Tag Archives: Wall Street

The US Economy Is A Scam

Wells Fargo, the Problem With Capitalism, and the Bible

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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I was alive and kicking back in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, and in the ensuing years when Communism imploded all across Russia, and Red China soon after. The American political and military leadership smugly congratulated one another when Communism fell. “Well, looks like we won the Cold War”, they said among themselves. What nobody realized at the time was that America was going to be next. It’s just that it’s taking a lot longer for that to play out over here. America has an ‘ace in the hole’ that the USSR never had – free enterprise. I’m strongly in favor of free enterprise and private ownership. I always have been, so I’m no communist or socialist, but what I disapprove of is when our economic system gets abused by people whose greed is out of control. These are a set of financial predators who are in need of arrest and restraint!

As a result of these occurrences, the capitalist economic system is ripe for a collapse reminiscent of Communism’s collapse a quarter century ago. Interest on America’s national debt is accruing faster than than the principal can be paid down. Our country is buried under a mountain of debt from which it is impossible to extricate ourselves. The fault for this lies with the so-called ‘Federal Reserve’, which in fact is neither. The Constitution of the United States says in Article 1, Section 8, “The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, …. coin money and regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin….”. Nowhere does it say “print money”, nor does it say anything about a Federal Reserve. Real money must be coined, not printed, and only Congress is authorized to coin money by the Constitution. The very existence of the Federal Reserve is unconstitutional! The so-called ‘national debt’ is a scam, a fraud, a federal crime and an assault on the freedom of all Americans everywhere! The Federal Reserve is something that clearly needs to be stopped, and preferably nationalized. Fortunately, “we the people” probably won’t need to stage a revolt to make this occur. Like Soviet Russia, capitalism will collapse on its own. It won’t need any help. I can sum up the reason why in one little word – debt.

Not only is debt and the accompanying compounded interest reaching a point of no return, America is faced with the indisputable fact that the super-power era is at its end as far as world history is concerned. Nations in other parts of the world, particularly in emerging economies, have started to figure out that mutual cooperation for profit is in everyone’s best interests. Unfortunately, my country, the venerable USA, has yet to get the message. The US refuses to abandon its war-based and debt-based economy, because if it does, it would be tantamount to voluntary relinquishing America’s role as the sole remaining super power. The nail in the coffin of American ‘supremacy’ will be the forcible replacement of the US dollar as the world’s standard currency. Russia and Red China have already signed the trade and economic treaties to accomplish this, it’s a done deal. It’s only a matter of time as to how long this will take to play out.

But the war is also being waged right here at home, a fact that millions of Americans are just now beginning to wake up to. People’s bank accounts are being raided by the very banks that purport to serve them as loyal customers. The most notable example of this was this past week’s disclosure by the US Department of Justice of Wells Fargo Bank opening multiple accounts in its customers’ names, unbeknownst to those customers, and getting commissions and bonuses as a result of this nefarious and fraudulent financial activity. In an article posted Wednesday Sept 21, 2016 on CNN.com written by Walter Einenkel, he wrote:

A couple of weeks ago, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million in penalties for perpetrating a massive fraud on customers. Wells Fargo executives boasted that they had fired 5,300 workers involved in improprieties, but not a single executive was punished. In fact, executives that literally oversaw the departments where the gargantuan fraud was committed were very well compensated, and lauded. Yesterday, Wells Fargo CEO — and blame-game champion — John Stumpf went in front of a Senate Banking Committee where he was rightfully castigated by Senator Elizabeth Warren for his “gutless leadership.” Part of Stumpf’s “apology” was to say that Wells Fargo didn’t do this as much as bad apples did it. It’s a similar defense used by people who murder citizens.”

Now CNN Money is hearing from former Wells Fargo (WFC) workers around the country who tried to put a stop to these illegal tactics. Almost half a dozen workers who spoke with us say they paid dearly for trying to do the right thing: they were fired. “They ruined my life,” Bill Bado, a former Wells Fargo banker in Pennsylvania, told CNN Money. Bado not only refused orders to open phony bank and credit accounts. The New Jersey man called an ethics hot-line and sent an email to human resources in September 2013, flagging unethical sales activities he was being instructed to do.”

Eight days after that email, a copy of which CNN Money obtained, Bado was terminated. The stated reason? Tardiness…. Retaliating against whistle blowers is a major breach of trust. Ethics hot-lines are exactly the kind of safeguards put in place to prevent illegal activity from taking place and provide refuge to employees from dangerous work environments….”

Another six former Wells Fargo employees told CNN Money they witnessed similar behavior at Wells Fargo — even though the company has a policy in place that is supposed to prevent retaliation against whistle blowers. CNN Money has taken steps to confirm that the workers who spoke anonymously did work at Wells Fargo and in some cases interviewed colleagues who corroborated their reports. It’s possible Wells Fargo could face legal consequences for any retaliation that occurred against employees who called the ethics line …. It is clearly against the law for any company (or executives of such companies) to try to suppress whistle blowing,” Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the SEC, told CNN Money in an email…”.

As you can clearly see, America’s financial system is making all the money it can, every way they possibly can, because they know this collapse is coming. That’s why stuff like the shenanigans over at Wells Fargo is going on behind the scenes. The whole stinking system is corrupt from top to bottom, and people are figuring it out in growing numbers. Whatever you do, if you have an account with Wells Fargo, move your money to a credit union. Unlike banks, credit unions are non-profits, and they’re far more personalized than banks. But it’s not just a violation of our laws that our financial system is a criminal enterprise, it’s a violation of God’s laws too. And not just the criminal and civil violations mentioned above, either. Let me take you to the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, chapter 22, beginning at verse 22:

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”

As you can clearly see, it is immoral in the sight of God to charge interest beyond the borrower’s ability to pay. It is also wrong for lenders to take everything but the clothes off their customer’s back, which happens with disturbing frequency. Yet this is exactly the situation the entire world is currently faced with. We have the Federal Reserve in the US, the British “Royal Family” in the UK, and the Rothschilds in Europe who basically control the world’s flow of money and liquid assets. Just beneath them in the economic pecking order are the elite rich, government and corporate leadership, and religious denominations of various kinds. But the remainder of us, “the 99%”, have little or nothing. Economic inequality has become like a ticking time bomb across the globe. There are simply so many angry, frustrated, disenfranchised and often disenchanted individuals like ourselves who are hungry and thirsty for real change that the fuse on this socioeconomic time bomb has already been lit. Our entire capitalist, debt-based economic system is based on something the Bible said was a great sin nearly 3,500 years ago. The Bible does not change, and neither does God! By incurring a debt that currently stands at $17 or $18 trillion, America is reaping what it has sown. God says to America, “You want debt, do ya? Well all right, then, I’m going to give you a trainload of it!” Is it any wonder we are in the shape we are in? We are bankrupt, we have been for a very long time, and it’s our own fault. Although the US government has been concealing the true extent of this indebtedness from its citizens, the people are catching on quickly. Our government has declared war on its own citizens, and the soldiers are none other than police offers who are sworn to protect and serve. Instead, they harass and intimidate all they come into contact with, and they routinely kill unarmed citizens just because they can. This cannot continue indefinitely, and the standoff between the police and the rest of the country continues to escalate. The fuse has been lit. And there is a very large powder keg at the end of it.

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America is sick with greed, and I’m just plain sick of it

America’s Sick Culture of Greed – the 7 Warning Signs

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The apostle Paul, in his first letter to his deacon Timothy, admonished him to be wary of the pursuit of money and material wealth. About 1,950 years ago, Paul wrote, “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1st Timothy chapter six, verses 6-10, NIV) The love of money for money’s sake, as in the days of the early Church, remains the social and societal disease of our time. We see it all around us; in the celebration of ill-gotten financial gain, public admiration for the heads of criminal banks, the lyrics to some popular songs, and in the commercialization of charity and spirituality. This adoration of wealth isn’t a new thing, of course. Back in elementary school I remember being sent to the principal’s office for being moody, unfocused and temperamental – in other words, for being either a rebellious revolutionary, a writer in the making, or a trouble-maker. I still remember my report cards from elementary school that said I “failed to concentrate on the task at hand”, and that I had “too casual an attitude”. In other words, I was a misfit deemed to be a failure in life. That, of course, depends on how one defines the words ‘misfit’ and ‘failure’.

In defense of my childhood self, the Beatles were famous for their Rolls-Royce’s at that time and the Beatles seemed happy. A group called the “Dave Clark Five” went out and bought five matching Jaguar XKE convertibles (anybody else remember that?). Like any good consumer in the making, I had internalized these images of wealth and had come to equate them with happiness. The United States of the 1960s was a nation filled with optimism. For many (though definitely not all) Americans, it was a time of unparalleled opportunity. Education was affordable, families could live comfortably on a single adult income, and the country seem to be on an endless upward trajectory of prosperity. We were expanding in every way, so rapidly that only the depths of space seemed able to contain the people we were about to become. The fantasy of wealth seemed somehow different in that context. Today, we’re a nation being preached to by “bipartisan” corporate politicians who lecture us on the impossibility of expecting a livable Social Security income in our old age. Or a living wage in our working years. Or an affordable education, so our children can live a better life economically than we did. Yet we’re more infatuated with the fruits of unproductive greed today, it seems, then we were back then. Here are seven signs that American culture is sick with greed.

1.) There’s still no public shame in profiting off Wall Street fraud.

Wall Street has been celebrating the investment opportunities created by the wave of criminality and fraud which has overtaken JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others. JP Morgan Chase’s epidemic of internal fraud has led to tens of billions in fines during the tenure of CEO Jamie Dimon. The investigation’s report goes on to describe how JP Morgan’s stock has risen despite the record fraud settlements against the bank and multiple ongoing civil and criminal investigations. What the report is saying is that banks are essential to the functioning of society, like a public utility. But unlike traditional public utilities, they’re entrusted to profit-driven executives with a long history of documented criminality. And yet there have been no indictments of senior Wall Street executives to date because senior government officials have made it clear they don’t want to endanger the banks by enforcing the law. Legal and political implications aside, what’s astonishing to me is the complete lack of shame associated with being a bank executive whose organization has committed so many crimes — or an investment analyst to openly celebrate those crimes as an opportunity to make money at society’s expense.

Even as the world was still learning of Wall Street’s extensive criminality, Dimon was the subject of a fawning profile several years ago in the New York Times Sunday magazine, which detailed at length Dimon’s hurt feelings and irritation toward those audacious enough to criticize him. Andrew Ross Sorkin did the same thing for the same newspaper three years later, dismissing as “blood lust” calls for Dimon’s resignation in the wake of yet more billion-dollar fraud revelations about his bank. Even now, after all the revelations of crimes which include investor fraud, shareholder fraud, perjury, forgery, violation of international sanctions laws and laws designed to protect members of the US Armed Forces — even now it’s possible to treat bank CEOs as victims in the pages of our country’s newspaper of record. Condemning that record isn’t blood lust. It’s morality.

2.) Greedy CEOs still have credibility in the media.

It’s not just Jamie Dimon, of course. Having shattered the middle class through their accumulation of wealth, the devastation they inflicted on the global economy, and their mistreatment of employee pension funds, Wall Street CEO’s apparently still have enough credibility in some quarters to be treated as experts in fiscal responsibility. They’re using that credibility to suggest that America’s middle-class accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare, two of the few programs left to protect them from the effects of runaway corporate greed. American news outlets accord these CEOs an extraordinary and unearned measure of respectability and authority. Very few articles about ‘Fix the Debt’ mention the massive fraud settlements and fines levied against these CEO’s institutions. Although CEO’s aren’t greedy by definition, most of the ones on ‘Fix the Debt’s’ list fit that description. Most of the ones who aren’t running Wall Street banks lead defense contracting firms that earn excessive profits from the US taxpayer, while lecturing those same taxpayers on the need for the middle class to cut back on its expectations of financial security when it reaches retirement age. ‘Fix the Debt’ is one of a number of interlocking organizations which are largely financed by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, who made his money in the hedge fund business and yet is treated by many journalists as if he were Mother Teresa.

3.) Corporate executives are now trained to rip people off.

This writer spent a number of years in the business world during the 1990s, as the owner of a small technology-based retail storefront operation. During this time, corporate America was transforming itself from a customer-driven set of industries to a greed-driven and conscience-less wealth extraction machine for the investor class. Let me use the Gillette Company as an example. As most bearded men know, the Gillette business model is a sneaky one. The company ropes customers in with low-cost razors and then charges an outrageous amount for replacement blades. This is obviously a deceptive business model. Another example from the 1990’s and (to a lesser degree) 2000’s is that of the pay phone industry, which wanted to increase turnover in the use of its phones. The allegedly ‘brilliant’ thinking of a junior executive taken directly from the minutes of board meetings (I will decline to name the company) proposed that bricks be put in the handsets of all their phones. In the same “brainstorming” session, which sometimes are innocuously called “meetings”, another executive suggested making the surfaces underneath the phones slanted, so that people couldn’t leave their things there while they spoke on the phone. The net result was that people paid a quarter to use a pay phone, but then grew uncomfortable and were unable to complete their calls. The beauty of it – from the company’s point of view – was that they didn’t even know why they were hanging up. They merely had an unsatisfying customer experience, while the phone company got to turn over customers more quickly and collect more quarters. Again, nobody back then objected that this was poor customer service, and an underhanded way to deal with customers. If you multiply those experiences ten thousandfold, you have an idea of the culture of corruption which is taking place every day in companies all across the country. That’s not to say there aren’t companies that still believe in customer service; there are, and I’m grateful every time I encounter one. But the corporate culture of America has become a culture of cheating, manipulation and greed. (The pay phone industry in this country is dead, by the way. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.)

4.) And then there’s the music recording industry.

Our idealization of greed isn’t confined to the business section of our newspapers. While white liberals decry the idealization of wealth, that’s not a new phenomenon either. In fact, it can be found in both lifestyles and the recordings of their own childhood musical heroes. “Money can’t buy everything it’s true, but what it can’t buy I can’t use…” There has always been a tension in popular music between the comfortable idealism of those who come from wealthy backgrounds and the aspiring materialism of pop musicians who were raised in poverty and/or financial insecurity. That latter list includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles, James Brown, and many of today’s hip-hop artists. As the seminal R&B producer, songwriter and performer Swamp Dogg put it in the 1970’s: “I’m not selling out, I’m buying in.” The best of those artists — the Beatles, Brown, and more recently Kanye West — have struggled to reconcile the drive which helped them escape poverty with the idealism that made them gifted artists. Kanye ran into some controversy with his track “New Slaves.” Many people were offended that he equated his own wealth with slavery and Jim Crow laws. It’s Kanye’s charm, as well as his curse, to speak everything that comes into his mind. But I think he was onto something with his line about “throwing back the Maybach keys” and his lyrics about the expectation that African-American celebrities will be excessive spenders.

Self-made celebrities often act as ritualized consumers on behalf of the general public. Their job is to swallow up the most excessive luxuries the wealthy lifestyle has to offer. They inadvertently use their power and influence to reinforce the corporate-driven, consumerist tropes that keep us enslaved to our own material desires. By naming the phenomenon and ritually “throwing the keys,” Kanye West is trying to break a pattern that has stretched from Tupelo in Mississippi to Compton in California, from Liverpool in England to Bed-Sty and Brownsville in New York.

5.) Insight and spirituality are being commercialized.

One of the most notorious examples of the commercialization of faith and spirituality is the “prosperity gospel”, which is being propagated primarily in Protestant, catholic, and non- or- interdenominational churches here in the US. As the late and well-known televangelist pioneer Oral Roberts once said, “If you have a need, you must plant a seed”. In order to obtain, we must first give, or so they say. But when we examine the Scriptures, we find this is quite the reverse of what Christ taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’, or ‘What shall we drink?’, or ‘What shall we wear’? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 31-33, NIV) So, instead of “planting a seed” to get our needs met, if we have a need we should be on our knees in prayer, not giving some crooked televangelist all your grocery money. Even Eastern spiritual traditions like Buddhism are being co-mingled with idealized visions of what it means to be a billionaire. From TED talks to mindfulness conferences like the Wisdom 2.0 conference, the search for individual and collective insight is becoming increasingly identified with the desire to accumulate wealth. “You can have it all,” these events seem to say. “You can gain peace of mind, unlock the mysteries of human existence, and become a billionaire, all at the same time.” Some of these events even seem to argue that they are one and the same journey, which is a complete fallacy. It’s heaven and Nirvana, all in one ‘special’ package — with corporate sponsorship.

6.) Kindness and thoughtfulness toward our fellow human beings has become a commodity.

The Clinton Global Initiative has continued to promote misleading deficit-reduction materials in partnership with the hedge fund billionaires. It featured a leader from Morgan Stanley — one of the institutions which was instrumental in causing the 2008 financial crisis — talking about how to recover from the financial crisis. It’s not just Bill and Hillary. In the midst of negotiating yet another multi-billion dollar fraud settlement, JP Morgan Chase was given the honor (and the public relations coup) of sponsoring the fund raising concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy headlined by the Rolling Stones. But then, the Stones have a relationship with big banks that goes back to their sponsorship deal with AmeriQuest, the mortgage company which was slammed for deceitful practices and discriminatory lending toward minorities. That’s not to say corporate charity, or for that matter the charity of billionaires, is a bad thing. Everyone should incorporate charity into their way of life, and those who are most fortunate should give the most in return. Nobody argues with that. The sickness comes when we allow certain types of charity to glorify the giver, or when it’s considered impolite to mention any relationship between, say, the excessive wealth accumulation of the givers and the need for charity in the first place.

7.) America’s Soul Sickness

Today there are countless signs that our culture is sick with greed. You don’t need to be told that. Just look around. I never was able to afford the Rolls-Royce’s and Jaguar roadsters of my childhood fantasies. But then, those things were only an expression of pain. They reflected a deep yearning to be somewhere else, to be someone else, to escape the daily trials of everyday existence and replace them with a fantasy bubble that kept me at a glittering distance from the sufferings of the real world. Today’s national culture of greed is also an expression of pain and fear. It’s more terrifying than ever to try to survive on a middle-class income. Most people live one or two paychecks away from utter disaster. Very few of us feel that we have any real control over our own fate. The lives of reality show stars, the Hollywood tabloids and dangerous drugs like ‘meth’ and ‘spice’ are some of the most obvious of our escapist fantasies. But as long as we live in a fantasy world, we won’t be working to change the real one. True happiness is found in a life lived with meaning. It’s not just that I can’t afford that car. We can’t afford it. We can’t afford to live in a world where our only aspiration is to accumulate wealth, regardless of how it’s accumulated – while ignoring the flourishing of the human spirit in its artistic, idealistic and intellectual aspects. The love of possessions is a sickness. People are losing their lives in the pursuit of wealth and possessions. They’re dying from gunshot wounds and heart attacks, in gang battles and in solitary hospital beds. And it’s getting worse. The symptoms are appearing, not just in ourselves, but in the planet we call home. If we don’t cure it soon, it could prove fatal for all of us.

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Reject materialism this holiday season, starting with black Friday

Please Join Me in Observing

Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday

 

 

Is there a tradition any more backward or disgusting practiced across America today than that of Black Friday? Hordes of consumers mob stores for frivolous deals on ridiculously overpriced “goods” like flat screen TVs, Playstations, Xboxes, the latest gadget from Apple, boatloads of useless trinkets of dubious quality made in China and other countries you may have never heard of, or clothes manufactured by Chinese, Southeast Asian or Central American children in dangerous sweatshops. The top 1% of America’s wealthy have exported our jobs to the third world for pennies on the dollar, and they’re laughing at the rest of us as more and more formerly middle class Americans wind up homeless and with no job prospects.

 

 

We’re in an insanely messed up place politically and environmentally. Multinational corporations and financial firms pretty much own the US government, they control Wall Street, they set the retail price people pay for anything from groceries to cars, and they are making real sure that nobody from the bottom 99% – which is us – gets their hands on any of “their” money. The use of fossil fuels is rapidly ruining our one and only planet Earth, while the development of clean-burning power plants, cars and trucks that run on electric or natural gas power, and alternative energy sources such as wind and solar, is being deliberately held back in its development by the same mega-oil companies that profit from fossil fuel use. As a result, global warming is not only a real and present danger, but it is rapidly accelerating. There is a plastic “raft” in the Pacific Ocean bigger than Texas – that’s how badly polluted the world’s oceans truly are. And as people we’re constantly being taken advantage of to make this situation last longer so that corporate profits and bonuses can climb even higher than they are now.

 

 

The strong link between these two things – our society’s consumerism and the terrible political, social, environmental, and economic situations we’re in – demands action. By buying things from these corporations and feeding into this model of an economy, we only encourage it while enriching only a select few at the expense of the many. So I’m asking you: please join me in buying nothing this Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

I can’t say it any better than this: this November 29th and 30th, I and many others like me are calling for a Wildcat General Strike. We’re asking tens of millions of people around the world to bring the capitalist consumption machine to a grinding – if only momentary – halt. I want you to not only stop buying for 48 hours, but to shut off your lights, televisions and other nonessential appliances. We want you to park your car, turn off your phones and log off of your computer for the day. We’re calling for a Day of Atonement-like fast. From sunrise to sunset we’ll abstain en masse, not only from holiday shopping, but from all the temptations of our materialistic lifestyles. Those who are healthy enough are encouraged to go on a 24-hour hunger strike on Black Friday as well.

 

 

You know what they say: a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. You feel that things are falling apart – the temperature rising, the oceans churning, the global economy heaving – why not do something? Take just one small step toward a more just and sustainable future. Make a pact with yourself: go on a consumer fast. Lock up your credit cards, put away your cash and opt out of the capitalist spectacle. It’s all rigged anyway, so why bother with it? Some people may find that it’s harder than they think, that the impulse to buy is more ingrained in us than you ever realized. But you will persist and you will transcend – perhaps reaching the kind of epiphany that can change the world.

 

 

Ideally, everyone will shut off their electricity for the day and just enjoy some time with their family or friends or both. If you can’t do that, at least refrain from the Black Friday madness. Don’t go to a store for some kind of deal. Don’t shop at the big box stores – in fact, don’t shop anywhere. Just take a break for one day. If you must use your electricity, then to avoid the barrage of advertisements we are exposed to constantly, don’t watch television. Stream videos from the Internet instead, there’s tons of free stuff you can watch. This is what I do instead of subscribing to cable TV, and it saves me nearly $100.00 per month just by doing this simple thing.

 

 

Some might criticize me for publicizing this idea during such tough economic times. “We need people to consume in order to drive the economy!” It is an established fact that 70% of America’s economy is dependent on consumer spending – retail sales of products and services. Since American wages continue to wither and dry up, this is obviously unsustainable. To that I say this: it’s not good if we need people to buy useless crap in order to maintain our economy. That needs to fundamentally change. And the only way towards fundamental change is to stop buying useless crap. So will you join me? Will you take the plunge and break the chord from your normal consumerist ways? Liberate yourself this holiday season!

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Happy anniversary to “the 99%” and Occupy wall st.

Happy Belated 2nd Anniversary, Occupy Wall Street

 

 

While I was rebuilding my computer and repairing my Internet connection these past few days, and as fall begins, I found myself reflecting on the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street and the fifth anniversary of the financial collapse induced by Wall Street and the mortgage industry. I was there for the first three days of Occupy DC at Freedom Plaza in October 2011, and again later that month for a day of Occupy Atlanta in Woodruff Park in the heart of downtown, and I have some fond memories of being part of something much bigger than myself or the sum of my experiences.

 

 

There are reasons to celebrate Occupy, as well as the loosely affiliated “We Are The 99%” Movement which is also still ongoing, despite continued economic stagnation and growing debt. The culture of resistance in the US is here, it’s having an effect, and it’s growing slowly but steadily. There are cracks in the pillars of power, they’re starting to get a little bigger, and it’s up to us to pry them the rest of the way open and shine the light on the lies and corruption that have been used to steal our future. I look back over the events of the past two years and feel cautiously optimistic, because I see a movement that is steadily building momentum. As we met at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, on Oct. 6th, 2011 there was a strong sense of suspense in the air. Some said that Americans weren’t feeling enough pain, that we hadn’t reached the tipping point. Similarly, the organizers of Occupy Wall Street acted out of anticipation. They staked out a place in the heart of the monster and held it. At first there were only a few hundred, but by holding that space courageously, more people were inspired to join them. Excitement and wonder were in the air. Could the people really take on Wall Street? Obviously Wall Street thought so because they ordered excessive and constant police protection. They must have seen something brewing because Wall Street firms had donated unprecedented millions to the NYPD over the previous year. It was police aggression towards peaceful protesters that grabbed public attention and sympathy. A few weeks after the start of Occupy Wall Street, an amazing 43 percent of Americans supported Occupy, a figure that remains largely undiminished to this day.

 

 

Two years later, the physical encampments are gone, but the Occupy Movement remains. Occupying public space was a tactic, not an end in itself. It was a way to make the issues visible, a place for people to gather, a model for a new way of doing things based on respect, mutual aid and democracy and a metaphor for claiming what has been taken. The ‘public’ is disappearing, not just public space but also public services, research and resources have been privatized, expropriated for the profits of a few. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, there was an expectation that the government would respond appropriately to stabilize the economy and that we simply had to weather the storm. What we saw instead were massive bailouts of the industry that caused the crash and greatly inadequate steps to secure jobs, housing and health care. This turned some already catastrophic financial crises caused by runaway private speculation into an immense source of private gain for the same very financiers responsible for the catastrophe to begin with. Even worse, it made those catastrophes so much more catastrophic than they really needed to be in the first place.

 

 

As a result of all this mess, we’re not heading toward greater income equality. We’re not building up the middle class or supporting unionization. We’re not eradicating poverty and hunger. We’re not expanding educational opportunity. We’re not rebuilding infrastructure. Nothing we’re doing looks anything like the society we built from the New Deal through the 1960s. We’re not doing any of the things that would lead to a more stable and just economy. In fact, we’re doing just the opposite, which means the billionaire bailout society will become even more firmly entrenched. This means that if left unchecked, the trends towards greater inequality and suffering will not only continue, it will accelerate as well. But the billionaire bailout society went too far. According to a Stanford study, “animosity toward the financial sector reached its highest level in 40 years in 2010” which probably fueled the Occupy and 99% Movements, and anger remains high. A majority of Americans believe that “not enough was done to prosecute the bankers.”

 

 

When drowning in so many crises it is sometimes hard to see above the surface of the water, but the anti-globalization movement and its offspring, the Occupy and “the 99%” Movements, are having an effect. Since 2000, the World Trade Organization has been unable to advance its agenda and 14 free trade agreements have been stopped by public pressure. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and its sister the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership known as TAFTA, are being negotiated in secret as a way to pursue the WTO agenda through the back door. A recent study found that the TPP will reduce wages for the bottom 90 percent of people in the US while significantly increasing the wealth of the top 1 percent. The AFL CIO passed a resolution opposing the TPP and Teamster President James Hoffa wrote, “Workers on both sides of the deal get screwed while corporations rake in record profits. Like low-wage workers in the fast food and retail industries, workers must join together to let Congress know that the TPP is not the right path for the U.S.” A broad coalition of groups have come together to stop the TPP. At the Occupy Wall Street protests recently in New York, the TPP was a top theme. In addition to marches and teach-ins focused on the TPP, the Money Wars street theater group performed its epic battle of Princess Laid-Off and the rebels against the TPP Death Star, Emperor Pipeline and Dark Banker. Actions are taking place this weekend and next week in Washington. If we are successful, this will be a huge victory against transnational corporate power.

 

 

There have been a number of wins recently against top corporations. The Nez Perce tribe and their allies took on General Electric and won a case to stop truckloads of tar sands from crossing their land in Idaho. Exxon was charged for illegally dumping toxic fracking waste in Pennsylvania. And JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon admitted that the bank broke the law. Another important win that is inspiring many in the US took place in Colombia where farmers went on a prolonged strike to win back the right to use their own seeds. The anti-Monsanto and anti-GMO movement is strong here. Thousands of people marched this week in Kauai for a law to protect themselves from pesticides. And, despite an outpouring of money, a vote to label GMO products in Washington State is still holding strong. And stopping the imminent attack on Syria was a win for people everywhere and a loss for the military industrial complex. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin in particular were set to make hundreds of millions from it. We must be vigilant though because the current diplomatic path could be used to justify an attack in the future.

 

 

It is important to recognize these wins and to build from them. It is also important to remember that we never know how close we are to achieving significant change. The occupy movement spawned the “idle no more”, workers’ rights and climate change movements. Our eyes are open and we can’t ignore what we now see; we know that it is the plutocratic system, not individual inadequacy that is causing poverty in America. We know that the $1 trillion given by the Federal Reserve to private banks could have created 20 million desperately-needed jobs. We know that the 400 richest people in the US have more wealth than the GDP of entire countries like Canada and Mexico. And we know the names of those who control the wealth and exploit people and the planet for it. We no longer expect “leaders” to create the change we need. We are all leaders and change depends on our actions and ours alone.

 

 

The culture of resistance necessary to create the kind of world we want to live in is here. Actions are taking place daily in the US and around the world. You won’t hear about most of them in the mass media. This week alone, more than one hundred women, most of them undocumented, were arrested in Washington, DC to protest the ways that immigration policies harm their families. Dairy workers in New York protested their abusive working conditions. Protesters in Vermont, ages 65 to 94, chained themselves to the entrance of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant to demand its immediate closure and Marylanders protested outside an ‘arms bazaar.’ The Cascadia Forest Defenders scaled the capitol building in Oregon to drop a huge banner to protest clear-cutting.

 

 

Resistance is not all protesting, it also includes building alternative systems to meet our basic needs. Many who are active in OWS have been hard at work at this since the physical occupation was shut down. This week the Occupy Money Cooperative announced its launch with a fund raising campaign. They will provide low-cost financial services to the millions of Americans who are unbanked and under-banked and who are preyed upon by banks, check cashing services and payday lenders. It will be an opportunity for all to opt-out of big finance. Just as OWS created the infrastructure that was used to organize Occupy Sandy and continues to provide services to those affected by Superstorm Sandy, occupiers in Colorado responded to the needs of people in the Boulder area who were hit by massive flooding.

 

 

Hard work is being done every day to take on entrenched corporate power and create a new world based on principles such as mutual aid, community, equity, solidarity and democracy. It is appropriate to stop and celebrate this work and what has been accomplished so far. Things are changing. Justin Wedes of OWS writes, “Sure, we face an uncertain future, but we embrace the chaos that defines our time. Because, there is no alternative but to challenge the status quo of ever-increasing debt, shrinking job opportunities and disappearing civil rights.” We can’t say what the outcome will be or whether we will live to see the world we hope to create. Can there even be an endpoint? Perhaps the most important piece of social transformation is not a goal but rather is the process of living in a way that is consistent with our values. We live in the culture of resistance which requires constant nurturing to bend the arc of time towards justice.

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Back by popular demand, and in honor of the striking restaurant workers, I offer “The Battle Cry of the American Worker”

The Battle Cry of the American Worker

(excerpt from, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” by Rev. Paul J. Bern)

When in the course of current events the constituency of the United States finds itself oppressed and hemmed in by that political body which governs us, and when the working people of this great country which I love so much finds itself with its backs against the wall due to circumstances and situations which are beyond our control, it naturally become the patriotic duty of every concerned American to stand up to and to oppose that which suppresses and restricts the God-given freedoms spelled out in our US Constitution, and to draw a line in the sand of civilization that guarantees the health, wealth and prosperity of us all. As peaceful and law-abiding citizens, we have been governed by the rule of law which is summarized in a document that working Americans continue to revere, none other than the Constitution of the United States, in keeping with the time-honored traditions passed down to us by our founding fathers. But lately our sacred Constitution has been bastardized and prostituted not only by those in power within the federal government, but more directly by the armies of corporate lobbyists who have invaded Washington and seized control of our executive, legislative and judicial branches of government for the sole express purpose of engineering a bloodless coup de etat that is being carried out not by bullets but by vast sums of money that are at once immoral, illegal, and a veritable avalanche of green and greedy corruption. The sole express purpose of this financial invasion is to forcibly liquidate the middle and working classes in this great country of ours. This is being done deliberately and with sinister calculation by the wealthiest Americans from Wall Street to a myriad of corporate boardrooms all across America, orchestrated by the unconstitutional Federal Reserve and its minions, for the sole express purpose of focusing and concentrating all available wealth into the kleptomaniac-like hands of the top 1% of wage earners and big business owners all across America. In fact, I further submit and assert that this is all being done at the expense of the US middle and working classes, the result of which is to force an ever-increasing number of working Americans from all walks of life into ever-increasing poverty.

With mass unemployment, a veritable storm of foreclosures, increasingly unaffordable healthcare, and with higher education rapidly becoming ever further out of reach for the US middle class and particularly for the poor, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the middle class and working people here in the good old USA finds themselves surrounded and besieged by an army of the usurpers of power in our country. As a direct result, more and more working Americans, the people who are the backbone of the US economy, are forced into moving in with friends, family members and strangers to stave off what would otherwise be a pandemic outbreak of homelessness and despair. And it’s all because people can’t find jobs.

In point of fact, the are now more college-educated people living in homeless shelters, under bridges or in their cars – if they are lucky enough to still own a vehicle – than at any other time since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. And that is a social injustice and a moral outrage. Indeed, the circumstances and situations that the middle and working classes in the US find themselves today are a series of gross social injustices that demands a sharply focused and well-coordinated responsefrom the entire populace, a rebuttal and decisive counterattack designed and intended to right, correct and re-balance US political power back into the hands of the overwhelming majority of American citizens to whom it rightfully belongs. There can be no doubt that class warfare has been declared in the US, perpetrated by the wealthy against the middle and working classes, for the sole express purpose of eliminating from society the constitutional majority of working Americans, with the end result being the complete and merciless liquidation of middle and working class wealth, general prosperity, and even our health. This has been accomplished by the largest transfer of wealth in all of human history, and it has been manifested in four different ways.

First, the employment of American workers has been decimated by closing down manufacturing facilities and shipping jobs overseas to the third world for pennies on the dollar. The result of this has been mass unemployment of many millions of American workers, and those jobs in the American manufacturing sector, which was once the world’s largest and whose direct result was victory in World War Two, are very likely to never return. One direct effect this has had is the gradual elimination of labor unions in this country, and the US labor movement is now on life support as a result. All the wages of the blue collar sector of the US economy are now redirected into the pockets of the top 1% of the American populace in terms of net wealth, not to mention the benefits and retirement pensions of these same people who made these corporations into the mega-companies that they are today.

Second, the retirement savings of the middle and working classes have been severely compromised or even liquidated altogether by the crooked and devious manipulations of Wall Street bankers, market speculators, hedge fund managers and corporate boards of directors who engineered the largest swindle in human history back in 2008. This criminal act resulted in the US government bailout known as TARP, an $850 billion bank robbery of the US Treasury conceived and carried out by the same Ponzi schemers who ran the US economy into the ground in the first place. The cost of this bailout has been put on the backs of the middle and working classes, their children and grandchildren, and has generated a federal government budget deficit that has exceeded $17 trillion dollars as I write this, a staggering sum that threatens to bankrupt the country and destroy the formerly good credit rating of the United States.

As a matter of fact, in only one generation our great country that I love so much has been transformed from the world’s greatest lender to its greatest borrower, with the majority of this debt being financed by China. One of these days China is going to get tired of lending us money and will at that point call in the debt, which America will likely not be able to repay, particularly if China refuses to accept US dollars as a form of repayment. If the value of the dollar were to collapse for any reason, that is exactly what would occur. I shudder to think of what would happen next, with China taking large chunks of American collateral to satisfy this crushing debt load. This could even lead to Chinese troops on our western shores in a worst case scenario. The final collapse of the US economy would inevitably follow, descending into another American civil war that will make the current conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Spain and Greece look like a day care center in comparison.

Third, the largest transfer of wealth in human history is being enforced by runaway prices for college and university tuition that are being deliberately engineered by wealthy elitists for the sole express purpose of putting higher education financially out of reach for an increasing majority of the American middle class. And those who do make it into colleges or universities are finding themselves buried under an overwhelming pile of student loans, some of which are so huge that they end up well into six figures, larger even than some home mortgages. These student debt loans are so enormous that an increasing number of graduates find themselves moving back in with their parents, or sharing living quarters with friends and acquaintances, when they finally do graduate. These same hard-working graduates are now increasingly finding that they can’t find suitable employment upon graduation, or are winding up in menial jobs that pay so poorly they can’t repay their student loans. This ruins their credit ratings, making it even harder for them to find employment. What good is a four-year degree if you wind up flipping hamburgers, selling shoes or digging ditches? Meanwhile, the best jobs, the best educations, and the best incomes are reserved for the wealthy and their families.

Fourth, the largest transfer of wealth in human history is being reinforced by a healthcare system that has become so expensive that over 54 million Americans can no longer afford health insurance. This has left an increasing percentage of working Americans one accident or catastrophic illness away from bankruptcy, and all without remedy. Worse still, the average cost of medical care for US senior citizens from the time they retire until their death is $250,000.00 as of 2012, the latest year for which these statistics are available. As more and more US workers find themselves unable to afford health coverage, an increasing number of people are putting off doctor and/or dental visits and not refilling needed prescriptions for purely financial reasons, and the physical and mental health of these hapless individuals slowly erodes away as a direct consequence.

There are tens of millions of formerly middle class people just like me all across the country who find themselves in similar circumstances to varying degrees of severity. Many have not been as fortunate as me. They have lost jobs or entire careers like I have, been forced out into the street due to the ongoing epidemic of foreclosures throughout America, had their cars repossessed leaving them with no way to get to work assuming that they are lucky enough to still have jobs, and are hounded by collection agencies for debts great and small. They have no access to health care except to show up at the local emergency room with no way to pay the bill, putting them even deeper into debt than they already are. They have watched their pensions and their retirement savings evaporate due to market manipulations by unscrupulous “financial managers” who earn obscene bonuses whether they succeed or fail, and all at the expense of their clients. Either that or they have spent their savings during interminably lengthy periods of unemployment after their jobs were downsized or out-sourced overseas to the third world, never to return again.

The same goes for the best health care, the nicest cars and boats and even airplanes, and the best retirement plans. All of this and more are systematically being procured by the top 1% income bracket at the expense of everybody else. It’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us, and the portions for the middle and working classes are getting ever smaller each day. There is no question whatsoever that class warfare has been declared by the rich, powerful and well-connected, and all at the expense of over 99% of the rest of America. I think it’s time to fight back, and that is why I began researching this in 2010. My books and this author are the new voice of protest and dissent in middle America. It is not right-wing nor is it from the left, but rather it is written from from the standpoint of middle America and from the vantage point of the oppressed multitudes who are crying out for relief and rescue from the perilous circumstances and life-threatening situations that working Americans from all walks of life find themselves in.

This book is a wailing civil defense siren ringing out across the land that I love. It is a warning buzzer on the basketball court of life signifying that a new middle class team of endless depth is now taking the court, sending the wealthy and powerful to the showers so that the stench of corruption can be washed from them because they so desperately need it. It is the national anthem of true American patriotism being played before the start of a baseball game signaling that the new expansion team from middle America is about to take the field. This book is an air raid siren sounding out across the land of the rich and powerful as a warning that the middle and working class counterattack is about to commence. (My latest book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, takes up where the first one left off and predicts mass civil unrest in America in the near future.)

No more will we stand and stare or sit and grumble about having our houses, jobs, cars, savings, health, higher education and our retirements forcibly taken away wholesale while an ever greater portion of American wealth is concentrated into the hands of a small minority of multimillionaires. It is time for the middle and working classes to put our collective foot down and say “no more”. The time has arrived for us to take back our country by any and all means possible. It is time for political power to be taken out of the hands of corporate America and their invading hordes of lobbyists and Wall Street bankers who would presume to take over our country by means of economic warfare, and to place it back into the hands of “we the people”, the true owners of this great country of ours. And we will do so knowing that history and our founding fathers are on our side, because they left us with a sacred document known as the Constitution of the United States that guarantees us that right. Our free speech and freedom of expression that are guaranteed under the First Amendment, as well as our right to keep and bear arms and to form militias that are guaranteed under the Second Amendment, will not be compromised or trampled upon. We will demonstrate in the streets, we will besiege government buildings, we will bombard our congressmen and women with phone calls and emails, we will form new political parties, we will organize and build labor unions and worker-owned businesses, we will blockade wealthy neighborhoods, we will organize peaceful public events and non-violent sit-ins, we will call general strikes and consumer boycotts, and we will not stop until the balance of power in this country undergoes a paradigm shift back into the hands of hard-working Americans, particularly those who want full time jobs and can’t find any.

We will fight from the highest mountains, from the lowest valleys, from the rooftops of buildings, we will fight in the cities and in the countryside, from the Jersey shore to the beaches of the west coast, and from the Canadian border down south to the border with Mexico. We will not stop until we get our country back, and we shall never surrender. If the abusive government authoritarians label us as domestic terrorists, which we most certainly are not, then we will “remind” them that we are freedom fighters and American patriots. We shall fight with non-violent civil disobedience, we shall – so far as it is possible – demonstrate and march peacefully throughout the land, until we get our country restored to us, the workers of America, to whom it rightfully belongs.

Let there be no mistake, America is past being overdue for mass civil disobedience, and it is ripe for outright revolution. If our First Amendment rights continue to be taken away, then we will fight back using our the Second Amendment rights instead. The conditions and circumstances in which the US middle and working classes find ourselves has become intolerable. President John Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful protest impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.

Personally, I am a very patient and thoughtful man. I work hard each day to be slow to speak and quick to listen because I know from experience that there is much wisdom to be derived from living my life this way. But by the same token, I am a Christian man whose patience is at its end. Just as surely as Jesus preached against the political and religious establishment of His day, in like manner I will do the same in the present day in order to emulate the man I regard as my personal Savior. So, if you truly care about the deteriorating state of our nation, if you are really concerned about the issues that we are faced with collectively as a people, and if you want to make a stand against social and economic injustice and inequality, you owe it to yourself to read these books. It is my sincere hope that, after reading it, you will be inspired to take decisive action against the rich and powerful who are slowly enslaving us all.

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The Priorities of Capitalism Has Us All Upside Down

We Need to Realize That a Good Life

Is More Important Than Money

 

The political and economic debate in the United States and Europe revolves around public financial deficits and how best to resolve them while ignoring the deficits that most endanger our future. In the United States, as Republican deficit hawks tell the story, “America is broke. We must cut government spending on social programs we cannot afford. And we must lower taxes on Wall Street so more money can grow the economy, create new jobs, increase total tax revenues, and eliminate the deficit.” Democrats respond, “Yes, we’re pretty broke, but the answer is to raise taxes on Wall Street looters to pay for government spending that primes the economic pump by putting people to work building critical infrastructure and performing essential public services. This puts money in people’s pockets to spend on private sector goods and services and is our best hope to grow the economy.” Both sides have it wrong on two key points.

 

 

First, both focus on growing America’s GDP while ignoring the reality that the benefits of GDP growth over the past several decades have gone almost exclusively to the top 1 percent – with dire consequences for the remaining 99% resulting in the worst epidemic of long-term unemployment and homelessness since the Great Depression. Second, both focus on financial deficits, which can be resolved with relative ease if we eliminate rampant waste in government domestically while bringing our troops home from overseas, where they are unwanted and unnecessary. To achieve the ideal of a world that secures health and prosperity for all people for generations to come, we must redefine the public debate about the choices we face as a nation and as a species. We must measure economic performance against the outcomes we really want, give life priority over money, and recognize that money is a means, not an end. The key point, which the deficit debates rarely address, is that one person or entity’s financial debt is another person or entity’s financial asset. We can only borrow money from each other. The idea that we borrow money from the future is an illusion.

 

 

From a societal perspective, total debts and assets are always in balance. Consequently, if we say that one person or entity has excessive financial debt, we in effect say that another has excessive financial assets. Reducing the financial debt of debtors necessarily requires reducing the financial assets of the creditors. In theory, we could instantly wipe away all financial debts through a universal forgiveness, a modern equivalent of the ancient institution of the Jubilee (see the Old Testament, specifically the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy). Simply put, all debts that have been accumulated over a seven year period were universally and unconditionally forgiven. This was the law of the land in the Old Testament, written by Moses and dictated by Almighty God. Every seventh year was regarded as a “Year of Jubilee”, and yet only Jewish people and the Seventh Day Adventists still celebrate this important feast. The ancients recognized the significance of such action to restore the balance essential to the healthy function of the human community. The deficit-hawks recoil in horror at the very mention of this while frantically reassuring us that we can reduce government debt while leaving the financial assets of the rich untouched. It makes perfect sense in the fantasy world of pure finance in which profits and the financial assets of the rich grow perpetually even as growing inequality and wasteful material consumption deplete the social capital of community and the natural capital of Earth’s biosphere. A viable human future, however, must be based on living world realities rather than financial world fantasies.

 

 

Any normally intelligent 12-year-old is fully capable of understanding the distinction between a living forest or fishery and a system of financial accounts that exists only as electronic traces on a computer hard drive. Unfortunately, this simple distinction seems to be beyond the comprehension of the economists, pundits, and politicians who frame the public debate on economic policy. By referring to financial assets as “capital” and treating them as if they had some intrinsic worth beyond their value as a token of exchange, they sustain the deception that Wall Street is creating wealth rather than manipulating the financial system to accumulate accounting claims against wealth it had no part in creating. Real capital assets have productive value in their own right and cannot be created with a computer key stroke. The most essential forms of real capital are social capital (the bonds of trust and caring essential to healthy community function) and biosystem capital (the living systems essential to Earth’s capacity to support life). We are depleting both with reckless abandon. Social capital is the foundation of our human capacity to innovate, produce, engage in cooperative problem solving, manage Earth’s available natural wealth to meet the needs of all, and live together in peace and shared prosperity. Social capital is depleted as individualistic greed becomes the prevailing moral standard and the governing institutions of society deprive all but a privileged minority of access to a secure and dignified means of living. Once it is depleted, social capital can take generations to restore.

 

 

Biosystem capital provides a continuing supply of breathable air, drinkable water, soils to grow our food, forests to produce our timber, oceans teeming with fish, grassland that feed our livestock, sun, wind, and geothermal to provide our energy, climate stability, and much else essential to human survival, health, and happiness. It is depleted when soils are degraded, when oceans are fished to the point where whole species are threatened with extinction, when rivers and lakes are polluted, forests cut down, aquifers contaminated and depleted, and climate stabilization systems disrupted. These natural systems can take thousands, even millions of years to restore. Species extinction is forever. According to the World Wildlife Federation’s 2012 Living Planet Report, at the current rate of consumption, “it is taking 1.5 years for the Earth to fully regenerate the renewable resources that people are using in a single year. Instead of living off the interest, we are eating into our natural capital.” Unlike with financial deficits, simple debt forgiveness is not an option. There are no Jubilee celebrations when we take everything from the earth and put back nothing. When we deplete Earth’s bio-capacity – its capacity to support life in its many varied forms – we are not borrowing from the future; we are stealing from the future. Even though it is the most serious of all human-caused deficits, it rarely receives mention in current political debates.

 

 

When we assess economic performance by growth in GDP and stock price indexes, we in effect manage the economy to make the most money for people who have the most money. This leads us to the fanciful belief that as a society we are getting richer. In fact, we are impoverishing both current and future generations by creating an unconscionable concentration of economic power, depriving billions of people of a secure and dignified means of living, and destroying the social and biosystem capital on which our real well-being depends. With proper care and respect, biosystem capital can provide essential services in perpetuity. The reckless devastation of productive lands and waters for a quick profit, a few temporary jobs, and a one-time energy fix from Earth’s non-renewable fossil energy resources represent truly stupid and morally reprehensible deficit spending. Evident current examples include the internal combustion engines in our cars and trucks and mountaintop removal coal mining. The fact that we thereby deepen human dependence on finite nonrenewable fossil energy reserves and accelerate climate disruption make such actions all the more stupid and immoral. Financial system logic, which rests on the illusion that money is wealth, tells us we are making intelligent choices. Living systems logic tells us our current choices are insane and a crime against future human generations and creation itself.

 

 

The economy of a just and sustainable society needs a proper system of money creation and allocation that supports the health and productive function of social and biosystem capital and allocates the sustainable generative output of both to optimize the long-term health and well-being of all. We have got to figure out a way to reward individuals with a system of financial credits in proportion to their actual productive contribution to living system health and prosperity. The current U.S. money system does exactly the opposite. It celebrates and rewards the destruction of living capital to grow the financial assets of Wall Street looters at the expense of Main Street producers—thus concentrating economic and political power in the hands of those most likely to abuse it for a short-term gain that is motivated by grossly excessive greed.

 

 

Wall Street operates as a criminal syndicate devoted to the theft of that to which it has no rightful claim. It then bribes politicians to shield the looters from taxes on their ill-gotten gains and to eliminate social programs that cushion the blow to those they have deprived of a secure and meaningful means of livelihood. This brings us back to the real source and consequence of excess financial debt. In the big picture, the Wall Street 1 percent has divided society into a looter class that controls access to money and a producer class forced into perpetual debt slavery – an ancient institution that has allowed the few to rule the many for thousands of years. The immense burden imposed on the 99 percent by public debt, consumer debt, mortgage debt, and student loan debt is the outcome of a Wall Street assault on justice and democracy, while maintaining a system of enforced inequality. The resulting desperation and loss of social trust account for the many current symptoms of social disintegration and decline in ethical standards. These include growth in family breakdown, suicide, forced migration, physical violence, crime, drug use, and prison populations.

 

I grew up in America during a time when we took pride in being a middle-class society without extremes of wealth and poverty. In part, we were living an illusion. Large concentrations of private wealth were intact and systemic discrimination excluded large segments of the population —particularly people of color – from participation in the general prosperity. The underlying concept that the good society is an equitable society, however, was and still is valid. And from the 1950s to the 1970s the middle class expanded. But not any more.

 

 

Extreme inequality as exemplified by Capitalism, is both a source and an indicator of serious institutional failure and social pathology. Economic and social inequality is detrimental to human physical and mental health and happiness – even for the very rich. Relatively equal societies are healthier on virtually every indicator of individual and social health and well-being. In highly unequal societies, the very rich are prone to seek affirmation of their personal worth through extravagant displays of excess. They easily lose sight of the true sources of human happiness, sacrifice authentic relationships, and deny their responsibility to the larger society at the expense of their essential humanity. At the other extreme, the desperate are prone to manipulation by political demagogues who offer oversimplified explanations and self-serving solutions that in the end further deepen their misery. Governing institutions lose legitimacy. Democracy becomes a charade. Moral standards decline. Civic responsibility gives way to extreme individualism and disregard for the rights and well-being of others. To achieve true prosperity, we must create economies grounded in a living systems logic that recognizes three fundamental truths:

 

  • The economy’s only valid purpose is to serve life.
  • Equality is foundational to healthy human communities and a healthy human relationship to Earth’s biosphere.
  • Money is a means, not an end.

 

 

Runaway public deficits are but one symptom of a profound system failure. They can easily be resolved by taxing the unearned spoils of the Wall Street looters, eliminating corporate subsidies, and by making offshore tax havens illegal, and cutting military expenditures on pointless wars that enrich only a few at the expense of the multitudes. They want to send your sons, daughters and grandchildren to fight their wars for them because it is allegedly the patriotic thing to do (but God forbid that they should ever send their own kids). Joblessness can easily be eliminated by putting the unemployed and underemployed to work meeting a vast range of unmet human needs from rebuilding and greening our physical infrastructure to providing essential human services, eliminating dependence on fossil fuels, and converting to systems of local organic food production. If the primary constraint is money, the Federal Reserve can be directed to create it and channel it to priority projects through a national infrastructure bank – a move that avoids enriching the bankers and does not create more debt. In addition, we must:

 

  1. Break up concentrations of unaccountable power.
  2. Shift the economic priority from making money to serving life by replacing financial indicators with living wealth indicators as the basis for evaluating economic performance.

  3. Eliminate extremes of wealth and poverty to create a true middle-class society.
  4. Build a culture of mutual trust and caring.
  5. Create a system of economic incentives that reward those who do productive work and penalize predatory financial speculation.

  6. Restructure the global economy into a planetary system of networked bioregional economies that share information and technology and organize to live within their respective environmental means.

 

 

Within a political debate defined by the logic of living systems, such measures are simple common sense. Within a political debate defined by conventional financial logic, however, they are easily dismissed as dangerous and illogical threats to progress and prosperity. So long as money frames the debate, money is the winner and life is the loser. To score a political victory for life, the debate must be re-framed around a narrative based on an understanding of the true sources of human well-being and happiness and a shift from money to life as the defining value. Wall Street interests would have us believe that the best way to save Earth’s biosystems is to put a price on them and sell them to wealthy global investors to manage for a private return. Rather than concede the underlying frame to Wall Street and debate the price and terms of the sale, indigenous leaders, the Occupy and 99% Movements, and environmental groups drew on the ancient wisdom of indigenous peoples to challenge the underlying frame. They declared that as the source of life, Earth’s living systems are sacred and beyond price. They issued a global call to recognize the rights of nature.

 

 

This debate highlights a foundational and inherent conflict between the rights of nature, human rights, property rights, and corporate rights. In current practice, based on the same financial logic that leads us to treat financial deficits as more important than social and environmental deficits, we give corporate rights precedence over the property rights of individuals. We give property rights precedence over the human rights of those without property. And we give human rights precedence over the rights of nature when it should be the other way around. To put it bluntly, America’s leadership and the financial elite who are running our country into the ground have their priorities backwards. Furthermore, we – the 99% – will continue to pay a terrible price so long as we allow the deeply flawed logic of pure finance to define our values and frame the political debate. Therefore it is up to us, the 99%, to get these priorities put back in the correct order. As of this writing, we Americans are still trying to do this peacefully. After all, the only remaining alternative is revolution, and I have been convinced for many years that this will be the ultimate outcome. What is currently happening in Syria, Egypt, Spain, Yemen, Bahrain and Greece will soon be coming to our shores. The Occupy and 99% Movements are but a precursor of things to come here in the US.

 

 

There is no magic bullet quick fix. We must re-frame the debate by bringing life values and living systems logic to the forefront and turning the prevailing rights hierarchy on its head. The rights of nature must come first, because without nature, humans do not exist. As living beings, our rights are derivative of and ultimately subordinate to the rights of Earth’s living systems. Human rights come, in turn, before property rights, because property rights are a human creation. They have no existence without humans and no purpose other than to serve the human and natural interest. Corporations are a form of property and any rights we may choose to grant to them are derivative of individual property rights and therefore properly subordinate to them.

 

 

The step to a prosperous human future and a balanced environment requires that we acknowledge life, not money, as our defining value, accept our responsibilities to and for one another and nature, and bring to the forefront of the debate the social and bio-system deficits that are the true threat to the human future. Replacing cultures and institutions that value money more than life with cultures and institutions that value life more than money is a daunting challenge. Fortunately, it is also an invigorating and hopeful challenge because it reconnects us with our true nature as living beings and offers a win-win alternative to the no-win status quo. The only two alternatives are revolution (when all other means are exhausted, and we are very close to that point now) or human extinction.

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Consumerism and Capitalism Exposed in 5 Minutes

This is America: Blind Consumerism

 

 

The psychopathology of consumerism: We have become programmed like robots to spend more than we can afford on things we don’t really need. Like sheep headed to the trimmers, we dutifully spend our meager incomes at the bidding of a myriad of shop-till- you-drop gimmicks while capitalism fleeces us all. The worst part is that the useless junk we buy doesn’t benefit the US economy, it benefits mainly China’s. Those who control America’s shadow government – the real movers and shakers from behind the scenes, not their puppets in Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court – have sold out our country to the opposing side and have thus committed treason. The reason most people don’t care about or won’t even consider this glaring reality is because they can “live so much cheaper” buying the very inexpensively made garbage that China has been dumping on our shores since the 1980’s. Cheaper at first, yes, but due to shoddy manufacturing and poor quality Chinese products are notoriously short-lived and invariably cheap imitations of much better quality merchandise that used to be made here in the US. And so we fight and claw for the thriftiest deal at the various suburban big box stores offering pathetically low wages and zero benefits to staff.

 

 

So, how much can we save on all these wonderful items? That depends on whether one can afford to pay cash while doing their shopping or not. If one uses plastic instead of paper, that person will end up paying far more in interest, fees and carrying charges than they would have for a comparable higher-ticket item at the finest store in town. How much can we save? Let’s ask some more pertinent questions and explore some far more evident realities about this issue. For example, what about the Chinese workers slaving in dangerous non union factories for 1-2 dollars a day? What does the company make off the deal? Who is actually winning? Is it really the mesmerized consumer teary and googly-eyed while giggling gleefully at 30, 40, and 50% off deals? Or could it be that the whole stinking thing is rigged from beginning to end? Of course it is, just look at what is being sold and calculate how much it costs to make it. If I look at a can of pork and beans on the grocery shelf and it’s priced at 75 cents, it doesn’t take a marketing genius to figure out that 75 cents is an outrageous markup. The cans are made by the thousands and cost just a couple of pennies each to manufacture in large quantities. The contents of the can usually cost as much or less, and ditto for the label. So we’re looking at 2 cents for the can, 2 more for the contents, and maybe an extra penny or two for the label. Add another penny as margin for error and we have 7 cents. Seven cents, and the retail price is 75 cents? So the gross profit is more than ten times the cost, or a markup in excess of 1,000%. Or consider a far more expensive item such as the latest I-phone. They sell for about $300-400 dollars plus tax, but there was a posting on the Internet just recently to the effect that it only costs Apple, Inc. about $120.00 to manufacture I-phones because they were being made in China, resulting in a 150-300% markup. So much for “God bless America”.

 

 

“Oh,” the politicians and talking heads say to us on TV, “it’s the American workers. They don’t want to work menial jobs like canning pork and beans. And we can’t assemble I-phones in America because its workers aren’t qualified.” Never mind that there are many thousands of recent college graduates who are living with their parents because they are unable to support themselves. There simply are no jobs for these poor young adults, and yet they are expected to repay predatory and exorbitant student loans. The careers for which they have been training have already been out-sourced to the third world during the last 4+ years that these hapless individuals have spent earning their degrees. They have all been robbed of their educations, which have been rendered worthless by the multinational corporations and the US military-industrial complex.

 

 

Yet we are expected to perform our patriotic duty as well as appropriately celebrate the “feast of capitalism” as we shop till we drop looking for that fantastic deal. We are in the process of being programmed to slave at multiple part time jobs working for minimum wages and with no health benefits while being expected to buy $300,000.00 houses, $70,000.00 cars and trucks plus big screen TV‘s. While all this is occurring, employees of corporations are lining the pockets of senators, congressmen and supreme-court justices in Washington D.C. while sitting on presidential cabinets making decisions regarding our planet’s future, our future, and our children’s future. Is it any wonder that the entire world seems to be coming unglued?

 

 

Meanwhile our consumerism is devouring the planet into what might soon become more lifeless than the moon or a Wall Street tycoon. Yet, mesmerized by commercials with intelligence levels less than a jackass after having a brain amputation, we roll blindly into the gates of the shopping centers turned shopping malls turned humongous big box stores. To share with you what brought out this little speech, consider the following release from the Associated Press.

 

 

“A shopper in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed her competition for an X-box and scuffles broke out elsewhere around the United States as bargain-hunters crowded malls and big-box stores in an earlier-than-usual start to the madness known as Black Friday. For the first time, chains such as Target, Best Buy and Kohl’s opened their doors before midnight on the most anticipated shopping day of the year. Toys R Us opened for the second straight year on Thanksgiving itself. And some shoppers arrived with sharp elbows. On Thanksgiving night, a Walmart in Los Angeles brought out a crate of discounted X-boxes, and as a crowd waited for the video game players to be unwrapped, a woman fired pepper spray at the other shoppers ‘in order to get an advantage,’ police said. Ten people suffered cuts and bruises in the chaos, and 10 others had minor injuries from the spray, authorities said. The woman got away in the confusion, and it was not immediately clear whether she got an X-box. On Friday morning, police said, two women were injured and a man was charged after a fight broke out at an upstate New York Walmart. And a man was arrested in a scuffle at a jewelry counter at a Walmart in Kissimmee, Fla. In the U.S., Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, has taken steps in recent years to control its Black Friday crowds following the 2008 death of one of its workers in a stampede of shoppers. This year, it staggered its door-buster deals instead of offering them all at once.”

— The Associated Press, Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2011

 

 Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles wrote in the song “Revolution”, “you say you want a revolution, well you know, we’d all love to change your head.” Yes, it is more than changing Wall Street or who resides in the White House. It is, ultimately, about changing ourselves. If we all really want some serious change, then change must start from within. Speak from your heart to your kids about consumerism and how it is affecting the planet as well as our behavior. Help them to understand that it’s not about how much we have, but rather how much we contribute. Life is not about how much we own or the value of our possessions, life is all about making a stand for good things like faith, mercy, kindness, and above all, love. Instead of buying your wife a new car and maybe going into debt, take her up on the highest place around where you live, or to some favorite romantic spot, and renew your vows to her. Instead of buying your husband a new bag of golf clubs, give him a night he will never forget. Enjoy each other and be loving to each other. To enjoy is to enjoin, to enjoin is to unite.

 

 

Consumerism and the vain pursuit of worldly goods keeps us isolated by gimmicks of sensationalist advertising of strikingly beautiful women, absolutely perfect children and gorgeous, flaming hunks of men that are created off the corporate mold. To put it simply, the corporate mold is a load of BS. And who is being molded in all these advertising gimmicks? You are! For what purpose? To make others rich at your expense. The blue chip corporations have a very good reason for doing all this. As long as they can keep us isolated, we can never be united. Don’t go there. Keep your money. Find richness in your heart, your spirit and your character and share that instead.

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We are the 99%, and we’re not going anywhere except for out in the streets

We Are The 99%: The Focus of Our Rage

I have given a lot of thought and engaged in plenty of research regarding the plight of “the 99%” of America’s population, and what should and should not be done to bring the top 1% in line with the rest of us. Having written two books about this topic, I will now attempt to spell out the basics of what we want, and why we 99%-‘ers are undertaking the various “Occupy” protests that are springing up all over the world. We all want basically the same things. We want all the legalized bribery out of politics. This can be accomplished by strict regulation of the lobbyist profession at the very least, but most likely we should consider outlawing the lobbyist profession as it currently operates. If Washington won’t do it then “we the people” will have to do it for them. We can accomplish this by, among other things, “occupying” K Street and the offices of the lobbyists, or by laying siege to their offices through human barricades (nobody comes and nobody goes), or other forms of nonviolent protest. Either take the rampant corruption out of our nation’s politics and fully prosecute those responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown on Wall Street and for creating the housing bubble just before they intentionally popped it, or else we may well be destroyed by Wall Street and their armies of lobbyists, shady co-conspirators and other henchmen, starting with the Federal Reserve and working our way down from there.

From my vantage point, and based on my own experiences, the least common denominator to everything that we are protesting, marching and occupying for can be boiled down to 2 things: the rights of workers and independent contractors, and the right to economic equality including the peaceful restoration of the American middle class to its former economic and social position in American society. Allow me to use the next few pages to explain exactly how we can go about accomplishing these goals in a manner that is legal, peaceful and orderly so we can set a good example for our nation’s kids and grand-kids. One very good way that we could go about accomplishing this is to emulate the peaceful and nonviolent tactics of Rev. Dr. King, Jr. that were utilized during the civil rights marches and protests of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In so doing, history will be on our side and victory against the top 1% will ultimately be ours.

Let me add one more thing before I get into this. You will notice as you read the rest of this essay/op-ed that there are a lot of ideas in here about how to restore America and its middle class, and how to re-balance the distribution of wealth in a peaceful and orderly manner for the mutual betterment of everyone. These ideas I am about to share are simple and practical solutions to some huge problems that America faces. You will also notice that these ideas can be easily implemented using our existing governmental framework and technology. It won’t be necessary to reinvent the wheel in order for America’s people to accomplish their goals for the perfection of our society, starting with a rescue of the poor and middle class.

The first and foremost issue of what we 99%-‘ers want should be the rights of all workers and independent contractors. We want a $12.00 per hour minimum wage combined with the abolition of the federal income tax and an end to the withholding of US income tax from our paychecks. This would give everyone who makes less than $108.000.00 per year a pay raise amounting to an average of 20% immediately, pumping billions of fresh dollars into the US economy that generates many millions in new tax revenue without raising any existing taxes. Full employment should become the new standard of the world, and that standard should be set by the USA.

The second issue I wish to mention is the right to higher education and/or vocational retraining at will and at nominal cost. This is what we should do for all the long-term unemployed, all the homeless who are healthy enough to work, all unemployed veterans, and for all newly released prisoners who are re-entering society. This is how we can end homelessness for good; simply give these people a trade. Every human being on the face of the earth has the unconditional right to a livelihood and to a living wage. Those unable to find work, or who are having difficulty locating suitable work, and those needing to learn new job skills in order to be self-sufficient have the basic human right to professional retraining without cost. Let our colleges and universities remain as they are, but let our public institutions of higher education consider becoming nonprofits so that higher education is unconditionally accessible to everyone. The days of exclusively for-profit educational institutions must come to an end, because I am convinced that it is immoral and mean-spirited to prevent another human being from being able to sustain themselves because some CEO or policy wonk somewhere thinks that retraining America’s workers would be “too expensive”, as if they are not worth the trouble. The best part about this as far as I am concerned is that America can easily afford this, and I will use the war in Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan as an illustration.

If the US government took all the money spent in one single day on the illegal occupation of Afghanistan and put it into a basic savings account, there would be enough money to put every school kid in America through 4 years of college fully paid for, including tuition, books, dorms, food, transportation and Internet access, plus a new desktop or laptop computer. Let me give you another example. If the US government took all the money spent in one single day on the war in Afghanistan and put it into a savings account, there would be enough money to put every homeless person or family in America – all 2 million of them as of 2012 – into a new 3,000 square foot home fully paid for, fully furnished, with the utilities turned on including Internet access (which the UN declared to be a basic human right as of 2011), and stocked with a years worth of groceries. This is what converting to a peacetime economy can do for America. And all on one day’s military expenditures. Then, send them back to school to teach them new trades so they can keep those houses forever.

There is one more important thing that I have yet to mention. The world is changing and developing so rapidly as scientific and technological advances are made that the job market has become very dynamic. As you know, the pace of this advancement is accelerating, resulting in different types of jobs coming and going rapidly in order to meet an ever-changing demand. Higher education, the US public school system and for-profit vocational schools will most definitely have to adjust their curriculum accordingly. You have probably noticed that some very traditional jobs are disappearing. Just ask anybody who used to be in the travel industry, or direct sales, or a factory worker, or a former computer repairman like I was for 23 years. When I went back and tried to get retraining I was told that my credit rating was not good enough to qualify for a student loan. Many of the courses taught in various vocational schools cost tens of thousands of dollars, and I was broke at the time (come to think about it, I still am, but I digress). So, I found myself shut out from any chance at changing careers. As I began to research this I found that it is actually quite commonplace in today’s dreary job market. Instead of going back to work like I wanted, I was forced into early retirement, and forced to depend on a government that I despise for my sustenance. I would much rather be self-sufficient, but never mind that. My government has already decided to throw me away because I’m allegedly too old (I’m in my mid-50’s as I write this), and therefore too expensive to keep around. Therefore I insist that this practice must come to an end, that higher education should be free for everybody, and that higher education is a basic human right. The days of a college education or vocational retraining being only for those who can afford the tuition (or who “qualify” for predatory and unethical student loans) must come to an end. Do you want to have a better educated country? Fine! Let everybody who wants to get educated – or reeducated – go back to school, and let the government and corporate America foot the bill. The funds are definitely available, as I wrote above.

Of course, I can hear my critics laughing already. Where, they will say, do we get the money to fund re-educating the whole country? We’re running a $14 trillion deficit as it is! You know what? You’re absolutely right, we do have a seemingly insurmountable federal deficit. How do we tackle both problems together? By creating new taxpayers who have found new careers and gotten their incomes restarted, and there is ample precedent for this very thing. At the end of World War 2, there were about 600,000 former GI’s who had just returned from the European and Pacific theaters in the wars against Germany and Japan. Many of them didn’t have any marketable job skills, so Congress passed the GI Bill and put all those soldiers through 4 years of college. It paid off handsomely, paving the way for the record economic expansion of the 1960’s. Well, if they could do that in the 1940’s, why can’t they do it in 2013? The answer is that the system most certainly can, and we of the Occupy and 99% Movements must count reeducation as one of the things that we occupy and protest for. Either employ us or retrain us, and we’re not leaving until we get what we want.

One final thing about the basic right to higher education. According to data I obtained from the US Department of Labor, and some additional information I obtained from “CareerBuilder.com”, the average student graduate from college today will have to change careers anywhere from 5 to 8 times during the course of their lifetime of employment. So, by today’s standards, and assuming career changes involve getting 2-year degrees, somebody going back to school a total of 8 times multiplied by the average cost of obtaining each of those degrees – roughly $30,000.00 times as much as eight – could be as much as a quarter of a million dollars, plus interest. Do our colleges and universities seriously believe that people will be willing to go into that much debt from student loans in their lifetimes, just so they can remain employable? How ridiculous! The cost of tuition for higher education in the early 21st century has reached a level that is so unreasonable that getting a degree has become financially out of reach for all but the top few percent. Excluding the overwhelming majority of all others for purely financial reasons is a social injustice and a human rights violation if there ever was one. We must start demanding our right to higher education as part of our goals. And so we will continue to “occupy” and protest peacefully until we get what we want. We are the 99%!

The third fundamental human right that I want to write about is to be free from poverty and hunger, with an equal chance at prosperity, in a clean and peaceful environment. How do we do all that? We clean up the environment that we already have, and for that you will need lots of people. That brings me to the topic of a huge public works program that this country urgently needs, and this is part of the solution that I see. Therefore, this is indeed another basic human right. This is something that should already have been done at the Presidential level, but unfortunately it is not as of yet. We need massive protests and demonstrations, and a major effort through the social media to get this passed into law. My proposed solution is that all the long-term unemployed people plus all the others I mentioned above be put to work in this new series of public works projects. Some will be doing environmental cleanup, others will assist with bridge and highway repairs, and still others will be repairing sewers and sidewalks. The homeless will be put to work revitalizing abandoned homes left over from the “great foreclosure robbery” (as I called it in my first book). When they are finished with the first home, they can go live in it as they begin repairs on others. We do have the capacity to have full employment at a living wage, and to end homelessness while ending the foreclosure crisis. This is one way to accomplish just that. I encourage anyone having additional ideas to publish them as I have, and the more input the better. And what about all the households where both parents work, or single-parent households? Who is going to watch all those kids? I think we should have on-site daycare available for everybody free of charge. It would be yet another way to create jobs with a starting wage of $12.00 an hour, income tax free.

The fourth fundamental human right, and another way to articulate what we want, is to address the problem of health insurance and its ridiculous cost, pricing 54 million Americans out of the health insurance market and forcing many of us to rely on the local emergency room for medical treatment. It is a fact that every developed country in the world has national health insurance except for the United States. From Europe to Canada to Japan, getting sick is never a problem unless the illness is terminal. Not so in the USA, where health care is on a for-profit basis, and we are the only country in the developed world where this is so. We have the highest cost for health care and the most expensive prescription drugs of any country in the world by far. In other words, good health care in this country is only for those who can afford it. The rest of us are left stranded on the side of the road to health and wellness and without remedy, eventually to die, and well before our time. Speaking as an Internet pastor, I find the idea of denying healthcare to nearly a fourth of the US population (about half of whom are children) just because they can’t pay for it to be immoral, unjustifiable, and utterly barbaric.

So what is the solution to this pressing problem? One thing is for sure, every human being on the face of the earth has the unconditional right to good health care. It’s as basic as access to clean water (another area where mankind has some work to do). I strongly maintain that it should be a crime for any patient to die because they lacked access to treatment due to having no money or health insurance. There is simply no excuse for that to be happening in the richest country in the world, and I for one am ashamed that it is occurring, and I doubt that I am the only one who has this opinion. Also, people with preexisting conditions or who are beset with a catastrophic illness should always have unconditional access to health care. One possible way to do this would be to change the health care industry in the US from for-profit entities to nonprofits.

Anyone seeking treatment for substance abuse or mental illness, or who are in need of any organ transplants, or kidney dialysis, cancer treatment, or any other serious illness requiring constant monitoring or ongoing therapy, must be able to get treatment without financial qualification. This is not a privilege of the well off, it is a basic human right. It is pointless and very expensive to prosecute and incarcerate nonviolent drug users. They don’t need jail, they need treatment.

The question remains then: How do we get caught up with the rest of the developed world when it comes to universal health care? Also, how do we do this within the framework of the existing US health care system(s) in order to conserve on start-up costs and minimize overhead? The plan I propose is simple: Take all currently available medical care in all its forms and put it under one umbrella, so to speak. Merge private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, government health insurance for civilian employees at the state and federal levels, the military and Congress’ (including the President’s) healthcare plans, plus the entire Veterans Administration hospital system into one single-payer system so that no one is left out. Next, streamline the new universal single-payer health care system by eliminating all the duplicate departments, and by making it an online, Internet-based and paperless system utilizing leading edge information technology in order to lower operating costs and cut way down on paperwork. And third, once this new online system gets rolled out and becomes available to everyone, we’ll simply eliminate Medicaid – by putting everybody in the entire country on Medicare, and all persons will have unconditional access to the same level of care, from the President down to the dishwasher at your favorite restaurant. And now, before I move on, let me point out another equally big advantage to having a universal healthcare system such as this.

Having the government take over the administration of healthcare for the entire country is a solution that is long overdue. Don’t worry about what might happen to the existing insurance industry, it isn’t going anywhere and I will explain why in the next paragraph. Allowing a hypothetical universal healthcare system to work in this manner (and so-called Obamacare comes up way short) would take the burden of providing health insurance for its employees off the backs of businesses, substantially enhancing the profit margins of all US companies both great and small. This will give the American economy – together with US businesses – a far greater financial shot in the arm than any government tax cut could ever hope to. In the process, making US medical care into a series of nonprofit entities will bring American health and wellness up to 21st century speed with comparatively nominal operating costs.

So what happens to the existing insurance industry? These very companies will be the ones who will administer this new digitized healthcare system. They will do so by way of a competitive bidding process to ensure that costs are kept under control, effectively farming out the day-to-day operations of the healthcare program. The companies with the lowest bids will get the contracts, which will be brought up for renewal periodically – say, every 5 years. Running the new universal healthcare system this way will ensure that only the best insurance companies will be administering the program, and that the marginal or substandard insurance companies be ultimately either forced to improve or go out of business.

The fourth and final main thing I want to write a couple of paragraphs about is that of economic inequality, or what I call in my first book “enforced inequality”. Class warfare has been declared by the top 1% against the rest of us, meaning the 99% who are losing our jobs, our homes, our cars, our savings and eventually our health as the enforced liquidation of the US middle and working classes continues. What is needed is a peaceful and orderly redistribution of wealth that is done in a non-violent manner. So how do we accomplish this? I have a couple of ideas, but the first step for America would be to enact an all-new tax system, abolishing the federal income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax. This proposed new tax system will be a 2-tiered system, with the national sales tax – or consumption tax – set at 9% (excluding groceries, fuel, utilities, wholesale goods, raw materials, and all government entities). Why 9%, you ask? Well, according to some data that I obtained from the IRS, as well as from the alternative media, the average personal income tax rate in 2011 was roughly 18%, so I am proposing cutting that rate in half. The second tier of this proposed new tax system will be what I call an “excess wealth tax” for the mega-rich, and for any financial transactions that are over a certain limit. For individuals, there is no income tax on the first $1 million, but anything above that gets taxed at a rate of 50%. So, a wealthy household or individual who made $25 million last year would pay no tax on the first $1 million, but they would pay $12 million on the remaining $24 million. For businesses, the proposed consumption tax rate is noticeably more generous, with the first $700 million tax free, and a tax rate of one-third on anything over and above that. So, a company that made $1 billion dollars the previous year would pay no tax on the first $700 million, but they would pay $100 million on the remaining $300 million. On the other hand, a multinational corporation that had $300,000,000.00 in gross proceeds in a given year would also pay a rate of one third, so their tax rate would be $100,100,000.00, or $1.001 billion. As a result, all itemized deductions would come to an end. Ditto for the estate tax and capital gains tax, both of which would be replaced by my proposed Excess Wealth tax. The alternative minimum tax and self-employment tax would also be phased out, replaced by the national sales tax. And the motivation under the current unfair system to stash trillions in profits in overseas bank accounts would become a moot point, generating still more revenue while cutting the tax rate as it stands today.

Under this plan, there is ample incentive for the rich and big business to get enthused about my idea. First, the necessity of providing group health care would go away for US businesses (due to my proposed Medicare-for-all system), followed by the repeal of the income tax. All the money being spent on income taxes and group insurance could be put back into these businesses, making them more competitive than ever before. In fact, I would estimate that such a move by the federal government would go a long way toward making America very competitive in the global economy because the costs associated with operating a business will drop so drastically due to the elimination of these two expenses. And second, the “excess wealth tax” that I just proposed would still provide sufficient funding for costly government institutions like the military and the space program, not to mention the cost of public reeducation and the public works projects I mentioned previously.

Another way to redistribute wealth is by converting unwanted or surplus housing and commercial or office structures into residences, live-work-play developments, green or urban garden space, or new worker-owned businesses such as cooperatives. One of the things that can and should be done with my proposed national public works program is to get rid of all the empty, boarded-up houses that have been abandoned to foreclosure and neglect. Put all the homeless and jobless to work remodeling this otherwise worthless real estate. There are millions of unemployed construction workers who would love to get a chance to do something like this, so why not let them (especially if they have families)? And when they are finished rebuilding them, let them live in them and so revitalize America. Reward them by turning them into homeowners. This is how we can end unemployment and homelessness while turning around the US foreclosure crisis. We can do the same with healthcare and with higher education. Make them both available to everyone unconditionally as a way to enforce economic equality and social parity. This is how we can redistribute American wealth in a peaceful and nonviolent manner, and in so doing set a good example for our kids and grand-kids. The days of making good healthcare and higher education available for only those who can afford it must come to an end. That is unfair, discriminatory, it is a social injustice and therefore a civil rights violation of the worst magnitude. To tell anyone that they can’t stay well, or that they can’t improve themselves because they have insufficient funds with which to pay, should be a crime.

In closing, everybody needs to have an income and a livelihood. It is cruel and mean-spirited to tell anyone that they are not needed nor wanted, or that they can’t be hired because there is allegedly no money to pay them while corporate America sits on trillions of dollars in excess cash. If unemployment is brought to an end using the methods and ideas that I have written about, poverty, hunger and crime will be brought to an end as well – not in a matter of decades, but rather just a couple of years, or the time that it takes them to finish their (free) education. We already have the means to do this, so it would be irresponsible and immoral for us not to act. However, some will say yes, but employed at what? I’ve been looking for a job for years and I haven’t found squat. I have found this to be particularly true among older workers, minorities and people of color.

Brothers and sisters, this is not your fault. Your government, together with some of this country’s most well-known institutions such as the US public school system and the multinational corporations, have let you down. All the jobs that could be outsourced overseas were sent away, never to return. The ones that couldn’t be outsourced were mostly downsized out of existence, ending millions of careers prematurely. It is for these reasons that we are now protesting in the streets and occupying America in New York, Boston, Washington, DC and Atlanta, among others. Because the truth of the matter is that since these jobs aren’t coming back, we as a country should be making new ones, and this should have started decades ago. We have a lot of catching up to do in the area of job creation. The good news is that there are new industries currently being born that can replace all those lost jobs that I wrote about. Green industries like solar power, windmill power generators, the construction of a low-voltage national electrical grid and of fusion reactors, not to mention biotechnology, stem cell research, nanotechnology, robotics, seashore desalination plants for an endless supply of clean water, and a greatly expanded and revitalized space industry are the new growth industries of the 21st century.

Seriously, people! We first landed on the moon in 1969, took our last trip there in 1972, after which our country’s “leadership” mysteriously gave up and quit. This was alleged at the time to be due to insufficient funding, but if the US hadn’t been involved with the war in Vietnam, America could easily have afforded to continue NASA’s Apollo program. The immoral and strategically questionable occupations or wars in Iraq and Afghanistan today are preventing our country from returning to space in much the same way as Vietnam did. It’s all a matter of the proper allocation of resources. So when do we start a grassroots campaign to stop the wars overseas so we can fund our needs at home? How much longer are we going to delay? How about starting today?

Once that serious matter is taken care of, the next step will be for us to decide how to allocate all the money the country will save by ending the wars overseas and bringing our troops home. All right, check this out. We are supposed to be in the space business already! Hello! Instead, we debate among ourselves whether or not women should have abortions, or whether gay marriage is acceptable or not. Speaking as an independent Internet preacher of the more radical kind, if we are serious about wanting to lead good lives and to be productive contributors towards the common good, then we need to be creating jobs and helping to rebuild people’s lives. We need to be helping people regain their sustenance and self-sufficiency. I also am appalled that the mainstream church is so against abortion while being in favor of the death penalty and of waging war. I am equally appalled at the mainstream denominations for their condemnation of gay marriage while the divorce rates for evangelicals are about the same as for the secular world. These are glaring contradictions to their faith, to say the least.

OK, so here’s how we fix our public schools and accelerate the start-up of all these new 21st century businesses, all at the same time. First, government and business should get together and find a way to give large grants to these fledgling companies that are already started up in one form or another. They need start-up capital, and they’re not going to find it at the bank branch down the street. Government can and must step in. Our only alternative is to become a second-rate country, a has-been of military and economic power. The other thing that needs to be done is to start training future astronauts now. Update public school curriculum, and put it on-line. Turn the public schools into an Internet-based system that is paperless and that doesn’t need to buy expensive textbooks every year (save the trees!). Then, start teaching the kids skills that they will need for a technology-based world and a digital workplace, with an emphasis on science and math. Start teaching them to be astronauts when they’re 12 years old, because by the time they graduate from college there will be thousands of astronauts needed, not just a select lucky few like today. I can easily explain this.

At the peak of the US space shuttle program, NASA was launching about three missions per year. Having just witnessed the birth of the privatization of space by the recent docking of the first commercial space flights to the International Space Station, I can tell you that by the end of this decade there will be about three launches per week instead of per year. Ten years after that in 2030 there could easily be more than 3 launches per day, and so on. The time to begin getting ready for our space-faring future is now. Then do the same with the adults. Retrain everybody who can’t find work, or who are in need of a career change, and pick up the tab just like the GI Bill. Performing this service for America’s workforce will literally lift them all up to the next level and make it much more competitive. I have heard people complain over and over again that “we can’t compete” with some dude in China who does the same job we do for $2.00 a day. What America needs is new careers to replace those that have been eliminated. We not only have the capacity to do this already, we are way behind and we have some catching up to do. But we are Americans. We can and will succeed if only we will unite together in this effort. Let’s all get started today.

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Money is the Problem, Not the Solution

What If We Didn’t Need Money?

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

(excerpt from “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome“)

What are these law enforcement folks protecting to begin with? The assets, infrastructure and personal privacy and security of the top 1%, that’s what! The problem with that is the top 1% regard everything in sight as theirs, as if all the people in the lower income brackets – the other 99% – didn’t deserve one stinking thing. In short, its all a game of acquiring the most stuff, the biggest collection of material goods of one kind or another, the fastest or most luxurious car, the most powerful truck and the biggest house. And for what? If one of us should die tomorrow, he or she can take absolutely none of it with them. As Rev. Billy Graham used to preach, “nobody ever saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it”. It’s all temporary, left behind when we are dead and gone, as all of us eventually will be, including me. It’s what we leave behind that counts. Maybe we should ask ourselves – if you haven’t done so already – what kind of legacy do we want to leave? Not someone who did great things in the sight of others or who made a great fortune, but someone who took care of the needs of the people on a case by case basis. Not someone who is lauded with praise by men and women, but one who seeks the praise and approval of Almighty God as I and others like me do. I love giving some homeless guy a couple of dollars, paying an elderly widow’s electric bill to keep it from being turned off, donating a used computer to an inner city school kid who needs one, and never mind their skin color either. Performing volunteer work, giving generously to your church (it doesn’t have to be financial aid, there are many ways to help), sponsoring a hungry kid overseas, or adopting one here at home are the things people remember about us after we have passed, and so will God. We are to be leaving behind the things that people remember about us long after we are gone, and they must be positive things that build people up, not negative things that tear us down. We are to be contributors, being sure to give wherever possible and not living just to see how much we can earn, or even take. Takers are losers who leave holes in time.

What if we didn’t need money at all? What if we had an alternative way to buy things without using traditional cash, checks or plastic? What if we didn’t have to work at all, or maybe not nearly as much? Using profit as a mechanism for the control of liquid assets by and for the top 1% when the overwhelming majority of Americans have no access to those assets is obviously an economic barrier that keeps the remaining 99% of us in a bare subsistence mode that is clearly unethical and discriminatory and therefore illegal. Eliminating the need for money instantly wipes out poverty while putting the 99% in a favorable position to have all their basic needs met (never mind all the fancy BS stuff, just the basics of life). The replacement of money, and of the work that is necessary in order to earn it, are already being accomplished by computers and robots.

Technology has eliminated jobs across the board on an alarming scale – from secretarial positions to auto workers. The resulting crisis is compounded by our culture’s deep denial of the basic problem. I’m old enough to remember the ’60s and ’70s when so many pundits described the coming glories of the “cybernetic age.” Then computers would at last liberate us, they promised, from the drudgery of 9-5 jobs. Back then the worry was, what would we do with all that leisure time? Leisure time has proven frustratingly elusive. Instead, most of us are working harder than ever as our employing firms “downsize.” Alternatively, we’re pounding the pavement looking for non-existent jobs to replace those that have been “outsourced” to Asia somewhere. Additionally, so many of the “jobs” available to the more recently laid off labor force are extremely low-paying to a humiliating degree (such as the current and pathetic minimum wage of $7.25 hourly). In the end, they are nothing more than useless make-work projects that are not only completely unnecessary, but positively destructive. Things like weapons manufacturing, the military itself, the advertising industry and telemarketers, insurance companies, fast food, and (above all!) Wall Street jobs connected with financial speculation. None of these occupations are truly productive. And naming them as I have represents only the tip of the iceberg.

Still other jobs can easily be eliminated by technology. Think of what happened to Encyclopedia Britannica that didn’t see Wikipedia coming. Think of the music industry recently involuntarily “downsized” by file sharing. And what about newspapers, currently in crisis because of alternative media websites like Alternet, Op-ed News, Infowars, Truthdig and Information Clearing House, among others? Similarly Web-based education (sometimes called “distance learning”) is having its own impact on higher education as brick-and-mortar campuses find themselves headed for financial oblivion. Even the oil industry is sun setting. Imagine what that means for an entire economy and lifestyle absolutely dependent on oil. Here I’m not just referring to “Peak Oil Consumption” or to “Peak Oil” itself. New technology will soon turn every building into an energy power plant. Surplus energy will be stored in hydrogen cells. And the energy produced will be shared person-to-person across a “smart grid”. Think of the jobs that will be eliminated as a result – including those required by the energy wars that will be rendered superfluous. We are kept from discussing it only because our “drill, baby, drill” politicians have their heads so firmly stuck in the tar sands. Consequently, the U.S. economy is being left in the dust.

There is an enormous amount of productive work crying out to be done across our country. The U.S. infrastructure is crumbling at an alarming rate. Green technologies in general, particularly the “smart grid”, high speed rail and public transportation are the most obvious needs. The number of potential jobs connected with them is in the millions. But there are not nearly enough green jobs to replace the ones that have been eliminated by technology and those that should be discarded because they are unsustainable, environmentally destructive and morally deficient.

So what should be done about all of this? Share the work! None of us has to work that hard unless we want to. Thanks to new technologies we could work four-hour days or three-day weeks, or for only six months a year, or every other year and still make a living wage. We could retire at 40. And this is possible world-wide. And how to pay for all of this? For starters, cut back the military budget 60%. That alone would make available more than a billion dollars every day just in the U.S. Tax the rich and the corporations – those who make up the “1%” that has ripped off the U.S. working class on an unprecedented scale over the last 30 years and more. (Remember the 91% top-level tax bracket that was in place following World War II. We could reinstate that!) Share the wealth. Boldly restructure the economy. Embrace new technology’s promise along with the life of leisure that it offers. It is all now within our grasp. Since the government is unwilling or incapable of the restructuring I am calling for, it is up to us, “we the people”, to get the job done ourselves. Worker-owned co-ops and factories, little 1 or 2 person micro-businesses, and non-profits would make up the greater part of the business world of tomorrow.

 

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Happy Anniversary, Occupy Wall Street!

How “Occupy” Is Evolving

(excerpt from, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, by Paul J. Bern)

There can be no doubt that working Americans from all kinds of backgrounds are becoming increasingly desperate about their economic situations and their future prospects. Is it any wonder that this is happening? Everywhere we look we see jobs disappearing by the millions, homes being stolen right out from under the owners through fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices, pension and retirement funds being wiped out by highly speculative investments of dubious origin by compulsive gamblers posing as financial advisers and stockbrokers, and the hijacking of our democracy through corporate “campaign donations” and “lobbying fees” that are little more than legalized bribery. Most alarming of all for the overwhelming majority of us is the increasing lack of access to preventative health care and to higher education. I experienced this myself a number of years ago when I wanted to change careers, only to be told that I couldn’t get a student loan because my credit score was too low. If I wanted to go back to school and learn a new trade, they said, I would have to pay the tuition out of pocket. Since I was working as a temp at the time there was no way for me to come up with the tuition to pay for my retraining, and so I remained stuck in my situation, unable to improve myself even though I very much wanted to do so. What I have since learned is that what I went through when I tried to change careers to alleviate long-term unemployment is very commonplace, especially for older workers. By now, multitudes of unemployed Americans who want retraining can’t get it for the same reasons that held me back, and nearly everybody else has figured out that they too are stuck as far as their professional lives are concerned. Like myself, they are furious at being backed into a corner by the system, and they’re looking for ways to fight their way out of that corner.

To sum up our situation as America’s work force, we’re mad as hell – livid, actually – and we have collectively decided to take back from the top 1% what they took from us since what was taken was ours to begin with. As things stand today, the elites who comprise the top 1%, and particularly the top tenth of a percent, are in very serious trouble indeed. From a political and social standpoint, I vigorously maintain that time has run out for the reign of the rich and powerful. Even now the elites continue to puzzle over what people want. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda? The goal can be articulated in one word – rebellion. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the plutarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back as best as it can be peacefully accomplished.

This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and full throttle capitalism are natural law which is some kind of permanent and eternal state of being that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that our rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until ownership of entire corporations is transferred from the stockholders and boards of directors directly to the workers where it belongs. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our “black sites”. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt for life just to obtain higher education, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in serious trouble. That’s also why the reason for existence of the entire capitalist, debt-based economy is now falling into question. And that is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening.

The occupation of Wall Street, and the Occupy encampments elsewhere such as at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. in which I took part, has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. Even though the police have shut down the encampments in New York and elsewhere, the power elite will still lose their grip on society because this vision and structure have been imprinted into the minds of thousands of protesters. The greatest gift the “occupation” has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint has now been transferred to cities, parks and families facing foreclosure across the country.

The tactic of physical occupation in the case of Occupy Wall Street has been enormously successful already. We have, at least for a moment, proven that we can and will bring enormous public pressure on the top 1% in the form of these movements. We are significantly better positioned than before to make bold demands, as we can now credibly claim that our values are popular – even that they are common sense – and connected to a social base. “Occupy Wall Street” is the tactic that has launched a movement for social justice and real democracy onto center stage. It has served as the initial catalyzing symbol for what undoubtedly will become a rejuvenated civil rights movement. Hopefully ten years from now, when we look back at all we’ve accomplished together, Occupy Wall Street will be considered a critical moment that helped to spark and then build a lasting movement. “We are the 99%” has become a core message of this burgeoning movement. It emerged in tandem with the deployment of the captivating tactic of occupation. The framework of the 99% accomplishes a number of important feats:

[1] The 99% frames the consolidation of wealth and political power in our society – the central grievance of this movement and a central crisis of our times.

[2] The 99% frames a class struggle in a way that puts the 1% on the defensive, whereas the common accusation of “class warfare” has somehow tended to put a lot of people in the middle on the defensive.

[3] The 99% casts an extraordinarily broad net for those invited to join the movement. Most everyone is encouraged to see their hopes and dreams tied to a much bigger public issue. Thus it frames a nearly limitless growth trajectory for the movement.

[4] The 99% even leaves room for the 1% to redeem itself. There are many striking cases of “1%-‘ers” speaking out as defectors – such as former or current military and law enforcement personnel – who are as vocal as anyone that the system is broken and in dire need of replacement.

 

The 99% meme is a real winner. It points the way toward a necessary expansion that is ongoing as I write this. It encourages us to not just act on behalf of, but alongside of, the 99%; to look beyond the forces already in motion, to activate potential energy, to articulate a moral political narrative, and to build up and strengthen our culture. The Wall Street protests must grow and spread across this country because they are the only realistic hope for change remaining for the 99% of Americans falling behind in this permanently broken economy. Sad to say, but democracy in the land of the free and home of the brave simply no longer works as it is currently being administered. Big corporations and the wealthy have hijacked the political system for decades now with their hefty donations to political campaigns and other pet projects. Their contributions guarantee that bought-off politicians pass laws and tax breaks to their benefit. It is no secret, everyone is aware of how the system works, and it must be called for what it is: legalized bribery.

With traditional democratic political methods useless, what recourse do ordinary Americans have left? We are now witnessing the only real avenue left: ordinary citizens taking to the streets and demanding change to the rigged political and economic systems that leaves 99% of us behind. It is only a start, but a vital one. Every day more people are awakening to the stark realization that the political and economic system in this country is stacked against them and getting worse. During the Vietnam era, because they were directly affected, young people took to the streets to protest the war. America’s young males were subject to a draft, and the prospect of being shipped off to die in a war they didn’t believe in angered them a great deal. And so the war planners wised up and did away with the draft, but look at what has replaced it. America now has perpetual wars for oil, using a “volunteer” military, many of whom have enlisted due to lack of other economic opportunities. Seemingly unaffected by post-Vietnam wars, students and other young people have been politically inactive since the early 1970s.

But that has come to an end, and I think it’s about friggin’ time, too. Young people are finding few jobs awaiting them when they get out of college (assuming they are fortunate enough to afford the high tuition). They graduate with no income coming in, but years of student loan debt to pay back. Those without a college or high school degree are even worse off. All of them see the sad reality, that the “American Dream” is only for the privileged few. If these demonstrations and protests continue to grow and expand, both here and abroad, the big banks, oil companies, billionaires and politicians will have to pay attention and give some ground. Either that, or face the prospect of violent revolution.

How all this will play out is uncertain as I write this. The road to reversing several decades of unfair and corrupt politics and excessive greed promises to be a rocky and difficult one. Things could get a lot worse before (and if) they get better. But a revolution, preferably a bloodless one such as the Civil Rights, Occupy and 99% Movements, is necessary to restore democracy and economic fairness in America and around the world. With traditional methods of political change proving useless, mass protests, strikes and other public demonstrations are the only realistic strategy left. Which is why the Wall Street occupiers and their brethren across the country (and the world) cannot quit, why they must continue to grow and expand to a point that the powers-that-be realize they must give the rest of their fellow Americans a seat at the decision-making table and at least some semblance of democracy and economic fairness. The occupiers and protestors cannot and will not quit, of that you can be sure. If the protests wither and die, so will what is left of America’s hopes and dreams. So we will not let this movement quietly fade away.

On the contrary, we will continue to grow and consolidate in preparation for our next offensive. As we do so, we will continue to remind one another of why we occupy, and why we’re not going away. The Occupy Movement and the 99% Movement, together with a host of other related social and political movements of the American people, will continue to get larger and better organized over the rest of 2012 and well into 2013, using primarily the Internet and social media to accomplish their goals.

Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, corporate America with their armies of lobbyists on K Street in Washington, and the military/prison/industrial complex are justifiably afraid of this movement and what it represents. More importantly, they all remember where this movement got its start, which was in North Africa, and then the Middle East, followed by the riots in Britain and Spain last summer, and the Syrian civil war. Now it has arrived on American shores and firmly established a beachhead from which a worldwide movement has been launched that has captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of countless billions. And this movement of the people is only this – that we are sick and tired of working for subsistence wages that amount to economic slavery while the stockholders and the boards of directors of these giant multinational corporations, not to mention all the cash-rich privately held companies, get to control much of America’s cash flow while keeping all the profits for themselves. As I wrote in my previous book, “It’s steak for them and beans for the rest of us”, and since then the plight of the middle class has continued to slowly get worse just as I predicted it would. All these problems and issues are indicative of a broken system that is beyond fixing. The time has come to replace it all. The only remaining question is, will the American people be able to accomplish this peacefully? That depends completely on how the 1% respond to the peaceful protests, public demonstrations and wildcat strikes of the 99%. If they respond with violence, there will be another American civil war, and the USA will turn into another Syria, Libya or Greece (only 10 times worse). Let’s hope the solution can be a peaceful one.

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