Can you remember the last time you felt a national leader looked us in the eye and told us there is no easy solution to our major problems, that we’ve gotten into this mess by being self-indulgent or ideologically fixated over two decades and that now we need to spend the next five years rolling up our sleeves, possibly accepting a lower living standard and making up for our excesses?
- Thomas Friedman, The Whole Truth and Nothing But
Friedman does it again. Once again he looks at the financial ruin of America and blames the victims. Why do we have to accept a lowered standard of living, and rolling up our sleeves for five years of austerity? The rich 1% own 90% of everything! We’ve been robbed systematically for 30 years, and now the GOP wants to institutionalize it with more tax cuts.
But Friedman never talks about the burglar, living up at the top of the hill. He keeps shaking his head, telling us that we have to pay for the broken window the burglar broke, and pay higher taxes for the cops that didn’t protect us, and then buy another set of silver to replace what the burglar stole. It’s time for the President, he says, to tell us to roll up our sleeves.
We have a culture where individualism has become so pathological that we cannot heap up our collective experience as victims and craft it into solidarity
What I want to know is this: when will the President — or any other credible leader, for that matter — stand up and say that those who have become billionaires by rigging a system to impoverish everyone else are our enemies, and we need to restructure the system — a completely new social contract — so that their wealth is redistributed.
And the working and middle class of America — and the growing ranks of the poor and unemployed — will not accept new privations, new austerities.
We have a culture where individualism has become so pathological that we cannot heap up our collective experience as victims and craft it into solidarity. As Steinbeck said, ‘Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires’, which is why so many poor people in America vote for the GOP: they identify with the rich, even though the rich are screwing them over.
But a sufficient dose of austerity — once the street lights are turned off, school class size grows to 50+ because of layoffs, and cities and town cannot afford to rebuild streets after floods and fires — that might start to mobilize people.
But we have to reject the implicit individualistic self-loathing, that we brought this on ourselves, by accumulating too much personal credit card debt and buying houses we couldn’t afford in a down market. That we stole our own future from ourselves.
No, Tom, we are not the ones that did this. We borrowed on the credit cards when real wages dropped in the ’90s, when two worker families were already the norm. We bought big houses in the ’00s to grab onto the American dream, and to own an asset that everyone — including the banks and our leaders — promised us would appreciate. But they all lied to us.
The banks have been bailed out, but now we are told we have to pay our own debts, plus the new debts that our government has taken on to write down the costs of the housing bust. Oh, and a few wars in Asia where we are busy spreading ‘democracy’, which loosely translated means global free trade, making billionaires happy again.
Enough. We won’t accept it. We want our money back. We want our future back. We want our country back.
And Tom, stop saying we have to accept what the leaders, the billionaires, and the banks decide for us. This is our world too.
- alfornia said: It is time to stop just talking about it. If we. The VICTIMS were victimless. But the collective society has allowed this shit 2 go down. Did ANYBODY march on Washington DC when all that TARP shit was passed? NO.
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