May 222010
 

“For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. economy has grown at a steady clip, generating perpetually higher incomes and wealth for American households. But since 2000, the story is starkly different. There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent..

Fred Branfman, Huffington Post

Maybe we need a newer New Deal
Image by TheeErin via Flickr

So begins Fred Branfman’s account of the status of politics and the economy in America. The story he tells isn’t a happy one, but it’s honest, and it should be mandatory reading for all Americans. If you care about our Country, if you truly want your children and grandchildren to have a better future, then you’ll take the time to read this. These are dire times for America. We are at war, but not with a foreign enemy. The enemy is greed, and nothing less than the future existence of the middle class is at stake.

The truth of the matter is, as Mr. Branfman points out, the American middle class is slowly being squeezed from existence. Job growth has been zero for the past decade, and the current real unemployment rate is over 17 percent. Looking more closely at 21st Century America, Mr. Branfman tells us, “Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well. Middle-income households made less in 2008 than they did in 1999. And the net worth of American households … has also declined compared with sharp gains in every previous decade since data were initially collected in the 1950s.”

The flip side of this is the increased wealth and abundance experienced by America’s richest few over this same period of time. The upper 1 percent of Americans is now worth more than the bottom 90 percent combined. The redistribution of wealth, away from the middle class, was achieved by squeezing American workers, sending massive numbers of jobs overseas, creating the Robber Banker complex and all the while making sure that the rich kept paying lower taxes.

Mr. Branfman shares in vivid detail much of the story of the Robber Bankers and how their unbridled greed has taken our Country to the brink of economic ruin. How they traded their own economic prosperity for the wellbeing of a nation, and of how the incompetence of the federal government let it happen. In his words, “The basic fact that none of our leaders dare say aloud–from CEOs to economists to politicians–is that the U.S. private sector and capitalism itself have failed, as well as the government charged with controlling its worst excesses.” The American people need to hear this truth and contemplate its full meaning.

The Great Recession is the current culmination of a failed test in free-market politics. It is the predictable result of decades of deregulation and lowered taxes on the rich. What we’ve netted is over 30 million Americans without jobs, and a gutted U.S. industry where now the money changers, the makers of NOTHING — the financial sector has amassed over 40 percent of overall corporate profits.

Middle class Americans need to wake up and join together. The path back is through better government — government that again serves The People, and through higher taxes on the rich. Average Americans need to understand that the present tax cut mentality is a poison apple sold by the wealthy to stuff their own coffers.  It was the high top income tax rate that essentially wrote the epitaph for the tyranny of the elite after the Great Depression. It provided the funding needed for the New Deal and created the American middle class. The top rate never dipped below 63% from 1932 until 1982, and the 91% bracket held for most of 1951 to 1963.

But the sad truth is that Ronald Reagan tore the structure down and returned power to the robber barons. Reaganomics was the accelerated beginning of the march to the Great Recession. President Reagan presided over a top rate reduction from 70 percent to 28 percent that shifted power firmly back to the elite. Once back in power, they managed to either get regulations removed or to achieve adequate corruption within the regulatory structures to allow unfettered activity. George W. Bush then came along and reversed the small tax rate increases established under Clinton, drastically skewed government practices to favor business, and accelerated the concentration of wealth into the upper 1% to 2%.

So, today we have history repeating itself. The elite gambled and lost and brought us the Great Depression and now the Great Recession. They presently own the Congress and are ensured their lackeys will provide legislation that looks like reform but is actually continued tribute. The recent healthcare legislation will feed billions to medical insurers and the pharmaceutical companies. And the just passed financial “reform” bill is sure to emerge from reconciliation as a toothless gift to Wall Street.

American government is controlled by the wealthy. They’ve led us to a gutted tax base and a huge debt, and now the solution they propose is the destruction of the government structures that helped to create the American middle class in the first place. Privatization of Social Security is just one example of code talk for “the rich want more money and power.” The programs of the New Deal were essential to the great prosperity that preceded the deception of Reaganomics and the ensuing calamity of the Great Recession. Those same programs, along with an effective government that serves the good of The People, are critical to a new age of prosperity for all Americans.

If Americans want to even have a middle class, they need to understand the need to generate more tax revenue. They also need to not fall prey to the false logic of arguments for flat taxes or movement solely to a value added tax. A system of progressive taxes is the only equitable vehicle of taxation. It not only ensures that citizens pay back to the society based on the benefit they’ve extracted from it, but it also provides the essential balance of power and control of government that’s required to maintain a middle class.

The reforms we need are obviously very easy to espouse and very difficult to achieve. The richest of the rich have seized power and will fight to retain it. They don’t want increased regulation, and they damn sure don’t want higher top tax brackets. If We the People want to retain an American middle class, we need to take back control of our government first. The path back to the power of The People lies on the road to campaign finance reform. We need public campaign financing, preferential voting, term limits and a barring of the lobbyist’s revolving door.

These are the things that all voters should be able to rally behind, regardless of their political philosophy. This is the path back to restoration of American greatness and prosperity for ALL Americans.


Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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