Guest Column: Eat the rich
By David Stocker
One reads into reality that which suits their own agenda. A few years after I settled in the Midwest in 1989, I attended a land trust conference back East in Burlington, Vt. Land trusts had taken hold there as a way to protect lower-income housing from gentrification—not a hot-button issue at this moment. Bernie Sanders, then a freshman independent congressman, was the keynote speaker, and some activists put on a play called Home Is Where?. One of the “homeless” actors was wearing a T-shirt with bold letters that said, “EAT THE RICH.” A woman next to me in the audience kept muttering about how disgusting and inappropriate it was; the shirt should say, “EAT THE B–CH.” People see what they want to see and skip the rest.
We are in the closing phase of the largest upward transfer of wealth in human history. Some want to shut the vault door and use others to do it. It is a diabolically successful strategy by which poor people can be made to sign up to go to war against poor people in other lands, a strategy which Naomi Klein described in her bestseller, Shock Doctrine, as disaster capitalism. People who are afraid can be caused to work against their own self-interest. The greater the fear, the more people are willing to give up. Habeas corpus is no big deal. Yellow, orange, red, strip scan! In disaster capitalism, misinformation is important; a media controlled in the interest of wealth plays a key role. For the Tea Partiers and others who would restrict the U.S. government’s ability to tax the people to pay its expenses and debts, let’s look at some facts. The following is an excerpt from a speech by Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) in the U.S. Senate Dec. 1, 2010:
“Mr. President, there is a war going on in America, being waged by some of the wealthiest families in America against the working families…. The reality is that many of the nation’s billionaires want more, more, more. Their greed has no end. And apparently, there is very little concern for our country or for the people of this country if it gets in the way of the accumulation of more wealth and power. In the year 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of ALL income. More than the entire bottom 50 percent. That is apparently not enough. The percentage of income going to the top 1 percent nearly tripled since the mid-1970s… from 8 percent to 23.5 percent…. Today, if you can believe it, the top 1/10 of 1 percent earns about 12 cents of every dollar earned in America.
“Who is winning in this economy, and who is losing? It is very clear to anyone who spends two minutes studying the issue, that the people at the top are doing extraordinarily well as the middle class is collapsing. Many people are angry. What is happening to their own income, the lives of their kids…. Mr. President, if you can believe this, since 1980 and 2005, 80 percent of ALL NEW INCOME created in this country went to the top 1 percent. And that’s why people are asking, ‘What’s going on in my life, how come I’m working longer hours for lower wages? How come I’m worried about whether my kids will have as good a standard of living as I had?…. The United States now has by far the most unequal distribution of income of any major country on earth.
“In the midst of all this… we are faced with the issue of what we do with the Bush-era tax cuts of 2001-2003. And if you can believe it, many of my colleagues here tell us:
“‘Oh, I am so concerned about our record-breaking deficit. I am terribly concerned about the 13.7 trillion-dollar national debt… that we’re going to be leaving to our children and grandchildren. But wait a minute; it’s very important that we give over a 10-year period $700 billion in tax cuts to the top 2 percent. We are concerned about the debt, BUT WE ARE MORE CONCERNED that people earning over a million dollars a year get an average $100,000 per year tax break!’
“It is not just the income tax, it is the estate tax as well. If they eliminate the estate tax, in existence in this country since 1916, it will cost us a trillion dollars in revenue, every nickel of the benefits going to the top 3/10ths of 1 percent.”
View Bernie Sanders’ full speech at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5)tB298fHY
Is it at all possible that the anti-taxation fervor is being artfully promoted to enlist and manipulate those who stand to suffer the most by the withering of government’s ability to provide services like: infrastructure for roads and cities, unemployment insurance, public education, health care, child care, Social Security, Medicare, regulation of banks and oil companies, pretesting of pharmaceuticals, and quality control of our food supply? Is it possible that fear of being unfairly taxed is causing people to give up their common sense? The proposed Flat Tax or a Value Added Tax will sit fully on the shoulders of working people. The end point of this war on our government by the greedy is debt peonage and the elimination of all protection and social benefits that working people in America fought for decades before we were born. It is not the poor or the working class that burden this nation. It is the endless wars of aggression in foreign lands added to the cost of supporting our American super-rich that are sucking this nation dry. When will it end?
David Stocker is a songwriter and co-founder of One Drum, a medicine band. You can see his latest tune on YouTube: “Desperate Dick” Cheney. He lives in Rockford, where unemployment is unofficially 25 percent and where the tax breaks will benefit the 400 people who earn 12 cents of every dollar the rest of us work for.
From the Jan. 12-18, 2011 issue