Dear Mr. President, Speaker Boehner, Senators, and Members of Congress:
I am retired, and I want to be sure I understand what is going on: According to news reports, you are all negotiating among yourselves to reduce the national budget deficit before you raise the so-called debt ceiling of the United States (in order to pay America’s bills), and I heard that you have decided to put Social Security and Medicare “on the table” in order to reach a deal with each other. I guess this means that Uncle Sam is considering cutting what they refer to as my “benefits,” and the President has said that, if you all do not get an agreement before August, he cannot guarantee that my next Social Security check will be sent to me.
I am dependent on my small monthly Social Security check to survive, because I lost almost all my other savings in the recent stock market crash—- I thought I was being prudent and responsible, when I invested what I could scrape together in Wall Street, but I was wrong, they squandered my money. I knew, though, I had a backup plan with Social Security because I paid into Social Security for over 40 years when I was working, with the understanding that these payments were like premiums, and that I had a contract with my government for an annuity in my old age. Social Security is my annuity contract, and you people cannot now just change the contract I paid for after all these years.
It is not my fault you people in Washington have been irresponsible, and thrown away my premiums just the way Wall Street did. The same goes for my Medicare. Social Security and Medicare cannot be “on the table.” Uncle Sam owes me what I have been paying for, a contract is a contract, and my government cannot cheat me in my old age. This is a matter of life and death for people like me. Please help.
I am afraid that Alpha Granny is touchingly naive. Yes, she did everything according to the rules: worked hard, paid her taxes, even understood that Social Security was never intended to be more than a cushion because she saved whatever extra she could afford and invested it, ahem, privately, in The Market, just as she was advised to do—- but in the end, she was a chump, because she thought “her” government owed her what it promised her. Based on, you know, the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
We now know that the system does not like little, un-ruthless, un-greedy, un-rich dummies who trust the word of perfidious Uncle Sam. What is not so understandable is exactly how we arrived at this sorry state of affairs. The Republican explanation is straightforward, black-and-white, and is that of the libertarians and free market adherents: Democratically-elected government over-promised by acceding to the demands of those less productive voters who figured they could get a free lunch forever by milking money from the really productive members of society, until finally they milked that cow dry, and the “welfare state” is naturally collapsing from the weight of their greed. In other words, taxes to support a comforting and nurturing community are nothing more than a way for the lazy and unproductive to steal from the righteous and productive in society…. so now, good riddance to the whole idea of social contract and nanny government, it is way past time to cut out that twentieth century nonsense. In other words, all power to those who are already super-rich, they’ve earned it.
It is hard to overstate the glee with which Republicans and free marketeers from the global corporations go about dismantling every protection sheltering the little people, siphoning away whatever crumbs of wealth the dupes may have tucked away, reducing them to such penury they can only strive to survive and are rendered incapable of fighting back. The entire process has been described in excruciating detail by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. The tactics for bringing about America’s version of the shock have been efficiently laid out by programs and policies created by The American Legislative Exchange Council (A.L.E.C.) and other corporate-funded front organizations and think tanks. You can see these policies in action now in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and other states which voted in Republican governors and legislatures in 2010.
Implementing these tactics in the first place depends on the existence of a severe economic crisis, which can be engineered and pro-longed if it does not occur naturally (as actually happened during the ’80’s and ’90’s in third world countries seeking loans from the World Bank, according to Klein). This is exactly what we Americans have been experiencing since the 2008 Wall Street implosion of the “too big to fails.” Once this revolutionary opportunity has been seized by capable hands, one deliberate shock will be made to follow another. Needless to say, any real improvement in the economy will be short-circuited or crushed until the old social system collapses, and the New Order can be imposed at will on the lingering political chaos. The new order? Whatever you want to call it, it will solidify and reward the new elite who run the big corporations, and their flunkies and hangers-on. I myself call it corporate feudalism, a system in which nation states will become pretty much mere tools of global Big Money.
The main prize here is of course securing control of the United States. We are in the middle of that battle, although most people have no idea what is really going on—- the victims do not even recognize they are in such a war. One would like to think that the Democratic Party, because of its political history with FDR and the Great Depression, would recognize what is hapenning, sound the alarm, and be fighting vigorously for the people against the powerful corporations. Unfortunately, you would be wrong, at least when it comes to many national Democrats, not just in Congress but in the White House.
President Obama has been moving steadily to the right since his election, and it no longer possible to rationalize his retreat from the progressive change many thought he promised. Some worry that elements from the DLC, triangulating away, have determined that Obama’s re-election depends on his “moving right,” a decision reached while the President made his tour of Asia after the 2010 election. That is a story for another article; what we have to acknowledge here and now is that at this moment in time the contrived battle over the debt ceiling is being waged completely within the Republican, free marketeer framework, and it is nothing more than an exercise to see which party can move further to the right. So soon as the President offers a rightist proposal (like cutting Social Security) the more the Republicans demand (“put Obamacare on the table”). Every time Obama moves to the right, the corporate flunkies in Republican suits back off, complaining he is not willing to meet them in the middle, and is not serious. Having suggested cutting Social Security voluntarily, you can be sure the topic will never go away. He is suckered into a trap, and will be ambushed again and again. One cannot help but ask: Surely, he knows what is going on? But, what if he does, and it is all kabuki theatre?
Alpha Granny says that “a contract is a contract,” and what she instinctively is asking for is what the intellectuals call “the rule of law.” That means the sanctity and enforceability of a contract, which is the very foundation of today’s corporate business. Poor old dear, rule of law really works only for those with clout. The middle class and the weak and un-rich have very little clout… and are about to be deprived of whatever clout they may once have had. Nothing so infuriates a free marketeering Republican as hearing some bleeding heart whine about protecting “the most vulnerable” among us; such sentiments deserve a sneer at best, if not a full-blown character assassination. The wise politician, alert to self-protection, is busily aligning himself with the predators, not the victims. According to his calculation, the momentum is on the side of the Koch brothers’ tribe. Just ask Eric Cantor, as he throws yet another monkey wrench into the works, with his characteristic sneer.