Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America - middle-class America - whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America - narrow-interest America - whose every wish is Washington's command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a president. --Presidential candidate John Edwards 2004There you go, people. That's the truth in America. (Never mind the short-comings of the messenger. They're irrelevant.)
The "Reagan Revolution" is bearing its rotten fruit. Ever since the old Prunehead successfully hood-winked people into believing that the ultra-rich were heroes rather than robber barons, this nation has been transformed into a plutocracy, an oligarchy. In this neo-feudal system, ultra-rich individuals indenture the lower classes, skimming the cream off the milk pail of their labor.
George W. Bush is the epitome, the crowning achievement, of this system. He is a man who was presented with opportunities that only a very few elites are ever afforded, simply by virtue of his family name. He failed miserably at everything he ever did in his life, and, as a result of those failures, was promoted upward, until he eventually sat, like a drooling idiot monkey, at the desk in the Oval Office.
Or consider Oregon's former Senator Gordon Smith, who made a fortune producing frozen vegetables in eastern Oregon. He made this fortune while paying his (mostly Latino) workers less than minimum wage with no benefits of any kind. Smith is so steeped in the plutocratic doctrine that he, no doubt, can see nothing wrong with the arrangement. "What do these people want from me?" one can imagine him musing. "I let them eat freely from the leavings of my table."
An old friend of mine who sells cars for a living told me a couple stories that succinctly portray aspects of the economic conditions brought about by the conservative "philosophy" of dismantling public projects, of relieving the "haves" of their civic responsibility with regressive tax cuts.
The first story involved a wealthy man and his 15 year old daughter. (My friend described the man as a "multimillionaire.") The man brought the girl in to my friend's dealership to buy her a brand, spanking new vehicle for her 16th birthday. My friend showed them around and they came to settle on a vehicle that was listed at around $30K. But there was a problem: the girl was unhappy with the wheels on the car. She wanted 17" wheels rather than the 16" wheels with which the care was equipped. My friend described the ensuing negotiation between father and daughter as a "hissy fit." Father and daughter left the lot squabbling.
Later, my friend got a call from the father. "What can you do to get me the 17" wheels?" the man inquired. "That's the only way this deal is going to happen." So, my friend went to work locating some 17" wheels and arranging to have them shipped to the lot, there to be mounted on the car. This arrangement added some cost to the vehicle, naturally, but the father seemed unperturbed. What was a few hundred dollars if it meant he could stop the tragic flow of his precious daughter's tears?
The second story involved a young, single mother freshly graduated from college with a Bachelor's degree in English. This woman had employment as a teacher and was hoping to buy some reliable transportation for herself and her young child. My friend and she reviewed her financial situation to determine how much car she could afford. My friend learned that the woman had nearly $60K debt in student loans. He estimated that servicing the loans would require payments of some $500 per month, effectively for the woman's entire working life. He described it as "indentured servitude." It's unclear whether or not the woman was able to arrange financing for her nondescript, middle-of-the-road vehicle.
And there you have it: neo-feudalism. On the one hand, we have a girl who, we must imagine, has never had to work for anything in her life, who believes that she is entitled to every luxury the world has to offer. On the other, we have a mother, burdened by debt she incurred trying to make her way in the world, who will spend her lifetime servicing debt, paying money to the usurers.
This, of course, is the natural result of the Reagan Revolution. Wealth collects at the top. The so-called "American Dream" is a myth, a mirage that is perpetuated to keep the hoi polloi deluded into thinking that they, too, can be at the top. And the corporate media, controlled by the mega-rich, plays its part by pitting the lower classes against each other along ethnic and religious lines.
In America, there's only one thing that counts for sh*t. And that's money.