Have the Oligarchs won?
As each day passes, it occurs to me more and more that, despite some examples of perceived progress here and there, we progressives continue to lose more and more battles against the oligarchs, slowly, but surely and steadily.
What evidence is there for this statement?
Follow me below for the numerous examples of how the oligarchs are winning and the people and the progressives who fight for them are losing a long-term political game of attrition to the wealthy one percent.
Since Ronald Reagan launched a frontal assault on unions in the 1980's, his cohorts and co-conspirators have not let up...not one bit. And while it appears that workers, on occasion, have made some gains, since the 1980's, when Ronald Reagan willingly did the bidding of his billionaire pals...in exchange for lots of money to finance his political campaigns, the workers of this country have seen their rights eroded more and more and more. The successful efforts in places like Wisconsin are testament to how
time appears to be on the side of oligarchs as they, state by state, slowly and steadily, are successfully eroding the rights and powers of everyday working citizens. The number of states which have a “right to work for poverty wages” has increased. It used to be contained to the South. No more. Now, previously progressive states, like Wisconsin, are seeing worker's rights diminished as anti-union puppets of the oligarchs like Scott Walker attack them in unprecedented ways.
Last night, on a local news program, an advocate for increasing the minimum wage stunned me when she said that, in real dollars, today's minimum wage here in New York State is actually lower than it was in the 1960's. Combine that with the fact that there are a lot more single-worker families out there who work at minimum wage or near-minimum wage, and that means that the actual income of most people in this country has actually declined over the past 50 years.
Campaign Finance Reform
The Citizens United decision/abomination seems to have put a stake through the heart of the minimal efforts of progress made in this country to clean up our pay-to-play campaign finance system in this country. Five of the most corrupt Supreme Court Injustices in American history (Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, William Kennedy and John Roberts) in one fell swoop, killed off every last vestige of progress that had been made on this front, when they decided to allow corporations to use unlimited amounts of secret money for political purposes. It was truly one of the biggest middle fingers ever flipped at the entire American public by any Supreme Court in our history. They, basically told everyone they could go...make love to themselves (to be polite) when it comes to ever having a chance for the People's will to be done in this country. And billionaires like the Koch brothers have been going to town, secretly funding puppets throughout the land, from the highest offices in Washington to the lowest offices in towns and cities throughout the country...to install puppets to do their bidding.
States currently owned by oligarchs.
Texas is one of the most obvious examples (along with Louisiana) of how oligarchs can simply come in and purchase themselves control of an entire state. But these oligarchs are, increasingly, having similar success elsewhere of late (Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan). Plus, there are numerous states where the deep red populace willingly ceded its power to the monied elites a long time ago (Kansas, Utah, Idaho, for instance). The oligarchs seem to be making more and more progress purchasing themselves complete control of entire state governments.
Social Security, Medicare (& Medicaid).
Their ongoing propaganda efforts to convince people that these programs are destroying us economically, even though all evidence proves the exact opposite, is testament to the fact that their long, sustained effort to try to kill off these programs ever since they were first enacted...has not let up one bit. And, even though some of the most egregious and blatant attempts by these oligarchs to kill off these programs outright (such as George Walker Bush's attempts to “privatize” them and Paul Ryan's continuing attempts to do so) have failed thus far, that hasn't stopped them one bit from continuing to try and by continuing to engage in ongoing disinformation campaigns and deliberate attempts to undermine them (through the chained CPI, for instance).
Even on the regulatory front, while there are still a lot of government agencies and a lot of regulations designed to protect citizens from blatant abuses, oligarchs have succeeded tremendously over the past 50 years in watering down and eliminating many of these regulations and even the ability of regulators to do their jobs. The “deregulation” frenzy begun under Ronald Reagan and continued right up through the crash of 2008 resulted in some of the worst examples of negligence and incompetence by the financial industry in American history, in large part due to successful deregulation efforts in the 1990's
(allowing them to buy and sell junk mortgages and other financial junk at will, for instance). And whenever Republicans get in power they do whatever they can to stack the federal regulatory agencies with as many people as they can whose sole purpose is to undermine the very regulatory ability of the agencies they've been hired by. It takes many, many, many years to rid these agencies of people installed to deliberately try to undermine them. George Walker Bush and his gang of thugs had a field day packing our federal bureaucracy with these folks for eight long years.
What are some examples of these concerns?
In case anyone out there thinks these are just made up concerns, concocted from the crevasses of my imagination only, following are specific examples of the success of these oligarchs over the years:
. Persistent unemployment and underemployment. And even worse: those who no longer count as either because they've simply given up looking. Ever since the Reagan administration decided that it would be in their best political interests (to get re-elected, that is) to “adjust” the way that the unemployment rate is figured, the official (wink-wink) unemployment rate of this country has been nothing but a joke. In one fell swoop, Reagan and his co-conspirators knocked several points off of the official unemployment rate, without doing anything but manipulating numbers. And those figures continue to deceive, even more so since even the official unemployment rate soared after the 2008 meltdown.
. The disparity between the rich and poor has gotten worse. Even before the great recession of 2008 the disparity was increasing and that disparity has become even more dramatic as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and more and more people are falling into poverty.
. The perception by large numbers of Americans that Social Security is on the path to bankruptcy, when nothing could be further from the truth. This blatant lie has been perpetuated for many decades to the point where a lot of people simply accept it as fact. And it's been used as a political bludgeon by the puppets of the oligarchs to continue to try to do the bidding of billionaires and millionaires who give them lots of campaign money.
Now, there are a few examples where oligarchs have been set back. The Affordable Care Act is the most obvious example, whereby these oligarchs were simply incapable of stopping its enactment as they were able to do to the Clinton healthcare reforms of the 1990's by simply spending hundreds of billions of dollars in anti-healthcare reform propaganda. However, these oligarchs haven't stopped fighting all of their past setbacks, including Obamacare. They currently are attempting to work with as many of their puppets in state governments as possible to do whatever they can to undermine it.
There are probably more examples of where oligarchs have been on the losing side of some battles over the past few decades, but they are few and far between. For the most part, they seem to me to be winning battle after battle after battle. The only remaining question is whether the war itself is over or if we can still stop them from obtaining complete control.
In fact, it feels, increasingly, to me that this country is becoming what they used to call a “third world,” country, one with an overwhelming number of poor folks, a shrinking middle class and with the top echelon reaping all of the benefits to the disadvantage of 99 percent of the rest of the population.
Is this just cynicism? Pessimism? A temporary feeling of hopelessness that will soon pass? Can someone please, as Rachel Maddow might say, “talk me down?”