If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
The American failure in the past decades to protect and preserve working families can be laid at the feet of complacent liberals and the Democratic party as much as it can be laid at the feet of Republicans and movement conservatives. An addiction to comfort and the lucrative returns from the economic bubbles created by Wall Street allowed many so-called liberals (both politicians and voters) to look the other way as life deteriorated for the majority of poor and middle class Americans. The growing influence of corporations and Wall Street on the political process, and on the American psyche, over the last decades has had an increasingly corrupting affect on our democracy. In what has become an Orwellian reality, our politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, invite corporate lobbyists to write our legislation, then take lucrative jobs as lobbyists when they leave office. It is a closed loop that leaves the citizens who elected them with no real voice or representation.
Democrats as well as Republicans, by aligning themselves with corporate money and power, have contributed to the precipitous economic decline of working and middle class families. President Reagan began the assault on unions and American families, then President Clinton continued with NAFTA, which helped corporations move middle class jobs overseas, and the deregulation of financial markets, which caused the economic meltdown of 2008. Recently, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision unleashed unlimited corporate money into the political process.
The corporate-fueled November 2010 shift to Republican control in Congress—and in many normally blue state legislatures and governorships—has resulted in an all out attack on what is left of unions and the middle class. It is now clear that the wealthy are determined to claim any and all taxpayer-generated assets as their own, through government bailouts, tax cuts, and privatization schemes. The 2008 bailout of Wall Street, which saw trillions in taxpayer wealth transferred to the top 1%, was just a start. They are now trying to dismantle social safety nets and public sector unions as a way to cut “expenses” and “balance the budget” when the real issue is a lack of revenue—a fair taxation system that would fund the infrastructure and services a healthy society needs. As evidenced by Wisconsin Republican Governor Walker’s recent, and for the moment successful attack, on public sector workers, the billionaire’s coup is well under way.
The failure of liberals and the Democratic Party
Chris Hedges, author of The Death of the Liberal Class, in a recent article at Truthdig, commented on what happens when so-called liberals and the Democratic party, which is supposed to be the champion of working people, allow the erosion of democracy and democratic institutions.The following are excerpts from his excellent article “Power Concedes Nothing without a Demand.”
The liberal class is discovering what happens when you tolerate the intolerant. Let hate speech pollute the airways. Let corporations buy up your courts and state and federal legislative bodies. Let the Christian religion be manipulated by charlatans to demonize Muslims, gays and intellectuals, discredit science and become a source of personal enrichment. Let unions wither under corporate assault. Let social services and public education be stripped of funding. Let Wall Street loot the national treasury with impunity. . . .
Workers in this country paid for their rights by suffering brutal beatings, mass expulsions from company housing and jobs, crippling strikes, targeted assassinations of union leaders and armed battles with hired gun thugs and state militias. The Rockefellers, the Mellons, the Carnegies and the Morgans—the Koch Brothers Industries, Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart of their day—never gave a damn about workers. All they cared about was profit. The eight-hour workday, the minimum wage, Social Security, pensions, job safety, paid-vacations, retirement benefits and health insurance were achieved because hundreds of thousands of workers physically fought a system of capitalist exploitation. . . .
Those who fought to achieve these rights endured tremendous suffering, pain and deprivation. It is they who made possible our middle class and opened up our democracy. Our freedoms and rights were paid for with their courage and blood. . . .
The collapse of public education—nearly a third of the country is illiterate or semiliterate—and the rise of Democratic and Republican politicians who have sold their souls for corporate money, have left us largely defenseless. . . .
The public debate, dominated by corporate-controlled systems of information, ignores the steady impoverishment of the working class and absence of legal and regulatory mechanisms to prevent mounting corporate fraud and abuse. The airwaves are saturated with corporate apologists. They ask us why public-sector employees have benefits—sneeringly called “entitlements”—which nonunionized working- and middle-class people are denied. This argument is ingenious. It pits worker against worker in a mad scramble for scraps. And until we again speak in the language of open class warfare, grasping, as those who went before us did, that the rich will always protect themselves at our expense, we are doomed to a 21st century serfdom. . . .
The pillars of the liberal establishment, which once made incremental and piecemeal reform possible, have collapsed. . . . Schools and universities, on their knees for corporate dollars and their boards dominated by hedge fund and investment managers, have deformed education into the acquisition of narrow vocational skills that serve specialized corporate interests and create classes of drone-like systems managers. They make little attempt to equip students to make moral choices, stand up for civic virtues and seek a life of meaning. These moral and ethical questions are never even asked. Humanities departments are vanishing as swiftly as the ocean’s fish stocks. . . .
The electronic and much of the print press has become a shameless mouthpiece for the powerful and a magnet for corporate advertising. . . . Legitimate news organizations, such as NPR and The New York Times, are left cringing and apologizing before the beast—right-wing groups that hate “liberal” news organizations not because of any bias, but because they center public discussion on verifiable fact. And verifiable fact is not convenient to ideologues whose goal is the harnessing of inchoate rage and hatred. . . .
The Democratic Party, on the national level, has sold out working men and women for corporate and Wall Street campaign donations. Which is why the resistance in Madison WI is so important to the health and future of the nation. Real change is happening at the local level, not in the compromised halls of Congress. It is ordinary citizens in the Midwest who are rising up against the assaults of the billionaire class and their political retainers. In Wisconsin, real Democrats in the Wisconsin state legislature, acting courageously and with integrity, are restoring respectability to the political profession. The Democrats in DC could learn a thing or two from state Representative Peter Barca, who tried to stop the bill that would strip workers of their right to collective bargaining from passing. And they could learn from the 14 Democratic state senators who left the state rather than allow a vote on Governor Walker’s draconian “Budget Repair Bill.”
Because of the willingness of the people of Wisconsin to stand and confront power, for the first time in decades, we have real hope. The American people are starting to connect the dots—from the Wall Street bailout with taxpayer money, to the trillions spent in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the so called lack of money for ordinary working families. The confrontations that are taking place in the capitols of the Midwest may return the states to real Democratic control through a series of recalls.
But, eventually, the confrontations must move to the doors of the financial institutions on Wall Street, and the corporations who pay no taxes and ship our good jobs overseas. A good precedent was set recently in St. Louis where citizens held a demonstration against union busting and corporate greed. The confrontations must move to the offices of congressmen and Senators in DC. We need more than the vague, unfocused, feel good march on the Mall staged by Jon Stewart. We must demand of our Democratic representatives in Washington that they stop pandering to the interests of the billionaire class and represent working Americans as they were elected to do—or step aside for someone who will.