Figures on inequality taken from recent MSM reports – No comment necessary.

“The top 1 percent now accounts for 23.5 percent of the national income if you include capital gains. In 1979, they only had 9.8 percent of the nation’s earnings. During that same period, tax rates on the richest Americans have actually dropped. So as the economy went one way – toward more money going to the rich – the tax system went the other.” 
    — Washington Post, 9/13/2010

“The richest 2% of the world’s population owns more than half of the world’s household wealth. Half the world, nearly 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day. The three richest people in the world – Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helú – have more money than the poorest 48 nations combined.” 
    — MSN Money Report, 12/13/2006

“Income in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it has been in 80 years. Almost a quarter of total income generated in the United States is going to the top 1 percent . The top one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million. The marginal income tax rate on the very rich is the lowest it has been in more than 80 years. Under President Dwight Eisenhower … it was 91 percent. Now it’s 36 percent. ” 
    — San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2010

Chris Hedges on Why the Elites Are in Trouble 


Among the numerous commentators 
writing and blogging on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, Chris Hedges is one of the most eloquent.  In a posting in ReaderSupported News, dated Oct 11, he reports:

The lords of finance in the looming towers surrounding the park, who toy with money and lives, who make the political class, the press and the judiciary jump at their demands, who destroy the ecosystem for profit and drain the U.S. Treasury to gamble and speculate, took little notice of the scruffy activists on the street below them. The elites consider everyone outside their sphere marginal or invisible. And what significance could an artist who paid her bills by working as a waitress have for the powerful? What could she and the others in Zuccotti Park do to them? What threat can the weak pose to the strong? …Masters all, kneeling before the idols of the marketplace, blinded by their self-importance, impervious to human suffering, bloated from unchecked greed and privilege, they were about to be taught a lesson in the folly of hubris.
Even now, three weeks later, elites, and their mouthpieces in the press, continue to puzzle over what people want. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda?

The goal to people like Ketchup (one of the protesters) is very, very clear. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back.

This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening.

Chris Hedges, Truthdig http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/275-42/7810-why-the-elites-are-in-trouble

Amazing color pictures of rural America in the depression years 1939-1943

These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. These 70 photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.

http://extras.denverpost.com/archive/captured.asp

Elizabeth Warren speaks out for economic democracy

Every now and then, someone comes along and says something that makes everything clear. Elizabeth Warren just did that, and the world is taking notice.

Quoted on Facebook and distributed by MoveOn.org, her speech has been hitting folks across America. As Tea Party politicians make disingenuous excuses from the right-wing about why the super-rich can’t pay their fair share, Elizabeth Warren sets the record straight.

 

Go to her campaign website to hear and support her campaign for the Senate.

Michael Pollan predicts positive change to come in the American food system

In an article in The Nation Michael Pollan looks at the question of how and when the unhealthy and environmentally disastrous American agriculture and food system is going to change. Recognizing the present political obstacles in the way of reform is discouraging.  Congress is stacked with hard-core supporters of the present system industrial agriculture system.

 In the forty years since the publication of Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, a movement dedicated to the reform of the food system has taken root in America. …To date, however, the food movement can claim more success in changing popular consciousness than in shifting, in any fundamental way, the political and economic forces shaping the food system or, for that matter, in changing the “standard American diet”—which has only gotten worse since the 1970s.

A prime obstacle to change is the relatively low cost of the food mass-produced by the system.

 Whatever its cost to public health and the environment, cheap food has become a pillar of the modern economy that few in government dare to question. And many of the reforms we need—such as improving conditions in the meat industry and cleaning up feedlot agriculture—stand to make meat more expensive. That might be a good thing for public health, but it will never be popular.

Pollan points to the fact that grassroots activism, though essential, is maddeningly slow in bringing about changes at the governmental and congressional level. A comparison to the anti-smoking campaign by public health interest groups is encouraging.

 The most promising food activism is taking place at the grassroots: local policy initiatives are popping up in municipalities across the country, alongside urban agriculture ventures in underserved areas and farm-to-school programs. Changing the way America feeds itself has become the galvanizing issue for a generation now coming of age. …It’s worth remembering that it took decades before the campaign against the tobacco industry could point to any concrete accomplishments. By the 1930s, the scientific case against smoking had been made, yet it wasn’t until 1964 that the surgeon general was willing to declare smoking a threat to health, and another two decades after that before the industry’s seemingly unshakable hold on Congress finally crumbled. By this standard, the food movement is making swift progress.

And he points to another factor, which may turn out to be an unexpected political trump card in favor of the food reform movement – the staggering public health consequences and costs of the present food system. This is likely to bring the healthcare industry to the table in favor of changing the way we eat.

 When change depends on overcoming the influence of an entrenched power, it helps to have another powerful interest in your corner—an interest that stands to gain from reform. In the case of the tobacco industry, that turned out to be the states, which found themselves on the hook (largely because of Medicaid) for the soaring costs of smoking-related illnesses. … Indeed, as soon as the healthcare industry begins to focus on the fact that the government is subsidizing precisely the sort of meal for which the industry (and the government) will have to pick up the long-term tab, eloquent advocates of food system reform will suddenly appear in the unlikeliest places.—like the agriculture committees of Congress.

Pollan’s conclusions are hopeful.

 For the past forty years, food reform activists like Frances Moore Lappé have been saying that the American way of growing and eating food is “unsustainable.”… Continuing to eat in a way that undermines health, soil, energy resources and social justice cannot be sustained without eventually leading to a breakdown. …We simply can’t afford the healthcare costs incurred by the current system of cheap food—which is why, sooner or later, we will find the political will to change it.

Read the Article

Monday 19 September 2011

by: Michael Pollan, The Nation | Op-Ed

The dead-end collapse of capitalism and the socialist alternative

The blatant and escalating failures of the mis-named “free market” policies pursued by our so-called political leaders, the vassals of the global multinational corporations, are now manifesting in the continuing instability in the financial markets, stubbornly rising unemployment, drastic cuts to state-supported social, educational, welfare and environmental programs. Here are some sane comments pointing a way out of our insane dilemma, from Professor Richard Wolff, self-avowed socialist, economist and academic.

Austerity: Why Capitalism Is Choosing Plan B
Across US states, governors are forcing through Greek-style austerity measures. Corporations wouldn’t have it any other way. Plan A entailed a crisis-response program of bailing out the banks, insurance companies, large corporations and stock markets to achieve “recovery”. The theory behind Plan A – we used to call it “trickle-down economics” – was that recovery would spread from financial markets and financiers to everyone else. It never did. So now the same servants of capitalism who imposed Plan A are dishing out Plan B. Governors Cuomo in New York and Malloy in Connecticut had very similar Plan Bs. They threatened the public employee unions and the people of their states in nearly identical ways. Either the unions accept new contracts with wage freezes and raised contributions to their health insurance plans (and other declines in their basic remuneration) – or the governors would fire tens of thousands of unionized state workers. …Let’s be really clear on what the two governors were doing. They were forcing a very painful “either/or” onto the mass of people who elected them. Each governor said: I will either fire many thousands of state workers and thereby impose drastic cuts in public services on the entire citizenry, or I will subject tens of thousands of state employees to significant cuts in their wages and benefits. Each governor spoke and acted as if those were the only two choices – even though that is blatantly untrue.

 

Each governor refused to even consider an obvious alternative Plan C: increasing taxes on corporations and the rich enough to avoid either public service cuts or wage cuts. Instead, each governor snubbed his nose at the public by forcing unions to choose between two awful options. The public employees unions voted to accept serious cuts in pay and benefits. …These are serious reductions in state workers’ standards of living. They will thus reduce their expenditures, thereby hurting communities, businesses and other workers. The states will thus learn the same lessons learned in Greece and Portugal and wherever austerities are governments’ Plan Bs. Austerities make difficult, painful and unjust capitalist crises more so. Corporations and the rich bankroll the parties and governors who design and impose Plans A and B, while avoiding Plan C.  And so matters will remain unless and until corporations’ profits are no longer available to their boards of directors to enrich themselves and major shareholders and to buy politicians’ servitude. The best response to capitalism’s crisis, to its failed Plan A and to its unjust Plan B (and the improbable Plan C) would be a Plan D: to change how we organize productive enterprises in our society. Profits should be distributed by the democratic decision-making of all those who produce and depend on them, the workers and affected communities.

 

The twists and turns of this global capitalism system, painful as they are to endure, nonetheless also move it toward a confrontation with the alternative Plan D. The real question is whether the advocates and supporters of Plan D can be organized, mobilized and focused on achieving their goals in that confrontation.

Published on Monday, August 22, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

The Occupy Wall Street Movement gives rise to an Anthem of Freedom and Justice – “Finally Here”

Few people anticipated that a small group of citizens practicing non-violent spontaneous street theatre on the doorsteps of the financial imperium would expand so rapidly to include demonstrations in other major US cities and galvanize a growing movement. Here is a link to its first, but surely not its last, popular song, spreading virally through cyberspace.