Monday, November 21, 2011

The Big Lies and the People Who Believe Them

Tea Partiers: Headed for the 1%? Not on your life.
First and foremost point: don't be one of them, the people who believe the big lies. The big lies are the product of media narratives supported by willful ignorance. They are not the product of conspiracies, except perhaps to the extent that secret money funneled by political operatives from fabulously wealthy individuals is used to manipulate the ignorant and easily misled. Don't be one of the misled.

I was going to write first today about the Occupy Movement and the police state that it has revealed, and I will. But what captured my imagination today was a Huffington Post blog by Jeffrey Sachs, a professor of economics at Columbia University. He framed our reality in a profound way. There is a Big Lie -- that we can't afford to raise taxes on the rich -- that is supported "gleefully" by the Republicans and "sheepishly" by the Democrats. How true. He adds:
The key to understanding the U.S. economy is to understand that we have two economies, not one. The economy of rich Americans is booming. Salaries are high. Profits are soaring. Luxury brands and upscale restaurants are packed. There is no recession.
The economy of the middle class and poor is in crisis. Poverty and near-poverty are spreading. Unemployment is rampant. Household incomes have been falling sharply. Millions of discouraged workers have dropped out of the labor force entirely. The poor work at minimum wages to provide services for the rich.
There are two forces that account for this deep divide. The first is globalization. Manufacturing employment peaked in 1979, with jobs and factories increasingly shifting overseas. For a while, the housing bubble provided construction jobs that partly offset the loss of manufacturing jobs. Now the housing bubble has burst. Good jobs for young people with a high-school diploma or less have disappeared.
 Sachs goes on to say that an important aspect of the Big Lie is that we'd be worse off if we were more like Europe, with its high taxes. Where the taxes are highest, northern Europe, the economies are sound and in fact in most every way superior to ours:
The lowest macroeconomic misery is in Northern Europe. Norway has the lowest score, followed by Switzerland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Demark. All seven countries have lower unemployment rates, smaller budget deficits as a share of GDP, and lower foreign deficits as a share of GDP, than the U.S. We look pretty miserable indeed by comparison.
VW factory in Dresden, Germany

 I had the pleasure of living most of a year in the Netherlands in 1971-72, and the experience made me aware of how much more civilized Northern Europe is compared with the U.S.  Things have only gotten worse in the U.S. in the four decades since. It's not an accident. Our priorities are all out of whack.

So, to simplify: the Big Lie is just that. The Republicans under Reagan and George W. Bush forced massive tax decreases on the rich -- W.'s father famously raised them, modestly, and Bill Clinton raised them, more substantially, leading to a period of enormous growth and government surpluses by 2000 -- and the result is the rich are richer and the poor are poorer. The rich keep more of their money, and it doesn't trickle down. If it did, we'd know by now.

Big Lie #1, then, is we can't tax the rich more. The fact is we can, and we must. If you're falling for the media narrative that the Occupy Movement doesn't have any goals, don't fall for it any more. The 99%-ers want the rich to pay more. So do I, and so should us all, including the rich, who would also benefit.

Who believes the Big Lie? The people who expect someday to be among the 1%. Why is it foolish to believe that we'll get there? Because so very few do. How many of us will? About 1%. Pretty bad odds. Don't play the game. Don't believe the Lie. Vote your circumstances, not your dreams. If your dreams come true, so much the better. In the meantime, work to restore balance to our society. Our future depends on it.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you on the point and can only add that it is profitable for the government to grow up whole generations of people who are eager to believe these lies so that they are ignorant and blind at their being manipulated...