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In Harm's Way in 2014

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RONALD REAGAN
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We have, judging by their recent decisions, the most incapable Supreme Court of several generations. We have a Congress gridlocked by nothing more than a half-baked political idea from Newt Gingrich that preventing Obama from doing anything at all would be good for the GOP. We have an intellectual for a president who's idea of leadership is stalled at decrying political partisanship while the electorate, in tune with that sentiment, has no idea what to do about it either -- other than to be disappointed in Obama.

The Great Recession should have been corrected four years ago and normative global economic growth should have been restored. We have the knowledge and wherewithal to have done it but haven't. Unemployment is nearing the realm of acceptable but underemployment and workforce dropouts are at record highs. Some economists see a recovery picking up now that unemployment is lower and consumer confidence is higher. But, wages, the stuff of which economies are built, are stagnant to retrograde.

Meanwhile capital is piling into investment sectors that are more rent and exploitation oriented than growth oriented. Commodity prices are being distorted by money seeking a return, any return, in an economy in demand stasis. Mergers and acquisitions and IPOs are at Dot Bomb levels even without the economic technological expansion euphoria of the '90s. The stock market has the lowest per capita participation since the Post WWII recession. Economic inequality is building class resentments by the day.

The rich are getting richer, fast, and the poor are getting poorer, in perfect correlation. This is a socioeconomic trajectory that cannot be sustained for long. All we lack to set off a socioeconomic revolution is our own tragic Libyan fruit vendor.

In the film classic In Harms Way, John Wayne utters a predictive line. Observing a warship headed out of port to engage the Japanese fleets after Pearl Harbor, he says to Kirk Douglas, "A fast ship going in harm's way. A lousy situation, Commander Eddington."

Our economic Pearl Harbor was an inside job. Ronald Reagan legitimized conservative ideas with a combination of soft sell and horrendous race baiting. He undermined all the economic wisdom of the men who had righted the global economy after the Great Depression. Reagan did it with the untutored ramblings of a minor fiction author, Ayn Rand. He did it pandering to the religious right. He did it by hate mongering on minorities and the poor to rip open the political questions of the social goals of the New Deal and civil rights and bring out the worst in the worst among us to vote GOP. In 2008, the consequences struck and corporate flagships like Lehman Brothers and AIG were sent to the bottom.

The pinnacle, and likely capstone, of the Reagan era was the deregulation of banks and commodity futures trading in 2000. It took seven years for unregulated banking to nearly destroy the global economy and we are still suffering the effects of commodities futures markets being flooded with speculators driving up the prices of life's essentials. Regan anointed a new emperor of the Earth, and his name is Greed and his body servant is the GOP.

For 30 years, America and the world have suffered under the yoke of Reaganomics. Reaganomics doesn't work and just about everyone knows it but the people who depend on it for justifying their appetites for more and more money. Which leads us to our political problem in 2014.

If nearly everyone with the right to vote knows they are being screwed by Reaganomics, then why does anyone vote for the GOP? Why does anyone still believe that the GOP is the better party to deal with economic issues when it is at their hands that the economy was ruined in 2008 and it is by their obstructive hands that the economy remains deliberately unrepaired to this day?

The answer lies in what it took to get Reagan elected in the first place. What it took was naked and perfectly cynical exploitation of those who unquestioningly follow the slickly marketed religious rapture of evangelical pitchmen and those reared on race hate and Fox News force fed resentment.

The GOP absolutely does not care about any religion other than money, and not even market capitalism if it doesn't include easy money. The GOP's exploitation of the religious is legendary to anyone who is not a part of the religious community that is being exploited. The GOP has made some token laws at the state level in deference to the extreme religious right of late, but in more sober religious circles those laws are viewed with more trepidation. If you are religious and vote GOP because you imagine they are more religious than the left you are wasting your vote.

The GOP doesn't give a rat's ass about race except that it might cost a few cents in taxes for civil rights law enforcement. The GOP does care about the poor. They hate them, because the poor increasingly cost them more in taxes. However the reason the poor have begun to cost them more in taxes is that the GOP has religiously fought labor rights, minimum wage increases and equal pay for women. Had they not, their wages paid to their workers might be higher but their taxes would be lower as more people would be able to pay taxes. So, if you voted for the GOP thinking they will cut the taxes you pay to support the poor you are in fact voting for creating more of the poor for you to support. It is, in fact, very likely that you are voting for your own impoverishment.

The GOP doesn't care about immigration reform. They need an endless stream of cheap labor pouring into the country to compete for jobs and, by that, to reduce labor costs. The problem is, of course, that the workers they displace will fall into poverty and need support through your taxes. So, if you vote GOP in order to get rid of undocumented immigrants competing with you for your job, you are in fact voting for the party that created our immigration problems in the first place and that has no economic interest in fixing it. Also, you are voting for your taxes to go up to support your neighbors who are put out of work through immigration and through exportation of jobs.

America is a ship headed in harm's way. The GOP put us on that course and they will not admit to it or even talk about it. Every day they hold public office is a day in which we accelerate towards a cataclysm of labor and capital management confrontation in the streets. Imaging they are safe in their gated communities, the GOP and their masters see no need to moderate their greed, greed that has bled America down from the jewel (albeit flawed) of mankind's political achievements to a rancorous vituperative class contest in which half of the American public are being played for suckers by the GOP. It is a lousy situation.

America's social and economic malaise has a cause. That cause is that our government is saturated with enablers of greed rather that being in hands of the kind of champions of justice that founded this country. Sitting on the fence and waiting for things to change will only enable more of the same.

The most vital role of government, from tribal to global, is to balance, to the best of its ability, the varying and divergent interests of the people counted as its members. Defense is secondary to having something worth defending. Balancing the interests of the rich with the needs of the general public is the key component of the democratic success story of the twentieth century. History, and common sense, tend to indicate that whenever the interests of business vs. labor are skewed to favor one over the other, societies and economies go wrong.

Balance is key. Balance is difficult to achieve. Things are definitely out of balance now with zero to negative wage growth on the part of workers contrast with Gilded Age wealth accumulations by the rich eroding demand for goods and services with every passing day. This is not any more sustainable than would be an economy in which all profit went to labor with zero formation of capital for future investment. This truth transcends economic systems from communist to Laissez Faire capitalist.

Our politics are shaped by economic realities of what is in it for everyone. We are politically divided along lines described by the essentially Marxian divide of labor and capital. That is a fact of any economic system but is just more crucially important in a capitalist system.

To understand that balancing labor and capital is essential is to understand the root cause of modern political strife and is equally to understand what governments must be able to do to resolve that strife. The way to correct the balance of our economy is to vote for the party that represents the social constituency that is out of power. At this time the constituency that is out of power is labor. At other times, although never as much as labor is now, business and capital have been out of power.

Democrats are the traditional party of labor, a status that has eroded since the Reagan era began because of the insidious bias of our political process to succumb to the need for money to finance political campaigns. For that reason the Democrats have come to be nearly as mistrusted as the GOP in recent years.

Mistrust of our politicians of both parties is a social-psychological phenomenon born of a fault in the Constitution that assumed there would not be concentrations of wealth and power that could or would challenge the egalitarian spirit of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Money, through a founders shortsightedness, is needed to attain and hold public office in America and rich people have the money. This state of affairs is as antithetical to democracy as is the concept of the divine right of kings. We were formed a nation of honorable notions and have become a nation of implicit bribery and corruption.

The expressed complaints of the religious right and of red state xenophobes are trivia in the conduct of our mutual socioeconomic well being. They are trivia on a sidebar to the perennial struggle of labor and management over who gets what share of profits of the activity in which they both participate for the same motive -- profit. Solve the issues of money and the other issues lose their political urgency because the interest of the GOP in fanning those flames will die.

Vote Democratic if you realize there to be an imbalance in wealth and power in the United States. More pay to the middle class will solve the problems of the economy, unemployment, race hatred and political corruption. There is no reason to be on the fence out of disgust with politicians when you know how to solve the problems they are barred by your very indifference and disgust from solving.

We don't have to continue on a course set to take us in harm's way. Joseph Stiglitz explains our crisis in his New York Times piece "Inequality is Not Inevitable."