Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Heavy on the makeup, light on the resolve

First, commendations to Al Franken for making the effort to explain his vote in favor of extending the Bush administration’s tax cuts; unlike many other politicians who voted for this diseased swine of a bill, Franken appears to have sufficient capacity for remorse to find it necessary to try to justify his choice.

Lipstick on a pig: Bush tax cuts still harm economy

“Lipstick on a pig”: Pulchrify them as you will, Bush-era tax cuts still harm the economy.
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However, all the cosmetics in Avon’s warehouses won’t hide the fact that extending tax cuts for the top 0.1 percent of the U.S.’ economic elite has real consequences for the rest of us. Unfortunately, the makeup does help conceal the worst aspect of such measures: They have been planned for decades as part of a process of rolling back progress made by the working class thanks to the agitations of the 1960s and ’70s, and their purpose is a profoundly malignant one.

What the Republicans are doing — abetted by their “good cop” counterparts in the Democratic Party, adept at wringing their hands and offering sympathetic smiles as the “bad cops” beat our skulls in — is what I term “frittling”: a neologism denoting the act of simultaneously frittering away public funds by cutting revenues and raising military spending and using the resulting deficits to justify whittling away at programs that transfer a measure of wealth down the economic ladder by helping working-class people survive by any means short of comprehensive capitulation to corporate overlords.

As we discuss the frittling phenomenon, it is necessary to bear in mind that the ambitions of the ruling elite go far beyond mere self-enrichment; of course personal avarice is a factor, but it is not the most cogent one. Beyond this, we must finally accept that the elite has been waging class warfare against the middle and lower classes from the outset: Provisions favoring the wealthy are written directly into our Constitution — which was after all the product of a colonial elite that wanted independence from England mostly so that it could free itself of the economic constraints imposed by external authorities — and even the amendments later added for the protection of minorities have since been perverted and used instead to protect the power of corporations. This disjunction between our founders’ democratic rhetoric and elitist creed has been apparent at least since the Declaration of Independence’ formula (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”) was supplanted by that appearing in the Constitution itself (“life, liberty and property,” with the last named by far the most highly regarded at law).

Not only does the elite want more, but it quite purposefully wants us to have less.

It is a discouraging fact that poverty destroys political effectiveness and disunites the impoverished. As history has shown, people are easier to control when you have them over a barrel. The elite is not merely transferring wealth upward, it is doing so deliberately to ensure that wealth will continue to flow upward, well aware that once the lower classes become desperate enough for the meagre necessities of physical survival, they will more readily accept any conditions offered by those controlling those necessities, and be further disabled in any attempt to fight back.

The U.S.’ elite differs in no important respect from the medieval feudal elites: The trappings of democracy are kept in place to foster an illusion of a relatively classless society, because of course we will not welcome overt serfdom, but the essence remains unchanged. It is might proclaiming itself right: the old aristocracy, the old Fort Mayne of Norman England, continuing to proclaim that it rules by divine ordinance. The struggle has never fundamentally changed: It is a “right” that defends the old order against a “left” that fights to alter it so that the rhetoric of republic becomes reality rather than merely disguising the grimmer reality of kleptoplutocratic neofeudalism.

Today, the frittlers control Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court. Corporations are recognized as persons, but persons of no wealth are not. Those who have taken the most from our society give back the least, and those with the least are expected to make up the difference. The only difference between today’s feudalism and that of yestercentury is that our robber barons live in mansions instead of castles.

Originally published as a review of a Huffington Post guest article by Senator Al Franken in which he seeks to rationalize a vote for continuing Bush-era tax cuts.

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