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It’s Time to Rethink the Reality We Live In

Wake up, America, it ain't 1895 anymore.

by
Barry Rubin

Bio

August 24, 2012 - 2:17 pm

I had two interesting responses to my article on Baltimore and the decay of America, and because my energy level is very low now as I begin treatment for cancer, allow me to respond briefly.

One friend asks why you believe that Romney and Ryan have answers for fixing America. Because America must decide whether it is going to be a society of productivity. Will it make new things and wealth? A city like Baltimore will not be rebuilt by taking money to lower living standards in the suburbs, but by creating great, new enterprises that produce goods and services people want.

Another polite reader put the following in the nicest possible way — I’m not being sarcastic: Don’t the Republicans and Romney just represent nineteenth-century plutocratic greedy capitalism dressed up as free enterprise? Millions of Americans believe this and unless they change their minds America will not change.

Yes, that evil Romney who wants to buy another 100 Rolls-Royces is not like those modest-living Kennedys, Gores, and all the rest, including a serious Democratic presidential candidate who betrayed his cancer-stricken wife after making a fortune on rather questionable legal actions. And I seem to recall a great lionized hero who — let’s face it: there’s no doubt — murdered a poor young working-class woman and left her to drown without ever paying for his crime. Sure there are bad conservatives and bad Republicans, corrupt and immoral people, but for goodness sake you aren’t treating them as great tribunes of the masses, as the friends of the exploiters, as they line their pockets from yours.

It’s time to rethink the reality we live in.

Look, it ain’t 1895 anymore. Does the American government tremble because of Ford, General Motors, U.S. Steel, Standard Oil of New Jersey, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and other mighty enterprises, many of which have collapsed completely?

No. It is the opposite. The corporations tremble before the government regulators who have the power to tie them into knots. And their main response is not to fight but to flee abroad.

Oh, mighty General Motors saved by the great Obama (Hooray! Hooray! … for the great messiah of business) with billions of your taxpaying dollars in order to create employment… in China!

Do workers living in hovels fear the boss telling them they are now out of work with no unemployment or pension, that their hours are increased, that they are going to be thrown out of their company homes because they were ten minutes late to work?

No, it is the unions—at least where such things survive in the heavy industry — that have the whip hand. The government is 100 percent on their side.

Do the big-bellied capitalists blow cigar smoke into the faces of newspaper editors and threaten to cut off advertising unless scandals are covered up? No, it is the government’s scandals that are covered up. And if anything, the companies are made to face unfair charges.

The corporate executives want to look good. They want people to say and write nice things about them. They want to be regarded as good corporate citizens. They spend money running image ads about how they feed songbirds instead of doing breakthrough research.

They can’t even get oil-drilling going off most of the coast at a time when America has no energy independence, prices are sky high, and the economy needs a boost.

What is reality here? Yes, there were such times in America of bullying plutocratic greedy polluting capitalist super-villains, but that just isn’t 2012.

And yes, too, there was a time when some redistribution of wealth was needed. That was decades ago, too. Know why? Because working stiffs had to buy all those cars, toasters, refrigerators, and other consumer goods rolling out of the factories. That’s why advertising was a good thing. That’s why America flourished after World War Two.

Tell me, is America’s problem today that there is a vast working class — even a vast poor class — that cannot buy cheap computers and expensive sports shoes?

And finally, don’t forget small business, all those millions of people who aren’t big moguls trying to make a living for themselves and their families and their employees.

What’s essential here is this:

– It’s not that the conservatives were always right and the evil liberal statists were destroying America.

– It’s not that the liberals were always right and the evil, greedy moguls wanted everyone but themselves to be poor.

It’s that American values work — some are liberal and some are conservative, but they must work together to be productive, not based on looting, not based on a more and more powerful state; not based in regulating everyone to death, not based — although this sometimes happened wrongfully — on setting groups to hate each other.

You can put the emphasis on making the pie bigger while paying attention to a reasonably fair distribution or you can gobble it down as fast as possible and then complain there isn’t any more.

The choice is yours, America. But for goodness sakes wake up and realize you’re living in the twenty-first century, not the Victorian age of dark satanic mills and brutal capitalists who laugh while watching children starve. No, now we are in the age of power-hungry, ice-cold, detached-from-reality bureaucrats and those with graduate degrees based on ignorance about society, history, and the world that should put a witch-doctor to shame who write reports and new rules while watching a civilization go down.

***

cross-posted from Rubin Reports

Thumbnail and image courtesy shutterstock / minifilm

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition, Viking-Penguin), the paperback edition of The Truth about Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.
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