Many people have been discussing Thomas Piketty’s book Capital In The 21st Century lately. As they should. It is a very important contribution to the fight against economic inequality. We have seen the writing on the wall for many years, but until now we didn’t have a quantifiable theory as to how or why wealth is gravitating towards the richest of the rich.
I have not read the book yet. It is buried under many other titles that are either in progress or take precedence (damn you, college!). But I do have a few thoughts to share concerning the subject.
It seems, first and foremost, that the idea of our society being transformed back into something resembling the Gilded Age has finally caught the attention of a few important groups. Left-leaning liberals/moderates (Democrats?) who were previously apathetic toward a Marxist analysis of capitalism, and some sympathetic/moderate libertarians who don’t only blame governments for economic woes and are willing to meet halfway on markets and their discontents.
The key to both of these groups joining with their radical (Anarchist, Communist, etc.) brothers and sisters is the baseline argument that we can all agree on: that the politicians that we have elected to represent us in our democracy have not been speaking for us. Have they ever really?
Not only are we as a people confronted with the reality of corporate dynasties (The Waltons, The Kochs) but who would have ever imagined we would have to deal with political ones as well? The possibility of another Clinton or another Bush in the oval office frightens me.
We are on an old road that hasn’t been walked on since the 1920s. It’s hard not to think that we could see another financial meltdown followed by another war. Would we survive? Can we prevent or even reverse what has been set in motion? I guess that’s if you even believe that history is repeating itself based on the data.
Wherever we’re going we are being driven by a vehicle built on a specific ideology that seeks to hinder our senses. The more we fight to see the truth the tighter the blindfold becomes. The more we fight to listen to one another the louder the megaphone of the elite becomes. It’s going to take a lot of people being okay with alternative ways to organize society for anything resembling democracy to return.
This is why Piketty’s book and others like it will gain more readers in the coming months and years. The more people that are aware of their lack of opportunity originating from their lack of wealth the more they will be willing to talk to one another about how to fix it.
Everyone knows that our two-party political system doesn’t really provide anyone with a real choice. Aside for some social policy differences both Democrats and Republicans are two heads on the same capitalist body working to keep a system in place that rewards criminal activity.
However, we must recognize that because of the bickering amongst the bourgeois, the working class and people who are genuinely trying to help one another out are the ones that suffer.
Take, for instance, the IRS “scandal” that seems to be making its way through the mainstream media as being some kind of tyranny against the right-wing brought by the Obama administration. Far be it from me to exclude any president (past or present) from scrutiny when it is called for, but the evidence is pretty clear that people, once more, are mistaking fiction for fact.
David Johnson points out in a blog post that after the Citizens United ruling the IRS was flooded with applications for a special tax-exempt status only awarded to “social welfare” groups not “political activist” groups. Things called FACTS are given:
Fact: Only one-third of the groups that were passed to specialists for a closer look were “conservative.” Lots of other organizations were also checked, including progressive organizations.
Progressive organizations you say? How come we don’t hear about those in the news?
Fact: No groups were audited or harassed or “targeted” or “singled out.” This was about applications for special tax status being forwarded to specialists for a closer look to see if they were engaged in political activity that would disqualify them for the special tax status. This closer look is the kind of review all organization should get, but the IRS was swamped because of the flood of groups applying for a status that let them mask their donors, after Citizens United.
Ah, yes. Citizens United. Money equals speech so therefore the owners of more capital can speak the loudest.
Fact: The only groups actually denied special tax status were progressive groups, not conservative groups. In 2011, during the period that “conservative groups were targeted” the New York Times carried the story, 3 Groups Denied Break by I.R.S. Are Named . The three groups? Drum roll … “The I.R.S. denied tax exemption to the groups — Emerge Nevada, Emerge Maine and Emerge Massachusetts — because, the agency wrote in denial letters, they were set up specifically to cultivate Democratic candidates.”
So wait, the groups that were “targeted” weren’t even denied, yet the Democratic ones were? I don’t see or hear conservatives on the television or radio weeping crocodile tears for them, just for their own. Keep in mind that mid-term elections are swiftly approaching.
Johnson also points to a post by Peter Daou where he explains how the Democratic party has ignored and forgotten about the left, forcing politics to the right, and dragging corporate media along with it. Chris Hedges has written extensively on this.
In the end it’s just one head trying to gnaw away at the other in an attempt to gain control of the entire body. It takes our attention away from the real problems of our government. For instance, how it maintains a global empire through the “war on terror” and transfers wealth and income from the working class to the upper class through the establishment of supply-side economic policies.