London is now filled with young people in the streets looting the shops that line their neighborhoods. The capitalist economic system has left them without adequate schools or jobs; their schools are sub-standard, their unemployment rate is up to 40 per cent. Their parents, families and friends are out of work, losing their homes and apartments. Even their youth recreation centers have been closed. They have nowhere to go except the streets. Without hope of a decent future, they loot and burn.
Looting neighborhood shops and fire-bombing residents cars and local buses, such explosions of personal frustration, will provide only momentary pseudo-emotional relief, not solve any of their problems, while causing major problems for their communities.
Meanwhile, the guys who caused their problems are sitting in fancy bank buildings and luxurious residential estates well away from the scruffy burning buildings, untouched. But those guys write the laws and carry out the economic policies which cause the poverty and despair in local neighborhoods. They send their police forces, carrying their callous attitudes, into poor communities to “enforce” their laws. No wonder the police are an object of attack; they are the physical embodiment of the rich’s disdain for the poor and they are reachable.
The guys who caused the problems are the capitalist economic system’s controllers and owners. In Britain, they have now ordered “Austerity Programs” to deprive the majority of people of jobs, housing, healthcare, even food, so their debts, incurred through their own speculation and frauds, will be paid off by the poor and middle classes. In the U.S., the “Tea Party”, a surrogate for big business, demands the same.
“Some rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen”: Woody Guthrie, an American troubadour and revolutionary, wrote those words in the 1930’s in honor of an outlaw, Pretty Boy Floyd, who was known for robbing banks and helping the poor. (Now the biggest crooks own the banks, rob the poor and get millions in bonuses for doing so. Guess the only difference between the 1930's and today is the obscene amount of the bonuses.)
In those days, the country was in the midst of a deep depression caused by the gilded age banksters whose fraud and speculation led to total economic collapse. In the 1930’s, millions of modest folks lost their jobs, farms and homes due to the rapacious banksters who robbed folks with a fountain pen, sometimes sitting thousands of miles away in their sumptuous offices in New York, Chicago or San Francisco. (Sound familiar?)
There were no “social safety nets” in the early 1930’s when Pretty Boy Floyd robbed banks and gave to the poor. That didn’t happen until an enlightened son of a wealthy family, a politician named Franklin Delano Roosevelt, figured out that, unless conditions for the poor were ameliorated, total revolution would likely sweep the country and, with it, sweep away its capitalist owners. The specter of the red Russian Revolution loomed large as a frightening alternative to capitalism.
To forestall a revolution, Roosevelt initiated the first safety nets in the U.S, including a massive jobs program known as the Work Programs Administration (WPA) which put not only unemployed, unskilled laborers to work building roads, schools, museums and post offices, but unemployed professors, artists and even street singing musicians like Woody to work.
At its prime in 1938, three million Americans had jobs and they were building a vast national infrastructure which benefited everyone in the country, especially businesses, through the WPA.
Roosevelt also created a program called Social Security, an insurance program whereby workers paid from their wages into a insurance system, which when they were too old to continue working, would give them a retirement fund. He instituted the National Labor Relations Act to encourage and regularize the formation of unions.
Roosevelt put in place regulations (Glass-Steagall) to prevent the bankers from using depositors funds for their speculative gambling and to provide federal insurance (FDIC) for small depositors funds. The Republicans, with the acquiesce of Democratic President, Bill Clinton, were successful in repealing some of its provisions in 1999, which led directly to the predatory bank speculation practices which crashed our economy in 2007- 08.
In the 1930’s, revolution was successfully averted. But a segment of the wealthy, capitalist ruling class called Roosevelt a traitor to his class and never forgave him for instituting “socialist” social programs. These Republicans spent the next seventy plus years trying to dismantle his programs, despite the fact that Roosevelt’s programs became the foundation for a flourishing capitalist economy.
In their opposition to Roosevelt, his Republican opponents even called on one of America’s great war heroes to lead a political coup (known as the Wall Street or Business Coup) against Roosevelt. Major General Smedley D. Butler, however, was a patriot who refused to participate and blew the whistle on the plot. The fascist plot, which had planned to use the American Legion organization as a vehicle, was exposed but the names of the plotters were suppressed by a Congressional investigation committee and the plotters went unpunished.
Thus, unexposed and un-prosecuted, these fascist capitalist plotters, such as those from the Du Pont family and other Wall Street denizens (including, reportedly, members of the Bush family), could actively continue their efforts to demonize Roosevelt and demolish his safety net programs. Despite their efforts to roll back the legislation, the American economy flourished, producing a stable and very healthy American middle class for many years.
The flourishing middle class began a long, painful, wilt, however, when Republican Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, he commenced the deconstruction of Roosevelt’s policies by attacking the very unions which had contributed so heavily to the previous 40 years of American prosperity. Indeed, it was because of strong unions that what had previously been termed America’s “working class” were upgraded into America’s “middle class”. The new working “middle class” had done exceedingly well under Roosevelt’s policies, the salary of one unionized factory worker could well support a homemaker wife and family of four, with likely a private home, car and regular summer vacation.
Reagan’s tax cuts and other favors and subsidies to the wealthy classes and corporations caused, simultaneously, the increasing impoverishment of the middle class.
It was not until 1999, however, that the Republicans, with the connivance of Democratic President Bill Clinton, pulled the plug on Roosevelt’s policy of fiscal sanity by successfully repealing the provision of the Glass-Steagall act that prevented depository banks from combining with investment banks.
The repeal of Glass-Steagall allowed a free-for-all of speculative and fraudulent bank practices, such as mortgage-backed securities, which led to the 2007-08 crash of the housing market and thus brought down the whole economy. Thereupon commenced a massive wave of foreclosures, in which the banksters once again rob its modest customers “with a fountain pen” using fraudulent documentation, including hundreds thousands of phony signatures on court documents.
Now, with the connivance of putative Democrat Barack Obama, one of the most fundamental planks of Roosevelt’s safety net has been primed for dismantling.
In the 70 some years since Roosevelt saved the capitalist system from destroying itself through its insatiable greed, the Republican Party has been taken over by extreme right-wingers whose extremity has frequently been expressed in narrow, divisive religious and cultural issues. The Wall Street Republicans of yore were driven out of their official party. They reacted by supporting the Democratic Party’s conservative Democratic Leadership Council faction, now newly titled as the “Third Way”, with Obama waving their banner.
Now the “Third Way”, self-defined as moderate, would be bi-partisan, centrists, but spouting the old, Republican fiscal policies, are uniquely positioned to abolish the safety nets their forebears long opposed.
Our last official Republican president, George W. Bush, tried unsuccessfully to privatize social security, turning it into a quasi-401K program so Wall Street bankers and brokers could make billions from managing and brokering the private accounts. The old school Democrats defeated his efforts.
But now, under the rubric of the “New Way” bi-partisanship, Obama is ready to eat away at the fundamentals of the social security program by raising the age of retirement, reducing the formula for the yearly cost of living increases, even reducing social security contributions. He intends to diminish Medicare and Medicaid as well.
While our capitalist over-lords seek to increase their corporate profits through using our soldiers bodies and our vast, profitable war machine, to gain total world dominance over oil and other natural resources, they have exported American manufacturing jobs to the third world “cheap labor” countries, with help from the Clinton (and now Obama) Free Trade Agreements.
Should the latest “way” be successful in destroying all of Roosevelt’s (and Democrat Lynden Johnson’s) safety net programs, they will have succeeded completely in robbing the American people of all their homes, income, retirement, and even their very lives with their fountain pens, fraudulent electronic documents, and self-serving laws and treaties.
The capitalist economic system which puts it profits above all else is killing us. We have to uproot its tentacles and establish a new economic system which serves the needs, aspirations and development of the majority of people. The vast wealth now held by the oligarchs represents the money and lives robbed from the majority of the people who labored to create it. We have to take it back and put it to work for the good of all of us.
The capitalist economic system is no longer a nationally-based phenomenon; it now has no loyalty to a given country. It is global, trans-national. It locates wherever the tax laws are most favorable and regulations most minimal; it produces wherever labor is cheapest; it robs natural resources wherever it can get away with it. It has left us only the communities in which we live. But our home communities, however small, are key to our survival and to building a new, human society.
We need to start organizing with our neighbors, not to loot and burn local stores, but to cooperatively help each other survive, to think, plan and jointly act to take back control over our communities, our jobs, our lives. We have to refuse to allow the wealthy capitalists to continue their vast looting, far more destructive then the likes of current British youth lootings.
We have to say: “Enough is Enough, Together we will create a new, just economic system that provides for jobs, needs and human dignity for us all”.