Ayn Rand, Climate Change, Corporate State, Corporatocracy, Financial Elite, Gross Inequality, Inverted Totalitarianism, Mitt Romney, Neoliberal Capitalism, Paul Rosenberg, Paul Ryan, Privatization, Record Corporate Profits, Record Low Corporate Tax Burden, Richard Heinberg, The Elite 1%
If Ayn Rand was alive today, she would believe that climate change was a conspiracy theory.
I want to preface this post by saying I don’t endorse either Wall Street stooge of our political system’s two-headed corporate hydra monster. The Democratic party fell sway to Big Money a long time ago. See ‘Death of the Liberal Class‘ by Chris Hedges. But I do want to focus on the party that doesn’t mince words or even pretend (at least not very well for those who read) to represent the greater good of society. The primary ideology of the Republicans (and faux Democrats) is neoliberal capitalism whose tenets are laid out here. If there ever was a time when ‘the greater good’ should be our primary objective, the time is now. We are facing an environmental crisis, financial crisis, economic system crisis, food crisis, energy crisis, wealth disparity crisis, etc. Oh, I should have mentioned we’re also facing the
possible probable extinction of our own species. But the modus operandi that the our leaders rulers are following is not to solve any of the civilization-ending crises, but to do what Richard Heinberg described as the “Last Man Standing” strategy:
I thought that world leaders would want to keep their nations from collapsing. They must be working hard to prevent currency collapse, financial system collapse, food system collapse, social collapse, environmental collapse, and the onset of general, overwhelming misery—right? But no, that’s not what the evidence suggests. Increasingly I am forced to conclude that the object of the game that world leaders are actually playing is not to avoid collapse; it’s simply to postpone it a while so as to be the last nation to go down, so yours can have the chance to pick the others’ carcasses before it meets the same fate.
The elite 1% are playing a similar game against the 99% which I call “The Last Man Scrambling”. Paul Rosenberg’s latest essay discusses a 2006 book by Yale University political scientist Jacob S. Hacker who explains how the 99% are being financially eaten alive by what is termed the “risk-shift” – the systematic shifting of risk from large institutions onto the backs of citizens, including the most vulnerable among us, under the neoliberal rhetoric of “individuals taking personal responsibility”:
…The figures Hacker cited were staggering. First, regarding basic economic security: Personal bankruptcies increased from 300,000 in 1980 to 2 million in 2005 – a 567 per cent increase. The chance that an average American’s income will drop 50 per cent or more over a two-year period increased from 7 per cent in the 1970s to 17 per cent in 2002 – a 143 per cent increase. Long-term unemployment (more than 6 months) at the peak of the business cycle is triple what it was in the 1960s.
Second, regarding health security: The number of Americans without health insurance was 46.6 million, up from about 24 million in 1980. The decline was entirely due to cuts in employer-provided health coverage. Worse still, over 80 million Americans lack health insurance over some time during a two-year period.
Third, regarding retirement security: The percentage of large and medium-sized corporations offering traditional “defined-benefit” pensions, with a guaranteed monthly benefit for life, fell from more than 80 per cent in 1980 to less than a third in 2006. And 401(k)s that replaced them? There’s a reason folks call them 201(k)s now.
Fourth, the burden was particularly hard on families with children, whom conservatives claim to care about most. Their bankruptcy rates are twice that of childless couples.
These are just a few of the frightening figures Hacker cited, and in every case, he argued, the basic cause was the same: risk had been systematically shifted from large institutions most capable of handling it onto the shoulders of the most vulnerable. This was largely a result of a rhetoric of “personal responsibility”, but what was actually being shifted was not responsibility, but risk.
Rosenberg then ties this in with what Romney/Ryan have planned for the American plebs:
So what does all that have to do with Paul Ryan? Simple: Ryan’s infamous budget plan has many well-known problems with it, but it would also vastly intensify the Great Risk Shift, as Democratic strategist Mark Schmitt cogently pointed out in April 2011 (“The Ryan Plan: The Biggest Risk Shift Ever“).
“It’s not just that Ryan slashes spending,” Schmitt wrote, “he places the burden of risk on American families’ shoulders.” That’s precisely what the Great Risk Shift has done step-by-step over the past 30 years. With the Ryan plan, the process would be dramatically accelerated.
In one concise paragraph, Schmitt summarised Hacker’s point about the true value and function of the welfare state that America’s elites have been gradually dismantling since the 1970s:
The achievement of the New Deal and the Great Society was not primarily in providing benefits to the poor and the old, although that’s often how both liberals and conservatives talk about it now. What those programmes did best was to reduce risks for individuals by sharing them across society. Whether it was health insurance through Medicare and Medicaid, insurance against poverty in old age through Social Security, federal mortgage insurance that made homeownership possible, or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that enabled people to save for the future with confidence, when government absorbed and shared some of the risks of life, individuals were able to take chances and make the most of their potential.
And, in contrast, he noted:
Today, though, the only risks we’re sharing are the wrong ones: Wealthy investors are protected by real or implicit guarantees such as “too big to fail,” while the risks that should be shared, through social insurance, are instead privatised – that is, pushed down the line onto us as individuals.
So that’s what you call “The Last Man Scrambling” –for a livable-wage job, for affordable health care, for food on the table… Forget retirement; most will now die with their working boots on. And all this occurs while corporate profits soar to their highest level since WWII and the corporate tax burden sinks to its lowest level...