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“I used to blame Bush and the GOP.  Then I blamed the Democrats for not being fill in the blank enough.   Now I hold the so called progressive and so called __ movement responsible because they haven't held anyone accountable. ...”  This is from dkmitch, Angry diaries about Obama’s call for cutting social security and Medicare abound. Republicans and conservative Democrats, like Obama, want to reduce corporate taxes at a time when corporate profits are at all time highs. Obama defenders point out that he’s better than Romney or Bush that he has done some good things (I agree).

Something is seriously wrong. Outraged posts every week or waiting for a Democratic savior, whether Hillary, Biden, Durbin, Schumer or a fantastic new female candidate to fix our unequal society are pointless. What can we do to help ourselves?

Start with my cartoon of American imbalance: a few people at the top wanting even more than they have now, and the 99%, mostly unhappy, squeezed and looking for scapegoats.

what keeps the rich up?
Hourly wages adjusted for inflation have been declining since 1975. What explains the ever-increasing shift of money and power to the richest families? We're more unequal than any other developed country except Chile, Mexico and Turkey. The tax code is a big factor, as Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz says our unfair tax code/.

Consider these 3 federal tax changes since 1953, 60 years ago:
Personal exemption: went from  $600 to $3800, a 6 1/3 fold increase, less than the rate of inflation
Estate tax exemption: went from 60,000/person to 5.25 million- an enormous 87.5 fold increase, almost ten times the rate of inflation
Maximum tax rate fell from 87% to 39.6% - this is marginal tax rate, a person pays 39.6% on his/her adjusted income above $400,000
The rich pay proportionately less, the lesser orders pay more, this is class warfare.
Personal attacks on Obama or other politicians are pointless. Obama has done some good things; he isn’t responsible for the Boston marathon bombing, The Texas fertilizer explosion (in a factory last inspected by OSHA in 1985, that’s deregulation) or past Wall Street corruption. His actions show a strong need to prove that he’s “reasonable”, that he will compromise with Republicans. He and all the Democratic political leaders accept the conventional wisdom espoused by the editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post. They 'know' that “entitlements” should be cut; Bill Clinton said this recently to Paul Ryan.

The basic concept of entitlements is false.  Social security does not add to the deficit- cutting it back, a little or a lot, is a symbolic act. Why do the conservatives need a symbolic break when corporate profits are at all time highs and wages for new jobs are so pathetic? It’s just wrong; it worsens our economic imbalance  when we have a retirement savings crisis, when so many people between 50 and 65 are unemployed or working part time and have no retirement savings.  Social security should be expanded and the ceiling on payroll tax contributions raised. Obama and Clinton can’t understand this, nor can the editorial boards of the big 3 newspapers.
Medicare needs help because medical care costs affect all Americans, not only the elderly. The two biggest problems for Medicare are Congressional raids, like the Amgen giveaway, senators give away the store and fee for service medicine. Remember the Amgen payoff  the next time you hear Senator Baucus or Hatch speak piously about the need to control ‘entitlements’. Congress consistently forces Medicare to overpay drug and device manufacturers and blocks the evaluation of new treatments, just as they slash budgets for OSHA and other regulatory agencies.

Until we have action to control corporate payoffs from Medicare funds, we must say “Hell, no” to Medicare reforms. Congress is a deeply flawed institution.
Our constitution was and is flawed. It was crafted to be very difficult to amend and to give small states disproportionate power. The Industrial revolution and urbanization were only beginning, so the long term effects of these rules weren’t clear in 1789. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) had great support among the country, as do restrictions on gun ownership and gun violence, but our system of minority rule blocks this.

The Constitution, as we know, counts slaves as 3/5 of persons to increase the power of the Southern States (article 1, section 2) and prohibits citizens from providing assistance to escaping slaves, requiring the return of chattel property to owners. (Article IV, section 2 –the word slave is not used, but the meaning is clear, "a person held to service or labour in one state” must be delivered up to “the party to whom such service or labor is due”. This contradicts the Old Testament, which did not prohibit slavery but stated that escaped slaves should be welcomed and well treated.
Deuteronomy 23:15 Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee:
The Constitution has many references to slavery, including section 1 of Article IX, first paragraph which prohibits amendments restricting slavery before 1808, while permitting taxing slave sales. The framers kicked the slavery can down the road, knowing that slavery was evil and destructive, hoping that future generations would solve the problem.  
The Constitution, Congress and the Federal Reserve have us locked into an iron cage. The Federal Reserve is a private bank operating on behalf of the banks. They are pouring out money, but the amount of money in circulation (M2) has not increased and the velocity or rate of circulation of money has actually decreased this year. Who's got all those trillions of dollars? The banks do. Liberal organizations and lobbies in Washington want our money, they sincerely believe that they are doing good. They still see a flat earth. Suppose I told you to row across the Atlantic Ocean? You'd say, that's crazy. That's what I say to the do good organizations in Washington.

We must have a new political system, new rules. It can't come from the top down. Does that mean violent revolution? I hope not. Violent revolutions have a poor track record. Peaceful change can come when people just walk away. Norway split off from Sweden peacefully in 1905; European countries behind the iron curtain showed their governments the door in 1989-91 with little bloodshed, and Czechoslovakia split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Both are members of the EU and NATO. Regime changes of the Arab spring have an uncertain record; the minimally violent changes in Tunisia look better than what's happened in Libya but nobody can claim victory.

The system won't let us reverse the Citizens United decision; it won't let us control gun violence. I don't support groups seeking a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. It's like the ERA. The problems are much deeper, and our culture is crumbling around us. There has always been a hateful streak in American life; if you are poor or sick, you must have made bad choices. If you twist in the wind, you or your friends may learn the lesson. If I can't get what I want, I may at least block your success. Freud, much better on art and myth than on medical problems, spoke of the twin instincts of Eros and Thanatos, the death wish. The Abrahamic monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism fed right into that with their eschatology of a vengeful god who will eventually get fed up and end the world. If God is going to strike down your enemies some day, why not step up and do it yourself? I believe that the end of the world stuff came from Zoroastrianism and the wish to promise some form of resurrection after death in return for obedience.

So, where do we go? Humans take advantage, unless constrained by culture. Evolution made us that way. Our culture is too much like that of the former Yugoslavia, riven by hatred of 'the other'. Democracy is a process- the idea that you vote every few years and sit back is silly, an invitation to abuse. If you give money to an agent, you want to check what that agent is doing, many times a year. We give money to our political leaders. They generally favor developers and the serious people. They think that it's wise to slash taxes to lure new businesses. My Senators don't represent me,  I have little impact on my Congresswoman. I can if I exert myself have some impact on my mayor, city council, school board etc. These are the most important elections, but the ones with the lowest turnout, across the country.

I vote every election, there is always a lesser evil. I don't think that the present US political system will survive.  Why do nations rise and fall? Because leaders take progressively more advantage. One Congressperson can represent millions of people? No way. There's no easy way to check on our agents and what they do with our money. The media give us ads and slogans,  they promote the interests of the rich and powerful.

How do the media distort our world? Consider the NY Times, surely 'good media" (they have generally good science coverage). They felt it necessary to criticize the Danish welfare state at a time when our system is badly messed up, saying in effect, 'It's really bad in those welfare states'. See Danes rethink a welfare state, Danish welfare state in trouble
It's biased and misleading. Don't take my word for it, read Dean Baker,                   What's the truth here? "So in spite of the generous Danish welfare state a higher percentage of its working age population works than in the United States. (Actually Denmark ranks near the top of the world in employment to population ratios.) Yet, somehow this doesn’t really count because people in Denmark get vacations, work shorter hours, and have a higher effective minimum wage." Those foolhardy Danes have a 56% top income tax ratio. No doubt that Denmark needs to make some changes and the EU has big problems, distinct from Scandanavian welfare states. Urbanization is causing troubles everywhere, but the Danes deal with it much better than we do, with our minority rule. Why are all the moralists quiet about the economic divide between Northern and Southern Europe? Fox News is only part of the problem. The media will always back up Bowles and Simpson. WaPo recommends BS (Bowles-Simpson) as a Medicare 'reform'.

We have some time. Those who want a better system and a different government with different rules can start working for change, small local groups meeting and talking, compromising and devising new media. We must have smaller governmental units, perhaps partition - those addicted to violence, the heirs of Calhoun and Andrew Jackson, may have to go their own way. Texas senators want federal aid for their fertilizer disaster but voted against Hurricane Sandy relief. Will we get that change before the masses, thrashing  round in increasing misery, bring down everything in a violent Gotterdammerung? I don't know. I joined daily Kos in 2003 as a Dean supporter, I worked for Obama in 2007-8. To say that I was disappointed when he approved the estate tax giveaway is an understatement. Fool me several times, OK, I eventually realized that the system is rigged and must be changed. It will take years, longer than I'll be around. Maybe this is too strong for Kos, I respect some progressive leaders, such as Reps DeFazio, Ellison and Grijalva, I'm opposed to a 3rd party;  that assumes that we have a fair and rational system. When progressives rely on inside the beltway support and those big three papers, they are coopted by the serious people.

Yes, I'm surprised and glad that there is more acceptance of same sex marriage and LGBT people. No, I don't think that constantly increasing individual rights at the expense of the community can work without decent wages, decent education, healthcare and pension rights and responsibility to others. Individualism, atomization, each person alone in an apartment sells more goods, but it promotes neglect of our responsibility to planet Earth. If we continue to believe that nations must promote population growth and 'economic growth' we hasten that Gotterdammerung.


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