11/27/2012 05:49 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2013

The So-Called 'Fiscal Cliff' Is Austerity in Disguise

The war against people who work for a living in this country continues with the "Grand Bargain" that will slash social spending by trillions on programs that benefit the most vulnerable among us and also "reform" Social Security and Medicare. We at Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? see the cruel irony in this brazen attempt to further erode living standards for the 98 percent. Today, some 70 percent of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes! Social Security and Medicare are not "entitlement" programs. Hard-working Americans along with their employers pay into this system their entire working lives. But rather than tax corporations and the super rich by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, apparently President Obama, Congress and the corporate-financial class on Wall Street would prefer instead to "balance" the budget on the backs of working Americans. Sen. Bernie Sanders points out in HEIST the callous indifference inherent in Washington's march toward austerity: "Let's go after little kids, let's go after the elderly, let's go after the sick, let's go after the most vulnerable, but apparently in the Senate we can't ask Chevron to pay taxes."

How much more can working people give up before they rise up? The tally so far? Across the board, wages have stagnated since the mid-'70s, more than 40 million good-paying jobs with benefits have been shipped overseas, trade agreements that benefit the corporate and shareholder classes prevail, employers are asking workers to pay more for health care, risky 401(k)s have replaced guaranteed defined benefit pensions, and now the 1 percent is going after the one element of FDR's New Deal that remains -- Social Security! Austerity as described by Webster: difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce a budget deficit, especially by reducing public expenditures. So what is in effect here is the Golden Rule: He who has the gold (and the pockets of Congress) makes the rules. As we point out in HEIST, in 1971 there were 175 lobbyists in D.C., but by 2008 there were more than 33,000. Because of this, Congress spends more time hobnobbing with lobbyists who represent the super rich and corporations than they do with most of their constituents, ordinary working people. The big disconnect here is that politicians believe the problems of the 1 percent are the problems of the country. It's safe to say that working people have no voice in Washington. As a result, our priorities are way out of whack, as pointed out by Sen. Bernie Sanders in HEIST.

Instead of a society in which we're struggling together to deal with this environmental crisis, to deal with education, to make sure all of our people have healthcare, we are a society now in which the goal is to be one of those people on top that have tremendous wealth and tremendous power.

By the way, did you notice as we did in HEIST that our "deficit" problems began in 2008 when the world economy tanked thanks to Wall Street's criminal activity? But to cover their crimes, the cartel's message machine switched into high gear, effectively convincing working Americans that they were to blame because they bought too many televisions. NO, our deficit "problems" began when Wall Street crashed our economy, people lost jobs and the government lost tax revenue, and brought back the ultimate tool of "magical thinking," the Reagan-Bush tax cuts. It's maddening to hear over and over again from cable pundits, anchors and reporters make assumptions about the "deficit" without understanding its source or doing their own reporting. This is the corporate-political-financial class message machine doing its finest work. The result has been disastrous for working Americans as Jakada Imani of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights says in HEIST:

Folks who are in charge of this economy ran red light after red light after red light, and caused car wreck after car wreck after car wreck, and no one's held them accountable. There hasn't even been a conversation about accountability.

So the political coup begun in the mid 1970s by nihilistic corporations and the super rich, as described in HEIST, that swept up both American political parties continues to this day. In all honesty, on matters regarding the economy it's almost impossible to separate the Democrats from the Republicans. We sincerely hope President Obama proves us wrong. To make matters worse, the corporate-owned media has helped create within the working class a sort of "learned helplessness," that we are powerless to counter the powers that be. This country has a history of social movements -- the feminist and civil rights movements, among others. We must support social movements like Occupy Wall Street, which is raising the level of consciousness about the grave inequality present in this country. Which is exactly why the corporate-political class swooped in to shut it down so quickly.