leaving Americans without any sort of remaining industry or economic base. Tax policy was also deployed, channeling money from current working Americans, and especially from their children, and diverted it to the already wealthy. The upshot of all these policy changes was that the richest Americans became absolutely, astonishingly, fabulously rich, and the rest of us are barely holding on, if that.
If the Russians had come here and done this – if they had come and stolen our resources, if they come and enslaved our children into inescapable soul-numbing jobs, if they had left us with environmental degradation and a wrecked economy and destroyed education system and a crumbling infrastructure and a sieve-like healthcare regime – if the Russians had come and done any or all of this, we would’ve risen up in anger and hostility and patriotism and nationalism, and we’d have loaded up our weapons and killed every last one of them.
But it wasn’t the Russians that did it, it was our own overclass. And worse still, it was our own government acting as though they were protecting us from the evil bogeyman du jour, while in fact they were assisting the wealthy in bleeding us dry, until our anemia left us fit only for our profit-seeking hospitals.
Think about how idiotic you have to be to allow yourself to be looted and not even realize the money’s been taken out of your pocket. Think about how politically immature you have to be to allow a thief to walk right up to you, take your money, and not even recognize who that thief is. Think about how stupid you have to be to blame it on somebody else – like gays, or Iraqis, or black helicopters – and not pay attention to the real rip-off artist who’s stealing your money.
I would tip my hat in admiration to these plutocrats for the cleverness of their scheme – even if a scam this ugly requires the predators to have the moral sensibility of an empty parking lot – but in fact what they’ve done isn’t really all that clever. The successes of their crimes have lots more to do with the fatuousness of their victims than with the acumen of the criminals.
Worse yet, as if the American public hasn’t already been stupid enough, here we are thirty years down the road from the advent of Reaganism, and we still don’t get it. Here we are after three decades of being looted, still unable to figure out who’s ripping us off. Here we are, even after the implausibly complete failures and disasters and depredations of the Bush administration, and most Americans are still unable to point to the criminals and their ideology, and identify the source of the crime.
Which makes the future looked even more shaky. Now we have a president who most Americans are coming to believe is some sort of far-left Stalinist, while in fact he is every bit the full-measured facilitator of corporate parasitism that either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton were.
And yet, because he is being made out to be some sort of outrageously decadent liberal, and because Americans are too dim to figure out the ruse, this president – who is failing to address the concerns of ordinary Americans, most especially because he’s not working for them in the least – is bound to fail, and is looking increasingly like the proud owner of a one-term presidency. And what we can expect in reaction to that failure – ironically and disastrously and jaw-droppingly idiotically – is a sharp turn to the right. When Obama fails, it will be framed, as it already is being, as some sort of grand failure of liberalism. In fact, of course, just the opposite is true. It’s a grand success of the overclass’s looting of America.
In this respect, Obama offers precious little “change”, even from the crimes of George W. Bush. Look at his healthcare initiative, for example. I don’t know about you, but I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that anything that the big pharmacological and big health insurance industries are in favor of is pretty much guaranteed to be a disaster for the rest of us – you know, we the people of the United States. This bill no more represents an initiative for the purpose of bringing healthcare to Americans than George Bush’s prescription drug bill was an initiative to improve the life of seniors. In both cases, whatever vicarious and accidental improvements that exist are simply diversionary window-dressing on what is really another example of legalized corporate colonialism.
In the case of Obama’s healthcare legislation, what’s happening is that enormous quantities of new customers are being forced to buy expensive health coverage from insurance industry predators who will be vastly enriched by means of this new legislation, which is precisely why they would favor something that ordinarily we would expect them to oppose, and that we certainly would expect them to oppose if Obama was any kind of progressive whatsoever, even if only in his personal fantasies.
The bank bailouts were absolutely no different. What an amazing episode, what an amazing looting of the American public, what an amazing chapter in the destruction of an empire – and all brought to us by a supposedly liberal president. In fact, Obama was simply extending the tradition of the Bush administration, and the Reagan ideology prior to that, which calls for pillaging the federal treasury in order to divert the maximal amount of money to economic elites, and then leaving the bill for the American taxpayer.
One could go on and on from here. Obama continues to deploy more mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan than there are uniformed American soldiers. He continues to support privatization of everything from American prisons to schools. He asks for the most tepid possible re-institution of regulations on the financial industry, and when the thieves on Wall Street growl back at him, he abandons even those most limited of obstacles to their worst impulses.
The upshot is that today American voters have two choices. They can have the party that represents the maximal plundering of America, at the maximal speed. Or they can have the party that represents nearly the same crime at almost the same velocity.
Either way, the United States has ceased in any meaningful way to be owned by citizens. Its voters vote, but their representatives in Congress and in the administration are beholden to economic elites, and act entirely accordingly. The country’s institutions, infrastructure, and social relations are all being dismantled piece by piece and either relocated elsewhere or sold off in order to wring yet another drop of wealth out of the hides of working Americans, so that those who are already wealthy beyond belief can be even further enriched.
If some other country did this to us – if the Russians invaded and took all our resources, and enslaved us and our children to work in dismal jobs when we could find any work at all sufficient to maintaining a rapidly sinking middle class livelihood – if those things happened and the perpetrator was a foreign power, we’d rise up and go to war and we’d kill every last one of ‘em.
But we’re not doing any of that, even though a very real enemy has invaded this country and stripped it bare.
In fact, this society is pretty busy making sure that we don’t even notice who that enemy is.
David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (firstname.lastname@example.org ), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.