Curse of the Ruling Class

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by Jack Random
House Republicans said we would stand up for American taxpayers at this time of economic hardship for our nation. And last night, standing together, that’s exactly what we did.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH)

At a time of economic meltdown – the word “crisis” is no longer adequate to describe it – posturing Republicans claim victory in toeing the party line, former Senate minority leader Tom Daschle – the man who would lead health care reform – believes his colleagues will overlook his indiscretions, and Blue Dog Democrats read from the same script they held eight years ago as if nothing had changed.  
The curse of the ruling class is that the longer they stay in office, the further removed they become from the lives of the citizens they represent.  

Let it be clear:  We are on the brink of a global depression.  We are staring at the prospect of millions out of work, millions more desperately underpaid, millions of retirees without health insurance, millions more without adequate retirement.  We are looking at masses of people without homes lining up for daily rations of bread and soup.  We are facing the collapse of financial institutions, industries, international corporations and small businesses.  

Let it be clear:  We know how we got to this point.  We followed the lead of trickle down tax cuts, corporate deregulation and global free trade economists.  We dismantled government agencies charged with controlling the excesses of profit motivated corporations and allowed them to play out their hand in the free market.  We decimated what remains of domestic industry and organized labor.  We watched the rich grow richer, the poor grow poorer and the working class transformed into the working poor.  We imported goods from nations without labor standards or living wages knowing that our workers, no matter how efficient, could never compete with state sanctioned slavery.  We encouraged our citizens to buy homes they could not afford, take out loans on their mortgages, and run up debt on their credit cards.  

It is time we put a rest to this idea that no one saw it coming.  The ruling class saw it coming well enough to make it harder for ordinary people to declare bankruptcy and still save their homes, cars and essential belongings (The Bankruptcy Act of 2005).  They knew where we were headed and they came down on the side of the bankers that would later be rescued with trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.  

Tom Daschle should be ashamed.  Over and above his tax indiscretions, he was paid millions by the health care giants he would have been charged with regulating and reforming as Secretary of Health and Human Services. President Obama should be ashamed for not recognizing the hypocrisy when he nominated Daschle for the job.  

House Republicans should be ashamed for gloating over their unanimous No vote on Obama’s $850 billion dollar stimulus package.  Where was their collective courage when it came to the $850 billion dollar bailout plan for bankers and financiers?  What was their reasoning?  We need tax cuts, not public works!  If tax cuts were the answer, we would not be in the mess we are.  They got all the tax cuts they ever dreamed of in the Bush administration and it did nothing to stem the tide.  

The eleven Blue Dog Democrats who empowered Republicans to call their obstructionism bipartisan should be even more ashamed.  There comes a time when the adjective outweighs the noun it describes.  If the Blue Dogs cannot support the president at a time of the greatest economic threat since the Great Depression, then they are not entitled to be Democrats.  The party should be ashamed for allowing them to continue under the party banner.  

It now comes down to the Senate and what a show it promises to be.  No one is further removed from the people of this nation than the aristocracy of the United States Senate.  All eyes now turn to that endangered species known as the moderate Republican, a dwindling cast that may include Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and the newly appointed Bonnie Newman of New Hampshire.  If those three can be tempted to either side (Snowe has already indicated she favors the package) the game is over.  

The game is over but the show goes on.  That is what it really is all about.  The problem is the show takes time and we don’t have time to give.  It provides corporate media coal for the fire.   As they obsess with one distraction after another, thousands of citizens lose their jobs every day.  

When you don’t have a job you’re not worried about tax cuts.  When you don’t know if you can pay the rent or make the next mortgage payment there is a limit to how much you care about Tom Daschle’s tax problems.  When you’re one visit to the hospital away from bankruptcy or foreclosure you get a little tired of the same old lines from Republican leaders.  

Barack Obama made an effort to bring Republicans on board.  He was willing to share the responsibility in attempting to rescue a failing economy.  He gave more than he should have, laying the grounds for progressive opposition, and what did he gain?  

The stimulus package will pass.  It will pass because the people are desperately in need.  It will pass because that desperation will turn to rage as the economy continues to worsen.  It will pass because when it comes to crunch the Republicans do not have the guts to stand in the way.  To them it is all about the show.  

It is my hope that among the lesson Obama takes from this experience is that presidential politics is hardball.  He extended an open hand and the Republicans spit in his face.  Now it is time for the clenched fist.  

Let us hope we have seen the end of Obama’s right leaning “clean coal” and nuclear power initiatives.  Let us hope he comes out strong for organized labor and fair trade.  Let us hope we have seen the end of delaying the repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the privileged.  Let us hope we see billions pulled from tax cuts he does not truly believe in and delivered to the green economy – beginning with an interstate mass transit system, a modern power grid and an unprecedented program of renewable energy installation.  

We need jobs plain and simple.  The most direct and cost effective means to that end is for the government to employ the people.  Now is not the time to worry about the ideological taboos of the past.  Put the people to work now and worry about transferring those jobs to the private sector later.  

The one thing we should have learned from both the financial meltdown and subsequent trillion-dollar bailout is that corporations require strict regulation.  We had little choice at the time.  A collapse was imminent and immediate action was required.  But had we known that the financial elite, those who finance political campaigns, would use our money to consolidate wealth and provide extravagant bonus payments for the chosen few, we would surely have acted differently.  Rather than witness our money squandered in a reckless display of greed and self-centered elitism we should have considered nationalization.  

We are where we are.  We know how to proceed and we know there is no time for delay.  Now is the time to act.  

Those who fail to stand for action now at this critical juncture, clinging to their old ideologies or standard political lines while the economy continues its steep and tortured decline, deserve to be recorded in history for their blind ineptitude.  

They have suffered the curse of the ruling class and deserve nothing more than to be relieved of their infirmity.  



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