The mariner used the word ‘plutocracy’ recently and realized it was an empty word but growing in importance. 99.9% of US citizens have not witnessed an armed workers rebellion since the coal miner’s rebellion near the turn of the twentieth century; who has memories of Warren G. Harding? If, in the next two to three years, we experience another deep recession or the travesty Ron Paul predicts in his commercials, we citizens may suffer hardship in large enough numbers to take on the police, the National Guard, the hired thugs called ‘detectives’ and the property of the corporate bosses who hired the thugs. That’s how bad the coal miner rebellion was – and there have been similar confrontations in the twentieth century.
This is not just a phenomenon of America’s recent past. Plutocracy was around in 1786 resulting in Shay’s rebellion.
US history books recount the colonial years with events that follow a narrow gauge track describing the wonderful advances in government, politics, and business. But day-to-day life was hell. None of the working class or laborers had any protections that exist today. Working class jobs had no required wage, no safety requirements, no health requirements, no limits on hours, and no limits on hiring the youngest child at the least expensive wage. Further, many businesses, especially isolated ones like coal and lumber companies, had a ‘company store’ which employees were required to use to buy groceries and supplies. This unfair game of very low wages and very high prices meant that no employee had money of consequence and eventually was deep in debt to the store. As Ernie Ford sang in ‘Sixteen Tons’ in 1955:
You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go;
I owe my soul to the company store…
A pleasant song sung by a nice person – all clean and neat in his string tie. The real life experience could not have been more oppressive. Business, politics, and law enforcement worked together to contain worker resistance. Troublemakers often were gunned down in the middle of the street. Employees received little cash because they had their Company Store bill taken out first. They owned no property because they were required to live in very cheap business-owned housing. The truth of the matter is they were slaves – not an iota’s difference.
The real history of citizens is not recorded in history books. The next paragraph is a quote from http://www.alternet.org/ Alternet.org is a website that posts liberal and progressive articles. The author is writing about today.
“The sedimentary nature of power fears the chaos of protest. What the plutocrats know as stability, the middle class knows as convenience. Struggle is unstable and inconvenient. It pushes here and there, seeking ruptures in the fabric of the present. Success is not guaranteed. What is clear, however, is that the time of the present, of the possible, has become irrelevant to millions of people. They are seeking the time of the future.”
What brought the mariner to this subject was the feeling that the word plutocracy (the rich control society) did not have the meaningful clout that it should have. The more he pondered why the word seemed out of sort, the more he realized that society in twenty-first century USA is a full-blown plutocracy in every respect – and it carries the same threat of rebellion.
When he watched a new film called Plutocracy: Political Repression in the USA, mariner made note of how identical today’s oligarchy is to the class conflict during terrible rebellions in the past. Worker rebellions occurred under conditions exactly like the conditions that exist today. In fact, a housing bankruptcy occurred in 1786 in Massachusetts just like the one that brought down the US economy in 2008. Having relatively no rights, citizens back then were on their own to push back. Carrying arms, the citizens forced the banks and courthouses to close. This rebellion is in the film. The film tells the story of the workers; something seldom seen in history books. It is a free download at:
Mariner recommends that you download the film to your computer. It is free. Some may have noticed that the situation is such that the US has a poor man’s army; best trained but virtually all working class folk. Richer people don’t worry about their children going off to die in a useless war. Remember George W. Bush and his assignment to a flight squadron that never was called up? In fact, George didn’t report for a year. This situation is a classic example of plutocracy. One wonders if the US actually would have had these wars if the upper classes had to fight in them.
Another example is the continuous pressure by powerful people to eliminate government services that protect the common citizen. For example, The Environmental Protection Agency, The Atomic Energy Commission, anything proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren to protect citizens from banking abuse, the Security Exchange Commission, The Federal Department of Agriculture, The Federal Aviation Administration, Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Unemployment Insurance and Social Security. All these agencies impose regulations in behalf of public interest – and they are openly opposed by business and financial firms because they add overhead, reduce profits, and require concern for human lives – a throwaway that is easily replaced.
These behaviors are plutocracy in action. Add to this behavior salary oppression and disappearing benefits since 1968 and it feels very much like 1786 or 1920. Clearly, the voter’s future is in the hands of plutocrats.
One solution not requiring armed rebellion is to take back the government from control by the plutocrats. First is to wrest the election process from the plutocrats. Do that by requiring political campaigns to go on a diet. Remove redistricting from political control; institute term limits to anyone reaching age 70 in their next term (this ensures a more understanding official that at least can relate to changes in the nation’s gestalt); limit fund raising to the local area of representation; rewrite a fair taxing system that uses excess profit to fund a fair USA.
The mariner feels that dealing with the crooked election scheme is the first step in moving policy control back to the voters who in the past represented this nation’s moral character, that is, reinstitute democracy as the mechanism that keeps our country in a leadership role for the entire planet. We may not even have to go to war.
The new documentary ‘Plutocracy’ is a comprehensive and powerful study of America’s early working class made up of farmers, miners and industrial laborers from Shays’ Rebellion in 1786-87, through rapid industrialization and inequality in the post Civil War 19th century era of the Robber Barons to the intense labor struggles of the 1920s.
A new book is out about common sense mathematics: How Not to Be Wrong: the Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordon Ellenberger. It is a nice companion to Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise. Here is a conundrum from Ellenberger’s book:
A person receives a flyer from a stock broker. It says that a certain stock will go up tomorrow. Sure enough, the next day the stock goes up. A week later, the person receives another flyer from the broker. It says a certain stock will go down tomorrow. Sure enough, the next day the stock goes down. This scenario goes on for ten weeks. The broker never makes a mistake. Needless to say, the person is ready to entrust the broker with a large investment – but it is a con. How is the broker arranging always to be right?
The answer will be provided in the next post if you haven’t worked it out.