Paying too much attention to contemporary events and trends can easily leave me cynical and pessimistic. The pessimist and cynic are less likely to be disappointed but those perspectives make life pretty grim. So I look for possibilities. One possibility is that voices are speaking out against the corporate-military hegemony of America's economy and how that hegemony is maintained at the expense of most Americans. Yesterday, I cited Noam Chomsky and others. Today I find another perceptive analysis of America's spiral into oligarchy.
William Astore's essay (like Chomsky's, at TomDispatch) on the America as an "Old Regime". Astore's vocabulary is stunningly direct:
Consider again the example of pre-revolutionary Versailles. A top-heavy, remarkably dissolute, and openly parasitic bureaucracy plundered the commonweal of France in its pursuit of power and privilege. Can we not say the same of Washington today? In its kleptocratic tendency to enrich itself and its accountability-free deployment of military power globally, the American ruling class bears a certain resemblance to French kings and their courts which, in the end, drove their country to economic ruin and violent revolution.
Fed up with its prodigal and prideful rulers, France saw the tumbrels roll and the guillotine blades drop. How many more undeclared “enlightened” wars, how many more trillions of dollars in war-driven debt, how many more dead and wounded will it take for the American people to reclaim their power over war? Or are we content to remain deferential to our ruling class and court -- and to their less-than-liberty-loving overseas creditors -- until such a time as their prideful wars and prodigal trillion-dollar-plus “defense” budgets bring our great democratic experiment crashing down?
How long, indeed. I keep asking how long Americans, whose reputation and image has traditionally been practicality, will continue to accept immiseration for the benefit of the wealthy?
Maybe I will get an answer soon. At least one politician is willing to bet his re-election that Americans are unwilling to simply absolve the wealthy of any social responsibility. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont socialist, has introduced a bill creating a surtax on gross incomes exceeding one million dollars
The millionaires tax was pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), a socialist and a member of the budget committee. He initially called for a 5.4 percent surtax on adjusted gross incomes over $1 million, which Sanders said would raise as much as $50 billion a year.
Sanders, in an interview, waved off criticisms of the surtax, saying its inclusion would help Democrats’ campaigns — including his own.
“I’m running for reelection, and I think this is what the American people want,” he said. ”Asking the wealthiest people in this country to contribute to deficit reduction is not only good policy, it’s good politics.”
One thing the Republicans have done well is offer their vision for America. It's chillingly brutal, based on truly fuzzy math and assumptions that are not credible but at least Republicans put their vision out for people to see. Democrats need an equally bold vision but are too timid to take a chance.
All of which makes me glad that an independent socialist is willing to speak out. That's an antidote for cynicism and pessimism.