A couple of weeks ago, Decorina (of Decorina and Skylar) recommended a book to me, “Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class.” This isn’t the sort of book I would ordinarily read (what with it being nonfiction, and of a political nature), but since it was Decorina, I gave it a go and have just finished it.
On the big picture, this book reinforced what I already knew: that big money has bought our government and they are out to take us little guys for everything we’ve got. I sometimes feel silly saying this in public, since it sounds like some kind of crazy conspiracy theory. It’s nice now to know I’m not alone in my understanding of what has been happening in this country since 1980.
A bit of backtracking is in order. The saddest moment in my history with politics came when, after the 2004 election, I realized that it wasn’t just the Republican party which had been bought and paid for; it was the Democrats, too — my party, the one I thought was on the side of the little guy.
When the Democratic party didn’t fight to its dying breath to uncover the truth behind the 2000 election, I made excuses for them. I said, they are just too concerned about appearances and won’t get down and dirty like the Republicans. I decided they were a bunch of pussies. But in 2004, with John Kerry, and the way the party rolled over and played dead, I couldn’t make any more excuses. Bought and paid for. And I wasn’t about to listen to them wring their hands and pretend there was nothing they could do to stop those “evil” Republicans from wreaking havoc on our lives. Pot. Kettle. Black.
Still, I’d think back to Bill Clinton, and how much I liked him. I thought he had been a good president, though I had some concerns about his “welfare reform.” It seemed pretty heartless to me, but I figured I probably didn’t understand it well enough. There were other things I wished he had done, that he had promised to do, but I decided it was the Republicans who had held him back. I’d say, by god, at least the man had economic sense and balanced the national budget.
Ha! The joke’s on me. Turns out, I have learned from “Screwed,” that he continued the fine tradition, begun by Reagan, of pilfering the Social Security Trust Fund to make the national books look better. Apparently, they’ve all done it: Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr. All ripping off our Social Security to make it look like they are spending less than they are. The fund is little more than a holding pen for a massive pile of IOUs.
Then there’s a heaping pile of screw you and me in the NAFTA and other trade agreements Clinton signed. Whatever. I don’t know if he was paid for, or coerced into it with all the crap they flung at him. Whatever. He, too, was in the pocket of big money and big business.
Maybe I should be sad about this latest bit of disillusionment. Or mad. I can’t seem to work up either one right now. I’m mostly just disgusted with myself for not knowing this already.
One particularly surprising bit of information in “Screwed” is that we have over 100 privately-owned prisons in this country, as of when the book was written. I had no idea. There is no world in which a privately-owned prison is a good idea. Not when there’s no accountability. I’m really flabbergasted by this. I did a quick search and Wikipedia says there are now some 264 privately-owned prisons in this country. Because the neutrality of the article is disputed, I took a short look at the web sites of some of the companies listed there. With only three of the companies, the count is nearly 200. I am appalled.
I don’t know what else to say right now about this book. After the 2004 elections, I finally threw my hands in the air and said fine, we Americans will get what we deserve. And boy have we.
Can we stop this? I don’t know. A vast segment of the American public are still utter morons who allow dirty politicians and douchebag shills like Limbaugh and O’Reilly to distract them with moral issues and nonsensical arguments, all the while seemingly unaware that their pockets are being picked.
I’ve spent a bit of time looking around the FEC site and OpenSecrets and there’s nothing there to prove that it’s not business as usual in Washington. I hate seeing, in a list of the top 20 contributors to the Obama campaign, names like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and UBS (look up UBS if you don’t know who they are — a Swiss bank with all sorts of stuff coming down. They greased lots of palms in the 2008 election. Be interesting to see what happens. Here’s an article from yesterday).
Big oil shelled out over $74 million in the 2008 election, mostly to Republicans. We love hating on big oil. God knows I do. And big pharma. We hate them, too. They gave to the tune of over $28 million, evenly split between the two parties.
Wanna know how much the finance sector donated to our fine politicians? Prepare yourselves. Over $279 million. And another $132 million from the real estate sector. Puts big oil and pharma to shame, doesn’t it? Oh, and the finance and real estate biggies spent evenly between the Dems and Repubs, not wanting to leave anyone out of the party.
Makes me even more disgusted with the bailouts. Makes me wonder about the latest housing plan. I’m wondering all sorts of things. And none of it is good.
P.S. for Decorina — about “Atlas Shrugged,” which you mentioned when you recommended “Screwed.” I do not agree with Ayn Rand on everything, mainly her fervor that industry be completely unfettered from government control. Rand idealized her capitalists, in much the same way that her Communist foes idealized the working man. What I do agree with is her conviction that cronyism and rewarding incompetence is a straight path to ruin. Just so you know, if you read it. Didn’t want you thinking I buy into that total free market crap.