Friday, October 5, 2012

What’s Wrong With This Picture, America?

I celebrated my 65th birthday a few weeks ago.  For several weeks before that day, I spent literally hours considering the meaning of the event.  My contemplation was occasioned by receiving my Medicare card in late March (Medicare starts the first day of the month you turn sixty-five).  I was very happy to get that card, along with the notice that the Medicare system would be deducting $127 each month from my Social Security check.  I started drawing my Social Security at the age of 62, the earliest age at which one may take their monthly benefit.  This was because I had, three months earlier, been forced to claim unemployment as a result of losing my last job, as a Title Officer with the National Commercial Division of a major title insurance company, assisting companies in doing real estate transactions around the nation, a job for which I was eminently well suited, and which I performed flawlessly.  Sadly, although I am one of the foremost experts in my chosen field of endeavor in the entire country, I was unable to find any kind of permanent employment after being laid off, and decided that I would stop drawing unemployment compensation after three months.  Although my monthly benefit would have been greater had I waited to turn 65, now, about two years following the near economic collapse, my decision looks very good, indeed, since that employment market is now even worse than when I made my decision, and promises to stay that way from some months and perhaps many years to come. 

As a part of my birthday contemplation, I thought of my family, of course.  My children are adults, each with children of their own.  I have two younger brothers who are at the peak of their professional careers, and many other loved family members in various stages of their lives.  Most, if not all, have expressed chagrin about what the country is becoming.  So, all things considered, I decided to write a regarding my birthday and send it to my family and friends.
Needless to say, I am an early Baby Boomer, having been born in 1946.  I grew up in Baltimore and its environs.  My family had only one car until I was about 12; we got our first television in 1951, a small tube, black and white set which was one of three in our neighborhood; my mother didn’t work, but focused on running the home, taking care of our family, and being a great mother.  We had one phone, a black one with a dial (push buttons wouldn’t even become available for a couple of decades).  Gasoline was about 14 cents a gallon, a loaf of bread cost about 20 cents.  We went out for dinner about once a year, as a family (no hardship, since Mom was a great cook).  When clothes became worn or frayed, they were repaired and handed down to the next in line.  Mom made our Halloween costumes, and they were great (to be fair, though, they should have been, since she was a professional artist).  We were happy.  We were solidly middle class.  We had everything we needed.  The streets were so safe in our neighborhood; we didn’t even need to lock our doors.  We not only knew all of our neighbors, but we were a real neighborhood, where people cared about each other and all adults saw that a part of their responsibility was to see to the safety of all neighborhood children and each other.
That was sixty years ago.  The world has changed.  America has changed.  We Americans expect to have nice cars (with lots of gizmos, GPS, etc.), cell phones (with lots of clever apps, of course), HD TVs, internet access, 500 cable channels, and endless other trappings of our spoiled American lives.  Are we wrong?  The answer is no, but.  But, like spoiled children, most of us tend to believe that we, as Americans, being such exceptional people, deserve such things; we believe it’s our birthright.  One of the problems with creating such social expectations is that once people think that way, the American Dream (the fulfilling of all of those expectations) becomes a right, not a blessing, not something we must work to have, but something we deserve, simply for being born American.  Further, we create the certainty that some, or even many, will become highly dissatisfied with their lives when that Dream doesn’t magically materialize.  How has our America become such a land of unrealized, and maybe even unrealizable, dreams?  Oh, I do understand that there are still many who are can and may experience those dreams, but those numbers are rapidly dwindling, and the numbers of those who are not likely to do so are rapidly increasing.
Who are those people who are losing their dreams?  In the last three years, more than five million of us have lost a major part of their dream called a home, as foreclosures moved them into the street, shelters, relatives’ homes, cheap apartments, etc.  Many of those (dream) homes were lost because these people lost their jobs, or had some catastrophic medical issue and no health insurance, or for some other of life’s vicissitudes intervened to destroy their financial security, or were simply sold an absurd adjustable loan by a loan officer or bank just looking for a quick buck.  Not since the Great Depression have so many been brutally and cruelly humbled by a national financial crisis.  As I write, the BLS tells us that there are 9% of us unemployed.  If we look at an adult employable labor force of about 180 million, this means that more than 16 million are officially not earning anything but a meager unemployment check, at best.  That number is not real.  The real number of people who are essentially unemployed is about double that, if we include the long term unemployed and underemployed.  As of this past February, there were about 45 million Americans using food stamps, and children comprise about 2/3rds of that number.  In addition, many families also utilize food banks and other government and non-government programs in order just to eat.  Many of those who have borrowed mightily to sponsor their college educations can’t find jobs (the latest numbers indicate that about 85% of new 2011 graduates will be forced to move back home).  About 1.6 million new workers enter the labor force each year.  In the last 6 months, the economy has generated about 230,000 new jobs per month.  At that rate, it will take about 28 years to achieve what our government tells us is “full” employment (about 4.5% unemployment, statistically, is considered “full”).
Meanwhile, we have a Congress that is agonizing over our national debt.  Sadly, this agony is totally misplaced.  We “own” the world’s “reserve currency”, which means that we are completely unlike the nations of Greece and Spain.  Our national debt doesn’t hurt us, unless we try to deal with it.  The debate is a pure political red herring; a distraction intended to focus us in an area of no importance.  As the nation with the world’s reserve currency, we can print as much money as we need to without causing inflation.  The Federal Reserve (FED) has printed about seven trillion over the past three years.  Most of it went into alleviating the effects of the deteriorating loan portfolios residing the major banks who caused the debacle of 2008 by creating massive numbers of completely irresponsibly sold mortgages.  They not only failed to properly underwrite these, but then securitized them by creating bond issues which were converted to tradable securities and hedged with billions in credit default swaps.  All of this failed, and after TARP was put into effect and about $350 billion spent to overcome the initial market problem, the FED bought more than four trillion dollars worth of rotting credit paper from the banks.  Even before that, since the Iran and Afghan wars were not budgeted by President Bush, the FED printed money to pay for these.  Not only are we not like Spain or Greece, but we are not like a household.  We don’t need to balance our budget.  We can’t go broke.  We can’t default.  It is not possible.  We can create as much money as we need to fuel a recovery.  So long as the money the FED prints is used to buy things of real value, there will be no inflation.  So, if we need stimulus, the FED could fund a bank for energy research and development, a bank for infrastructure upgrade, a bank specifically for education, fund the rehiring of teachers, fund all kinds of useful research.  Because each one of these things creates taxable value and additional taxation, the money would flow all through the economy.  People could continue to own and buy homes, send children to college, retire on time, etc.  So, don’t listen to the blather about the deficit and debt.  It is intended to create an atmosphere that allows all kinds of money to flow up the “food chain” to the top, as has been happening for years, while the rich get richer and you and I get closer to poverty and despair.
Well, it actually started with Bill Clinton’s administration, when the Congress passed Gramm-Leach-Bliley, giving the banks the right to become much more than banks.  This was a breach of the firewall between banking and other activities, such as investment banking which had been prudently put in place in the mid-1930’s by the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act restricting banking powers, after the then out-of-control banks had destroyed the economy in the late 1920’s.  Destroying this firewall especially worked to the benefit of the largest Federal banks, who, as members of the Federal Reserve System, gained the right to buy and sell stocks, issue bonds, become investment bankers, insurance companies, or anything else they wanted to do.  These massive banks can borrow endlessly from the Federal Reserve, at essentially the world’s lowest interest rates, play with their books, play in the markets, and generally control almost all financial matters under one roof, and, should they make some serious mistakes, we will bail them out, contrary to what we have been recently told following the latest round of financial reform.
Then the Bush administration came into office, and, about a year and nine months later, we lost the World Trade Center, Osama Bin Laden took center stage, and the Bush administration somehow convinced us that not only was Saddam Hussein acting to assist Bin Laden (not proven or even likely), but also had Weapons of Mass Destruction (proven to be false) which could threaten the very being of this country.  We started the War on Terror, sending troops to Afghanistan to root out Bin Laden, and started the second Gulf War to quash the Hussein regime’s WPM threat.  None of the associated costs (mega billions) of these military actions went “on the books” as we pursued this absurd strategy – as we know now, no WPM’s were ever found.  Then the Bush Administration pushed for a tax reduction, and passed an unfunded prescription drug plan to supplement the Medicare program.  They also sponsored a major expansion of our housing policy which resulted in massive growth of private housing financed under the auspices of the largest banks (selling securitized mortgage debt, a lot of which is now rotting on their books or the books of the FED, FNMA and Freddie) and substantially expanded the roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Oddly enough, though the resulting major increases in housing construction fueled substantial new employment in those sectors, the actual growth of overall employment during the Bush Presidency was incredibly anemic.  That’s because, along with other factors, many jobs held in manufacturing and other employment areas were being outsourced offshore, as American companies found it more profitable to ship their jobs elsewhere in the world where workers were paid a mere fraction of what American workers cost them.
What happened?  Ever since Eisenhower warned us of the dangers of the power of the Military-Industrial Complex, as he left office in late 1959, we have been seeing his prophecy bear fruit.  In 1963, we decided, under then President Kennedy, to take over the defense of South Vietnam, previously under the control of France, against a perceived Communist threat from North Vietnam.  Looking back, it is clear to see that this was the first of many military forays which would be “encouraged” by the MIC.  I would defy anyone to come up with an example of the clear necessity of the use of our military in the years subsequent to Eisenhower’s departure and Kennedy’s assassination.  We even know that the Soviet Union’s vaunted military strength during the Cold War years was greatly exaggerated by the CIA and others to strengthen arguments for the vast increase in our nuclear and conventional weaponry and general military strength.  Even now, when we are supposed to be experiencing a “peace dividend” resulting from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1991 collapse of Soviet Russia, that hasn’t materialized.  We are still spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Cold War style weapons programs, like Reagan’s Star Wars Space Missile Defense Program, which, in more than 25 years and after the expenditure of tens of billions, hasn’t produced any effective defensive deterrence which can be deployed in orbit.  Sadly, George Shultz recently disclosed that, during the Nuclear Disarmament Conference with the USSR which took place in October of 1986, in Reykjavik, Iceland, Russia actually agreed to full, verified nuclear disarmament, if Reagan would agree to scrap SDI.  Reagan refused – end of story. 
We’ve now spent 10 years in Afghanistan, and, lo and behold, where has Bin Laden been residing for the past five years?  Not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, where we spend billions in military and civilian aid to prop up a country with nuclear weapons and half of whose leadership can’t decide whether they like us or not, while their arch enemy India is actually a far more valuable friend, if Pakistan is one at all.  Since end of the Second Iraq War, how have things gone, that is after our “victory” which cost us many thousands of lives, nearly a trillion dollars, and left an unstable democracy in a tribal state which continues to be plagued by massive sectarian violence?  I’d say that Iraq might redefine the whole concept of “Pyrrhic Victory”, that is, if it weren’t for Vietnam.  And, finally, before moving on, allow me to mention a couple of other “national security” details.  How many of you are aware that the US has more than 800 military installations in foreign countries?  Just think how you might feel if another country wanted to locate one of their bases on our soil.  You just might not be very thrilled with the idea.  In fact, many of those who live close to US bases located in America are not entirely sanguine regarding the location of those bases, unless they profit from the fact of their proximity.  Or, think about the fact that we spend more than twice the amount of money as the rest of the world combined on our military.  Is there any surprise at the fact that we are counted on by our allies to be the world’s police.  Then consider that one fighter jet costs more than tens of millions dollars (the new F-22 costs $70 million per plane by the latest calculations) and think about what that those millions or even billions could do in infrastructure, education, basic research, border security, employment, etc.

Also consider the fact that this country is not ranked in the top ten among the world’s nations in life expectancy (49th last year according to our own CIA) and have a higher infant mortality rate than 45 other nations, all in spite of the fact that we have many of the best doctors, most successful pharmaceutical companies, largest and best hospitals, etc.  We are not ranked in the top ten educationally.  Our high school graduation rates are pathetic and dropping (nearly 35% don’t graduate!!).  We have a far higher percentage of our population housed in our prison system than any other country in the world (now more than 2 million inmates), and far more illegal alien residents than anywhere else.  Our crime rates are higher than almost anywhere else.  Illegal drug use is higher than anywhere else.  Yes, my fellow citizens, we are a truly exceptional country!!!
Now, let’s visit a little world history, but before we do, I want to make a thesis statement:  America is the largest and most successful imperial power in the history of the world.  Sadly, though, the follow up is that no great empire has successfully withstood the test of time.  We are also not going to be successful or exceptional in that regard.  Let’s look a bit at some examples in the historical records.  The first major empire outside of China was Babylon.  That city-state behemoth lasted around 1800 years (America, from Columbus to the present is barely 500 and our elite nation status perhaps 150 years at best).  It was the major city in ancient Persia, and the rule was not consistent, but the power emanating from it was.  It is hard to find even traces of it today, though most of the major structures were built with stone.  Or there was ancient Greece, which gave us Alexander the Great, Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and countless other historic notables and is now mostly famous for its architectural ruins.  It and Egypt were the chief competitors with Rome during the last millennium BC and the first five centuries AD.  Where are they now?  We know them now for many things, but the great empires that they were vanished centuries ago after being dominant “world” cultures and powers.  How about the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and his scions?  This is now 1000 years behind us.  What about the Roman Empire?  Rome controlled about 90% of the civilized world at one time, running from Scotland south and east all the way to Arabia.  It had a total lock on commerce, and the only country that could challenge Rome’s authority or dominance was the Egypt of the Pharaohs, which, by the way, is also gone, but for the Pyramids.  After the fall of Rome, the greatest centralized power for the next 700 years was the Roman Catholic Church, which essentially sponsored all European monarchs from the early middle ages until their power started to erode during the Reformation.  During that time and later times, three European powers had massive empires, France, England and Spain.  Notice that, though these countries continue to exist, their empires are gone.  Each of these three lost their empires for different reasons, but, the point is that none could maintain them.  I think that very few Americans under the age of thirty today are even aware that, until this century, Great Britain counted India, Australia and South Africa, as well as a multitude of smaller territories, as parts of its empire, and now only Canada, very marginally, remains. 

But, wait, why do I claim that America is “imperial?”  Simple, it is obvious that we are, as a nation, control freaks.  When I hear the words “national security interest” I shiver.  When those words are used, they are intended to make us afraid that, somehow, our national security is under threat.  But, think about it.  In the past 100 years we have been attacked, with any success at all, on only four occasions:  during WWII, at Pearl Harbor, and in the Philippines; and once in Alaska over half a century ago, very briefly.  And, if you are willing to count it as an attack (I see it as simple terrorism, and unrelated to any other specific nation), the World Trade Center in 2001.  Three of these were “sneak” attacks.  In each case we had intelligence that could have prevented them and didn’t act on that intelligence in time to stop the threats.  We have bases in more than 40 countries.  We have an empire.  Whatever we don’t control militarily, we try to control economically.  We have an empire.
Why does this matter?  It matters because we are not the humble, “Christian” nation that many, if not most, proclaim us to be.  Americans have been led to believe in our nation’s inchoate superiority.  Simply being The United States of America does not make us superior to anyone, a priori.  A truly superior nation must prove its superiority.  We are not superior, but, at this moment we are dominant, and have serious competition even in that.  Global dominance should mean that we have the greatest responsibility, not just to our own citizens, but to the world in general.  We love to claim the moral “high ground” amongst nations, but only when it suits us.  The sad fact is that we are, in our dominance, some of the world’s poorest actors and greatest abusers among all nations.  I would challenge anyone to present a valid argument, on purely rational bases that the USA is a truly superior nation, especially on a moral basis.  As Clint Eastwood once famously uttered, “go ahead, make my day” by making a case for our superiority, other than militarily. Next you’ll say that I don’t love this country.  Quite to the contrary, I passionately love this country, always have and always will.  But, I am greatly saddened to see what pariahs that this nation has become, as a world force, life force, and home to all those who love it.
What I next want to do is to paint a picture of how we came to be attacked on September 11, 2001.  My guess would be that about 98% of our citizens still believe that the attack was heinous and unprovoked.  If, in fact, that attack was purely the successful plot of a terror network with its base in the mountains of Afghanistan, and directed by a Muslim jihadist with a long beard and a radical following who carefully and systematically, and successfully, plotted and carried out an attack on the Twin Towers in Manhattan, killing about 3000 of our citizens, then there must be major flaws with our security, and we know now from recent information, that the NSA and others simply didn’t do their job.  However, since that date, many of the details of this attack have come under serious scrutiny, and, regardless of many extensive investigations, in the ten years after the attack, much is yet to be successfully and adequately answered.  There remain serious doubts about the validity of the results of the official investigation.  Oddly enough, this episode is quite similar to the Kennedy assassination which occurred nearly 38 years earlier, and the government’s version of the reality is still in question today.  I am not saying either investigation has been proven wrong.  Regarding the World Trade Center, however, we do know that our intelligence apparatus did not do its job at the time, and, in fact, failed those three thousand people by not properly following important information which had been gathered prior to the date of the tragic attack that was later acknowledged could have prevented it.
Why, if Bin Laden did this treachery, was he motivated to lead such an action?  There are many seeds of jihad which have been firmly planted by America and many of its allies over the centuries.  I will only consider the modern era, beginning with the founding of Israel in 1948, and our subsequent and steadfast support of the Jewish population, consistently and steadfastly and to the detriment of the Arab populations of that region, and specifically within what was, prior to Israel being recognized by the UN in 1949 as a nation, Palestine, a predominantly Arab nation.  Ever since it was founded, Israel has had to work hard to maintain the integrity of itself and its boundaries.  The US has always taken Israeli’s side and perhaps that is the greatest reason why no final accord has yet been reached regarding the disposition of the Palestinian populace despite decades of effort by most American presidents and their administrations.  Of course, we have never been even-handed in our treatment of this situation.
The next greatest reason is because of our consistent abusive policies regarding the entire region.  We were heavily involved in support of the Shah in Iran, a dictatorial autocrat whose abusiveness towards his population was very similar to that of Syrian President Assad and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.  The Iranian Shah brutally oppressed his population, and that is why the Ayatollah Khomeini was successful in his revolution which resulted in the Shah’s departure, and why so many Iranians at that time engaged in anti-American protests.  Next, when Russia invaded Afghanistan, we armed and supported the Taliban in its success over the Russian invasion, but, immediately thereafter simply abandoned the nation.  It became clear that our friendship in providing support was only one of convenience, and we did nothing to assist them in recovering from the destructive results of the Russian invasion, however, of course, as with Iraq, we armed the very Taliban that we are fighting now.  Next, when Iran and Iraq became engaged in their war, in 1980, and because of the antipathetic relationship caused by the ascent of the Ayatollah, we decided to provide major military assistance to Saddam Hussein to enable him to beat back the Iranis.  Is the picture beginning to become a bit clearer?  So, we now begin to see the fact that America is only an ally of convenience, and, if its partner doesn’t obey what it wants, it either abandons, or attacks that former ally/friend.  Even now, we are engaged in nation building in Afghanistan, assisting a corrupt, bogusly elected leader and spending over a million dollars a day to do it, while our troops die, Afghanistan continues to be the world’s largest heroin producer, is vastly corrupt and tribal, and is home to proven natural resources worth trillions of dollars.  Even now, after declaring victory in Iraq, and after their formation of a democratic government, we choose to leave behind 50,000 troops, build major bases there, and major sectarian/tribal violence continues to plague that country.  What are our plans for the rest of the Arab world?  They are wondering where our imperialism will lead us next.  So am I.
Now, back to America, and its multiple oligarchies.   What is an oligarchy?  It is a group of wealthy companies and/or individuals who assert control over markets by exerting political influence.  America is rife with oligarchs.
First let us consider the energy oligarchy.  The price of oil is going up and will continue to go up, as the world’s reserves go down.  That’s simple economics, simple supply and demand.  When a necessary commodity is in short supply, there’s more money competing for less of it, and a price rise is inevitable.  But then, it is made far worse by the fact that our petroleum companies are given massive tax subsidies, get special treatment when they screw up (BP?), and are making greater profits than ever.  The same goes for most other areas of energy, and few, if any of these massively profitable enterprises are engaged in providing new solutions to our energy costs and production.  They are rich, fat, lazy, and abusive.  Get the picture?  This is what oligarchy is about.
How about food?   Except for very stringent restrictions on food imports, generally speaking (except, of course as to American companies producing food elsewhere and bringing it here), food is largely controlled by our agricultural conglomerates.  If you want to understand this, start reading packaging at the grocery stores.  You will note the amazing dominance of companies like Proctor and Gamble, Kraft, Nabisco, Coke and Pepsi, Hunts, Dole, and so many other giant corporations.  These megaliths dominate agricultural products, distribution, manufacture and packaging, and virtually every other area.  They all receive substantial hidden tax benefits and subsidies from their friends in Congress.  These companies are the reason why we are producing corn ethanol as a gasoline additive (actually mandated in many states), which is unbelievably inefficient, and results in the higher prices of all products utilizing corn and its various byproducts, a truly long list, in case you hadn’t noticed.  Large agricultural conglomerates are completely dominant oligarchs, on your grocery store shelves, and on Capitol Hill.
The media in this country is controlled by very few people.  If you closely examine who owns TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, movie production companies, etc., it is a very small group, many with interlocking boards of directors.  These companies control the “free” speech in this country because they control the advertising dollars which keep their holdings profitable.  In order to control the advertising dollars, they must not provide news coverage which threatens the interests which pay for them to exist, their advertisers.  This is why, if you have a large cable service, it is nearly impossible to get the complete, unvarnished truth about anything.  Sure, there’s public television, with wonderful shows like Nova, Frontline, and lots of other great specials.  How many of us even tune in.  How many are willing to watch C-Span to find out what is being said.  Most of us watch the four major news outlets (NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX, as well as CNN and MSNBC).  Check out who owns them.  Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that CNN also controls the Weather Channel, and General Electric owns NBC, which owns CNBC, MSNBC, and others, including the Golf Channel.  If you really want to get nauseous, just check the chart at this link:
Now we move to what is probably the second most powerful oligarchy in America.  That is the health care industry.  It is comprised of truly massive and powerful companies including huge multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers, which largely control the FDA and which manufacture, distribute and sell drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter.  There are about 19 very large drug manufacturers, worldwide, and of those, 11 are companies based in the US.  In 2006 alone, these companies averaged more than $5.5 billion in profits.  Once again, for further reading I recommend:  Then we have the care providers, whether clinics, hospitals, doctor groups or others.  Of these, aside from illegalities, the real prime oligarchs are the health networks which control, among them, many major hospitals and massive clinics.  For further reading  I recommend, once again, the Wikipedia article at:, it is entirely fascinating to see how we compare to other countries, and how other nations go about providing care for their populations.  In signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the spring of last year, our political leadership expressed wholehearted, unflinching support for the health care oligarchy.  It included no public option, no real cost control mechanism, no real rein on health insurance premiums (while establishing a mandate for all people to have coverage), or any other means for controlling the spiraling costs of health care.  As of 2006, we spend 16.2% of GDP on health care, and that percentage continues to grow.  What I find amazing is the number of politicians who say that that should be abolished in favor of a different methodology.  Of all the alternatives discussed during the bill’s journey through Congress, the single most rational, and popular one, according to polls, was the suggestion of Medicare for all (essentially the same as the Canadian single payer).  I’m not holding my breath, as the industry coffers are opening to support candidates during the next election cycle.
The last of the major oligarchies is the financial industry, led by the nation’s largest banking conglomerates.  We know that the financial markets are under the control of a fairly small elite of banking behemoths, many of which are located in this country, but whose influence stretches into nearly every country around the globe.  Literally hundreds of books and articles have been written about these massively abusive, controlling enterprises.  The financial collapse of late 2007 can be completely blamed on them.  The Great Depression, occurring about 80 years before, happened primarily because of the fact that the banks at that time had acceded to similar powers that they now have, since the abrogation of Glass-Steagall in favor of Gramm-Leach-Bliley in 1999.  Ask Ben Bernanke, he’s an economist, and an recognized expert on the Great Depression.  I would refer you to: which tells the entire, relatively unvarnished, truth about our banking industry, its power and control.  But, surely the easiest thing is just to realize that even after the passage of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in July of last year, the banks are presently making larger profits and handing out more massive bonuses than before the crash.  All of them are larger now than they were, more leveraged, and this is all happening during the lingering of the recession.  This is nearly impossible to believe, and yet it is true.  These massive organizations exert nearly complete control over our governance as it pertains to anything financial.  It is truly and deeply nauseating.  And we are, at present, completely helpless to curtail or even effectively modify it. 
There are other, smaller oligarchies in America, but the ones described above are the major players.  If the governance of a country is under control of the wealthy elite, it is termed a “plutocracy” or “plutarchy” (see  America is a plutocracy.  The greatest evidence of this, aside from the content of our 15,000 page tax code (about 2% of which applies to those making less than $100,000 a year), is the massive subsidies and other benefits conferred upon industry after industry, shamelessly by our legislators, both state and national.  The wealthy elite in this country don’t pick favorites.  If you look at where the election funding sources for any candidate, it is easy to see that all who are viable candidates receive money from the same sources.  There is a reason why the Citizens United case was decided by the Supremes in the way it was.  Even the Supreme Court, the grand arbiter of American justice and prime interpreter of the US Constitution, is a part of the plutocracy.  Sadly, just today, I read that a judge in Virginia has ruled that corporations may make direct, unlimited political contributions to any candidate, once again claiming that if their contributions are disallowed, it will violate their First Amendment rights to free speech.
My greatest desire in writing this article is to encourage my fellow citizens to look in the mirror and decide what they want the future of this country to be, for themselves, their families, friends, and neighbors.  There are seven billion people on this planet, and only about five percent are Americans.  Do we want to police the world, be there whenever there is a catastrophe, think that we need massive military spending, and many billions in foreign aid?  Or do we want to make a greater effort to restoring this country to a land where we live right, care about each other and what happens within our borders to a far greater extent?  All I ask is that my fellow Americans pay attention and realize that if we all act together, we can make a difference.  Stop listening to hollow campaign promises and political hyperbole.  Read extensively.  Find answers and think about solutions.  If we don’t do what is needed to restore this country to a land of real promise, we are fully to blame if it continues on its present path, as sad and sorry one, which will, in the near future, lead to far greater pain and sadness for us and the ones we love.


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