On December 7th, 1941 the Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, launching our entry into the Second World War. That attack was followed by the phrase, “waking a sleeping giant.” In this case, it meant that America became an unstoppable military machine – run by its people and working for a common cause. This sleeping giant needs to awaken from its slumber once more. This time it is not to defend our people from the imperial designs of foreign powers but to protect its people from the economic interests of 21st century Robber Barons.
The protests in Wisconsin over the governor’s bill to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights and to force them to make financial concessions, after he signed into law a massive tax cut for businesses, was a good sign. However, Wisconsin is small fries compared to what is being perpetrated on the national scene. The middle class is being decimated and the working class is being punished. Public workers, including teachers, firefighters and police officers are being cut all across the nation. The income disparity in this nation has grown to a level not seen since the 1920s. Before the Reagan 80s, the top 10 percent of earners owned approximately one-third of the nation’s wealth. Now the richest 5 percent own over 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 80 percent own a measly 12.8 percent. The right constantly complains about “income redistribution”- well what would you call that? This is no longer class warfare, this is class massacre.
What caused this mess? Were teachers and cops being too greedy, with their $50,000 and $30,000 a year (if they’re lucky) salaries? Are the poor just big mooches? No, the answer lies in the crash of 2008. If one inquires about our current financial woes, one simply needs to look towards Wall Street. The massive mega-banks made billions trading bad loans, bad mortgages as well as trading bets on anything you can imagine. Wall Street, which had been steadily more deregulated since the 80’s, finally caught up with its own greed and crashed. To stave off total catastrophe, we loaned them billions and with that money, they began giving each other multi-million dollar bonuses- as if they were celebrating how stupid we are.
Did anyone go to jail for the numerous illegal activities that contributed to this mess? Are you kidding? Now, in the midst of a huge mortgage fraud, it looks as if these same banks will get off again. They do own Washington D.C., after all.
Our democracy has effectively turned into a plutocracy, where the rich and their corporations (whom, the Supreme Court now claims are “people”) can buy politicians and twist them into ridiculous subsidies and tax breaks.
The U.S. Government now gives away around 70 billion dollars per annum to the oil industry (the richest industry in the history of the world), as well as 16 billion to farmers to grow corn. We can fund massive unnecessary military projects, and not care when we get blatantly cheated (Halliburton). Yet- when it comes to education (which is public, not some private industry superpower), we can’t seem to find a dime. Many profitable corporations have even weaseled out of paying taxes altogether, such as: Bank of America, Verizon, GE, Exxon Mobil and Citigroup. Carnival Cruise lines and Goldman Sachs only paid a 1.1 percent rate. All of those companies have profits in the billions last year. Yet, no one can spend a dollar to save a firehouse.
Where is our sleeping giant? Where are the protests in the streets of D.C.? Where are the public outcries for reform and for justice?
Our America is being sold, yet no one really seems to care. We find out every day about some new fraud that some major corporation has committed, yet no one gets upset that they aren’t charged with a crime. Have we become complacent to the fact that we will soon have to fight over what scraps Wall Street, the Koch brothers and big oil see fit to leave for us? What will it take for America, real America not the corporate entity we have become, to wake up and fight back?
Will it take Big Pharma being allowed by congress to over-charge us for medicines? Already happened. Will it take a “health care reform” that was in essence a gift to the insurance companies? Already happened. Will it take massive education cuts and teacher, police and firefighter layoffs, while spending billions on tax breaks and oil subsidies? Already happened.
You tell me America, what will it take? Don’t think about it for too long though, you don’t have much time left.
Ryan C. Ebersole is a M.S. counseling psychology student at the University of Southern Mississippi.