In America, We the People have been relinquishing for far too long the power that the Founders identified as the origin of our Republic’s governance: the Power of the People. The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution makes this power clear:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I’ve been waiting since JFK’s Inauguration for simple declarations of progressive philosophy from the Army of Equality around which We the People can rally; however, since the end of World War II, the political arm of the Army of Equality — the Democratic Party — has usually messaged its views like scattered shot from a blunderbuss. A blunderbuss is not a useful weapon in a war to overthrow a status quo — the existing state of affairs — that is the continuing subjugation of We the People via calloused criminal acts and blatant manipulation of the Federal Government by the Uber-privileged who control the Army of Liberty. Progressives need a message as precise and powerful as a smart bomb to defeat the Uber-privileged, a group of people who, in 2011, Robert Mueller called the “iron triangle.”
The “iron triangle” continues to erode the likelihood of all Americans ever seeing the American Dream realized, including TFG’s attempt to violently interfere with the 2020 Presidential Election and the current drive by the GOP — the political arm of the Army of Liberty — to deny the right to vote to millions of bona fide American citizens. An amalgamation of international organized crime, complicit kleptocrats (autocrats who use their power to steal their nation’s wealth), and international billionaires (Vladimir Putin is an evil Trinity), the “iron triangle” is not driven by progressive or conservative, GOP or Democrat, or competing economic ideologies. The “iron triangle” is driven by only one thing: self-indulgent, deadly, sociopathic greed.
That greed is going to crush (or has already crushed) folks like you and me because too many millions of We the People still believe that the mere existence of the Rule of Law will protect us from this incredibly tiny, incredibly powerful, and incredibly conscienceless group of humans. Things reported out every day in our echo chambers are not tales of battles in a war between political parties; the messages inundating us are war correspondents’ reports about skirmishes that are typical of what has appeared repeatedly throughout human history in the unending war between the Uber-privileged and The Rest of Us.
Let me be clear about whom it is that I write. This post was originally drafted a day after Bloomberg Wealth noted that “the 50 richest Americans are worth as much as the poorest 165 million,” and Forbes headlined: “Top 1% Of U.S. Households Hold 15 Times More Wealth Than Bottom 50% Combined.”
If you’d like to do your own sleuthing on this topic, you can look at a very effective interactive graph generated by The Fed that indicates the wealthiest 1% of Americans have a combined net worth of $34,000,000,000,000 or 30.4% of all household wealth, while the bottom 50% of We the People hold 1.9% of all wealth. Expressing it yet another way by playing with the numbers a bit more: in 2018, 50% of Americans held 98.1% of all of the wealth in this country; the other 50% have 1.9% of the wealth.
One other tidbit pulled from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances by Forbe’s Tommy Beers (who used the bullet title “Big Number” to apparently highlight a significant feature of the gap between privileged and disadvantaged) is that in 2016, the median net worth of black households was $17,150; that of white families was $171,000. In other words, in America, privilege has a direct correlation with both wealth and race.
I will be more specific and propose that among the One Percenters — the wealthiest 3.3 million people in this country — are the approximately 0.1% of Americans who are the 300,000 or so wealthiest of the wealthy: this tiny minority are among the Uber-privileged. Another 160 million or so Americans are certainly privileged compared to the 165 million who are significantly less advantaged or disadvantaged; however, in that privileged group are many who are struggling to pay their mortgages and keep up with other payments. A bottom line is, today in America the Uber-privileged are OVERWHELMINGLY OUTNUMBERED by The Rest of Us, which has historically been the case prior to major societal upheavals in history (think: the French and Russian revolutions).
The Uber-privileged have always been appreciably more wealthy than The Rest of Us, but the last time the gap between the Uber-privileged and The Rest of Us was as great as it is now was right before the Great Depression. The economic downturn that marked the beginning of the Depression was recognized by most economists in late 1929, and the drop in economic indicators continued until early1933. Real output and prices fell precipitously. Between the preceding peak and the trough of the downturn, industrial production in the United States declined 47 percent and real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 30 percent. The wholesale price index declined 33 percent (such declines in the price level are referred to as deflation). Although there is some debate about the reliability of the statistics, it is widely agreed that the unemployment rate exceeded 20 percent at its highest point. The severity of the Great Depression in the United States becomes especially clear when it is compared with America’s next worst recession since the Depression: the Great Recession of 2007–09, during which the country’s real GDP declined just 4.3 percent and the unemployment rate peaked at less than 10 percent.
It is not unusual for commentators to refer to such economic changes as (e.g.) “swings in employment,” which implies the analogy of a pendulum. The social movement we’re seeing in the world today is not a swinging pendulum that has crossed its point of equilibrium and has begun heading toward a position of more power for The Rest of Us; such an analogy implies by definition that the pendulum will continuously swing between the apogees of opposed positions. It seems to me that we are not riding a swinging pendulum; rather, it seems We the People — millions of us — are confronting a firmly planted rubber wall that represents the status quo — the existing state of affairs in America today — which continues to be: the Uber-privileged control the power; NOT We the People (The Rest of Us).
From time to time, We the People rush against the rubber wall with such force that it stretches to a place where the world appears different (e.g. the American, French, and Russian revolutions), but eventually the Power of the People that is stretching the wall diminishes because We the People become complacent or simply tire of the effort and stop pushing, and when the force of the elasticity of what is the incredible power of the Uber-privileged begins to assert itself, the rubber wall that is the status quo of uber-privilege snaps back to where it was in the first place; thus, throwing The Rest of Us where the Uber-privileged believe we belong: on our sorry, subservient asses.
It is time to move the location of the foundation of the wall, but moving the foundation toward a new status quo of equality and away from the current status quo of fascist greed is much harder work than simply stretching the wall. What is happening in America at this moment feels as though there is a rising will to do the work of moving the foundation of the rubber wall; unfortunately, the scattershot messaging of progressives is counterproductive in the face of the always uniform messaging that conservative leaders have used for decades to manipulate millions of their supporters into supporting actions that harm themselves while benefitting the Uber-privileged.
Progressives do create interesting marketing gestures, but the success of meaningful efforts such as those accomplished by Stacey Abrams et al are rare. Gestures do nothing but delude us, but actions (e.g. voting) that threaten or support the personal futures of our elected officials based upon how those officials react to the specifics of a progressive agenda can change delusions into reality. We the People must be relentless in this endeavor, but what the hell is the progressive consensus regarding the progressive agenda? In the absence of a unified message from an as yet unidentified and universally-recognized progressive leadership, all I can do is use the following filter to help me focus:
If a politician uses her/his power to help others (less fortunate) or supports an action that protects others’ rights (e.g. a woman’s right to choose), I will speak out and vote for her/him, regardless of political affiliation, but if a politician uses her/his power to (e.g.) enhance the wealth of the 0.1% at the expense of those less fortunate, or if s/he takes a stand that impinges upon anyone’s rights and freedoms (e.g. a woman’s right to choose, the right to vote, the right to universal health care, the right to a quality education), I will speak out against their re-election and vote against him/her.
(Given the current state of thinking in this country when it comes to COVID prevention and governmental impingement upon individual rights and freedoms, I think it is important to note Oliver Wendell Holmes’ SCOTUS opinion regarding limits to freedom: “The question in every case is whether (actions) are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”)
Now is not a time for compromise. Now is the time to fire up the conflict that began in the Sixties , a conflict that should never have descended into a debilitating ceasefire, but we Boomers got lazy in our relative comfort — Boomer progressives are as much to blame as anyone because of our decades-long collective complacency as members of the Me Generation — it was Boomers who let the rubber wall snap back. I think we need to own our complicity in stupidly accepting the status quo and use the energy of that acknowledgement to motivate us to step up.
It is time to fight. This is not about TFG and his followers; this is about using our collective power to wrest power from the Uber-privileged — the “iron triangle” — so that we can protect the pursuit of the American Democratic Dream from the Army of Liberty’s opposition (including the opposition of evangelical Christians who want to use the power of the federal government to once again impose their beliefs on all Americans as they did with Prohibition).
I alluded to JFK’s Inauguration. These are words I have never forgotten but for which I have not fought hard enough: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the many who are rich,” and “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And right now, what I can do for my country is to add my voice and vote to the collective voice of We the People to defeat the sociopathic, greed-driven aspirations of the Uber-privileged so that every American can enjoy the truths we hold to be self-evident: that all (persons) are created equal; that (we) are endowed by (our) Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
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(The featured image is by Robert Jones a copyright-free photo published by Pixabay under Creative Commons Public Domain deed CCO; No copyright infringement is intended nor is there an intent on the part of the blogger to monetize the use of the image in this post.)