Sunday, August 26, 2012
Solving America's Economic Problems:
What's the First Step?
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
(excerpt from chapter 7 of his book, "Occupying America: We Shall Overcome")
As the financial industry’s largest players have been unleashed to pursue profit for themselves at all costs, the dreadful consequences have surely impacted everyone. Pensions have been wiped out. Family homes have been stripped of value, with millions taken away altogether. Small businesses have been locked out of credit markets. More than 14 million people are exiled from the labor force, with one in four workers over the age of 50 never returning (I know because I was one of those people – that's what gives me the time to write books). An absolutely galling one in three black children and nearly as many Latino children are growing up in poverty right now, while the president brags about ferreting out fraud in the food stamp program rather than getting more money for it. Our chosen political leaders have tolerated all of this in order to maintain the fiction that our economic system still works, that the organizing principles of our society remain valid. So the central question of 2012’s likely all-consuming political debate must be simple: How do we acknowledge that our current economy is built on lies and then start erecting a new one based on equity and sustainability? It is far better than what we currently have; an economy where we steal from the future, sell it in the present, and call it Gross Domestic Product. GDP and economic growth are simply an inter-generational Ponzi scheme biding its time while our government continues to steal from its own treasury. Obviously this cannot continue indefinitely, yet our US government remains in a state of denial regarding its existence.
What is it that has clouded humanity’s judgment to such an extent? We as a species have, on balance, performed extraordinarily well. We've been around for hundreds of thousands of years. It has only been within the last couple thousand years that we have had running water indoors, only the last 150 years since indoor plumbing was invented, and only 50 years since the last remaining houses in the US were refitted with electricity. As we’ve evolved, we have created a quality of life for billions that was unimaginable at this scale even a few decades ago. Where we have failed, we have often (but not always) attempted to correct. So, why are we collectively failing to recognize that our current trajectory of development is not sustainable?
I believe that the core of our problem lies in humanity’s delusion that we can have infinite quantitative economic growth on a finite planet. This overarching belief is largely driven by our current model of consumer-driven economic growth, and is reflected in the mistaken notion that you can capture progress via one measurement alone: GDP. Our obsession with growth is not just a fleeting idea or a temporary policy. It is the idea that supports the global economy and society in general. It structures the political and economic strategy for nearly every government on the planet. And individually, it is for most the critical measure for progress both personally and professionally.
The prosperity and stability promised by economic growth has not always delivered. Certainly in developing countries, impressive GDP growth figures can represent the crossing of the poverty line for millions of individuals. However, GDP growth does not always represent a magic formula for a better quality of life. On an individual and local level, our endless obsession with imbuing material things with social and psychological meanings has not led to a better quality of life. According to Prosperity Without Growth, UK incomes have roughly doubled since the 1970s, yet the “loneliness index” increased in every single region measured. In fact, “even the weakest communities in 1971 were stronger than any community now.”
How do we break ourselves out of this mindset? Society needs to develop a different, more sophisticated economic model. There has been admirable progress, led most outstandingly by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in the UK, in addition to the Happy Planet (an NEF initiative) and OECD Better Life indexes. We need to find a way out of the institutional and social constraints that lock us into a failing, self-perpetuating system. We need an extensive change in values, lifestyles and social structure. We need to break the shackles that bind us to the failing logic of quantitative economic growth. And just as society as a whole needs to move away from viewing economic growth as the ultimate measure of progress, the business world must distance itself from a mindset that is primarily focused on creating growth in shareholder wealth. We will achieve this not only by asking ourselves the following question, but being guided by it in all of our interactions: Will we be good ancestors? It no longer takes a visionary to recognize that the paradigm of endless growth risks undermining every conceivable economic and social purpose at which business and policy are aimed.
No matter how one looks at the economic woes plaguing America, in essence they are simply costs of all kinds – costs that keep escalating and accelerating at the same time. Rising unemployment, budget deficits, housing foreclosures, rising energy and food prices, unaffordable healthcare, accumulating credit card debt, bailouts, devaluation of the U.S. dollar, outsourcing, global trades, products built with planned obsolescence and obsolete technologies, global warming, natural disasters, depletion of natural resources, nuclear wastes, wars – all these represent costs, either recurring, periodic, catastrophic, or some other types. Reducing the general cost of an economy requires the implementation of a series of well-measured economic, monetary, fiscal, political, and technological policies. It would be a disaster to try to reach this goal by mimicking the CEOs of some corporations, who can think of no way to cut costs other than firing employees, downsizing, and outsourcing production to low-cost-labor countries. These methods may generate profits for corporations and their shareholders but ultimately are destructive and cause the middle class – the most important base of an economy – to break down, shrink, and disappear. It's just one more reason for all of us to rise up and fight back.
The first and foremost goal of any economic-political policy must be to avoid the conventional method of increasing poverty in the interest of maximizing profit. This method is morally and socially wrong because no one should have the right to damage anyone's livelihood for the sake of profit. In addition, it is shortsighted because in the long run everyone loses – even the rich and super-rich. Maximizing profit in an environment of uncertainty and at any expense should be given low priority. Acquiring wealth through methods that make others poor and homeless is no great achievement. Instead, the trick is to make others well-off while accumulating wealth for oneself.
The vicious cycle of cost is paralyzing our economy. To break out of this cycle, we cannot simply take imprudent and shortsighted steps such as firing people, or reducing their salaries and benefits to balance the budget without taking the most necessary measure! Energy is the most devilish cost and must be eliminated – totally, rigorously, and permanently – before we can tackle any other cost. The cost of energy, whether for private households, corporations, or government, is the plague of our economy. Why must we tackle the cost of energy first? Because it is the root source of the vicious cycle of cost. The cost of energy does not just escalate and accelerate as energy goes through the different production stages until reaching the consumer. It reduces the purchasing power of private households, companies, and governments. As the cost of energy rises, the entire economy becomes less mobile, leading to a decline in economic activity and eventually to a recession.
The increasing cost of imported energy such as crude oil leads to increased deficits, which compounds the cost of interest further. Unemployment rises as the cost of energy escalates. Rising energy costs put America's wealth at risk of ending up in the hands of hostile Middle Eastern countries. The future cost of developing alternative energy sources becomes tremendously more expensive. Social costs stemming from environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources increase. Ultimately, the United States will lose its economic, technological, and military superiority in the world. No other type of cost comes with such severe consequences. Therefore, the first and most crucial step towards reducing the cost of an economy is to reduce energy costs mercilessly. This will channel our economy in the right direction and give it a bright future such as we have never experienced.
What is needed is a crash program to reorient and reallocate our existing energy resources while bringing new ones online. First and foremost on the minds of the American people will be to find a way to eliminate our need for imported oil from countries that are hostile to us, a good strategic move on the part of America if ever there was one. Coal and nuclear power must be replaced with solar, wind, off-shore hydroelectric and hydrogen fusion power, the same as what powers our sun and the stars in the heavens. Other energy innovations are already in the works by a number of inventors, with a race to perfect the ultimate clean energy source similar to that of putting a man on the moon in the 1960's.
Our cars and trucks must be converted to run on domestically plentiful natural gas, which burns much cleaner than gasoline, in order to end our dependency on foreign oil. Putting the infrastructure in place nationwide will take several years or more and create one to three million new jobs. That's why those who are in a position to should do the patriotic thing and implement such a program and put millions of your fellow Americans back to work. Then there is the problem of our antiquated, energy-hungry power grid as it currently exists on the American continent. Whenever we plug an appliance of one kind or another into a power plug in the wall, we are running that appliance on 110 volts DC, or direct current. Direct current has been around since the 1800's as a source of energy, and it is long past due for replacement. The reasons are simple so allow me to offer a brief explanation.
The use of direct current involves the usage of relatively high voltages of 110 volts and up. According to an old truism about electricity known as Ohm's law, whenever the resistance across a circuit is constant, an increase in voltage is accompanied by an increase in current. The more voltage being maintained on a circuit or a grid, the more electrical current is necessary to keep that voltage at a constant level, and the more energy is required to generate that much electricity. Conversely, if our power grid only needed to generate, say, about one twentieth or 5% of the electricity that it currently needs to generate to maintain the necessary power levels, then it would only need about 5-10% of the fuel that it currently requires. That, to say the least, would completely change the playing field as far as electrical usage and costs were concerned for all of North America, and could be exported overseas to parts of the third world who have not yet fully developed their electrical grids. So, it is no exaggeration to say that converting our power grid from analog to digital would reduce America's energy use for electricity generation by up to 95%, since digital usually runs on +5 or -5 volts, or on +/- 12 volts. Converting America's electrical grid from analog to low-voltage digital is a project that would take 10 years and create a minimum of 3 million jobs, and possibly as many as twice that number. It should be made part of a much larger overall public works program to generate millions of urgently needed American jobs. We already have the means and the knowledge to implement such a mass overhaul of America's electrical grid, and Congress and the President should provide the funding through legislation. If they are unwilling to do that, then it will be up to us to vote such a public works project by way of popular referendum. One way or another, we have the power to make these improvements a reality, and it is crucial that we do so at the first opportunity.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
The Monetary System is Broken
Excerpt from "Occupying America: We Shall Overcome"
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
Another area where the movers and shakers on Wall Street have gotten completely out of control has been salaries, and especially the outrageous bonuses, being paid to Wall St. executives. This problem has been ongoing for a long time, and it continues to get worse. The scenario usually works out something like this: A global financial catastrophe occurs a la 2008. An outraged public shakes pitchforks at the corporate culprits. Lawmakers respond by proposing some new bullshit laws that appear to require corporations to more fully disclose what they’re doing. Corporate America, sensing encroachment on their hunting territory, goes ballistic. Sound familiar? We’ve seen this story play out before. In fact, we’ve seen this story play out after almost every grand corporate catastrophe over the last 80 years.
For example, back in 1933, with the nation still reeling from the 1929 stock market crash, President Franklin Roosevelt pushed for legislation that required firms to register securities trades and provide basic financial information. That act eventually passed despite fanatical Wall Street opposition. A more modern example? In 1984, a Union Carbide chemical leak killed thousands in India’s Bhopal. U.S. lawmakers had to battle relentless industry opposition before they could pass a right-to-know law on toxic emissions.
Runaway executive pay, almost all analysts now believe, played a key driving role in the run-up to the Great Recession. Executive pay excesses, as President Obama has put it, “have contributed to a reckless culture.” By attempting to avoid the issue, it seems clear that corporations simply want to avoid embarrassment and public outrage, not to mention the attention of congressional investigators, the Office of Management and Budget and the US Attorney General's office, among others. If we are going to be successful in reversing this trend for the purpose of redirecting America's cash flow from the top 1% back in favor of the rest of us, the remaining 99% of Americans will have to forcibly take back what has been shamelessly stolen from us. Political and economic power is never surrendered voluntarily, so forcibly retaking it is the 99%'s only option as of now. Is this too much to ask of ourselves? I think not. In fact, I made up my mind a long time ago that this is the very purpose for which I have been born.
Outrageous pay packages, research indicates, encourage outrageous executive behaviors that range from high-risk investing gambles to outsourcing jobs and cooking the corporate books. The wider the pay gap between the guy in the corner suite and that guy’s workers, the lower the workforce morale, the higher the turnover. In other words, the more cash we let corporations stuff in executive pockets at employee expense, the less competitive our corporations become. Is this any way to run the richest country in the world? Whose lame-brain idea was this to begin with?
Is it any wonder that the US economy has been run into the ground when we find such egregious examples of inexcusable mismanagement, criminal malfeasance and offensive buffoonery? It is abundantly clear to me that the system has been abused so badly that it is no longer functional. Allow me to present a couple of examples taken straight from the Web on what happens when abusive people who also happen to be exceptionally greedy take control of our country's entire governmental system. Vast sums of money are being quietly diverted from the wallets, pensions, banking and investment accounts of the American public just by changing the tax laws to favor the ultra-rich.
Tax cuts for the wealthiest five percent of Americans cost the U.S. Treasury $11.6 million every hour, according to the National Priorities Project. America’s top earners will get an average tax cut of $66,384 in 2011, while the bottom 20 percent will get an average cut of $107. These enormous tax cuts are weighing on the national debt. The non-partisan Center for Budget and Priorities found that the Bush tax cuts costs about the same as the shortfall from Social Security in the ten years after they were signed into law. If the U.S. reverted to Clinton-era marginal tax rates, the U.S. Treasury would net an additional $72 billion annually, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. In addition, increasing taxes on the wealthy could also help to narrow the widening wealth gap. The net worth of the bottom 60 percent of U.S. Households – about 100 million households – is lower than that of Forbes 400 richest Americans. Tax cuts for the wealthy provided Americans making more than $1 million with a $128,832 benefit, while Americans earning from $40,000 to $50,000 got an $860 benefit on average.
Besides the broken tax system, as if this set of problems were not enough, we have a broken monetary system. The US Federal Reserve was created on December 21st, 1913 and given a 99 year lease to print America's money. This lease was given to an organized group of nameless, faceless investors who formed a private holding company that is the de facto sole proprietorship of the Federal Reserve. (The Federal Reserve Bank is not a public entity, and never was). That 99-year lease expires on December 21st, 2012. What happens after that is anyone's guess, but you can be sure there will be some kind of power grab made by either US government or corporate entities, or more likely a combination of the two. What many people don't realize is that the US Constitution gives the right to mint money to the Department of the Treasury to begin with, and that the Federal Reserve Bank in its current form is completely unconstitutional and has been from the start. To make matters worse, in all the time the Federal Reserve has been in existence it has never – ever – been audited until just recently. Nobody in Washington, not even the president, knows the true state of the Federal Reserve as I write this, although I have no doubt that many in DC will claim that they do. For that reason, senator Bernie Sanders, an independent US senator from Vermont with (thankfully) no party affiliation, sponsored a bill calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve system that was made public in the summer of 2011. He published a blog post regarding this first-ever Fed audit that was widely cross-posted on the Web, and I offer a short excerpt of what the senator wrote.
“The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. "As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."
Among the investigation's key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland, according to the GAO report. No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the President. One thing already is abundantly clear. The Federal Reserve must be reformed to serve the needs of working families, not just C.E.O.'s on Wall Street....”
The so-called “national debt” is nothing more than the indebtedness of the US Government to the Federal Reserve for the money it prints for our government. For example, when current Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke initiated what he called “QE2” (for quantitative easing), what actually occurred was the need for Washington to borrow more money. This necessity was met by having the Fed print what we now know was $16 trillion dollars in order to flood American markets with liquidity. Unfortunately for the American people, there was a price tag to be paid in the form of interest on the money that the Fed printed. And so it turns out that the United States has to borrow to print its own money, an arrangement whose legality is highly questionable and whose very existence is contrary to the best interests of the United States.
I'm not a politician and have no plans to become one, but if I were President I could solve America's national debt problem in one afternoon. On the first day I am in office, I would send certain platoons of US soldiers to seize control of the Federal Reserve Banks in Washington and all other locations throughout the country, along with local police SWAT teams to arrest all the directors and managers along with anyone else who opposes us. They will all be charged with treason for ruining the financial health and general welfare of the US, or with being accessories to the same, and they will be prosecuted. The Federal Reserve will be immediately nationalized, with the authority to manage and oversee returned to the Department of the Treasury where it belongs, pursuant to Article 1, section 8 of the US Constitution, which says this: “Congress shall have the power... to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and to fix the standards of weights and measures”.... Bye bye national debt! In fact, maybe the Federal Reserve banks across the US should be “occupied” until they are returned to the rightful owners, the American people. Now THAT would be something to see!
Sunday, August 12, 2012
The Beast Called Capitalism
by Paul J. Bern
(selected from chapter 4 of his latest release, "Occupying America: We Shall Overcome")
Why is it so untouchable and radical to even suggest auditing the Federal Reserve to those in charge of it? In my research I found that many believe that if our Government dared to audit the Federal Reserve (as you would naturally do with any business that handled huge flows of your money) its books would be so horrifyingly off that they would have to be shut down. Clear back in June 2009 CNBC did an interview with Jim Grant, editor of Grant Interest Rate Observer. He essentially told them that the Federal Reserve couldn't possibly withstand the scrutiny of an audit and it would have to be shut down if the money discrepancies and disaster were known.
It has been known for some time that the Fed is not part of our Government, but a private corporation we did stupid business with back in 1913. Lately, we see them making all kinds of money on our out-of-control “national debt” (a loan-sharking scheme if ever there was one), paying off big banking friends with back door deals and simply growing our debt that they and their cronies are making tons of money off of. Think of the orgy of delight they have going. No audit since 1913. I can think of several reasons are clearly stated as to why the Federal Reserve is at the heart of our economic meltdown. Just a few of these include:
• The Fed is a debt based financial system.
• The Fed has a monopoly on the creation of this debt based money.
• The power of money creation and debt creation is in the hands of private individuals, not the US Government, according to the US Constitution.
• The Federal Reserve itself is not much of a profit – making institution. Rather it is a tool that enables others to make obscene amounts of money.
• The Federal Reserve has decided to play bizarre games of questionable legality with our money.
• The Federal Reserve is undemocratic while it runs an American economy based on democracy. Calling this a conflict of interest is putting it mildly.
All the branches of Government – including the allegedly “private” company of the FED must be audited and held accountable to the American people or be shut down. There needs to be national and constitutional reasons to even keep Federal departments open, such as the Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Education and a whole host of others. I want to know if they are doing their jobs or duplicating the work of states. Regarding the Dept. of energy, hmmmm – after decades, are we energy independent yet? Do we have more nuclear, oil and natural gas infrastructure? Have we been able to disengage from OPEC and start exporting energy? No, no, and no. It is time to shut them all down.
The final example of counterfeit wealth that I will cite in this chapter is that of the collapsing US real estate market. It is apparent to all who have been keeping track of this collapse that this has all been by design. Wall Street and the banking sector, combined with real estate and mortgage brokers who were too smart for their own good, have run American property values right into the ground for their own enrichment. In the process, the US middle and working classes have seen their single biggest investment that they will ever make – their homes, vacation homes and other investment properties – continue to lose resale value like a troublesome car that needs an expensive repair. It costs more to keep either of them than regular working folks can afford. Housing prices are likely to keep falling the rest of this year, and probably won't show much improvement in 2013 either, according to a survey of economists. A CNNMoney exclusive survey of 27 economists showed the battered US housing market is facing myriad problems and won't turn around anytime soon. The median forecast was for a 3.9% decline in the second quarter compared to a year earlier, and a 2.9% drop in prices over the course of the full year. I firmly believe that there will be further significant declines in home prices in order to set a true bottom for the market. To put it succinctly, the bottom of the housing crash is yet to be determined. Homeowners and lenders alike are justifiably apprehensive about the possible outcome and its repercussions.
One definite outcome will be the death of American suburbia, or at least as we have known it. For decades, Americans have consumed more energy, built bigger houses, and driven more miles with each passing year, but not anymore. Along the way, there were three inexorable trends at the base of the societal pyramid. First, we plowed more energy into our homes each and every year. We cooled and heated our houses more (sometimes wastefully, sometimes not), brought in more and more appliances, added televisions and computers and phones. Per capita electricity shot up from about 4,000 kilowatt-hours per US resident in 1980 to over 13,000 kilowatt-hours by the 2000s. Second, we needed more electricity because our houses got huge. The median home size shot up from about 1,500 square feet in the early 1970s to more than 2,200 square feet in the mid-2000's. Third, we drove more and more miles every year to get around and between our sprawled-out cities. Back in 1960, Americans drove 0.72 trillion miles. By 2000, that number had reached 2.75 trillion miles. In 2007, the last year this data is available as of this writing, vehicle miles traveled hit 3.02 trillion.
The beast called capitalism is so consumed with its own greed that it has started feeding on itself. The interest that is accruing on the money it lends is adding up faster than the principals can be repaid. Capitalism constantly tries to fill its belly, craving to soothe a spiritual hunger that it has mistaken for physical needs and wants. Capitalism has the whole world, from developed countries like the US, Canada and Europe to third world backwater nations, drowning in endless debt. It is similar to someone who is “upside down” on a home loan or a car note, owing more on the home or vehicle than it's worth. It is also noticeably similar to what is happening with student loans, with the interest accruing faster than the principal can be paid down due to the income limitations of the recent graduates – assuming they have any income at all. Interest on the national debts of other developed countries is also adding up faster than their debts can ever be repaid. Therefore big banking effectively “owns” those countries. Why conquer a country when you can just buy one by burying it with debt? Nice people.
But lately I have observed that things have reached a tipping point, and there is a real possibility that some countries could be forced to default on their own obligations, ruining their credit ratings and making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to borrow additional funds to pay off their previously incurred debts. In other words these countries, especially the US, are taking out loans to pay off other loans, and there is no practical way this practice can be continued. It's all just a great big Ponzi scheme, and it will come to an end, as all Ponzi schemes do. And when that happens, you better look out. But even if all this turns out to be a false alarm, there are 4 other ways that America's economy can be seriously disrupted, but which will not affect the top 1%.
 Another war, and America is preparing for exactly that. So are Russia, China and the Arab countries, in case you didn't notice. The other Asian Muslim countries such as those in southwestern Russia and Pakistan would also be included. There are also the wild card countries of Israel and North Korea. If either of those countries goes to war, particularly Israel, take cover immediately or go home and stay there until it's safe, because the nukes will definitely be flying. This is not a drill.
 A natural disaster, which is inevitable sooner or later, particularly within the USA. For example, a category 4 or 5 hurricane hits the Houston, Texas area where the majority of America's oil refineries are located, disrupting US fuel supplies for weeks. In that event, gas prices would go to between $5.00 and $7.00 per gallon, if any fuel can be had at all. Another example: earthquakes. From what I know about American earthquake fault lines, having studied the matter in my spare time, is that anyone living on the US west coast or along the upper Mississippi river valley should seriously consider moving starting right now. Ditto for floods, particularly in the upper Midwestern US, parts of Louisiana, and south Florida. You are free to disagree with me on any or all of these points, of course, but those who choose to ignore me do so at their own risk.
 An oil embargo or blockade, with particular focus on Saudi Arabia and Iran. America imports over one fourth of its petroleum from Saudi Arabia. Although it is considered an American ally, it has much closer ties to the Islamic republics and dictatorships of the Middle East than Washington would like you to think. If Saudi Arabia were to turn against us in a future Mideast war, it would result in immediate gas rationing here at home. Then there is the wild card of Iran and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz where the Arabian sea empties into the Indian ocean. Fully 20% of all the world's oil flows through this narrow stretch of water. If Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, the world's economy would go into a tailspin. Here at home, if either one of these scenarios were to play themselves out, we will see gas prices well in excess of $6.00 per gallon. As in the second possibility listed above, the price of gallon of gas could spike to in excess of $7.00 per gallon. Either of these occurrences would plunge the entire world into an economic depression, and into a third world war as well.
 A large-scale terrorist attack anywhere in the world and especially here in the US, with the most likely scenarios being chemical, biological, or nuclear in nature. Another possibility is the release of an Electromagnetic Pulse, or EMP, that would disable Internet, wireless, aviation, TV and radio communication for days or weeks, maybe even months in a worst-case example. In that event, the majority of our electronic equipment would have to be replaced, from our computers to our telephone and utility networks. Even the on-board computers in our cars and trucks would have to be replaced, meaning our engines will not start and our GPS devices would be useless. The avionics in many modern planes, including military aircraft, would cease to function, grounding all of them. In other words, an EMP would shut down the entire country, or at least parts of it, depending on how close to the source one may be. As in the examples above, economic and social pandemonium would result. The only two good things that I see that could come from that particular event is that it would destroy capitalism, since big banking and Wall Street's infrastructure are heavily dependent on computer technology, and it would destroy or render useless much of the military hardware currently in existence, making waging war impossible.
As the capitalist economic system continues to implode in slow motion like the twin towers of 9-11, the top 1% have become acutely aware of the fact that they are almost out of time. They are rushing to patch up the system just a little bit longer so that they can continue to milk America's economy and assets dry. By the same token, they are worried about the rise of the Occupy and 99% Movements, and rightfully so. The wealthy and well-connected top 1% see these movements as a threat – and well they should – and I am proud to be affiliated with them both. They are concerned that America's people might decide to take back what was taken from them, which is the Constitutional ownership of this great land of ours. And so the top 1% are waging an economic and class-based civil war within the boundaries of the United States against the remaining 99% of us, the true-blue and red-blooded backbone of America. We the people, as our Constitution says, are the true owners of this land of ours because that's what our laws say, and we are a nation of law-abiding and mostly peaceful people. As it is written in the Declaration of Independence, “In order to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men and women, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, to such an extent that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it becomes the right of the American people to alter or abolish it” …
Based on these words written by Thomas Jefferson, 21st century Americans of all races, nationalities, religions and backgrounds have a moral obligation and a spiritual duty to alter or abolish the US government in its current form for the primary purpose of crafting a replacement, even if it means calling another Constitutional Convention – something that hasn't happened in too long a time. Who knows what the future might hold – only God knows. But if we unite together as one American people, we most definitely do have the power to change its outcome.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
How “Occupy” Is Evolving
(excerpt from, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, by Paul J. Bern)
There can be no doubt that working Americans from all kinds of backgrounds are becoming increasingly desperate about their economic situations and their future prospects. Is is any wonder that this is happening? Everywhere we look we see jobs disappearing by the millions, homes being stolen right out from under the owners through fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices, pension and retirement funds being wiped out by highly speculative investments of dubious origin by compulsive gamblers posing as financial advisers and stockbrokers, and the hijacking of our democracy through corporate “campaign donations” and “lobbying fees” that are little more than legalized bribery. Most alarming of all for the overwhelming majority of us is the increasing lack of access to preventative health care and to higher education. I experienced this myself a number of years ago when I wanted to change careers, only to be told that I couldn't get a student loan because my credit score was too low. If I wanted to go back to school and learn a new trade, they said, I would have to pay the tuition out of pocket. Since I was working as a temp at the time (if and when I could find any work at all) there was no way for me to come up with the tuition to pay for my retraining, and so I remained stuck in my situation, unable to improve myself even though I very much wanted to do so. What I have since learned is that what I went through when I tried to change careers is very commonplace, especially for older workers. By now, multitudes of unemployed Americans who want retraining can't get it for the same reasons that held me back, and nearly everybody else has figured out that they too are stuck as far as their professional lives are concerned. Like myself, they are furious at being backed into a corner by the system, and they're looking for ways to fight their way out of that corner.
To sum up our situation as America's work force, we're mad as hell – livid, actually – and we have collectively decided to take back from the top 1% what they took from us since it was ours to begin with. As things stand today, the elites who comprise the top 1%, and particularly the top tenth of a percent, are in very serious trouble indeed. From a political and social standpoint, I vigorously maintain that time has run out for reign of the rich and powerful. Even now the elites 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 can be articulated in one word – rebellion. 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 as best as it can be peacefully accomplished.
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 full throttle capitalism are natural law which is some kind of permanent and eternal state of being 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 ownership of entire corporations is transferred from the stockholders and boards of directors directly to the workers. 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 for life just to obtain higher education, 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 serious trouble. That's also why the reason for existence of the entire capitalist, debt-based economy is now falling into question. And that is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don't understand what is happening.
The occupation of Wall Street, and the Occupy encampments elsewhere such as at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. in which I took part, has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. Even though the police have shut down the encampments in New York and elsewhere, the power elite will still lose their grip on society because this vision and structure have been imprinted into the minds of thousands of protesters. The greatest gift the “occupation” has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint has now been transferred to cities, parks and families facing foreclosure across the country.
The tactic of physical occupation in the case of Occupy Wall Street has been enormously successful already. We have, at least for a moment, proven that we can and will bring enormous public pressure on the top 1% in the form of these movements. We are significantly better positioned than before to make bold demands, as we can now credibly claim that our values are popular – even that they are common sense – and connected to a social base. “Occupy Wall Street” is the tactic that has launched a movement for social justice and real democracy onto center stage. It has served as the initial catalyzing symbol for what undoubtedly will become a rejuvenated civil rights movement. Hopefully ten or twenty years from now, when we look back at all we’ve accomplished together, Occupy Wall Street will be considered a critical moment that helped to spark and then build a lasting movement. “We are the 99%” has become a core message of this burgeoning movement. It emerged in tandem with the deployment of the captivating tactic of occupation. The framework of the 99% accomplishes a number of important feats:
 The 99% frames the consolidation of wealth and political power in our society – the central grievance of this movement and a central crisis of our times.
 The 99% frames a class struggle in a way that puts the 1% on the defensive, whereas the common accusation of “class warfare” has somehow tended to put a lot of people in the middle on the defensive.
 The 99% casts an extraordinarily broad net for those invited to join the movement. Most everyone is encouraged to see their hopes and dreams tied to a much bigger public issue. Thus it frames a nearly limitless growth trajectory for the movement.
 The 99% even leaves room for the 1% to redeem itself. There are many striking cases of “1%-'ers” speaking out as defectors – such as former or current military and law enforcement personnel – who are as vocal as anyone that the system is broken and in dire need of replacement.
The 99% meme is a real winner. It points the way toward a necessary expansion that is ongoing as I write this. It encourages us to not just act on behalf of, but alongside of, the 99%; to look beyond the forces already in motion, to activate potential energy, to articulate a moral political narrative, and to build up and strengthen our culture. The Wall Street protests must grow and spread across this country because they are the only realistic hope for change remaining for the 99% of Americans falling behind in this permanently broken economy. Sad to say, but democracy in the land of the free and home of the brave simply no longer works as it is currently being administered. Big corporations and the wealthy have hijacked the political system for decades now with their hefty donations to political campaigns and other pet projects. Their contributions guarantee that bought-off politicians pass laws and tax breaks to their benefit. It is no secret, everyone is aware of how the system works, and it must be called for what it is: legalized bribery.
With traditional democratic political methods useless, what recourse do ordinary Americans have left? We are now witnessing the only real avenue left: ordinary citizens taking to the streets and demanding change to the rigged political and economic systems that leaves 99% of us behind. It is only a start, but a vital one. Every day more people are awakening to the stark realization that the political and economic system in this country is stacked against them and getting worse. During the Vietnam era, because they were directly affected, young people took to the streets to protest the war. America's young males were subject to a draft, and the prospect of being shipped off to die in a war they didn't believe in angered them a great deal. And so the war planners wised up and did away with the draft, but look at what has replaced it. America now has perpetual wars for oil, using a "volunteer" military, many of whom have enlisted due to lack of other economic opportunities. Seemingly unaffected by post-Vietnam wars, students and other young people have been politically inactive since the early 1970s.
But that has come to an end, and I think it's about friggin' time, too. Young people are finding few jobs awaiting them when they get out of college (assuming they are fortunate enough to afford the high tuition). They graduate with no income coming in, but years of student loan debt to pay back. Those without a college or high school degree are even worse off. All of them see the sad reality, that the “American Dream” is only for the privileged few. If these demonstrations and protests continue to grow and expand, both here and abroad, the big banks, oil companies, billionaires and politicians will have to pay attention and give some ground. Either that, or face the prospect of violent revolution.
How all this will play out is uncertain as I write this. The road to reversing several decades of unfair and corrupt politics and excessive greed promises to be a rocky and difficult one. Things could get a lot worse before (and if) they get better. But a revolution, preferably a bloodless one such as the Occupy and 99% Movements, is necessary to restore democracy and economic fairness in America and around the world. With traditional methods of political change proving useless, mass protests, strikes and other public demonstrations are the only realistic strategy left. Which is why the the Wall Street occupiers and their brethren across the country (and the world) cannot quit, why they must continue to grow and expand to a point that the powers-that-be realize they must give the rest of their fellow Americans a seat at the decision-making table and at least some semblance of democracy and economic fairness. The occupiers and protestors cannot and will not quit, of that you can be sure. If the protests wither and die, so will what is left of America's hopes and dreams. So we will not let this movement quietly fade away.
On the contrary, we will continue to grow and consolidate in preparation for our summer offensive. As we do so, we will continue to remind one another of why we occupy, and why we're not going away. The Occupy Movement and the 99% Movement, together with a host of other related social and political movements of the American people, will continue to get larger and better organized over the spring and well into the summer, using primarily the Internet and social media to accomplish their goals.
Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, corporate America with their armies of lobbyists on K Street in Washington, and the military/prison/industrial complex are justifiably afraid of this movement and what it represents. More importantly, they all remember where this movement got its start, which was in North Africa, and then the Middle East, followed by the riots in Britain and Spain last summer. Now it has arrived on American shores and firmly established a beachhead from which a worldwide movement has been launched that has captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of countless billions. And this movement of the people is only this – that we are sick and tired of working for subsistence wages that amount to economic slavery while the stockholders and the boards of directors of these giant multinational corporations, not to mention all the cash-rich privately held companies, get to control much of America's cash flow while keeping all the profits for themselves. As I wrote in my previous book, “It's steak for them and beans for the rest of us”, and since then the plight of the middle class has continued to slowly get worse just as I predicted it would. All these problems and issues are indicative of a broken system that is beyond fixing. The time has come to replace it all. The only remaining question is, will the American people be able to accomplish this peacefully? That depends completely on how the 1% respond to the peaceful protests, public demonstrations and wildcat strikes of the 99%. If they respond with violence, there will be another American civil war, and the USA will turn into another Syria, Libya or Greece (only 10 times worse). Let's hope the solution can be a peaceful one.