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Molly Ivins: The Politics of Greed

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Posted on Jul 10, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas—I don’t get it. What’s the percentage in keeping the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour? After nine years? This is such an unnecessary and nasty Republican move. Congress has voted seven times to raise its own wages since last the minimum wage budged. Of course, Congress always raises its own salary in the dark of night, hoping no one will notice. But now it does the same with the minimum wage hike, quietly killing it.

Anyone who doesn’t think this is a country where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer needs to check the numbers—this is Bush country, where a rising tide lifts all yachts.

According to the current issue of Mother Jones:

—One in four U.S. jobs pays less than a poverty-level income.

—Since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line at any one time has risen steadily. Now, 13%—37 million Americans—are officially poor.

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—Bush’s tax cuts (extended until 2010) save those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 an average of $10 a year, while those making $1 million are saved $42,700.

—In 2002, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) compared those who point out such statistics as the one above to Adolph Hitler (surely he meant Stalin?).

—Bush has diverted $750 million to “healthy marriages” by shifting funds from social services, mostly child care.

—Bush has proposed cutting housing programs for low-income people with disabilities by 50%.

A series of related stats—starting with the news that two out of three new jobs are in the suburbs—shows how the poor are further disadvantaged in the job hunt by lack of public or private transportation.

Meanwhile, for those who have been following the collapse of the pension system, please note a series in The Wall Street Journal by Ellen Schultz taking a hard look at executive pension obligations:

—“Benefits for executives now account for a significant share of pension obligations in the United States, an average of 8 percent (of large companies). Sometimes a company’s obligation for a single executive’s pension approaches $100 million.”

—“These liabilities are largely hidden, because corporations don’t distinguish them from overall pension obligations in their federal financial filings.”

—“As a result, the savings that companies make by curtailing pensions of regular retirees—which have totaled billions of dollars in recent years—can mask a rising cost of benefits for executives.”

—“Executive pensions, even when they won’t be paid until years from now, drag down the earnings today. And they do so in a way that’s disproportionate to their size, because they aren’t funded with dedicated assets.”

It seems to me that we’ve seen enough evidence over the years that the capitalist system is not going to be destroyed by an outside challenger like communism—it will be destroyed by its own internal greed. Greed is the greatest danger as we develop an increasingly winner-take-all system. And voices like The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page encourage this mentality by insisting that any form of regulation is bad. But for whom?

It is so discouraging to watch this country become less and less fair—“justice for all” seems like an embarrassingly archaic tag. Republicans have rigged the “lottery of life” in this country in ways we don’t even know about yet. The new bankruptcy law is unfair, and the new college loan rules are worse. The system has been stacked so that large corporations have an inside track over small businesses in getting government contracts. We won’t see the full consequences of this mean and careless legislation for years, but it starting to affect us already.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and see works by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website, www.creators.com.


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By Bukko in Australia, July 20, 2006 at 9:35 pm Link to this comment
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Fred: Bingo! I keep hoping that I’m just a paranoid nutter who upended his entire life because of my foolish notions. And then there’s stuff like that which affirms my rationale.

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By Chris, July 19, 2006 at 4:53 pm Link to this comment
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Sometimes I amuse myself with fanciful notions like a maximum wage, popular votes for congressional raises, or caps on profit margins. My laughs turn to tears when I gauge the odds of implementing meaningful solutions. We are living in Reagan’s wet dream. It’s easy to have a good economy when you limit the number of people you’re making it good for.

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By Fred, July 18, 2006 at 4:17 pm Link to this comment
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You mean like this?

“WASHINGTON, July 16 — The Bush administration says it plans sweeping changes in Medicare payments to hospitals that could cut payments by 20 percent to 30 percent for many complex treatments and new technologies.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/17/us/17medicare.html)

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By Bukko in Australia, July 14, 2006 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So true Kathy that in many ways workers in the modern economy have less security than slaves. With the current fascist system, the rich class has absolutely no interest in anyone who can’t work hard for low wages. That’s true in China and India as well as trhe U.S. If you’re old, sick, mentally slow or whatever, you can just go die, for all that the fascist leaders care.

One of the reasons I decamped from the U.S. is because I can see where current trends might take us. I had a good trade as a nurse—no shortage of jobs and decent wages. However, the American hospital system IS socialised medicine, because most of the money comes from Medicare and a bit more from Medicaid—government programmes. When the economic crunch comes to the U.S., the right-wing government is going to starve the medical system. (Social Security too.)

The biggest cost-saver for the fascists will be letting old people die. If a retired person is dead, they’re not getting Social Security cheques, and they’re not getting government-paid health care. That solves the budget deficit! Understand that I’m not in favour of this. It’s horrifying. It will happen gradually, with the “budget crisis” forcing “cutbacks” (actually “gut-ripping”) in Social Security and Medicare payments. Hospitals will start losing money; more will close, sick old people will have to wait for admission and treatment, and many will die along the way. This will be brought to you by the “Culture of Life.”

One of the weirdest things about coming down here was getting accustomed to a system where everything wasn’t measured by the bottom line. I keep seeing things that the government does for the benefit of the people. It seems so srange, because there’s no profit in that. But I realise that in other parts of the world, society tries to do things for the humans who live there. What a concept!

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By kathy sullivan, July 14, 2006 at 9:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Right now in the world, we have criminals and bullies in charge.  How do you deal with a bully?  Remember in school, the bullied kids need to join forces and stand up to the bully. . .that is the only way!  These guys, now running the show are not going to give up power very easily.  I think many of us are naive that we will have a chance in November.  The neocons want to go back to the days of slavery. . . actually slavery may be better than now. . .at least to protect their investment, the slaves were garanteed a roof over their head and healthy food which insured their workability and a doctor was called when they were sick.  Now we have no medical insurance, a minimum wage that is a joke; work that is killing us; foods that are full of toxins; expensive drugs that don’t heal but only treat symptoms; an educational system that is based on propaganda, not facts or science; etc., etc.  The genteel class has no aspirations for democracy.  They and their corporate cohorts have sold out the rest of us long ago.  Molly—continue speaking truth to power!!  I think it might be hopeless, but I do believe in miracles and maybe the sheep will wake up.

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By TruthPlease, July 13, 2006 at 11:57 pm Link to this comment
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As ‘AC’ said, it is extremely discouraging to live in a diehard red area - but it’s true also that it means a ‘blue’ person has to have all the facts ready at hand to refute the BS of the Bush apologists.  But mostly, they just don’t want to be confused by any facts, thank you very much!  How can you convince, much less argue with folks who have no interest in the truth?  But I keep on tryin’!  Thanks all of you fellow bloggers for reminding me that I’m not alone, and I’m ready anytime to nominate Molly Ivins for sainthood or President!

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By AC, July 13, 2006 at 12:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I wouldn’t worry to much about the richies. Think about it, when TSHTF where do you think the starving populace will go looking for food and money, exactly the big house on the hill. In addition, from my experience, richies have no idea how to do allot of the basic things we have had to do in order to survive on our measly earnings, they can’t fix a car, tend a garden, hell half of them can’t even put a chain back on a bicycle.

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By Bukko in Australia, July 12, 2006 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment
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One of the useful purposes of blogs like this is to bolster other peoples’ resolve. If you’re in a “red” area, it can be dispiriting to be a liberal. You think you’re so alone. Much Internet political chatter is just wanking at the keyboard, but it can be helpful to pick up new arguments to use against fascist thinkers. Even if you can’t go out and demonstrate, you can still adopt the tactics of the hard-core Christians and “witness” for your beliefs. There are a lot of uninformed people in the U.S. who don’t have strong political feelings. If you can hit them with examples of the wrongness and unfairness of how things are going, it may sway them. So if nothing else, talk it up in real life, not just on the computer.

And if I might put in a plug, listen to Air America Radio, Al Franken’s liberal AM talk network. I learn a lot from it. We got broadband cable down here, which is not easy, just so we could stream and download their shows. It’s not just bloviating like Rush Limpball and the O’Lielly Farter. They talk about actual facts, interview people (I think Molly has been on) and are also entertaining.

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By WYATT from New Brunswick, CANADA, July 12, 2006 at 7:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, from where I am , it sure is nice to know that all of you are out there! Here is a quote from one of my favorite Americans… Mr. Abraham Lincoln:

“No order of society can last in which one man says to another, ‘You work and toil and earn bread, and I will eat it’.”

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By Skytalker, July 12, 2006 at 6:41 pm Link to this comment
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Well, Bukko, good onya. And I agree with what you say about the revolution can’t be fought with the sheriff’s deputy. If I were single I’d be more willing to put my butt on the line, as you admonish, and get gassed and jailed for ideas. As it is now, I have two young children and a wife who is too sick to care for herself some days, let alone them any day. If it comes to taking sides because “they” come to my home, I’ll sell my life as dearly as I can, but I’m not going in search of a fight right now.

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By Bukko in Australia, July 12, 2006 at 5:37 pm Link to this comment
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The trouble with a revolution is “Where do you start?” Like I say to right-wing gun nuts who count on their pistols to protect them from “tyranny”: who are you going to shoot? The local sheriff’s deputy? He’s going to be the one who comes to put the cuffs on you for whatever Fatherland Security directive you’ve violated. But he’s your neighbour. His son is on your son’s softball team. The revolution can’t be about shooting good ol’ Bob.

How many of you posters have gone out and marched? How many belong to political organisations that meet even once a month? If so, good onya! If not, why? Not until masses of people put their butts literally on the street, blocking traffic and jamming the gears of commerce, will the authorities take notice. Then they’ll respond with tear gas, water cannons and divvy vans (Aussie slang for the paddy wagons that haul you to jail.) Are you willing to get gassed and arrested for the “revolution”?
That’s what we did in San Francisco when the war started, which had absolutely no effect on the national powers that be, because it was San Fran and lefties there are expected to hoot and holler like monkeys. It’s going to take throngs in places like Mobile and Des Moines before the media and The Man give a damn.

I don’t have any faith in the Dems either. They’re just the opposite side of the same old coin, and it’s a plugged nickel. I don’t have any hope things will get better in the U.S. until they get a lot worse. As a nurse, I’m in the life business, not the violence trade. So I buggered off. At least down here, I’m one of a population of 20 million, not 300 mil. A drop in a smaller pond. As with Europe, Aussies have more class consciousness and political awareness than average Americans. (Not the ones on this board, of course.)

I still have hope that they can turn the fascists back here, although the Labor Party is as dithering as the Dems (and headed by a Teddy Kennedy type who twice got thrashed by John Howard.) I’m out marching with my union and putting up posters for an anti-nuclear group. It ain’t much, but it’s better than just whingeing on a blog. How about you?

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By saul2006, July 12, 2006 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Until gas reaches a high enough price that the racists southerners for Jesus realize that Jesus will not pay for their gas to drive to hear the lying pimps for Jesus give their church sermons , it doesn’t matter

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By James Morehouse, July 12, 2006 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The neocons have put the con back in conservative.

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By Rich in Montana, July 12, 2006 at 7:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Everyone is getting exactly what is deserved right now. And until enough of us, one by one, shake off the trance of thoughts and beliefs mistaken as “real knowledge”, which has its root in dim awareness, and wake up to what each of us actually is, what life and living is, what true beauty and unconditional love is (each on his or her own because no one can show and tell you), what we deserve and get will keep getting wierder and more painful. Even the wealthy can’t dodge this one. Their ego-wrought prison of elitist, greedy, fearful, distracted wealthism is a dead and lonely place. It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a human bound to ego-centric materiality, thought and belief to be deeply happy. The so-called “good life” we’ve been conditioned to envy - what many still lie, cheat, steal, and kill for - is actually rotten. Love of money is the religion of the lost.
Don’t wait another moment for someone else to lead you. Find out what is enduring and real by finding out first what is temporary and false. How? How else? Calm down, get clear and LOOK! Look at your own thinking. Look at who you think you are. Look at what is looking. And don’t stop until you’ve got it.

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By Freedom Fighter in U.S., July 12, 2006 at 7:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Corporate run Federal Reserve can devalue the dollar at will as it has in the past. Reports from inside bankers circles believe the Federal Reserve will devalue it by 50% come October 2006. This will result in worldwide chaos. Income taxes (There is no law requiring Americans to pay tax on their income)only pay on the interest of the national debt to keep the bankers happy. Not sure much can be done before the big screwjob in October but Americans should try to do SOMETHING.

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By 3reddogs, July 12, 2006 at 6:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Adding insult to injury, you have GOP-controlled states like Ohio who have been relentless in disenfranchising the very same people who have been hit the hardest by Republican economic policies.  Nothing like making darned sure that these people won’t be able to vote you out of office!

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By Skytalker, July 11, 2006 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m an ex-Republican who really doesn’t see any hope in the Democrats either. On the whole local politicians (JPs, Mayors, etc) of both (or all) parties seem to be resonably responsive to the voters. But when a politician reaches the stratospheric level of national politics with income for life and access to the halls of power, those folks are all bought by the same money sources, regardless of party affiliation.

Since our Congress won’t retain its own powers, but continues ceding them to the Executive, who is only too willing to assume them, and the Justice department has no real enforcement mechanism for its rulings, perhaps its time to scratch and start over. If the Constitution were still being treated as the law, things wouldn’t be this way, I think. But power, and maintaining one’s hold on it, has its own line of reasoning.

I personally don’t think Americans are apathetic simply because they don’t care, if indeed they are apathetic. Most of us still live with the (evidently naive) notion that the government exists to protect us, and expect them to do it. But after 40 years of movements, civil disobedience, marches, demonstrations, etc, we find the government still basically giving us the finger. At some point I think a lot of people just conclude fighting is of no use.

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By TruthPlease, July 11, 2006 at 7:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree that any wage increase for government employees (also known as “Public Servants”) should be accompanied by an equal rise in the minimum wage - not the percentage system either - raised by the exact same amount.  The percentage system is so misleading - the average tax payer gets a saving of about $10 with President Bush’s tax plan - A laughable amount that probably doesn’t even cover the cost of sending the checks out.  Meanwhile, our great nation is going bankrupt and planning to leave the tab for my children and grandchildren to pay - I guess poor people - the kind who depend on the minimum wage in real life terms - are gettng what they deserve - if they were rich, we’d need to feel sorry for them and help them out but if they’re unlucky enough to be poor, too bad.  “Justice for all” means buying your own Supreme, I guess.

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By c u n d gulag, July 11, 2006 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Trickle down.  What a great concept.  Unless you’re the lower ones on the totem pole.  Money flow’s up, or stays on the same level.  $#it flow’s only one way.
Let the Rethuglican blogger’s cower and cry for more war.  More killing.  The rest of us had had enough.
Aslo, reality:  Tax cut’s for the rich have NOT worked.  Increasing minimum wage does NOT hurt local economy’s.
Wake up, SHEAPLE!
We may soon need a 2nd American Revolution.  With real Patriot’s, not the blogging, whining,  supporting the war and tax cut’s, kind.
I think we can find a few…
Where do I sign up, Molly?  Bad leg and all, I’ll do what I can.

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By Julie Kirby, July 11, 2006 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Molly Ivins is great as always.  One thing not mentioned in this article is that the poverty line is defined only by the cost of groceries.  When you take into consideration the cost of housing, the number of people living at or below poverty level increases dramatically.

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By R Lloyd, July 11, 2006 at 5:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We should demand a law that requires Congress to raise the minimum wage every time they raise their own pay.

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By felicity smith, July 11, 2006 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ah, yes, the Reagan years of trickle down and a high tide raises all boats.  Never mentioned was a high tide does nothing for the thousands and thousands, perhaps millions of sunken boats stuck in the mud at the bottom of the sea. Divers plunder them: Nobody lifts them: They’re damaged goods. And the wonderful thing is I can stand on my balcony, look out at the beautiful Pacific and never see a single, solitary one.

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By ivy, July 11, 2006 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thirty years of hardwon, grassroots political struggles and significant gains have ultimately been blown into a large plastic baggie and closed tight with a twister.  This twister was wrenched first in 2000, with another yank and tug in 2004. Then it was tossed to the curb like a spent rubber.
The twister was designed by a 20 year+ plan executed on US; while the planners were drunk with their own “power over” they quintessestially proceeded to give the world a finger.
Groups like GreenPeace and Amnesty International, feminst groups, child protection groups, environmental groups, watchdog and investigative groups are only just hanging in there and cannot effectively operate with productivity while fighting off legal and finacial assaults.
May we all spend a few moments to envision a different reality for our blessed, loved and cherished young ones to live in and help them to create it on our beloved Planet, Earth. 
  Let us help the 2000-2006 horror to end.  Act like a friend to a stranger, help out the homeless, do something unusual and care.  We can remember how - turn of the screens and radio screams and remember.  Then Act as if…the united states of amnesia never happened or must not continue.

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By Craig Emmanuel, July 11, 2006 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The wealth disparity in the United States will get worst and even reach depression-like state. This because the republican base leadership of all three branches of government dont care about this section of its sociaty. Until someone stands up to this dictatorship, this once great country will fall into the pits of our modern world.

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By Hilding Lindquist, July 11, 2006 at 11:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Neocons are NOT conservatives. A cult of loyalty to an elite in power is radical in these United States.

The corporate monopolists are NOT free market capitalists. The failure to wring externalities that favor financial capital out of the markets dumps them onto the slag heap that will ultimately engulf us.

Bush is NOT an Old Testament Joshua destined to lay waste in the name of Jehovah to the Middle East a la Jericho. (Although he even says he has been chosen by HIS God to play the role.)

It’s not just discouraging, it’s damn predictable from the Neocons own words leading up to the post 9/11 fiasco. NOW THAT MAKES IT DAMN DISCOURAGING because they told us what they were going to do, did it, and still think they can get away without having to own up to the consequences.

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By The Issue Wonk, July 11, 2006 at 9:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’d like to point out that since the minimum wage was last raised, the base salary for Congressional members (not leadership) has gone from $133,600 to $165,200, an increase of $31,600, or 23.65%.  Please see http://www.IssueWonk.com.  Go the Legislative Branch and look for “Congressional Salaries” for a listing of increases since 1990.

The Wonk

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By native child, July 11, 2006 at 9:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The arithmetic is simple.  Our GDP is about twelve trillion and our population three hundred million which comes to 40,,000 smackeroos per woman, man and child.  It’s not necessary that we get there immediately.  The direction we’re heading, that’s what counts.  And not to be fooled by lotto and assorted diversionary spectaculars such as the World Cup, Carribbean Pirates and who’s marrying whom.  Egalitarianism anyone?  We can do this!

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By gaius sempronius gracchus, July 11, 2006 at 9:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Americans are not apathetic. Americans are disempowered and constantly propagandized by liars, fakers, and phonies from all sides.

Even the supposed political allies of ordinary Americans, working people, and the poor are not what they claim to be.

Witness their devotion to fair trade rather than protection of American jobs thru protection of the American market.

Witness their devotion to the interests of immigrants - legal, illegal, or bracero - rather than the competing interests of the Americans whose wages they constantly and severely depress.

Witness their refusal to allow the value of the dollar to sink, which would help domestic products on the domestic market and in export as well.

Witness their intention to cause Americans to use less gasoline by imposing extravagant taxes at the pump, thereby putting most of the burden on the working poor; rather than by imposing serious mileage requirements on SUVs and luxury cars, thereby putting pretty much the whole burden on the wealthy.

In all these cases, and in many more, the supposed friends of the ordinary people of America, the liberals and the Democrats, are no more that than the other bunch of oligarchs, the conservatives and the GOP, the ones who want to play international “race to the bottom” with the gloves off.

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By rabblerowzer, July 11, 2006 at 7:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The trouble is, things will have to get REALLY bad for Americans to get out of their apathy.”

Even worse, we are a nation ruled by sociopaths who cunningly pander to a mob mentality that’s very likely to devolve into fascism.

When Joe Sixpack becomes frightened and enraged, who will he blame? He gets his daily dose of hate from Fox News and will most likely blame the usual scapegoats: Liberals, Africa-Americans, Jews, Mexicans, and Catholics.

It could be feeding frenzy of have-nots against have-nots for table scraps that the rich toss into the fray.

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By Mark in Chicago, July 11, 2006 at 6:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It may take another five years or so, but one morning the average American will wake up and ask, “Who screwed me?” and then blame whoever is in office at the time.  But the seeds were planted in 1981; and then fertilized beyond all reason by this group we have had since 2001.

Those “value” voters, who on the whole consistently voted against their own economic interests, won’t figure it out.  They’ll still be shouting about the “death tax.”  (If only they understood the payroll tax.)

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By LiteraryTech, July 11, 2006 at 5:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have heard it cogently argued that the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire, particularly in the West, was in large part due to the wealth discrepancy between those in the Empire and those groups outside the Empire. Over the years, the constant hammering of the have-nots against the Empire of the Haves led to the collapse of government.

The gap between the rich and poor is growing. It is important. It threatens our entire way of life and our method of government.

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By Bukko in Australia, July 11, 2006 at 12:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

FDR was wise when he set up programmes such as Social Security because he knew that masses of poor people with nothing to lose would turn violent. The same thing will happen in the U.S. if trends continue as they’re going. I don’t have any faith that voting will change things, because the elections can be stolen in 2006 as they were in 2000 and 2004. The trouble is, things will have to get REALLY bad for Americans to get out of their apathy. As long as there’s food in the stores and petrol at the bowser (“pump” in the U.S.) no matter what the price, people won’t riot. Even when things crash bad enough for the masses to shake off their torpor, the rich people for whom President Cheney rules will have jetted off to Switzerland or wherever they stash their billions. Man, I’m so glad I beat the rush!

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