Storming the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort

Dieu et Mon DroitWe have it all backwards. 

The tea party wasn’t a revolution. It was the most recent flare-up of a revolution that’s been killing America for 30 years.  

The great right-wing upheaval that began, not uncoincidentally, in late January 2009 is merely the latest flare-up of a war to fundamentally unravel the very fabric that has made America great over the last 200+ years. 

Go back to the time of the American Revolution and the creation of this amazing country, and recall that it was a direct product of the Enlightenment. Replacing mythology and tradition with science and thinking, this was a country founded on the notion that the people should govern themselves. At the time, this was as radical a notion as Marxism in the late 19th century. America was the first post-feudal country, no longer based on nobility, bloodlines, peerages, and royalty, but instead on liberty, social mobility, self-government, federalism, and limited and divided powers. At its foundation was an educated meritocracy. They didn’t attain power through accident of birth, but through excellence of deed and thought. 

It was at its founding an imperfect country, and America has always been a work in progress. Many laws were changed and much blood was shed to expand basic liberties and freedoms to those who were not lucky enough to be included in the American dream at the country’s founding. The sins of slavery and segregation still poison the country to this day. Racism, nativism, and genocide were an inherent part of our Manifest Destiny. Many of the promises of liberty were merely theoretical for many people, for a long time. 

Some now argue that the rights we hold so dear – codified in the first ten amendments to our Constitution – are inherent and God-given. They may indeed be, but I am wary of any such claims of sanctity, because oppressors – kings, dictators, and warlords all universally claim for themselves divine right. The whole point of the American Revolution was that it was we who control our own destinies and our freedoms are there for the taking, if we want them. 

The industrial revolution, our westward expansion, and the first World War brought great changes. As people lived longer, as industries found new efficiencies, as a mostly rural population suddenly turned to the cities and transformed into a working class, we as a nation decided that it was a good idea to care for the old, to feed the needy, to help the helpless, to welcome immigrants, to protect workers and consumers from predatory behavior, and to otherwise ensure fair and equal treatment, but not equal results. 

It was the post World War II era that brought about the predominance of the middle class – the ability for people to earn a decent wage for a day’s work, raise a family, build a house, buy a car, and have something that had previously only been reserved for the wealthy – leisure time. That period from 1945 – 1970 saw unprecedented economic, social, and political maturity and growth for this country.

The 70s brought about setbacks –  a series of global economic, military, and political crises delivered deep blows to our prosperity, outlook, reputation, and self-image. If you think it’s bad now, then you don’t remember the 70s – never mind the 30s. 

But in the 80s, we changed. The country changed. The Reagan Revolution was the precursor to what we’re dealing with today. Reagan did a great job restoring America’s self-image. We felt good about ourselves again. The Reagan economic stimulus had a heavy emphasis on tax cuts, introducing the supply side or “trickle down” theory of economics into action. The theory goes that you lower the tax and regulatory burden on high earners and businesses that supply our goods and services, the extra time and money they save will  “trickle down” to the employees through more employment, higher wages, and more productivity; if you make the rich richer, the prosperity will spread down the ladder.

We have been clinging to that as gospel truth for 30 years, but it never came to pass. The rich already have all the money they need to spend. What we got was massive deficits and sovereign debt, because the government grew. The situation improved in the 90s, but after 9/11, we did it again. And it worked for a short time, until we decided to wage two simultaneous wars without end in Asia. The trillions of dollars we spent prosecuting those wars could have built so much in this country. But by late 2008, the entire global economic system was collapsing under the weight of its own lawless nonsense. 

And so it was that a new administration came in to hit reset. In the past, as productivity went up, so did wages. But in the early 80s, something changed. Although productivity continues to increase, wages have stagnated; the middle class has made almost no progress. Protections for workers and consumers have been eroded. The tax cuts for the top earners has helped to make that segment of the population ever-richer, but the wealth never trickled down. Ever. It’s a completely discredited concept

Why? Because without people like you and me to buy, say, an iPad or to shop at, say, Home Depot, those things fail. Without average families with disposable money to spend on things, the companies that make or sell those things fail. An argument can be credibly made that it isn’t the CEO of Apple or Home Depot who is a “job creator”, but the consumer. The middle class. The middle class substituted its stagnant wages and decreased spending power with cheap debt. The people who are still waiting for the wealth to trickle down, living paycheck to paycheck, getting shafted by bailed out big banks, being taken advantage of by usurious payday lenders, watching jobs migrate to China, going bankrupt when a family member gets sick and the insurance runs out. 

We spent 30 years building an economic, social, and political system that is founded on protecting and comforting the extremely wealthy. Money has so poisoned our political system that our government institutions become paralyzed at the sight of the most uncontroversial matters. Money in politics is so unregulated, thanks to the Citizens United decision effectively legalizing outright bribery as “political speech”, that average people of all races, creeds, colors, and religions have become effectively disenfranchised. 

One need look to the health care debate as evidence. Since World War 2, this country has been discussing and debating whether people should, as a matter of right, have access to quality, affordable healthcare. All one has to do to defeat any such proposal is accuse it of being communism or socialism. Yet like Medicare or Social Security, it wouldn’t be a handout, but something that people pay for – pay into. What our health insurance system had become by 2008 was unconscionable, unfair, and palpably untenable. Policy maximums arbitrarily cut sick people off and plunged families into destitution and bankruptcy. The “richest country in the world” funds children’s leukemia treatments with change cups at gas station check-outs. People who lost coverage for a time but had a pre-existing medical condition found themselves uninsurable. The variety of different private insurance plans, regulations, rules, and restrictions meant that physicians had to hire people just to process claims, and untold hours and money is lost every year on tasks having everything to do with penny-pinching, private, often for-profit bureaucracies, and little (if anything) to do with patient care. 

Medicare was supposed to fix that; it did, for seniors. Hillarycare failed. Obamacare – now pilloried as a neo-Trotskiite fraud –  was, in the 90s, the conservative alternative to Hillarycare. Every country in the western world has a different system, and not one of them is perfect. Obamacare sure isn’t perfect, either. But every single one of them is a dramatic improvement over what we had before. 

The tea party revolution wasn’t what it appeared to be. If not at its founding, it quickly became a wholly-owned subsidiary of big money interests who wanted to maintain the supply-side status quo; who wanted to maintain the blind fetishization of wealth at the expense of average Americans. The tea party – conservative Americans resistant to Obama and his policies – played directly into the hands of big business, big lobbyists, and the shadow plutocracy that pushes a phony libertarian agenda to make sure that billionaires are free from income and estate taxes; a phony agenda that would maintain the sheen of “trickle down” without anything actually trickling down

They’re working to create two Americas, with the tea party rolling along as its useful soldiers. By de-funding public education through “school choice”, the middle class and poor get one, inferior, set of school “choices”, while the very wealthy – some of whom pay only a fraction of what you and I pay for income taxes, because they earn not through work, but through capital gains –  have their private schools subsidized by the middle class taxpayer. By maintaining the ridiculous health insurance status quo and eliminating the employer and individual mandates, CEOs can continue to pay themselves outrageous sums of money while employee wages and benefits stagnate – and they should be lucky their jobs aren’t in Shenzhen or Malaysia. 

By creating a second-class America, people like the Koch Brothers and their network of wealthy Americans create for themselves a new, subsidized American aristocracy. You and I? We become worker drones, as protections are abolished, clean air and water protections are weakened to ineffective levels, the minimum age for workers is abolished so our kids can work cheaply, so that we are so beholden to the new aristocracy that we would be mad to oppose it. These new aristocrats have already poisoned our body politic with money and gifts, so you and I have no meaningful chance. Remember – these guys truly believe, with all their hearts, that 47% of Americans – vets, the elderly, schoolchildren – are just takers. 

And they’re doing it in the shadows. In the dark, they hold their confabs and plot how to create their libertarian fantasy-world of controlling and keeping down the placated vassal class. It’s a country where a drunk teenager commits vehicular homicide four times over and gets zero jailtime. It’s a country where we fight each other over scraps from a pie we’ll never see. The billionaires running the tea party distract us with idiotic fights about guns. It’s a country where you and I are playing the game of life with a stick in the street while an entire separate population is playing in Yankee Stadium. We’ve created an inherently unfair, unequal system and we’re reaping unequal results. The American dream isn’t dead, but it’s being eroded, and the erosion is happening intentionally or recklessly, like the uncontrolled spill of unknown and unreported chemicals into the water source for 350,000 West Virginians. Like the unregulated, reckless  poisoning of western New Yorkers by Tonawanda Coke. 

I don’t want these guys to win. I want the tea party and progressives alike to see that the new plutocracy has pit us against each other to distract us from the larger issues. I want the very wealthy to play by the same rules as you and I when it comes to politics and taxation. I’m not saying everyone deserves to be a millionaire for no work – I’m saying that we all deserve to have the same opportunity on the same playing field. Will it take a constitutional amendment to limit money in politics? Sounds good to me. Will it take a complete, a-partisan re-think of how average Americans perceive problems and discuss solutions? Absolutely. Will it mean that people like the Koch brothers or George Soros will have to disclose how much money they spend on legalized bribery, and how much they raise – and from what sources – to assist them in that? Damn straight. 

Because America isn’t – and never has been – a county that embraced the extremes. Communists and fascists have been marginalized in our society – never mainstreamed. America generally votes the center. Americans generally consider themselves to be in the center. Extreme candidates appeal to a party’s base, but they seldom win general elections. 

I’m afraid we’re slipping back into a system that pre-dates even the enlightenment – a system that more closely resembles contemporary Russian and Chinese neo-fascism; nationalism and perpetual crisis used to confer a faux legitimacy on a system whereby all power is concentrated not with the people, but with the rich and politically powerful, who work in tandem to keep each other rich and politically powerful. 

But we can’t do it if the system itself has ceased to function. 


  • Good job Alan. I often wonder if we are headed for our own “Arab Spring” or a French type revolution….as proven by history you can only say to the poor “Let them eat cake” ….so many times……

  • Consumer based economies need to be fed from the bottom up, put more dollars in the hands of the working poor and they will spend those dollars on more stuff. Pay workers more and there would be much less need for the dreaded government programs so many conservatives whine about. Higher wages would also increase tax collections at every level and make more good citizens by giving them a real stake in the community. Broadening the tax base by adding more taxpayers is also the only way to offset the loss of tax revenue resulting from decades of lowering rates on the rich. Trickle down has proved to be a failure and has undermined our economy and our society.

    • Trickle down economics has not been a failure, its been a resounding success. Enriching the 1% at the expense of everybody else in society has always been the goal.

      • The enriching of the 1% is the result of the ever-increasing regulatory state which shuts out competition and makes it very hard for entrepreneurs to gain a foothold. Only the already wealthy can afford to comply with myriad regulations.

        • The vast majority of Americans are not entreprenours but are part of labor, “the ever-increasing regulatory state” (up for debate since we have experienced decades of de-regulation) has had no impact on the decline of real wages. The concentration of wealth is the result of driving down the wages and benefits of labor while reducing taxes on the wealthy. Your point if valid would only apply to a very small percentage of the population.

          • 1 is a very small percent. Just sayin’

            ETA: Mike and BRL both have a point, it’s just that the overlap of people that benefit both from regulations as currently handled and from wage depression is significant.

          • When employers need to pay more in taxes, they don’t take less profit, they instead just pay less wages. What that means, is that the “job creators” always put themselves first.

        • The enriching of the 1% is a result of the 1% and nothing else…..except the stupidity of people who buy into their rhetoric…..

        • If only I could dump cyanide directly into Lake Erie, I’d be eating nothing but caviar out of a diamond dish.

    • That is a nice sentiment but maybe the concept of economic success being based on everybody getting “more stuff” is part of our problem.
      Maybe almost all of us currently have too much stuff as it is. Too much luxury, too many material needs that are not really needs at all. Too much personal philosophy of “what’s in it for me” and “how much more can I get”.
      Maybe we need to start looking at economic progress less as an individual quest for “more stuff” and more as an individual and societal quest for a greater civilization.

      • The obsession with giant TV’s and i-gadgets blows my mind. I always say to myself; “Where are all these people getting all this disposable income to buy all this crap?” The irony is that many of these devices do little to advance anything in anybody’s life. They’re mostly just toys to play with. We’re talking one helluva lot of lost productivity because of this nonsense.

  • “I don’t want these guys to win. I want the tea party and progressives
    alike to see that the new plutocracy has pit us against each other to
    distract us from the larger issues.”


    • It’s a nice idea, but I don’t see it happening. In the US at least the plutocracy has always pitted different factions of the have-nots against each other. Racism helps keep them in power, even as they make life worse for the racist have-nots who vote them into office.

  • “America generally votes the center. Americans generally consider
    themselves to be in the center. Extreme candidates appeal to a party’s
    base, but they seldom win general elections.”

    The problem with this is that the center moves, all the time. People do generally consider themselves to be somewhere in the center, but more extreme forces (almost always right wing forces) work to redefine what constitutes the center. That’s why any call to shun the extremes and jump into the center is bound to fail. What’s actually needed is a strong left counterpart to decades of effective right wing activism. Unfortunately, the most powerful institutions of the left (the Democrats, labor, etc.) have been in retreat for decades.

  • Please don’t try to tell me that Barry’s efforts to “fundamentally transform America” through community organizing and class warfare don’t “fundamentally unravel the fabric” of this nation. He drums up hatred of the rich, as he did as a Chicago rabble-rouser, with his Alinsky-inspired technique of agitate, alienate and antagonize.
    And his use of “perpetual crisis” (your words, adopted from Rahm Emanuel) is cynical and destructive of the very public discourse whose demise you mourn.

    • Next time, you should read what _I_ write.

    • As long as President Obama is pissing off anti-American filth like you, he’s doing a great job! Don’t forget to keep stressing out over his every little word – the sooner you’re dead the better the planet will be.

    • The only “class warfare” that has had any real impact on our society and our economy is the wealthy against the rest of us. They have conspired with their lobbying wing (the Republican Party) to drive down wages, reduce benefits, and break unions. At the same time they have reduced taxes on the rich, reduced regulation and oversight, and corrupted our financial system allowing then to steal and embezzle without consequence.

    • Let’s see: “Barry”, “community organizer”, “class warfare”, “Alinsky”. Do you ever have an original thoguht, or are you onyl capable of vomiiting out conservative bubble talking ponts?

    • “Hatred of the rich?”

      Check the guest list at the White House.

  • In my opinion the best way out of this is to stop bickering amongst ourselves about social issues. That two people can stand on a street corner and argue over abortion or gun rights and neither one of them has a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, is ridiculous. We all know in our hearts something is wrong, and it grows into anger. What better way to be manipulated than to feed that anger. This is not a left/right fight but we sure let our strings get pulled.
    We need to clear the clutter out of our collective minds, focus on what gets us to that equal footing, equal opportunity. It will take a lot of work. Money talks, bullshit walks and we are doing a lot of walking.

  • “An argument can be credibly made that it isn’t the CEO of Apple or Home Depot who is a “job creator”, but the consumer. The middle class.”

    Excellent point. First time I heard that was actually on WBEN believe it or not. Although the host who used to say that has apparently been gone for a while now. Oooops. lol

  • Alan Bedenko: From a purely writing and commentary perspective this is the finest article I have ever seen from you and one of the finest pieces I have seen in years.
    Thanks for the excellent work.

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