Let Them Watch People Eating Cake

2011 May 26

by Roy W. Bakos

Just a few musings from a recent college graduate…

Yes, I have finally earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English from Buffalo State College.  22 years and 11 months after graduating from Canisius High School.  Working as a sales rep, a photographer, a stringer for a local weekly, an open mic host, as a landscape guy at a cemetery, a screen printer, and building a career in the restaurant business.  Moving out of town to North Carolina and then moving back to Buffalo.  Opening four restaurants and returning to work at a place that I have now been employed at for longer than any other.  I have now done all of these and have finally managed to finish school.  Upon finishing, I have decided that the “real world” is a scary place so I will be starting as a Master’s student in English in August at my Alma Mater.  This is why my writing here at the Moose has waned in the last few months but I once again have some free time and this is the result.

How come no one else seems to be pissed off about the right-wing attack on Medicare and Social Security?  These are the last two bastions of the social safety net that have been left standing after continuing attacks from the new robber barons of the Second American Gilded Age and they are now facing a “restructuring” as well.  We were silent when 40 years of policy wrapped up in the myth of “Free Trade” saw all of our manufacturing jobs disappear or be moved overseas.  We were silent when a new war started in the Middle East in 1991 which did away with the “Peace Dividend” that was supposed to come after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.  We were silent as health care costs started to bankrupt more and more of what was left of the former middle class.  We were silent as we saw the income and wealth of the top 5% of Americans increase 300% while the wages for the working and middle classes remained the same as they were in 1970.  We were silent as we saw investment bankers and mortgage companies steal our money in fraudulent wealth-making schemes and then silent again as they stole our money again to pay for their misdeeds. We stand silent as millionaires and billionaires whine about taxes while the rest of us worry about how to pay for a mortgage, or heath insurance, or the education of our children.  What is it going to take for us to break the silence and demand a place at the table?  A complete economic meltdown?  30% unemployment?  Or are we just waiting for the next version of American Idol or the NFL lockout to end so we can get back to doing what we do best; being distracted?
I don’t know all of the answers but I do know this: a Republic such as ours can not continue to survive or flourish if things keep going the way they are.  80% of the wealth controlled by 5% of the population?  That is why French Kings got decapitated and why a bunch of Americans joined together at the beginning of the last Century to fight for things like the New Deal and the financial and social reforms that it brought.  The most prosperous time in American History is the period following WWII to about 1970.  Taxes were high on the super-rich.  The poor had new ways to get educated so they could lift themselves out of poverty.  The Middle Class was working and their kids were going to schools that were affordable.  Banks were well regulated.  Wall Street was well regulated and capital markets were subject to Usury Laws that didn’t allow loan-shark like interest rates to become commonplace.  We need to look back at these times to figure out how we can ensure that this Country will once again live up to the promises of it’s founding documents.  Equal Opportunity.  Liberty and Justice for All.  Republics and Oligarchies don’t mesh well and it is high time we decide which one we would like to live in.

Thanks for reading the rant.  Hopefully, you and I will do something about this.  There will be more writing again on The Moose very soon.  Feel free to comment and to write something yourself as well as we are always looking for new voices to add to the discussion.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. May 26, 2011

    Roy,
    Wouldn’t you agree that the foundational change that needs to be made in order to effect the changes you discussed, is campaign finance reform?

    I know that we’ve talked about this offline and I understand your solution of allowing unlimited conributions from any individual or organization with publication of those contributions so that citizens may see who is funding what candidate (I think I’ve summarized your position fairly, no?)

    However, I’ve been thinking about this path to campaign finance reform: what if only citizens who are eligible to register to vote (no requirement TO register or vote)living in the jurisdiction of the representative to be elected (nationwide for the Presidential ticket, by state for Senators, district for Representatives, etc down the food chain), may make contributions in any amount that individual wants to that candidate?

    I’ve heard this basic proposal framed as, “only citizens with a face and a social security number (assuming social security doesn’t cease to exist) may make contributions inside their jurisdictions.

    Why should individuals in Buffalo be allowed to make a contribution to Senator Mikulski’s campaign? Or one in Annapolis contribute to Schumer’s?

    Our founding documents intend our government to be representative of the People, not the corporation, and it wisely carved up the nation into subparts, so that the People could be most accurately represented.

  2. May 27, 2011

    Mike,
    Right on. I would be with that in a second but it would have to be enforced. What if I just gave you $500,000 from up here in Buffalo and you just happened to give it to the campaign of Senator Mikulski? Would that be OK as long as you (or someone) paid the taxes on the gift that I gave you?
    This being said, I do like the proposal but I do think that there would be free-speech issues (the SCOTUS has tied speech to cash over and over again from “liberal” to “conservative” courts) and it could be argued that Mikulski or Udall or Paul, by their ability to frame national policy, are my indirect representatives as well as the direct representatives of their constituents. The plan could get dicey here but I believe there is a solution out there.
    Is this your proposition or is there some group that is advocating this too? Please write an article here to bring more light to this type of plan (and to campaign finance reform in general) as I do believe that this is exactly where we need to start to reform the system and restore liberty. Seriously, write it up and reason it out and get this into the mainstream discussion.
    See you soon man and give me a shout when you can.
    Roy

  3. May 27, 2011

    Roy,
    I don’t know about the gifting situation, I’d be inclined to believe that as long as proper taxes are paid on the gift, it is then the money of the recipient, to do with as he/she sees fit. I would also include the publishing of contributors lists weekly (as you’ve mentioned) and a prohibition on using any of those funds until the week after the contribution appears on the list.

    I call bullshit on your “indirect representatives.” We don’t have indirect representatives, we have representatives. Senators and Congresspeople get paid to represent the people within their districts, not anyone else (which is why, when the farse of sitting together across party lines for the State of the Union came up, I mentioned that Congress should sit according to state delegation, that’s who they represent, after all, not a party, an actual geographical construct). If I think that Lamar Alexander more accurately represents my political beliefs for this country, I can move to Tennessee, but I shouldn’t be able to help fund his campaign from Maryland, because he is not paid to represent me.

  4. Joe permalink
    June 6, 2011

    Roy,

    Your “rant” is right on. It’s incredible to me how working and middle class people continually vote and act against their own self-interest. They lose their jobs, pensions, health insurance, etc . yet rail against Obama as a “socialist”, and attack programs that would help them. He’s not even a liberal – unbelievable.

    I was only a kid in the 50’s, but I do recall that decade and the early 60’s as being pretty good economically. This under 8 years of a Republican President when the top income tax rates were 90%! Now, the top rate is less than half of that, and the wealthy are crying about high taxes. Ridiculous.

    I also agree with your thoughts on “indirect representatives” – for example, I consider Dennis Kucinich to be in that categoryn and I have contributed to him in the past and intend to do so again so the nation doesn’t lose his important voice. Same with Bernie Sanders.

    Looking forward to reading this website more regularly.

    P.S. Congrats on your graduation !

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