Monthly Archives: June 2016
Poverty, Austerity and the New Normal
Both of my parents were born into poor families. My mother’s father was a security guard, and in those pre-1938 days worked 365 days a year, 12 hours per day. His employers thoughtfully let him go home for lunch with his family on Christmas Day. Without any sick leave or health insurance, he was forced to work right up until two weeks before he died of cancer. His situation was typical for the day and age. It’s no wonder he spent every rare free moment drinking heavily.
An empathy for the poor was drilled into me as a youngster. My mother would recount stories of how she and her siblings would wander over into the nicer sections of Washington, D.C., where they would forage for change that had been dropped on the lawns and in the streets. My father vividly described how he and his eight siblings slept in a single bed, in the rotating apartments they resided in. He talked about feeling the ice on the walls in the winter, and how he’d often return home from school to find a note on the door, directing him to their new dwelling.
I just finished reading Jack London’s marvelously powerful 1903 book The People of the Abyss. Much as John Howard Griffin would do, six decades later when he wrote Black Like Me, London blended into the East End of London, probably one of the western world’s most impoverished areas and scene of the Jack the Ripper murders twenty years previously, as one of the inhabitants. His first-hand experiences are must reading for any true student of history.
As horrific as their poverty was, the East Enders had it better than the Irish had in the nineteenth century. French sociologist, Gustave de Beaumont described his 1835 visit to Ireland in 1835 this way: “I have seen the Indian in his forests, and the Negro in his chains, and thought, as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not then know the condition of unfortunate Ireland…In all countries, more or less, paupers may be discovered; but an entire nation of paupers is what was never seen until it was shown in Ireland.”
Poverty was common in the Middle Ages. In Great Britain, the Church taught an obligation to help the poor, and they ran the only hospitals. During the Tudor age, unemployment was rampant, and disabled beggars, along with those pretending to be disabled, filled the streets. In 1530, the elderly and disabled were granted licenses to beg. Those who were not truly disabled were tied to a cart and whipped severely. Such “vagabonds” could be enslaved for a period of two years. Runaways were branded and became slaves for life.
England passed another odious law in 1697, requiring “paupers” to wear a blue or red “P” on their clothing. Most estimates claim that by the eighteenth century, half of England was living barely at the sustenance level. A century later, much dreaded workhouses were developed, where the unfortunate poor labored long hours in order to be modestly fed and housed. As London described it in his book, while the vaunted British Empire never saw the sun set upon it, an alarming number of her citizens were struggling in absolute squalor.
As a Baby Boomer, born in 1956, I took for granted the standard of living I enjoyed, in my lower middle-class family. Our neighborhood was quiet and safe, and my mother was always there to meet me when I arrived home from school. My father never made much money, but there was a sense of security there, and an idea that my future prospects were in my own hands. There were plentiful jobs during the 1970s and 1980s, and opportunities for promotion. Not to mention yearly raises at almost any position, and peak level benefits across the board.
Flash forward to 2016. The true unemployment rate is unknown, because the government releases phony numbers that count only those who are currently collecting unemployment benefits. But it certainly is the highest it’s been in my lifetime, and the kinds of jobs that are available tend to pay minimum wage or barely above that, with zero chances of advancement and no yearly raises. And benefits that were once enjoyed by nearly all full-time workers are becoming a thing of the past, what is increasingly referred to everywhere as “the new normal.”
The Right has unleashed their Ayn Rand-driven hostility towards the poor onto much of our society at large. The poor really, really aren’t “cool.” Much as the mentally retarded and other disabled persons used to be locked away, to be seen only by their caregivers, the poor are seen as an embarrassing nuisance that won’t go away. If some “conspiracy theorists” are right, there has already begun a class cleansing in some big cities, with the poor being scooped up and transferred to those diabolical FEMA camps.
One of the most hard-edged admonitions from the Bible, the “he who doesn’t work shall not eat” one, is becoming quite popular with the “conservatives” who still manage to unashamedly dress up and appear at church each Sunday. These folks would also like to eliminate the minimum wage, which is already a pittance no one can live on. And they’ve converted the wealthy into “job creators” in the public mind. They blanch like vampires in the sunlight at any references to my favorite Biblical verse, where Jesus talked about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
My next book, due to be published in Spring 2017, Survival of the Richest, will focus on all these issues. The distribution of wealth in America goes far beyond the obscene salaries and benefit packages of CEOs. I examine the validity of our present marketplace, and how it seems to bestow economic rewards upon people often in inverse relation to their actual contributions to society.
While an increasing number of Americans seem to literally hate their own poor, most of these same people are sympathetic to the poor in other countries. They rarely protest against any foreign aid, for example. And they seem to be enthralled with permitting more and more immigrants, legal and illegal, into our country to compete with the huge numbers of unemployed and underemployed American citizens for dwindling jobs and limited resources.
Lyndon Johnson declared “war” on poverty in the 1960s, following his “accidental” ascension to the presidency. Much as the “war” on drugs begun by Ronald Reagan has proven to be a miserable failure, the “war” on poverty was lost a long time ago. The reason is simple; to truly eliminate poverty, you must have plentiful jobs, that each pay enough for a person to live decently. All wages must keep up with the ever increasing costs of living. And you just can’t do that when the richest people in your society are accruing millions as readily as the common riff-raff collect pocket change.
No one’s job, no one’s life, is worth hundreds, or thousands of times more than any other person’s. What message are we sending to the populace when executives who lay off thousands of meagerly paid workers are given huge bonuses as a reward for doing so? How is the marketplace fair, when a manual laborer can be fired for one simple mistake, with no “severance” package at all, while utter failures as CEOs such as Carly Fiorina can be given $40 million or more in “golden umbrellas” just to get them to leave the company?
The great socialist Eugene Debs, upon being convicted under the Sedition Act for his opposition to World War I, put things succinctly with, “I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.” It is hard to improve upon this wonderful description of how our marketplace works.
Free enterprise, if it ever existed, is long gone, replaced by a globalist form of crony capitalism. Horatio Alger stories, if they ever existed, exist no more. My research has shown conclusively that the overwhelming majority of our wealthiest citizens came from at least upper middle-class backgrounds. The path to upward mobility is simply not there for all but a chosen few. The meritocracy that Thomas Jefferson dreamed about is just an unfulfilled dream from the eighteenth century.
The times are right for another Huey Long, to make the sinful disparity of wealth into a national campaign. Huey would be mortified at how America has fallen back to pre- Great Depression levels of inequality. The “new normal” preaches “sacrifice” from the bottom 80% of the population, the ones forever outside the corridors of power. Meanwhile, the top 20%, and especially the elite One Percent, are devising new methods daily to abscond what’s left of the wealth from the emaciated masses.
The statistics vary according to the source, but however you slice it, the mass of people in America have virtually no wealth. Over 60% have no savings at all. One in five homes have no people working in them. Yet all our leaders can do is to add more incredibly impoverished immigrants into the mix, who serve to further lower wages at the bottom of the employment ladder, and eliminate benefits. The Visa workers serve the same purpose at a slightly higher level; working for less and being happy with what, for them, is an increased standard of living.
For the rest of us, the aging Baby Boomers, their children and grandchildren, we must confront a selfishness, a greed that is difficult to comprehend. All people my age can do is hope they don’t steal our pensions, if we’re lucky enough to have them. For our children and grandchildren, the American Dream is dead. As George Carlin said, “They call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” Our leaders are preaching austerity measures, and lowered expectations, which of course lead to a lowered standard of living. For us. For them, everything is cool.
Few people, even the most “liberal” among us, actually believe in human equality. After all, they live in guarded estates, safe from the impoverished hordes who considerately never wander into their neighborhoods. They preach gun control and have armed bodyguards. They talk about “education” and send their own children to expensive, lily white private schools. Their clubs and organizations display a startling lack of “diversity.” They simply don’t like the poor, but don’t want to publicly admit it.
Are we headed back to the days of Jack London’s abyss? It took me quite a while to realize just how uncharacteristic my childhood era of the 1960s-1970s was. The post- war boom, with unions at their peak of power, and the distribution of wealth as egalitarian as it has ever been, was a lovely aberration. We’re back to the “good old days” now, where a man was a man, and women were glad of it. If you don’t work, you don’t eat, and all that. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The advice is endless, from those who are comfortable, and don’t ever have to avail themselves of it.
In a 1934 “Share Our Wealth” radio address, Huey Long described a situation that mirrors our own: “God told you what the trouble was. The philosophers told you what the trouble was; and when you have a country where one man owns more than 100,000 people, or a million people, and when you have a country where there are four men, as in America that have got more control over things than all the 120 million people together, you know what the trouble is.”
Indeed, we know “what the trouble is.” But those who have hoarded all the wealth simply will not “sacrifice” any of their ill gotten gains. The overriding political issue is the fact the majority of people do not have the money to meet the increasing costs of living. The answer is, as Huey Long knew, to share the wealth.
Hillary Clinton, Authoritarian “Liberal”
I’ve written before about what it means to be a “liberal” in today’s world. Suffice to say, today’s mainstream “liberal” isn’t concerned with protecting or extending rights. They are instead, utterly devoted to taking rights away from those they disagree with. And they are the first to resort to name-calling, attempted intimidation and even violence.
Hillary Clinton is the penultimate establishment candidate. She exemplifies decades of wrong choices, which have resulted in America teetering on the brink of total collapse. Her concept of representative government was best reflected in her comment, “We just can’t trust the American people to make those types of choices … Government has to make those choices for people.” She is a would-be Queen of the nanny state; but America’s nanny state provides few if any valuable services to those they control.
The myriad of improprieties exposed regarding the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi and Hillary’s emails are merely the latest in a continuous stream of scandals connected to both Bill and Hillary Clinton. They are the poster children for political corruption, and in many ways resemble an organized crime outfit more than elected representatives of the people.
It is a testament to the nature of the controlled mass media in America, and the resulting ignorance of the public at large, that most people still associate IRS targeting of one’s political enemies with Richard Nixon. Few recall that virtually every major conservative group in America was audited during the administration of Bill Clinton. Also targeted were alleged rape victim Juanita Broderick and sexual harassment victim Paula Jones, as well as fired White House Travel Office Director Billy Dale.
Kathleen Willey, yet another alleged victim of Bill Clinton’s habitual sexual harassment, claims to have been subjected to an ugly retaliation campaign led by Hillary herself. Willey’s husband Ed was part of the Clinton Body Count, as his gunshot body was found later on the same afternoon that Kathleen visited President Clinton and was groped against her will in the Oval Office. It is shocking and unconscionable that Hillary is portrayed as some kind of feminist icon, when she is in reality perhaps the most high profile enabler of a male abuser of women in political history.
The Clintons were so grounded in corruption during Bill’s tenure as Arkansas governor that it was only natural to bring that mafia-style of doing business to Washington, D.C. They auctioned off and sold taxpayer-financed goods and services. While Richard Nixon continues to be lambasted for his short and impotent “enemies list” (which is child’s play compared to Barack Obama’s “kill list”), the Clintons availed themselves of the FBI files of their own enemies, in a scandal known as Filegate.
There was Travelgate, where senior employees were fired, primarily so that the Clintons could appoint their own cronies, which included Bill’s young cousin. And the confusing but certainly troubling Whitewater scandal. Hillary Clinton appointed a seemingly unqualified bar bouncer, Craig Livingstone, to the White House Counsel’s office, where he seemed to fill the same kind of “strong arm” function. Cattlegate involved an astonishingly modest financial investment of $1000 from Hillary turned into over $99,000 in profit. This remarkable profit was connected to an “insider” source with Tyson Foods, run by the seedy Don Tyson, just one of the Clintons’ sordid comrades.
And of course, there was the highly suspicious death of White House counsel Vince Foster, which I covered in depth in “Hidden History.” This related to yet another scandal directly tied to Hillary, when federal investigators discovered that Hillary’s billing records from her (and Vince Foster’s) days at the Rose Law firm were conveniently missing. They would just as mysteriously (and almost certainly in redacted form) turn up abruptly at the White House two years later. Remember Chinagate? You know, the one where high-tech secrets were sold to China by Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign?
Before Bill Clinton left office, like other presidents before and after him, he used his power to pardon generously. One of those he pardoned was tax evader and racketeer Marc Rich, whose wife was a key contributor to Hillary’s 2000 Senate campaign. Hillary’s two brothers reportedly received substantial sums from some of those pardoned by Clinton. “Hillary Clinton got many expensive and personal gifts during her eight years as first lady and never disclosed them.”stated former Clinton adviser Dick Morris. These included gaudy handbags and clothing.
Few remember that the Clintons left the White House with the same lack of class they displayed throughout their eight years in power. They tried to abscond with some $190,000 of gifts and furniture from the presidential mansion. The General Accounting Office also detailed the extensive “damage, theft, vandalism and pranks” that occurred during the transition period from Clinton to George W. Bush.
An unearthed audio tape recording of Hillary Clinton laughing and making light of getting her client exonerated on a 1975 charge of raping a twelve year old girl, drew predictably little attention or concern from the mainstream media and women’s groups. During her defense arguments, Hillary accused the little girl of being “emotionally unstable” and coming from a dysfunctional family, which caused her to exaggerate and romanticize things. This was a year after young Hillary was fired from her job as a staff attorney for the Judiciary Committee investigating Watergate.
“She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer,” lifelong Democrat Jerry Zeifman, who was her supervisor on the Judiciary Committee, declared. “She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.” Hillary so incensed Zeifman that she became one of only three employees whom he refused to give a letter of recommendation to, during his seventeen year career.
Even more dramatically under-reported than most Clinton scandals is the one involving Hillary and mogul Peter Franklin Paul, business partner of Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee. Paul filed a fraud complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that her Senate campaign hid-multiple times-his contributions, including a multi-million Hollywood gala that helped get her elected to office. Paul even called it “Hillary’s Chappaquiddick,” but the persistently Clinton-friendly mainstream media refused to bite. Paul, a typical Clinton kind of “friend,” served years in prison for a variety of financial improprieties. Paul’s lawsuit and appeal regarding “Hillary’s Chappaquiddick,” on the other hand, were both dismissed.
Hillary Clinton is not only hopelessly corrupt, she appears to be an arrogant and nasty individual. It’s as difficult to find a positive personal anecdote about her as it is to find one about Madonna. More than one former White House staffer exposed her plutocratic decree that none of the peasants look upon her royal countenance. She actually ordered that staffers turn their backs when she walked down the hallways. Secret Service agents testified to her violent temper and regular fights with her husband.
So what is the attraction here? Exactly what would cause a citizen (or an illegal immigrant- as California has incomprehensibly decided to let them vote, too) vote for Hillary Clinton? Was Donald Trump right when he said she’d only get ten percent of the vote if she weren’t a woman? Does she have any marketable attribute other than her gender?
Hillary, like Bill Clinton, has supported every single one of America’s foreign escapades, from the Gulf War on. She is as firmly committed to war as any politician has ever been. She’s kind of the Democratic Party’s version of John McCainiac, who never saw a war he didn’t love. She obviously loves the disastrous trade deals that have crippled America’s industrial base, considering that NAFTA was implemented during her husband’s administration. She will just as eagerly embrace the deadly TPP deal as Obama has.
In continuing her lifetime of corruption, Hillary didn’t even win her party’s nomination fairly. The massive voting fraud in Democratic caucuses and primaries was perhaps even more glaring than what transpired in many Republican caucuses and primaries. California was especially embarrassing, but Bernie Sanders showed his true colors by barely protesting and announcing, only forty eight hours after the primary debacle, that he was going to work with Hillary to defeat Trump.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t share a single quality in common with classic liberals. She supports the death penalty, for instance. She supported the “reform” of Welfare, passed during her husband’s administration, which caused more poor people to get less aid, for a shorter period of time, than they were getting before. While Bernie Sanders admirably wanted to ban private prisons, Hillary accepted over $133,000 from private prison lobbyists. Embarrassed by this disclosure, Hillary later claimed she wanted to ban private prisons, too. With her track record, can she be trusted about anything?
Hillary is being endorsed by virtually every major figure of the establishment, including many big name Republicans. She is a neocon extraordinaire, and will undoubtedly continue the same horrific policies of her predecessors; more immigration, more visa workers, more global meddling, more war, more infringements on civil liberties. Add to this toxic mixture an accelerated social justice warrior-style of authoritarian political correctness, sure to result in more lost jobs, lost reputations, and potential prison sentences for those who insist on their constitutional rights.
There are only two possible reasons why any rational human being would vote for this dangerous elitist as president. One is because of an intense, media-fueled hatred for Donald Trump. “Never Trump” and all that. The other is because she’s a woman. Period. We must have a female president because we’ve never had one. And since this is the only woman running, we have to elect her. Or else it’s sexist. Get used to hearing that word. If Hillary is elected, she’ll do for relations between the sexes what Obama did for race relations.
Donald Trump is a supremely flawed candidate, and supremely flawed individual. He’s egotistical to the point of caricature. He often formulates his sentences like he’s in grade school. He loves to call people names. But when he talks about the issues, he often says things that are profoundly radical, and far outside the typical, polite parameters of American political discourse.
This election will be a real litmus test, much as the recent Brexit vote to leave the EU was in Britain. The Brits really showed some surprising gumption. Are Americans capable of that? They have the epitome of an establishment candidate in Hillary Clinton, versus a wild card, loose cannon Billionaire who is being attacked relentlessly by every pillar of that establishment. I think we are faced with two doorways; one is wide open and we can see burning cauldrons of fire and brimstone behind it. The other is closed, and we can only hear varying sounds, which we can’t positively identify.
There really is only one choice. As Trump himself said in one of his finer moments; “This is a rigged system, and you can’t fix it by trusting those who rigged it.”
My Next Book- “Survival of the Richest”
II’ve signed a contract with Skyhorse Publishing for my next work. It has the tentative title Survival of the Richest, and will focus on the corruption of the marketplace and disparity of wealth, in America and around the world. The scheduled publication date is Spring 2017.
The book details the familiar story of a society that has become increasingly divided between a very few “haves” and an overwhelming majority of “have nots.” Especially in the last thirty years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth, from the former middle and working classes, into the hands of a plutocratic elite.
One chapter in the book will explore the career, and suspicious untimely death, of Louisiana’s Huey Long, who served as both Governor and United States Senator. Long is my political hero, and is still unfairly maligned, by both “left” and “right” in this country.
A few chapters, which I think are important, will not be included in the published edition. Just as I did with Hidden History, I will share them on this blog with interested readers. The chapter on familial relations among celebrities is a real eye- opener. Even I was stunned by how many rich and famous people come from at least stable, upper middle-class backgrounds.
Another deleted chapter will revolve around wealthy religious leaders, “advice” gurus, and the like. It isn’t just the Christian televangelists who are making obscene profits from people’s faith. I was shocked, for example, by how much the average Rabbi is paid.
The thrust of the book is that, for once in his life, Barack Obama made an astute observation with his, “You didn’t build that” line. That was, in fact, my original title for the book. I hope to demonstrate conclusively that few if any of our wealthiest citizens “built” their success without family connections or just plain good fortune.
This book will probably not please right-wing fans of Hidden History. But it isn’t written in a conventional, socialist-like vein. I believe strongly in free enterprise, and would like a government that was decentralized and stayed out of our personal affairs. But we haven’t had true free enterprise, true competition in an unfettered marketplace, for a long time, if we ever had it. We instead have crony capitalism, fed by the same globalist forces that seek to crush the little guy at every opportunity.
I like to think of Survival of the Richest as a populist manifesto. The unfair distribution of wealth has always been my bread-and-butter issue. I believe it is the single most important issue in American politics today. Most people are simply not being paid enough to meet the ever increasing costs of living.
The paperback edition of Hidden History will be released on July 12. It features a new Foreword from Roger Stone. So if you don’t have a copy of the hardback, you’ll have a chance to get the paperback with the new Foreword and some nice blurbs from some names you’ll recognize.
Look for further updates here on the new book.