The Unquenchable Appetite for MORE

There’s an old adage that  implores us to “never hit a man when he’s down”.  The moneyed interests that run this country think that old adage is for fools.  From where you and I might stand, things are looking rather bleak economically.  The unemployment rate continues to hover near 10%, State and Local Governments face disastrous budget shortfalls and a solution to the foreclosure crisis has yet to be found.  In the adage, we, the working public are most certainly in the role of the man who is down.  And even though now might seem like a good time for a helping hand, brace yourselves, because the oligarchs are winding up for one swift kick to the teeth.

If you pay attention to the news, I’m sure you’ve heard at least one story about the importance of addressing the federal deficit. The time for financial stimulus, health-care reform and bailouts has come and gone, and now it’s time for a little bit of belt-tightening.  This sounds reasonable enough at first blush.  We like to think of our national and global economic situation in the same terms that most would think of their household economic situation.  Times are tough?  Then it’s time to cutback on dining out, it’s time to shut off the cable or it’s time to cancel that summer vacation.  Unfortunately, comparing the economic policies of nations with the economic policies of households is wrong.  The methods you use to balance your checkbook have nothing to do with the methods used for addressing our country’s financial situation. But this is not what the powers that be want you to believe.  They want you to believe that the only thing to do right now is to cutback…and you had better believe that they aren’t the ones who plan to be participating in any sort of sacrifice.  That will be up to you and me.  The proverbial ‘man who is down’.

The plan to convince us all of the need for belt-tightening has been charged to President Obama’s recently formed “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform”. One of the Commission’s stated purposes’ is to “propose recommendations that meaningfully improve the long-run fiscal outlook, including changes to address the growth of entitlement spending.” For those not versed in the linguistic styling of Washington bureaucrats, that quite simply means “finding ways to CUT Social Security and Medicare.” That’s right, cut the most popular, successful, efficient and possibly two most important programs in our country.  Wall St. gets its bailout, there’s endless money for endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, insurance and pharmaceutical companies receive sweet deals during health reform and the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-rich that are set to expire, might just stick around. Apparently, there’s money for all of that, but everyone out there skating by on Social Security and Medicare are just going to have to ‘suck it up’.

There’s two problems with this theory;  first, millions of American’s already living on the edge of poverty and despair will be shoved a little closer to the precipice, and second, reforming or cutting entitlement programs is an ineffective and wrong-headed strategy for trimming the federal deficit.  An explanation of this second point can be found in the testimony of economist James K. Galbraith when he appeared before Obama’s Fiscal Commission on June 30, 2010:

Professor Galbraith’s testimony essentially explains that entitlement programs like Social Security are transfer programs that function on a ‘money-in-money-out’ basis and are consequently irrelevant to deficit economics.  He goes on to highlight the true cause of the deficit (the financial downturn) and to explain that the call for deficit reduction is a political one, not one being demanded by the markets.  His testimony should be read in full by anyone with even a passing interest in this topic.

What all this illustrates is just the latest chapter in the ongoing class war being waged upon millions of Americans by wealthy who have, as the title of this post describes, “An Unquenchable Appetite for MORE”.  Entitlement programs represent to them an unearned handout to those who have demonstrated neither the talent or the willingness to succeed in life.  In their eyes, Social Security isn’t a necessary safety net or a means by which we show that societies who thrive are the ones that support and take care of the least of those among them.  To them, Social Security is a wasteful enterprise that encourages slothful behavior and rewards inadequacy.  But on top of that callous sentiment, entitlement programs represent to them a huge untapped resource of money that they ache to get their hands on.  That’s what the failed ‘privatization’ scheme of George W. Bush tried to accomplish.  It was not a benevolent new way to restructure a popular program; it was a money grab.  The powers that be wanted our Social Security funds to be invested on Wall St.  All of the talk about deficits and insolvency are nothing more than lies created to move money that is currently in the hands of the public trust into the hands of bankers and financiers who want to start laying it out on the craps table in a new effort to further line their already fat pockets.

The whole situation reminds me of the scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life” where George Bailey gets the opportunity to give Mr. Potter an earful about his greedy ways. George says, “I know very well what you’re talking about…you’re talking about something you can’t get your fingers on…and it’s galling you!”  The fact that Social Security and Medicare still exist today is galling the financial elites.  It galls them that they don’t control it and it galls them that people in worse situations than they actually get to enjoy the spoils of it.  It doesn’t matter that there is a Democrat in the White House, either.  This ‘Fiscal Commission’ represents just the latest attempt by the oligarchs to put an end to something that’s been galling them for roughly eighty years.

You don’t have to look far to see the results of the economic recession.  Even if your life has found a way to carry on relatively unscathed, you undoubtedly know of someone else who hasn’t been so lucky.  All of us are merely scheming to find a way to persevere.  But while we’re fighting for our lives, the rich and powerful are scheming for new ways to squeeze out a few more drops.  So the next time you hear a politician or a banker on TV talking about the necessity of trimming the deficit, just remember that they don’t have the slightest pause when it comes to hitting a man when he’s down.


5 Responses to The Unquenchable Appetite for MORE

  1. shirley DeDoes says:

    Oops, I think the last one was sent without coments.
    Just wanted to say that you have great insite–the Lake Michigan information is great. Uncle Ron feels the same way about Church music. What they call praise music, he calls, singing off the wall and 7/11 music. Seven words sung 11 times!! You probably heard that before also. Now the coments I have are for the one about the money. My Dad was probably not one of the wealthy people you are talking about; however, he and his brother, my uncle did have a great business and made more money than they ever thought possible. However, none of the things they had was not given to them. They had 7th and 8th grade educations. They knew they did not know everything so asked for help–and had to pay for it. However, They worked LONG hours doing lots of hard work. For many years they took very little wages. They always gave money to the churchs they attended–from the little they had. When they did make more money than they needed, they paid their employees well–most of the high school kids from Zeeland and the surronding areas had jobs working during the school year and also during the summer. When they made more money they gave LOTS of it away. No one will ever know the people they helped without telling everyone. They also helped the Christian Schools and anyone who asked for anything. So just because a person has some money, does not mean they are selfish and just want to grab more. Also with my Dad, he stood by and watched his business burn to the ground. He did not lay down on the grass and cry, like he felt like doing. While the fire was still burning, they met at the local restarant and made plans on how they would rebuild. Many people who were in the turkey business called and offered help. Of course they had to pay for this. I really believe the Lord blessed them because they put Him first and were not the selfish people that you talked about in your article. Thanks for listening.

    • Jason Batts says:

      Aunt Shirley,

      Thanks for the kind words, and thanks even more for being the first to offer some feedback.

      In regards to your Dad, you are absolutely correct, I may have painted with too broad of a brush. I apologize if my essay conveyed that I believe that ALL people with money are motivated by greed. That is not what I think at all. Kindness and benevolence are traits that can reside in people from any financial standing. It sounds like the world would be a better place if more people behaved like your Dad. But I do fear his kind may be the exception rather than the rule. There’s a whole host of people who’d be well-served to learn from his example.

  2. shirley DeDoes says:

    Oh, I forgot to ask you a question. How many jobs have you had working for poor people?? And how many taxes do the poor pay. Do not worry about SS. they put a guy in charge who will get it all straightened out. My question for you is why the government does not do something about all the medicare and medicade fraud?? If 60 mins and 20/20 can find out all about it you would think the government would be able to find the people and stop them from taking millions that does not belong to them. And the final question? Did you get to see Obama when he was in Holland?? sorry that was not the final question–It is why did the government think they could spend 20 million dollars of our money to buy those highway signs???
    Glad you got my message. I did not know if I really knew what I was doing.
    Enjoy the beautiful Michigan summer! And be thankful that the oil is not gushing right this minute. Although if “they” had sent that Dutch ship in right away to suck up the oil, we probably would have not had such a mess in the first (or second) place!!

    • Jason Batts says:

      Aunt Shirley,

      I’m not entirely sure I understand your questions. I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or serious. But I’ll answer as best I can.

      First, as far as I know, I’ve had no jobs working for poor people. But I’m not sure what your point is. Just because there is an underclass that generally serves as laborers instead of employers that means we are to disregard them? I don’t believe in turning my back on some members of a society based upon how much they contribute, I’m sure you don’t either.

      Second, after a quick look online…the lowest percentile of earners pay about 5% in taxes, whereas the top earners pay somewhere near 32% But again, I believe, and you may disagree, that is how it should be. I don’t find anything flawed with the idea of those who are most blessed being taxed in a way to hopefully benefit those who are left behind. Furthermore, the tax rate of the top 1% of earners used to be as high as 75-90% in the 1950’s and 60’s. They have successfully brought those numbers down and it would be my contention that the loss of that tax base is a huge contributor to our supposedly awful “deficit problems” I spoke of in the essay. Perhaps there would be more to go around if the ultra-wealthy didn’t feel the need to keep it all for themselves. (Also, we’re talking about ULTRA wealthy people here…not frugal businessmen who have managed to become millionaires, but BILLIONAIRES who see more money in a day than most of us do in a lifetime.)

      As far as medicare fraud, I’m not familiar with the 60minutes or 20/20 programs of which you speak.

      If you read this report, you’ll see that it puts the administrative costs of medicare around 3%. Administrative costs for private insurance companies is near 17%. Medicare runs way more efficiently than any private insurance company could ever hope for. Stories about waste and fraud in medicare are usually politically motivated smears created to engender stereotypes and anger towards the poor. If I could choose a single-payer, government-run health care policy over a private one, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I don’t need CEO’s getting rich off of my illnesses.

      I did not see President Obama in Holland. My opinion of our President is not very favorable. I did not vote for him anyways. I attended one of his campaign speeches in Grand Rapids in 2008 and have been disappointed ever since he was elected to find out that most of everything he said that day has turned out to be a lie. If given the chance to shake his hand…my hands would stay in their pockets.

      Don’t know what highways signs you’re talking about…so I can’t answer that one.

      Thanks for the questions…and thanks for being an active participant on my blog!

  3. Shirley DeDies says:

    thanks for the response. very interesting to think about. Maybe you will hear about the 20 million dollar highway sign some day. And yes I was probably being a bit sarcastic. Anyway, Just wondered how you would respond. Nice talking to you and hearing your views! We do hear a lot of lies, don’t we?
    Have a great weekend!! I have never answered a blog before!!

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