One of our greatest living documentarians, Michael Moore, gave us “Capitalism: A Love Story” – a memoir of the America he grew up in, where “The Era of Big Government” was really “The Era of Big Middle Class.” The film was Moore’s remembrance of things past. Imagine an America where a (secretly Socialist?) Republican President governs a country with a top marginal tax rate of 90%, unions are growing in membership and strength, productivity gains produce rising incomes, rising incomes produce rising standards of living, (if all else fails) one full-time minimum wage job will at least keep your family out of poverty, and the public policy preferences of the many-in-the-middle matter in the halls of power more than the policy demands of the very-few-at-the-tippity-top.
This was America before The Powell Memo, The Laffer Curve, Trickle-Down Voodoo Reaganomics, Citizens United (and the dark money it, and other Supreme Court decisions, consecrated), and growing numbers of American workers living lives of panicked mathematical and professional desperation defined by both eroding purchasing power in the economy, and disappearing bargaining power on the job.
It may sound fanciful, but such a nation once existed. It was not perfect (Moore was born in 1954, at the beginning of our modern civil rights and social justice movements), but for Americans who were able to work for a paycheck and cast a ballot, it was better in important ways than what we have now.
I am a GenX-er.
Moore is older than me.
Millennials are younger than me.
In this presidential campaign, many things have made me want to throw random objects at my TV (or digital) screen, but none more than the professed amazement by the mainstream media at the phenomenon of American Millennials finding hope in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.
I am not a Millennial, so I can’t speak for them… But I do believe I understand them.
Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist, and I think young people like the principle of Democracy. Millennials have never lived under a system of Democratic Capitalism. The trickle-down travesty that defines the economic reality of their lives is the nasty result of a political environment that is anti-democratic by design.
Bernie claims that we are living in an oligarchy, but only because we are.
Yes, America still holds elections.
Yes, America still polls the public on policy issues to determine their wishes.
Yes, America ignores both, and dances to the tune of the oligarchs.
(If that’s democracy, then I’m not a fan.)
Who are these oligarchs? Their nicknames are legion: The donor class, the job-creators, billionaire backers, lawyers and lobbyists, and an alphabet soup of “think tanks” who serve their masters by thinking every day, all day long, how to improve the lives of the fabulously wealthy.
The Great Untetherings are also legion. Metrics that used to move together don’t anymore. The balancing of interests has gone haywire. The see-saw of American life is functioning more like hamster wheel, and is picking up speed in only one direction:
The wealthy buy influence.
Politicians make the wealthy wealthier.
The wealthy spend their increased wealth buying more influence…
… and so on, until we’re all sick at heart.
No, The Great Untetherings are not ruining America for everybody, just for the vast, overwhelming majority of us…
[THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. I’M NOT DONE. I THINK.]